No one knows with certainty how David O’Killia/O’Kelley (the surname Kelley was spelled fourteen different ways in the Yarmouth Vital Records) ended up in Plymouth Colony in the 1600s. Most of the colonists were of English descent, so where’d the Irish guy come from? It was so unusual for someone to be from Ireland that he was sometimes called “David the Irishman” in records.
It is possible he was a prisoner of war by the English and sold in America as an indentured servant. England's subjugation of Ireland, which occurred 1641-1654, caused hardships among the Irish and many prisoners of war, orphans and the destitute were seized by English authorities and sold as indentured servants. One 1661 entry in Plymouth Colony Records mentions William Hifreny, an Irishman and servant who had been "stolen from his own country."
David was first an indentured servant for John Darby, then Edward Sturgis, both of Yarmouth. Servants were not always domestic help—they could be manual laborers, tradesmen, mariners, mechanics, husbandmen, and teachers. They were indentured for a period of time, usually 3 to 10 years, in exchange for passage to America. His service expired about 1657 when he took the freemen's oath at Yarmouth, so he was probably born 1630-1636.
On 4 Oct 1655 David is recorded in Plymouth Colony Records as David Ogillior. On this date Jane Powell of Sandwich is charged with fornication: "And att this Court, Jane Powell, servant to William Swift, of Sandwidge, appeered, haveing been psented for fornication, whoe, being examined, saith that it was committed with one David Ogillior, an Irish man, servant to Edward Sturgis; shee saith shee was alured therunto by him goeing for water one evening, hoping to have married him, beeing shee was in a sadd and miserable condition by hard service, wanting clothes and living discontentedly; and expressing great sorrow for her evell, shee was cleared for the psent, and ordered to goe home againe."
Burt Derick wrote in Gaelic Love on Cape Cod: David, the Irishman, and Jane, the Welsh Maid, Dennis Historical Society Newsletter, Feb/March 2008, that David and Jane’s story is one of loneliness and love. The Separatists realized they needed to bring in willing workers, which was easy given the strife in Great Britain from wars, ravages of plague and religious persecution. Nearly all were young and unmarried, at the bottom of the social class.
David and Jane were poor bondservants, in their teens, forced to endure great hardship. Jane was likely originally from Wales. It is possible, but unlikely, that she is related to the Powells of Boston as William Swift Sr. lived there. William Swift Jr. resided on the present Standish Road in North Sagamore, now the town of Bourne, and owned Jane's indenture. She would have had a busy time caring for Swift's 10 children. The distance between Swift and Sturgis' homes is 24 miles, quite a distance in those days. Perhaps they met on the same ship from England to America.
David and Jane were poor, lonely, scared, moving to an uncertain future and they were Gaelic, sharing a common language others on the ship may not have had. They would have been immediately separated and endured a hard life, as Jane's plea in court shows. Many of the colonists were religious fanatics, ruling with an iron hand, punishing people for minor infractions. Somehow, in a time when roads were less than cartways and transportation was slow, David found Jane. Perhaps he had an errand to do for his master, attending the only gristmill in the area to get the corn ground to flour. It is unlikely it was a chance encounter--not a single encounter in the woods of Sagamore, but one of many. There was certainly a background relationship between these people that resulted in the encounter for which they were charged. The fornication charge likely means she was pregnant, rather than caught in the act.
Despite Jane's guilt, the magistrates could not bring themselves to levy the typical punishment of public whipping and they sent her home. They also didn't charge David with seducing the girl. They leave the two to work out the problem. It's also remarkable the Clerk took time to record so many details of Jane's predicament
After securing freedom for both of them, David did the honorable thing and married Jane and they moved to a 100 acre farm that was eventually named Kelley's Point, at the head of Bass River on the banks of what is today called Kelley’s Bay. The area is now called Mayfair in current day South Dennis, Massachusetts.
|Modern day map of the area|
David's family lived there over 40 years, raising a family of five boys and two girls: Sarah b. ca 1660, Joseph b. ca 1662, Jeremiah b. ca 1664, John b. ca 1667, David was b. ca 1670, Elizabeth b ca 1672, Benjamin b. ca 1675. All were mentioned in David’s will.
