Title: Police Officer
Birthdate: 1824
Death Date: May 15, 1892
Plot Location: Section 101, Lot 73; GPS: 39.93384* N, 075.23765* W

Screenshot (2351)

Many people know someone named Kelly, since it is the second-most popular Irish surname in this country. (The top spot belongs to the Murphys.) An Irish teenager named James Kelly met another Irish teenager named Agnes McElroy after they both arrived in Philadelphia, and soon the city had another Kelly family on the roll. They were married on September 25, 1844 at Ninth Presbyterian Church on the corner of 16th and Sansom Streets.

Their first child was Ellen, born in 1847, followed by two boys that didn’t survive childhood, and the last was John, born in 1854. There is a record of a man named James Kelly becoming a naturalized citizen at age 22 in 1846, but considering the number of men with that name in Philadelphia, it’s unknown if it was the same James that married Agnes. It is known, however, that James was a shoemaker in the census reports beginning in 1850. 

City directories first listed him as a police officer in 1874, a position he held for 18 years. In 1892 he was two years away from his 70th birthday, and two years away from his 20th anniversary on the force. Sadly, his life was cut short that spring when he was trying to get children away from some railroad tracks below the South Street station. In the flurry of dispersing the children and saving their lives, he was himself struck and killed by an oncoming train. Five years later Agnes joined him in the Yeadon side of the cemetery just up the hill and to the right.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

Support the Friends of Mount Moriah

Help us in our mission to restore and maintain the beautiful Mount Moriah Cemetery by donating to our cause or volunteering at one of our clean-up events.