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Champaign County, Illinois

Lineages - Robert P. Kelley

Submitted by: Fred Roeder

In 1857 to 1861 there surveyed in New Mexico Territory a man by the name of Robert P. Kelley. New Mexico historians do not know anything about him, some say he was born in Virginia, others mention Ireland and Kentucky. In New Mexico he lived in the town of Mesilla where in 1860 he started a newspaper, the Mesilla Times, which was the only paper outside of Santa Fe and under Kelley's editorship became the mouthpiece for the Confederacy.

In 1861 Col. John Robert Baylor of the Texas Mounted Rifles invaded New Mexico Territory (which at the time included all of what today is Arizona) and proclaimed all below the 34th parallel as the Confederate Territory of Arizona. Mesilla was the capital, Baylor called himself Governor and Kelley was made surveyor general. His affection for Baylor did not last long. Baylor's pleas for re-enforcements had fallen on deaf ears in Richmond and he considered a withdrawal from the Mesilla Valley. Kelley was bellicose pro-confederate and in numerous articles in his paper he accused Baylor of cowardice. Baylor took it for a while but on December 12, 1861 he confronted Kelley in the streets of Mesilla and shot him through the jaw and neck.

Kelley lingered for a couple of weeks and died on January 1. He lived long enough to write a cryptic note: "This bleeding may kill me. Tell Mrs. P. to write to my wife she knows [in?] Homer, Illinois. D.W. Hughes Memphis Tenn. I want Col. Jones to take care of it for my wife and children. [signed] R.P. Kelley."

Kelley was well educated and must have been at least 30 years of age, as he said that he had 13 years of experience as a surveyor. If he had a wife and children in Homer he may have lived there, perhaps as a surveyor. I have read the biography of Joseph T. Kelley on your internet site and surfed Champaign and Vermilion Counties. No Robert P. Kelley. Perhaps the family would rather forget about their Confederate kin. I wonder if you may have any knowledge of that fellow?

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