Sarah died in 1715 in Yarmouth, unmarried. No records are found for Joseph--he is mentioned in his father’s 1697 will but not in the 1715 settlement of Sarah’s estate. Jeremiah married Sarah (Chase?), had nine children, was a large landholder in West Dennis and died in 1728. John married Bersua Lewis, had at least one child and died in Yarmouth in 1693. David married Anna Bills, had five children and died Monmouth Co., New Jersey before 1737. Elizabeth married Silas Sears as his second wife and died after 1732 probably in Yarmouth. Benjamin married Mary Lombard and they had a son Reuben. He served in Queen Anne’s War on the sloop Coronation and deserted his wife and son and later married Hopestill Smith. He may have died at Swansea, MA.
I descend through David and Jane’s son Jeremiah.
In the 1960s the old cellar and a pit, as well as a few pear trees, remained at the site of David's homestead.
The first records of Friends' (Quaker) meetings held in Yarmouth begin in 1681. The simple meeting place in what is now Dennis was built about 1714 near the Kelley homestead, on land owned by David. It stood near the old cemetery, which has been marked with a plaque by the Dennis Historical Commission. The building was used until 1809 when a new meeting house was built across Bass River in South Yarmouth.
The Kelley family was the third Quaker family in the area, joining John Wing and John Dillingham, whom I also descend from. Apparently Quakers in the area weren’t persecuted as they were in other parts of Massachusetts.
The Kelley offspring did not all remain around the bay that bears their name. Early in the settlement of West Dennis they were busy in marine and commercial enterprises. The family also held large tracts of land in Dennisport. Though many, like Capt. Elihu Kelley, were mariners, some were farmers, some traders and some millers. The Kelley family plied the ferry between West Dennis and South Yarmouth. Cyrenius Kelley was a blacksmith. Dr. Horatio S. Kelley compounded a powder to cure headaches. Anthony Kelley built one of the huge wharves at Dennisport. (March 1980 Dennis Historical Society Newsletter.)
David’s will was dated 10 Feb 1696/7, probated 19 July 1697. He signed his will by mark, witnessed by Thomas Folland, William Baker, Sen (his mark) and Isaac Perse (his mark): "To All people to whom these presents shall com, Know yee that I David Okillia of yarmouth in ye county of Barnstable in ye province of ye Massachusetts Bay in New England, beeing at this time weak in Body, but of a disposing mind and memory do this tenth day of february, 1696:7 make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and forms following...viz that first of all that all my debts which in Right and contience are due from me to any person whatsover be in convenient time after my decease paid out of my Estate It(em) I give and bequeath to my son Jeremiah okillia two shillings It I do give unto my son Joseph okillia two shillings It I do give unto my son David okillia two shillings It I give unto my Grand child John okillia two shillings It I do give unto my Daughter Elizabeth okillia my Little Chest and my great Iron kittle after my wifes Decease It I do give unto my Daughter Sarah okillia my Box and my two Lesser Iron kittils after my wifes Decease It I do give unto my son Benjamin okillia my gun and my sourd and my Great Chest after my Decease It I do give unto my Loving wife Jane and to my son Benjamin okillia my hors and my two oxene my cow and heifer and all my sheep and swine equally between them It I do give unto my Loving wife Jane my Bed and Beding and Bedstead and Curtains and all ye moveables that are not above mentioned It I do give unto my son Bemjamin okillia my now Dwelling house and all my Lands and meadow with all ye privileges belonging there unto After my wifs decease (or after her marriage if that my wife marry againe) all plow Irons Chains, and all Iron Tools that are left, And I do make and appoint my Loving wife Jane okillia to be my Sole Executrix to perform this my Last will and Testament acccording to ye truee meaning and Intent hereof In witness whereof I ye said David okillia Senr have herunto sett my hand and seal ye date above said." (Barnstable Co. Probabate, 2:56.)
His inventory was taken 16 July 1697 included house, meadow, farm animals and equipment, spinning wheel, pewter, gun, sword, looking glass. No books or upscale items like silver are listed.
David left his wife Jane with a comfortable estate at the time of 90 pounds. Their humble and difficult beginnings must have been proud of the life they made for themselves and their standing in the community.
David died in 1697 and Jane in 1711 and are likely buried in old Quaker burying ground in Dennis, but there are very few gravestones there as the early Quakers didn’t believe in that sort of adornment.
|Friends Cemetery, Mayfair area of Dennis, MA|
R. Dudley Kelley, Descendants of David O'Killea of Yarmouth published in NEGHR Vol 151 April and July 1997
Nancy Thacher Reid, Dennis, Cape Cod from Firstcomers to Newcomers, 1639 – 1993, 1996
Marion Vuilleumier, Yarmouth Massachusetts: A History 1639 - 1989. Yarmouth Port, MA: The Historical Society of Old Yarmouth, 1989