Biography of Dandridge E. Kelsey

For thirty-six years Shawnee County was the home of Dandridge E. Kelsey, not only one of her pioneer settlers but unmistakably one of her most respected and valued men. He came to Kansas three years after the close of the great Civil war, in which struggle he had borne an honorable part, and in Shawnee County sought the opportunity of providing, through toil, patience and prudence, a comfortable home for his family and a competency for old age. All this he did but those early years were hard as the tragic days of Kansas had not all been lived through. All her heroes have not been named when the early settlers of Shawnee County have been forgotten.

Dandridge E. Kelsey was born in Dearborn County, Indiana, March 27, 1818, and died in Shawnee County, Kansas, in October, 1904. He was a son of Daniel and Eunice (Cole) Kelsey, who came from Virginia to Indiana in 1814. His uncle, Thomas Kelsey, was a soldier in the Revolutionary war and both he and wife died in Indiana. In boyhood Dandridge E. Kelsey was given educational advantages which qualified him for professional life but he chose farming as his avocation and practically during life was devoted to the peaceful pursuits of agriculture. When the Civil war was precipitated, however, he was ready to enter the service of his country for the preservation of the Union, and in August, 1862, enlisted in Company B, Eighty-third Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He was made lieutenant of this company and the quality of his services, including participation in such struggles as the siege of Vicksburg and Battle of Arkansas Post, may be inferred when unsolicitated promotion came to him and he was made captain. He contracted illness which became so serious that he was forced to retire and in 1864 was discharged by reason of disability.

After recuperation at home, Mr. Kelsey resumed farming in Dearborn County and also became somewhat prominent in local political circles and was elected a justice of the peace. In 1868 he came to Kansas and located in Topeka Township, Shawnee County. During the early succeeding years the family was forced to undergo much unlooked for hardship, for unprecedented drouths dried up the land and the harvests were blasted. Then came the grasshoppers in the following season. Other distressing conditions prevailed in Shawnee County even after Nature’s handicaps had been overcome. One of these was the universal lack of money to exchange for farm products. Perhaps Mr. Kelsey was in no worse condition than his neighbors, for privations were universal and so general that for a time settlement in Shawnee County was to some degree lessened. The time came, however, when cultivation of the land and scientific examination of the soils, the planting of forests and the adoption of other methods for agricultural protection brought about a great change and Mr. Kelsey lived to see his lands bountifully productive and many of his early visions come true. He was never heard to complain of the hardships he was forced to undergo, his courage and optimism being proverbial. He was a quiet, home-loving man, kind and considerate among his neighbors and commanded their respect. In his home life he was particularly kind, making wife and children his real companions and thereby binding them to him in deep affection. His memory is preserved by his children with love and reverence. Prior to the Civil war he had joined the Free Masons and the Odd Fellows and afterward became a member of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Mr. Kelsey was married in early manhood to Merey Laycock, who died in 1854, and they had four children: America, Ann Eliza, Scott and Taylor, the second and fourth being deceased. Mr. Kelsey was married (second) to Mrs. Elizabeth Wilson, and three children were born to them: Eliza Agnes, Benjamin F. and Charles D., Benjamin F. being the only survivor.


Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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