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William Elsey Connelley. The Connelly family was founded by emigrants from County Armagh, Ireland, who settled in South Carolina in 1689, being among the founders of Charleston. They were in all the patriotic movements to secure the independence of America, Henry Connelly having been a captain of cavalry in the War of the Revolution in North Carolina. He was appointed by Governor Burke to raise a special company to keep down Fanning, the Tory, and served five years. He was in the battles of Cowpens, Charlotte, Guilford Courthouse, and with General Greene in his masterly retreat beyond the Dan River. At the close of the Revolution he moved to Eastern Kentucky with his family. His descendants write their names in various forms, as is the case with many Colonial families. He was the great-great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch.
William Elsey Connelley was born in Johnson County, Kentucky, March 15, 1855. His parents were Constantine Conley, Jr., and Rebecca J. (McCarty) Conley. He was handicapped by poverty in his early life, and educated himself. He began teaching at the age of seventeen, and taught ten years in his native county. He then came to Kansas, arriving in Wyandotte County, April 22, 1881.
Constantine Conley, Jr., was a soldier in the Union army in the Civil war, volunteering from Magoffin County, Kentucky. He was in the Fourteenth Kentucky Infantry, the Tenth Kentucky Cavalry, and finished his services in the Forty-fifth Kentucky Mounted Infantry. He came home at the close of the war with his own health broken, his wife dead, his children starving and homeless. He began to make shoes to get bread, and was a shoemaker the remainder of his life.
The subject of this article was the eldest child, and it was necessary that he help support the family. He worked with his father as a shoemaker, and is still proud to remember that he became a skilled workman in that humble occupation. On his bench he kept a Pinneo’s Grammar, an Arithmetic (Ray’s Third Part) Mitchell’s Georgraphy and Atlas, McGuffey’s Readers. These he mustered when a boy. He read everything he could lay hands on–literature, science, philosophy. And history was a favorite study. He was recognized as the best informed member of his community. He was a successful teacher. And when he abandoned that profession he continued his studies. History came to be his infatuation, especially the fascinating story of Kansas. Into this he had delved and drudged for forty years. He had written much, and like every enthusiast, hopes to write more and more. The following paragraph is quoted from Mackenzie’s “Colonial Families of America:”
“William Elsey Connelley, first of the family in Kentucky to so write the name, was principally self educated. A. M. Hon., Baker University, Baldwin, Kansas, 1911; taught school Johnson County, Kentucky, 1872-1880; Wyandotte County, Kansas, 1881-1882; County Clerk Wyandotte County, 1883-1887; in wholesale lumber business, Springfield, Missouri, 1888-1892; connected with banking interests, Kansas City, Kansas, 1892-1893; wrote call for first meeting of Independent Oil Men in Kansas, January, 1905, which resulted in organization of Kansas Oil Producers Association, and began the crusade against the Standard Oil Company which resulted in the dissolution of their corporation by the United States Supreme Court; Secretary Kansas State Historical Society; author: The Provisional Government of Nebraska Territory, 1899; James Henry Lane, 1899; Wyandot Folk-Lore, 1899; Kansas Territorial Governors, 1900; John Brown, 1900; Life of John J. Ingalls, 1903; An Appeal to the Record, 1903; The Heckewelder Narrative (edited), 1907; Doniphan’s Expedition, 1907; Quantrill and the Border Wars, 1909; Ingalls of Kansas, 1909; Eastern Kentucky Papers, 1910; Life of Preston B. Plumb, 1913; With Frank A. Root, Overland Stage to California, 1901; contributor to scientific journals on folk-lore and ethnology of Wyandots, etc.; prepared the first vocabulary ever written of the Wyandot language, and had made extensive investigations in language and history of the Delawares, Shawnees, and other tribes; had a large collection of manuscripts relating to North American Indians, and subjects relating to Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, and the West generally.”