The Kelley family lived at 1 113th Street in Lansingburgh starting around 1909. George Biddle Kelley lived there until his death in 1862. He attended RPI, graduated from Cornell, co-founded Alpha Phi Alpha at Cornell, was active with the United Negro College Fund, and founded the Troy Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. His father Richard C. Kelley served in the Civil War, while his mother Matilda Jane Decker was the daughter of Rev. William H. Decker, active in the Underground Railroad.
(Special to THE NEW YORK AGE.)
TROY, N. Y.—The many friends of Mr. and Mrs. Richard C. Kelley greeted them on Monday evening, March 3, at an “at home,” tendered them by their son, Geo. B. Kelley, in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of their marriage. Their spacious home in Upper Troy [1 113th Street, Lansingburgh] was filled from the beginning to the close of the reception hours by those desirous to pay honor to this couple, well beloved in the community in which they live. An orchestra, screened by palms, was stationed in the reception hall and discoursed sweet music during the reception.
Mr. and Mrs. Kelley received their guests, assisted by Mrs. E. George Biddle of New London, Conn., and Mr. Chas. Decker of Newburgh, N. Y., sister and brother of Mrs. Kelley, and also by Mrs. Nancy King of Troy, sister of Mr. Kelley. The house was handsomely decorated with palms and cut flowers, many of which were gifts from various friends. The color scheme was yellow, and this was effectively carried out in the parlor and dining room, where yellow daffodils and candles were used in abundance. The handsome decorations and lights, together with the very pretty gowns of the many women guests and dress suits of the men present made a scene very picturesque and inviting. Mr. and Mrs. Kelly were the recipients of many useful and handsome gifts, all suggestive of the golden anniversary. Among their gifts were nearly three hundred dollars in gold coins.
The ushers were Messrs. Frank Holbrook, Chas. Hudson, Manuel E. Perez, Chas. H. Van Vranken, Jr., Wm. Gibson, Harold J. Davis, Wendell King, Frederick A. Chew, Jos. Sullivan, Ishmal Palmer and Daniel W. Dixon. Several of the guests present were at the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Kelly fifty years ago.
Among the out-of-town relatives and friends present were: Mrs. E. George Biddle and Miss Bessie Biddle of New London, Conn.; Mrs. Edward Matthews of Rochester, N. Y.; Mr. and Mrs. Henry Coshburn, Mrs. Anna Stewart, Mrs. Costello Gordon, Miss Harriet Dixon and Mr. Chas Stewart of New York City; Mrs. R. F. Richardson of Brooklyn, N. Y.; Mrs. Dennis of Lawrenceville, Va.; Mr. Alonzo Lattimore of Boston, Mass.; Miss Leila King of Paterson, N. J.; Mr. and Mrs. Wm. B. Wright of Little Falls, N. Y.; Mr. and Mrs. John Chaney of West Coxsackie, N. Y.; Mr. and Mrs. Frank Holbrook, the Misses Abbie and Eliza Wendell and Mr. Jos. P. Smith of Schenectady, N. Y.; Miss Mabel Smoke of Esperance, N. Y.; Mr. and Mrs. Aaron J. Oliver, Mrs. Robt. Madison and Miss Doris Madison, Mrs. Jos. W. Price, Mrs. Nancy Kelley, Mrs. Wm. Hoyt, Misses Louise and Grace Van Vranken, Alfretta Miller, Messrs. Chas. H. Van Vranken, Kr., Carroll Miller and Thos. Furnice of Albany, N. Y.; Mr. and Mrs. Robt. Adams, Mrs. Eliza Thomason, Mr. and Mrs. John Meads, Sr., Mrs. Sarah Thompson, Mrs. Emma Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Lawyer, Mr. and Mrs. John Pope, Mrs. Stephen Coleman, Mrs. John Whitbeck, Misses Blanche Thompson and Luella Thompson; Messrs. Jas. Thompson and Seldon Thomason of Watervliet, N. Y.
Mrs. Kelley before her marriage was Matilda Decker, daughter of the late Rev. Wm. H. Decker of Newburgh, N. Y., in which city she was born. Mr. Kelley was born in Lawrenceville, Va., but came to Troy in the early part of the Civil War. He later enlisted in the 20th New York State Colored Volunteers and fought through the war. He has always worked at his trade of carpenter and builder and during his long residence in Troy has made a large number of friends of both races. They were married in the A. M. E. Zion Church of Troy, of which the Rev. Decker was then pastor. Mr. and Mrs. Kelley have been the parents of six children, only one of whom is living in the person of Geo. B. Kelly, a civil engineer in the State Engineer’s Department at Albany, N. Y. Mrs. Nancy Kelley of Albany and Troy is a daughter-in-law, being the widow of the late Andrew C. Kelley.
New York Age. March 15, 1919: 2 col 3.
—Richard C. Kelley, for fifty-five years a resident of this city, died early this morning at his home, 1 One Hundred and Thirteenth Street, after an illness of three days, as the result of a stroke of paralysis. He was born a slave on July 26, 1843, in Brunswick County, Va. At the outbreak of the Civil War he escaped and came to this section, first settling with friends at Hoosick. He soon returned South and enlisted in the Twentieth United States Colored Volunteers, serving with them throughout the remainder of the war. He came to this city in 1866. He practiced his trade of carpenter until ten years ago, when he retired. Mr. Kelley specialized in the planing of cutter tables for the collar shops. He as for many years Republican leader in the Second Ward and served his party faithfully. He was at one time keeper of the Rensselaer County Court House. Mr. Kelley was a member of McConihe Post, G. A. R., and of the A. M. E. Zion Church, of which he served for many years as a Trustee. He is survived by his wife, one son, George B. Kelley, connected with the State Tax Department; one sister, Mrs. Nancy King, and several nieces, all of Troy. The funeral will be held Thursday afternoon, privately from the home at 1:30 o’clock and publicly from the A. M. E. Zion Church at 2:30 o’clock. Interment will be in Oakwood Cemetery.
