A Voice from Kellytown

This exhibit features a transcription of a letter by Clara Kelly Thomas that was originally published around 1949 in the People’s Forum section of the Haverhill Gazette. Kellytown was located where Kelly Road meets Old County Road today. The map below is based on a detailed map prepared by Edward McKenzie using information provided by Clara.

Map of Kellytown 1865

In Plaistow, New Hampshire, my ancestors, Protestants from the north of Ireland were among the first settlers in this section of town. They were all extra tall, lean, broad-shouldered men, shoemakers by trade. They sat at a cobbler’s bench to make their turn sole shoes and to sew them.

My dear mother sewed shoes. She worked with a waxed-end, a stout thread that she waxed herself.. She made a needle hole with a hand awl and inserted the needles on either side of the uppers, pointing them toward each other, to sew them, then drew them through real tight.

Kellytown used to be the trading center of Plaistow. Here at the junction stood a general store. Across from it was the only hotel. Within sight was the old brick schoolhouse, which was later set afire and burned out because of small- pox. This Kellytown road and Old County Road met at the junction where the general store stood. The Old County Road was the main artery into Amesbury, Mass. Oxen hauled our worldly goods to our general store. My ancestors went to school most of the time barefooted and in over-alls. The boys’ long curls clear to their waists were not an unusual sight. Going to school in those days was not compulsory as it is today, so they deserve credit for seeking education.

All my ancestors raised large families and there were never any divorces. Our Kelly men and the wives wed “until death do us part.” We boast shoemakers, and later years accountants, doctors, nurses, governors, managers and businessmen. I must not forget the faithful and conscientious housewives and mothers, who are most deserving for their part in maintaining homes, which is commendable in itself.

On January 1, 1840, the Boston and Maine railroad made its first run as far as Kingston, New Hampshire. As time went on, settlers began to locate closer to the railroad for transportation into Haverhill. That section of town is now called Plaistow Center.

Where will our next center be? One would expect that Route 125 which is bursting with many new and some rather large businesses will take over in the future. I imagine that actually the real reason for the changing tide is the changing idea of basic transportation.

Mrs. Clara (Kelly) Thomas