Kelly's Mill History

Written by Lela Overton in 1974 and transcribed by Dianne Tidwell Miller

The Kelly Mill farm was interred by Richard Asberry Kelly, my grandfather, when he was a young man. He and his family lived here until my daddy (John Franklin) was 13 years of age. Then he and his family moved to Tennessee and lived there until my daddy (John Franklin) grew up and married my mother, Roenie Blagburn, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John R. Blagburn. When they had four children, Mary died at birth, John Richard died at age of four years, Madgie and Vergel, John Franklin moved back to Alabama in Walker County. Here Lola died at eighteen months, Lela and Velma were born. Then we moved back to Winston County near Lynn, Alabama, where Millard and Thomas were born. Robert Lee was born near Clear Creek.

About 1910, Richard A. Kelly (grandfather) and my dad (John Franklin) bought this farm back. It had been owned by Poseys and Allisons since they had moved away from here. Grandpa and Papa were co-owners of this mill from 1910 until 1924 when Grandpa Kelly became disabled to help run the mill. Grandpa Kelly then moved down on Uncle Jimmy Kelly’s farm near Lynn, Alabama, where he lived until he died.

They had a corn mill, a wheat mill, a cotton gin, and a sawmill on Clear Creek where they had the same type mill before they moved to Tennessee. Grandpa Kelly moved back to this place in 1910 and lived in this same house until 1916.

We moved to Clear Creek in 1913. The first year we lived on the old Tom Knight (Thomas Welborn Knight) , just east across the spring hollar from where Wallace Sutherland now lives. The second year, 1914, we moved to old Godfrey (the D.S. McCullar home), where the Motes Post Office had been in the past years. It was a two story building near the Godfrey College. We lived here until the summer of 1916 when Grandpa’s family moved to their new home near the mill so Grandpa wouldn’t have so far to walk back and forth to the mill. We, John Franklin Kelly family, moved here in 1916 into this house and I have lived here ever since.

Madgie and Solomon Turner were married the summer of 1916 while we were living at Old Godfrey (D.S. McCullar home). We attended Motes Elementary School while living here.

My Granddaddy, Richard A. Kelly, was reared on what we know as the Solomon Turner farm, later known as Beady Farm. His father was Barnabas Kelly. My Great-Grandfather is buried at Springhill Cemetery in Walker County, but his wife is buried at Kelly’s Mill (New Hope) Cemetery by my Grandfather and Grandmother, Richard and Amanda Kelly.

This house I’m living in is now, or a part of it, is over one hundred years old (1974). I’ve heard my dad talk about living here when he was a small boy, and he was born in 1870. Roxie Gober, my oldest cousin living, says my dad (John Franklin) was born on this farm. I’ve heard my dad talk about attending school at what was known as the Old Godfrey College. They taught from the first grade on up. It was located one mile east of this place, just across the road from the old Motes Post Office site (D.S. McCullar home).

You can still find a large rock cellar just behind where this building stood (Post Office), and you can see a depression of the basement of the college across the road just a little to the right of the place where the Motes Post Office stood. Below this you will find a large bubbling spring falling off a bluff where the college and homes nearby got their water supply. The Old Godfrey College burned down in 1888. It was the highest rated college in North Alabama at that time.

When we moved to this home in 1916, there were only two large rooms and a side room (where the dining room is now) for the kitchen. It had a front porch across the front and an open hallway between the two large rooms with a back porch which they called the meat room, where Grandpa Kelly kept a large box of meat he would kill during the winter. The old dug well in the backyard was their water supply. When Melvin (husband of Lela) and I had a pump put in it in 1950, it soon went dry so we had to have another well dug.

The old pecan tree in the backyard was just a small bush when we moved here in 1916. It was discovered by my dad when he was hoeing out Irish potatoes, and Grandpa Kelly suggested that we leave it standing. He said he remembered having a pecan tree in the backyard when he was just a small boy that his mother had planted from a pecan. He said it might be from that tree. So the tree is around 59 or 60 years old now (1974). The Kelly Reunion has been meeting here since 1958, and we always meet and serve our lunch under this tree.

THE CHAMPION TREE, State of Alabama
Species: Pecan
Scientific name: Carya illinoensis
Owner: Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Overton
Location: Kelly Mill Community
Circumference: 14.6 ft.
Height: 117 ft.
Crown spread: 103 ft.
Nominated by: Bill Smith, Assistant County Agent
Measured by: Dick Evans, National Forest Service
Dedication ceremony: 10:30 AM, December 5, 1979
History of the Champion Tree:

The Champion Pecan Tree’s existence is involved with the history and lives of two families, the Overtons and the Kellys. The following is a chronological listing with comments concerning the tree’s history contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Overton.

1912- Pecan germinates and tree begins

1916- Richard A Kelly (Mrs. Overton’s Grandfather) discovers the young seedling pecan tree while working in his field and told his family to preserve the tree. He believed it to be a seedling from a tree that his wife had planted during the 1870’s. The original tree had died and all that remained was the seedling. Mule bites the top off the tree, causing the major fork in the limb structure.

1917-1979- Tree grows rapidly due to high fertility and depth of soil, lack of competition from other trees, and the high moisture content of the bottom land soil. During this period, 1910-1942, the Kellys operate a corn mill nearby on the creek. In 1944, Miss Lela Kelly married Melvin Overton, and they have lived in the home near the base of the tree since that year.

Additional comments: Mrs. Overton has lived in the house since 1916, and for 42 years was a school teacher in the Winston County public schools. Mr. Overton has farmed the land around the tree since 1944 and both Mr. and Mrs. Overton have rested from their labor many times beneath the spreading branches of the Champion Tree.

Note: The Champion Pecan Tree was blown over and destroyed during a thunderstorm in June, 1990, and Kelly’s Mill was destroyed by a flood in 1948. (Dianne Miller)