Troy Times. May 2, 1922: 5 col 5. [His headstone is in New Mount Ida; seemingly the newspaper erred.]
Mrs. Matilda J. Kelley, wife of the late Richard C. Kelley of this section, died Saturday morning at her home, 1 113th Street, at the age of 82 years. Formerly Miss Matilda Decker, Mrs. Kelley was born at Newburgh in 1842, where she lived several years. A resident of Troy for 50 years, Mrs. Kelley had lived in Lansingburgh for the last 16 years. She was the daughter of the late William H. Decker, a pioneer in the underground railroad of the slave trade days in which Mrs. Kelley took an active part as a child. Often she had reminisced of Lincoln and the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, both of whom she had seen. A member of the A.M.E. Zion Church in whose interest she had always been an ardent worker until a few years ago, Mrs. Kelley is survived by one son, George B. Kelley; one sister, Mrs. E. George Biddle of Cambridge, Mass.; one nephew, Charles H. Decker of New York City; four nieces, Mrs. Anna Banks of Newburgh, Mrs. Mary Coblyn of Cambridge, Mass., Mrs. William Muldrow of New York City and Miss Ethel Alson of New York City. Mrs. Kelley will be buried from the same church she was married in more than 50 years ago, the funeral being held tomorrow afternoon from the A.M.E. Zion Church, following prayers at the home on 113th Street. Rev. William Primo, pastor, assisted by Rev. Louis H. Taylor, a former pastor, and Rev. James G. Carlisle of the Liberty Street Presbyterian Church, will officiate. Interment will be in the New Mount Ida Cemetery.
Troy Times. July 15, 1925: 13 col 2.
JERSEY CITY, N. J.—Mr. and Mrs. Somerset Gross have announced the engagement of their daughter, Miss Harriet Gross, to George B. Kelley of Troy, N. Y.
Miss Gross is a graduate of William L. Dickinson High School. She studied at the Traphen Art School and New York University.
Mr. Kelley is the son of the late Richard Kelley and Matilda Decker Kelley of Troy. Mr. Kelley was graduated from Cornell University as a Civil Engineer. He was formerly with the New York State Department of Engineering. His present position is Senior Auditor in the New York State Income Tax Bureau at Albany.
Mr. Kelley is one of the founders of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and is greatly interested in fraternal, civic and church affairs in his community. He resides in the family homestead on the Hudson, North Troy, N. Y.
New York Age. December 30, 1933: 2 col 4.
By FRANK SHERRY
In tracing the background and accomplishments of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Troy Chapter, one is impressed by their dogged persistence against great odds. […]
Making for erratic progress in Troy chapter’s history have been apathy, and economic and social pressures which once in the late 30s caused such membership losses that the national’s charter was withdrawn. […]
Troy pioneer in [the NAACP’s] campaign for equal opportunity was the late George Biddle Kelley who died four years ago at age 77, having lived where his widow still resides, in the 18th century house at 1 113th St., since 1908.
Mrs. Joseph Smith of Schenectady, the former Estelle Steward, at 87 remembers Mr. Kelley’s founding the first local association for advance of Negroes in 1902 here in the Liberty Street Presbyterian Church. […]
Mr. Kelley was only 18 when his initiative launched the nucleus of Troy’s NAACP, but his widow remarked that this fact was in character.
His father, Richard C. Kelley, had started the pioneering, her research reveals, when as a slave born in Brunswick County, Va., he escaped from the South during the Civil War, arriving at the Hoosick terminus of the Underground Railway in 1863. Volunteering in Troy, he served two years in the Union Army before returning here to settle down as a carpenter and cabinet maker and become a member of the carpenter’s union.
Richard Kelley met the girl who was to bear him nine children in Newburgh, and married her in Troy, March 3, 1869. In the next years he brought three sisters from Virginia to Troy, and one of them became the focus of an early Civil Rights case when she was refused service in an establishment at Congress and Fourth Streets here.
His son, George, born in July 1884, made a brilliant record as the only Negro graduate of the old Troy Academy.
As a student at RPI he grew lonesome for the companionship of his own race and transferred to Cornell. There he with half a dozen others, founded Alpha Phi Alpha, the first Negro fraternity, which has since spread across the world.
He graduated from Cornell a civil engineer and worked a number of years on the State Barge Canal. Taking an examination, he became an auditor in the State Tax Dept. and served there until retirement in 1955.
As he turned 50 in 1934 he married the former Harriet Gross of Jersey City, and she joined him in his lifelong battle for equal opportunity for every American. She remembers one of the resurgences in the Troy NAACP coming about two years after their marriage when a core of Negroes who refused to lose their vision met with Rev. Harvey White, pastor of the AME Zion Church.
She believes this was the point when the late William Gibson, father of Warren Gibson who teaches Latin and mathematics at Troy High School, served a term as NAACP president, though most of his service in those years was as secretary of the local chapter. William Gibson was for much of his life a painter and paperhanger resident in Lansingburgh. […]
A committee met in Liberty Church with George Biddle Kelley as temporary chairman, in November, 1941. It faced war-time housing pressures and job discrimination in area industries. In April, 1942, it was granted a charter by the national association. Mrs. Leonard Hayes, now of the State Tax Department, was president in 1942-43, and the late Frank Jenkins in 1944-45. […]
George Kelley headed the area support for the American Negro College Fund.
Times Record. April 23, 1966: B3-B4.