The Fabulous Oklahoma Kelleys
712 Chaps Road, S.E. Rio Rancho, New Mexico 87124
The Fabulous Pawnee Oklahoma Kelleys, Minerva and Kenneth. They work hard at and support the Pawnee Show and are a great hostess and host who know how to really entertain their guests.
We arrived in Pawnee, Oklahoma two days before the Oklahoma Steam & Gas Engine Show, which started on May 6, 1988. After several attempts to locate the showgrounds, we drove into the Kelleys' yard to ask directions. I introduced myself to Kenneth. That's as far as we got. We did not get to the showgrounds that day. I had heard of the Kelleys for many years through magazine articles and several mutual friends like Chady Atteberry of Blackwell, Oklahoma, Harold Ottaway of Wichita, Kansas and Joe and Marie Richardson of Orofino, Idaho. The Kelleys knew of me through the same friends and my magazine articles about steam engines. Ken and Minerva asked us to stay that evening for a wonderful dinner-party. It was great seeing old friends and meeting new ones. The Kelleys' dinner-party invitations continued like that for the remaining five evenings we were in Pawnee. We sure had a great time.
Ken and Minerva are both avid collectors. It's hard to name anything they do not collect. Minerva collects cobalt blue glassware, old dishes, lacy pillows and ribbons, etc. She also weaves rugs and makes 30' long doll clowns as a hobby. All of Minerva's things are nicely displayed in her lovely home. Ken has two large Star metal buildings that are insulated and heated which are full of his collectibles of every kind imaginable. In addition to his steam engines, old tractors and steam passenger train, he collects antique cars. One of his automobiles is a completely restored 1911 Maxwell similar to Jack Benny's. His 1928 President Class Studebaker car looks better now than when it left the factory. The famous Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale eight horse hitch team visited his place and the engine show. As a memento of their visit, the brewery sent Ken a 10x20' picture of the Clydesdales which he has framed on the wall.
The Kelleys are fortunate in having substantial resources and possessions which they are more than willing to share with their friends. At the Oklahoma Steam and Gas Engine Show at Pawnee, Ken is happy to operate his little 6 HP Case portable engine on a feed grinder while his friends play with his 110 HP Case, his other steam engines and tractors and his H.K. Porter 2-4-0 steam passenger train. Ken's support and equipment plays an important part in the show. Minerva is a wonderful hostess and shares her lovely 3,000 sq. ft. home with her friends which is like grand central station with people coming and going. The Kelleys have open house during the engine show. Minerva works hard all day at the show and then comes home and fixes dinner for a large number of people and helps them party afterwards. The Kelleys can sleep and feed 30 guests. One portion of one of their insulated and heated Star metal buildings is fixed to entertain their friends during inclement weather. It is equipped with a large kitchen, dining area and lounge/living room. It has separate restrooms for women and men and is equipped with a shower room. This year the Kelleys invited 60 guests to a buffalo barbeque in honor of Helen Case Brigham and her husband, Arthur, better known as Brig. Last year in connection with the engine show, the Kelleys had a beef barbeque at their place for 500 guests. The barbeque spit is turned by a steam engine.
Ken has restored the following steam engines and tractors which are nicely painted, restored and in perfect operating condition: i.e. a 1917 6 HP Case portable steamer, 1920 10-ton Case road roller, Case steam traction engines, 1915 30, 1912 36, 1920 40, 1912 45, 1920 50, 1911 60, 1914 65, 1915 65, 1911 75 with 36' drivers, 1912 80 and 1913 110 #29514 and a 1920 20-40 Case tractor, 1922 30-60 Aultman Taylor tractor and two Avery tractors, a 1920 45-65 and 1925 25-50.
Ken's 36' narrow gauge passenger train operates on approximately one mile of 90 lb. rail located on the Oklahoma Steam & Gas Engine Showgrounds at Pawnee. The train consists of a 1943 35-ton 2-4-0 H.K. Porter locomotive #6557 with 175 lbs. steam pressure, one flat car and two passenger cars with a capacity always filled to capacity. During its trip around the showgrounds, the train is held-up by a posse of several horseback riders and the passengers are robbed and some kidnapped.
Ken has a large well-equipped shop with restroom, an 80' bed 27' swing lathe, milling machine, etc. He has a large stock of engine parts and supplies, all properly kept in wall bins.
Ken purchased and started to rebuild his 110 Case steamer in 1973. He was short on information and needed many parts. He remembered an article I had written in the July-August 1972 Iron Men Album about spending a 'Weekend With 110 Case' that belonged to Joe Richardson of Orofino, Idaho. Ken contacted Joe who helped him locate the missing parts and Ken had his 110 Case operating within a year. For 12 years thereafter, the Kelleys had a barbeque party and dance for all the people that helped in finding the needed parts. Last year 240 people attended his 'missing parts' party. As a result of these parties, the Kelleys built their large steam operated barbeque.
Ken was the former John Deere dealer in Pawnee. He was in the farming and ranching business for 40 years raising and feeding 2,000 head of cattle originally from the Four 6666 Ranch in Texas. He also was an oil well producer. Ken has been active in civic affairs: President of the Pawnee Chamber of Commerce, President of Pawnee County Cattlemen's Association, been on Advisory Board of Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association for 15 years and past Director of Pawnee Bill State Park. Ken also, as honorary Lt. Governor of the state of Oklahoma, served on the Governor's Oklahoma Commission of Goodwill. He has been an active member and Treasurer of the Oklahoma Steam Threshers Association for 14 years.
It was a pleasure to meet the Brighams. Helen and Brig are a warm friendly couple. They are doing an excellent job as co-editors of The Heritage Eagle, newsletter of the International J.I. Case Heritage Foundation, Silver Spring, Maryland 20901. The foundation held its first exposition on May 1-3, 1987 at the Pawnee engine show which was a huge success.
The Oklahoma Steam and Gas Engine Show was held at Pawnee, Oklahoma on May 6, 7, and 8, 1988. The show is one of the largest in the country. It is a very aggressive show with plenty of action. There are several things going on at the same time. A lot of people were interested in and visited the operating 100-ton Allis Chalmers Corliss steam engine on display. President Chady Atteberry kept things running smoothly without any problems. The show had many fine and unusual attractions including Chady and his 'Elgin Watch' Case 40 on the 50% Case incline, Amos Rixman operating the horsepower testing Prony brake, Lyman Knapp's 1892 Canton Aultman Monitor 10 HP traction steam engine, Kenneth Kelley's steam narrow gauge passenger train and his 110 HP Case traction engine, etc. There was lots of good old fashioned delicious home cooked food.
I am indebted to Arthur P. Brigham for his help and cooperation in connection with this story of the Kelleys. Brig, with his expert photography knowledge and camera work, took all of the excellent pictures for this article.