Oliver Smith Kelly

"The Head of the Herd," "Dean of the Chapel"


| March/April 1959



Oliver smith kelly

Oliver Smith Kelly (1824–c.1902)

American Thresherman, December 1902

The December 1902 issue of the American Thresherman has this to say about Mr. Oliver Smith Kelly:

"Mr. OLIVER SMITH Kelly, president of the O. S. Kelly Manufacturing Company, of Springfield, Ohio, and connected with the O. S. Kelly Western Manufacturing Company of Iowa City, Iowa. Mr. Kelly is the oldest active member of the thresher builders in the United States, being seventy-eight years of age. He is considered the Father of the Chapel, and at the last annual meeting of the thresher manufacturers, at Indianapolis, was present and was greeted with cheers by the association when he responded to a toast proposed to 'The Head of the Herd' by E. F. Kenaston, president of the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Company, who paid a tribute to the sterling worth of the grand old man.

"Mr. Kelly was born in 1824 and was left an orphan at the age of one year. At the age of fourteen, he began making his own living on the farm. At the age of seventeen, he served one year as apprentice at the carpenter trade and a year later began work as a contractor. In 1857, he became a member of the firm of Whitley, Fasseler & Kelly, manufacturing mowers and reapers. When the firm dissolved, he organized the O. S. Kelly Company out of the old Rinehart, Ballard & Co., and afterwards the Springfield Engine and Thresher Company. He was married in 1847, and is yet hale and hearty and bids fair to reach one hundred years."

Then in the American Thresherman of May 1904, we find the announcement of his death and we quote (omitting some of which is a duplication of the above):

"The grim reaper of death has again invaded the ranks of thresher builders and claimed an honored member and another philanthropist, in the person of Oliver Smith Kelly, head of the O. S. Kelly Manufacturing Company of Springfield, Ohio, and Iowa City, Iowa. Mr. Kelly celebrated his seventy-eighth birthday and fifty-sixth wedding anniversary on Dec. 23rd, 1902. He was one of the moving spirits in the great Champion Harvester Works, which operated for years under the name of Whitely, Fassler & Kelly. Mr. Kelly became identified with the thresher business in 1882. The old thresher factory of Rinehart, Ballard & Company was acquired by Mr. Kelly and was organized under the name of Springfield Engine and Thresher Company and afterwards the O. S. Kelly Company.

"During the nearly fourscore and ten years of his life Oliver S. Kelly was a man who made the world better by his being here. He was generous to a fault and gave freely of his means to all public enterprises. Among the gifts which remain a monument to his generosity is the Esplanade fountain in his home city. He was a man beloved by all men, and against whose good name no word was ever spoken. Born of Scotch-Irish parents, he inherited a strong constitution and was an indefatigable worker. He loved to make money for the good he could do with it and no person ever called on him in vain.