Joseph C. Kelso
Captain J. C. Kelso, who won his title by faithful service during the trying days of the Civil War, is now a distinguished and honored citizen of Clover Township, Jefferson County.
Our subject is a native of the county, born July 19, 1835, a son of William and Martha (Chambers) Kelso. The birth of the father occurred in 1807, in County Down, Ireland, whence in 1813, he was brought to this country by his parents. After landing at Philadelphia, they proceeded to Huntingdon County, Penn., making their first location near McAlavy's Fort, but in 1820 they settled in what is now Clover township, Jefferson County. The journey was made in wagons through an almost unbroken forest, and until their little cabin could be erected the sheltering branches of the trees was the only home. Here the grandfather, John Kelso, purchased a tract of wild land at what was then known as the Irish settlement, and improved a farm, on which he made his home until called from this life, in 1860. He and his wife were devout members of the Seceder Church. They were the parents of eight children: William, Elizabeth, Susan, James, Isabel, John, Margaret and David.
Being the oldest in the family, William Kelso early began to assist his father in the arduous task of clearing the land and developing a farm, and he never left the old homestead, his death occurring there in December, 1863. His wife, who also belonged to one of the honored pioneer families of this section of the State, was a daughter of James Chambers, who was born, reared and married in Ireland, and on coming to the United States settled in Red Bank township, Clarion County, where he spent his remaining days. He was also a member of the Seceder Church, and was the father of four children: Joseph, Samuel, Solomon and Martha. To Mr. and Mrs. William Kelso were born seven children: John and James C., who died in childhood; J. C. of this sketch; Solomon, who also served his country during the Civil War; Isabel, wife of C. Chatfield; Elizabeth A., who died when young; and Martha J., wife of W. J. Gilbert. The mother, who was a most estimable lady and a member of the Seceder Church, died in January 1860. Upon the home farm Capt. J. C. Kelso was reared to manhood, receiving his education in the public schools of the neighborhood. In 1859 he was united in marriage with Miss Sarah Simpson, who also belongs to one of the prominent pioneer families, her parents being William and Lilly Ann (Scott) Simpson, who left Ireland—their native—after their marriage, and in 1826 took up their residence in Clarion County, Penn. Coming to Jefferson County in 1840, the father improved another farm, on which his death occurred in 1874, while his wife passed away in 1869. They held membership in the Pisgah Presbyterian Church, and had a family of ten children, namely: Mrs. Jane Hull; John (deceased); Mrs. Elizabeth Lucas; Mrs. Mary Smith; David died in infancy; Mrs. Martha White; Sarah, wife of our subject; Mrs. Margaret Fitzsimmons; Mrs. Lilly Ann McGiffin; and Mrs. Lavina Moore. To Capt. Kelso and wife have been born four children: Martha A., now the wife of J. G. Anderson; John S., a practicing physician; Roverda J., who died at the age of nine years; and Harry, who died at the age of six.
Fired by a spirit of patriotism at the breaking out of the Civil War, our subject in August, 1861, enlisted as private at Brookville, and was made fifth sergeant in Company B, 105th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, which was attached to the Army of the Potomac, and was under the command first of General Heintzelman, later under General Sickles, and still later under General Hancock. For meritorious conduct and bravery n the field of battle he was regularly promoted until four months before the expiration of his three years, when he was commissioned Captain of his company.
He saw much hard service, was several times wounded, as follows: at Fair Oaks, May 31, 1862, causing an absence from his regiment of some six weeks, returning to duty at Harrison's Landing. On August 27, 1862, he was taken prisoner at Manassas Junction, but three days later he was paroled by General Stonewall Jackson and sent to the parole camp at Annapolis. Most of the prisoners took “French leave” and visited home. On being exchanged Captain Kelso, about December 13, 1862, returned to his command, then stationed at Falmouth, Va. At Chancellorsville, May 3, 1863, he was wounded, the ball shattering the bone of his left leg, which caused his confinement to the hospital for months; returning to duty with his regiment at Brandy Station, Va.
In December 1863, after which he re-enlisted for three years or during the war, remaining with the same company and regiment. On May 24, 1864, at North Anna River (the Wilderness) he was shot through his suspenders in both the front and back, and this also disabled him for six months. On his recovering he rejoined his company in the trenches at Petersburg, Va., in November, 1864, and remained at the front until hostilities ceased, when he was honorably discharged at Pittsburg, July 11, 1865, and returned home with a war record of which he may be justly proud. He now receives a pension for injuries sustained. Returning home, Capt. Kelso resumed agricultural pursuits upon his present fine farm, which is conveniently located one mile east of Summerville, and is a valuable tract, 100 acres of which is highly cultivated and improved with excellent buildings. Since the organization of the party he has been an ardent Republican, takes and active and commendable interest in public affairs, and is now acceptably serving his second term as justice of the peace, being first elected in 1889. Fraternally he is an honored member of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Veteran Union, which religiously he and his wife are both identified with the Seceder or United Presbyterian Church. His genial manner and his pleasant address have won him friends throughout the entire community, and he justly merits the high esteem in which he is uniformly held.
Sarah Simpson Kelso was a younger sister of my great-grandmother, Martha Simpson White. They were two of the eight daughters of William and Lily (Scott) Simpson.
Source: Commemorative Biographic Record of Central Pennsylvania, Including counties of Centre, Clearfield, Jefferson, and Clarion. Chicago: J. H. Beers & Company, 1898.
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