Roadhouse Characters

James and Alfretta Kelley





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McGrath Genealogy  |  Upperchurch Connections  |       Old Mattydale          |  What's New  |  Contact

















James H. and Alfretta M. Kelley

Revised: October 15, 2014


The Early Years

James H. Kelley, age 28, married Alfretta M. Lincoln, age 22, in Boston, MA, on March 29, 1879. At the time of the 1880 census they had a five month old son named Charles and were living in a boarding house in Canton, Norfolk County, MA. Kelley gave his occupation as “Roof Painter.” The Kelley family was residing in Syracuse at least by early 1887.


The Kelleys Buy Rose Lawn   

In September, 1887, Alfretta Kelley purchased Rose Lawn, on the Cicero Plank Road, from Cynthia Baum [1887-09-05]. Initially the Kelley’s thought their new Road House would be open by mid-October but it didn’t open until the following March.


 In January 1888 James Kelley was running Kelley’s Oyster and Chop House located at 37 Warren Street. He was probably running this establishment before his wife made the Rose Lawn purchase. By March 1888 James Kelley had sold his Warren St. restaurant, which had gotten good reviews. He was still busy fixing up the Baum place at Rose Lawn, preparing for a grand opening to the public.  


Kelley's Roof Coating Business

In addition to running a restaurant, James Kelley was also selling his patented [at least according to him] Roof Slate Coating material in Oswego county, in 1888. A licensee from Oswego County, who was dissatisfied with the leasing deal, was the immediate cause of the story that earned Kelley the nicknamed “Deacon” [1888-06-27]. However, Kelley had also been selling his roofing material in the town of Salina and the North Syracuse area the previous summer [1887]. He probably noticed the Rose Lawn property while selling his roof coating product in the area that summer. During the summer of 1887 he sold his product to two original settlers of “Mattydale,” Wright and Overacre. They were less than happy with the results and shared their thoughts with the newspaper reporter who was writing this story on Kelley, mentioned above.


Kelley Gets Taken by A Con Man 

In December of 1888 Kelley was taken in by a con man on a forged bond. The man was Henry N. Goff, a telegraph operator from Rochester, who had been visiting Kelley’s Road House on a regular basis. After getting Kelley’s confidence, Goff had Kelley vouch for one of the forged bonds at Kelley’s bank, the Third National Bank, in Syracuse. And then Goff was gone.


The Syracuse Police Chief, Wright, had sent letters and photographs of Goff to many police departments in the East and South. A couple Mobile, Alabama detectives caught up with Goff while he was sleeping on a train headed for Cincinnati. They had recognized him from the picture sent by Chief Wright. Deputy Sheriff Ryan went to Alabama and brought Goff back from Mobile.


Goff's Story Gets the Grand Jury Curious About Kelley's Roadhouse 

When Goff appeared before the Grand Jury he gave them enough incidental information that the Grand Jury started an investigation of the Kelleys and the operation of their Road House. As a result of this new investigation the Kellys were indicted on charges of running a gambling room, running a disorderly house (prostitution) and serving liquor on Sunday. In what proved to be a smart move, Kelley had his wife purchase Rose Lawn in her name and she leased the property to him. Since he was the proprietor of the road house, the charges settled on him and his wife was free. Kelley went to jail for three months and was fined $500.


Kelley's Serves His Sentence 

As his sentence neared its completion Kelley’s lawyer approached the court about a reduction in the amount of the fine. According to the law at that time the judge had been limited to a maximum fine of $230. The judge lowered the fine to $230 and papers were made out for Kelley’s release. However, before Kennedy, Kelley’s lawyer, could pay the $230 to the Sheriff, Superintendent Noble of the penitentiary called and said that the fine should be paid to him. The Sheriff and the Superintendent each cited different sections of the law that they said supported their demand for the fine to be paid to them. At first the Sheriff told Kennedy to give the money to the Superintendent and then changed his mind and went to Kennedy’s office to claim the fine. The Sheriff then sent a deputy to the penitentiary to pick up Kelley but the Superintendent refused to let him go. There was talk of a charge of false imprisonment but the Sheriff settled on a writ of habeas corpus. Judge Northrup gave the Superintendent until 2 o’clock to produce James Kelley in his court room. Before the writ was completed some of the Sheriffs friends advised him to let the Superintendent have the money and their arguments were persuasive.  The Sheriff returned the $230 to Kennedy, who took it to the penitentiary and gave it to the Superintendent, who then released James Kelley.


After that Kelley quieted down until his death, about two years later, on August 5, 1891, from a “hemorrhage of the lungs,” a condition that he had been suffering from for some time. The following month his wife sold the road house to Thomas Brady, who was even more of a character. 


The Death of James H. Kelly

James H. Kelly died at 1:00 PM on Wednesday, August 5, 1891 at the age of 38. Kelley died from “hemorrhage of the lungs,” a condition that he had been suffering from for some time. The obituary said that funeral details would be forthcoming but none have been found. His wife might have taken him back to Boston for burial there. [1891-08-06]



The Marriage of James H. and Alfretta M. Kelley

James H. Kelley (28) and Alfretta M. Lincoln (22), both of Boston, were married in Boston on March 29, 1879, by B. B. Krillikelly of Boston. This was the first marriage for both. James was a roofer, who was born in Boston and his parents were Thomas and Louisa Kelley. Alfretta was born in England and her parents were James and Mary A. Lincoln.

1880 MA Norfolk Canton  T9-548-433A

Res 248, Fam 326 – Boarding House

Kelly, James, 28, Boarder, Roofing paint, Ireland, Ireland, Ireland

Kelly, Alfretta, 25, Boarder, England, England, England

Kelly, Charles, 5/12, Nov, Boarder , Massachusetts, Ireland, England

Problems: James Kelly’s marriage registration, from 1879, gave his place of birth as Boston, MA, while it was “Ireland” in this census. The Census date for 1880 was June 1, 1880. The “age” was the age of the person on their last birthday. If under 1 the age was given as a fraction, as shown in “5/12” above. In Column 7, if the person was born within the census year then, the month of their birth was to be entered. With Charles above, 5/12 implies he was born in December 1879, but “Nov” was entered in Col 7. This is probably close enough given the looseness usually found in census ages.

[1887-09-05] – “A New Road House,” The Syracuse Daily Courier, Syracuse, NY, Monday, September 5, 1887.

[1888-06-27] “ ‘Deacon’ J. H. Kelley,” The Syracuse Weekly Express, Syracuse, NY, Wednesday, June 27, 1888.

[1888-12-23] – “Mr. Goff In Town,” The Sunday Herald, Syracuse, NY, Sunday, December 23, 1888.

[1889-06-20] “ ‘Deacon’ Kelley’s Body. The Sheriff and Superintendent Each Claim It,” The Weekly Express, Syracuse, NY, Thursday, June 20, 1889.

[1891-08-06] “Death OF Mr. Kelly,” The Daily Courier, Syracuse, NY, Thursday, August 6, 1891.