Walter E. Connelly of Salina had had some unusual experience as an educator in the western part of the state. As a boy he attended one of the old dugout schoolhouses of Kansas, and he spent seventeen years teaching, concluding that service with a term as superintendent of instruction in Saline County. Since retiring from that office he had founded and is manager of the Salina Collection Agency, the first and only exclusive collection agency in the city.
He represents a family that during the past century have by successive stages progressed half way across the American continent from New England to Western Kansas. His grandfather, Alexander W. Connelly, was born in Massachusetts, and in 1811 went out to the extreme western frontier, along the Wabash River in Southern Indiana, and secured a tract of Government land, now occupied by the City of Terre Haute.
Robert W. Connelly, father of Walter E., was born on that land and within the present limits of Terre Haute, August 16, 1831. In 1860 he removed to Illinois, where he was a farmer until 1883. In that year he went to Nebraska, spent three years as a farmer in Thayer County, and in 1886 brought his family to Thomas County, Kansas. He homesteaded land there and for ten years was postmaster of DeMunn, and also a justice of the peace. In 1898 he removed to Sherman County, where he died September 20, 1905. He was an active member of the Christian Church and assisted in organizing the first church of that denomination in Thomas County. In 1854 Robert W. Connelly married Miss Catherine Young, who was born in Kentucky September 21, 1833. She died in Thomas County, Kansas, March 20, 1886. They became the parents of ten children, five sons and five daughters: Rhoda, born in 1855 and died in 1883; Henry B., born in 1856; Charles E., born in 1858 and died in 1907; Julia, born in 1861 and died in 1881; James H., born in 1863; Mary, born in 1865 and died in 1881; Emma, born in 1868 and died in 1915; William A., born in 1872 and died in 1914; Walter E.; and Sadie R., born in 1879.
Walter E. Connelly was born January 22, 1876, in a log house on a farm in Piatt County, Illinois. He was still a child when his father moved to the West and was ten years of age when the family located in Kansas in 1886. He continued his education in the public schools of this state, and for a time was a student in a dugout in Thomas County. In 1897, at the age of twenty-one, he began his career as a teacher. His first school was taught in a sod house in Sherman County. Altogether he taught seventeen years, seven years in rural schools and nine years in the towns of Waldo, Bunker Hill, Luray, Salina and Sylvan Grove. In 1910 Mr. Connelly was elected on the democratic ticket as superintendent of public instruction of Saline County, and filled that position two years. It was in 1914 that he established the Salina Collection Agency, and he had since developed that to a profitable business and an important service in the community.
On July 6, 1902, at Monument, Kansas, occurred his marriage with Miss Lizzie Belle O’Brien. Her parents were Thomas and Susan O’Brien, her father a native of Maryland and her mother of Ireland. Mrs. Connelly was born near Lincoln, Nebraska, April 1, 1878. Mr. and Mrs. Connelly have one child, Mildred Lillian. She was born May 22, 1903, at Hays, Kansas. At that time Mr. Connelly was a student during the first year after the opening of the Kansas State Normal at Hays, and his daughter Mildred had the distinction of being the first child born to a student in that institution.