Alethea Jane Macon

Author of: Four O'Kelley Sons and Some of their Descendants, Allied Families. Printed 1969, 1970

Alethea Jane Macon was in my opinion the most important modern author of O'Kelley family history.  Unlike all the O'Kelley authors who have come before or after her, she lived in a time when she heard the stories first hand from their verbal sources and she had little in the way of published works to reference.  Ms Macon was born two generations earlier than J Fred O'Kelly or Harold O'Kelley and Ms Macon was born a mere seventeen years after the end of our American Civil War and she lived well into my adulthood; eight years after Neil Armstrong stepped on our moon. She began her life in the horse and buggy days, probably met and talked with both men and woman who lived through our Civil War, she saw the electrification of our modern world, the Wright brothers, and through two world Wars.  She was alive when Teddy Roosevelt went up San Juan Hill.  There are some errors in her work but I doubt she was in error, only the data provided to her was in error and that is to be expected because she was forced to rely upon descendants' memories to provide a great deal of her information.  I am puzzled about and wished she would have given us just a brief explanation of why she she came to believe our Irish ancestor was named Thomas, it seems clear she did not actually know or she would have likely stated so, she only states on page 4 of her book "The best available evidence, however, leads to the belief that his name was Thomas" and for many that seems to be enough because with that brief statement Ms Macon almost single handedly set in stone that Thomas was the name of our ancestor.  I believe it was her skill as an accomplished author and maybe her experience in settling the disputes of children that produced her statement; that maybe there wasn't any real evidence that a reasonable person might accept as proof of the name of our ancestor but her statement allowed her to avoid the James vs Thomas debate without being pulled into it but her influence was so great that if she had published that James was the name of our ancestor, you would not eve be reading this page now because it would be well accepted as common knowledge. 

Signature and home of Alethea Jane MaconI have investigated the possibility that Thomas was the name of our ancestor who came from Ireland and have found no evidence to support such a claim and my four year investigation has caused me to conclude Alethea Jane Macon confused two stories into one, the first being that Thomas O'Kelley was the name of our first ancestor to be Protestant and the second was James O'Kelley was the name of our Protestant ancestor to come from Ireland.  Two hundred years separate Thomas O'Kelley from his great, great grandson James O'Kelley, our ancestor to leave Ireland and settle in America.   This story was further confused by James O'Kelley's marriage first to Nancy "Anna" Dean who bore him Rev James, Thomas, George, William D, and Benjamin and after her death about 1758 James married her much younger sister Elizabeth Dean who bore Charles, Francis, John, Elizabeth and Nancy both who married Tuckers. 

Alethea Jane Macon "best evidence" was likely influenced by a 1938 book by John Gwathmey, "Historic Register of Virginians in the Revolution that mistakenly gives William D O'Kelley as Thomas D O'Kelley as until recently the DAR gave this as Macon's source that her grandfather Charles served in the 8th Virginia during our revolution.  That seems very unlikely as a 1779 Mecklenburg Virginia Militia Roster shows a Lt John Farrar the first cousin of Thomas Jefferson as Charles Kellys substitute and Benjamin who Macon claimed served in the 8th with Charles makes no meantion of such service in his Pension Application on file with our National Archives.  Harold O'Kelley in his book reports that he investigated Lt Thomas D O'Kelly given in John Gwathmey book and learned from the source that the name is an error that the records are for Lt William D O'Kelly and was mistakenly reported as Lt Thomas D O'Kelly so not one single piece of evidence can be found to support that our ancestor was named Thomas and many name him as James.  Macon's source for the names of the sons was Kate O'Kelley, the Coat of Arms that appears at the beginning of Macon's book came from Fredrick Henry O'Kelley, Kate's brother and the belief that James was the name of our ancestor came from the daughter of Fredrick Henry O'Kelley, Mary Evelyn O'Kelley  who wrote a paper for her Master's Degree in the 1960s where she presented the following claim:

“There was a man, James O’Kelley, with six sons.  (landed in Virginia 1815)  Three of the sons were married and the other three did not get married.  All three of the married sons moved to the state of Georgia, and all the O’Kelleys that are now in the state of Georgia, and all the O’Kelleys we have been able to trace in ancestry that knew anything about it were traceable back – all the O’Kelleys in the United states that we could find – were traced back to one of those three sons in the state of Georgia.” 

All roads lead to Alethea Jane Macon for the claim that our ancestor's name was Thomas and that he had six sons, Thomas, George, William D, Charles, Benjamin, and Francis a claim which documents and DNA seem to dispute.

You can read or download Alethea Jane Macons entire book here.  We all owe a very special thanks to the descendants of Alethea Jane Macon for making her work available.

To aid researchers I have created the below table based upon those Macon thanks in her book, clearly these were her sources for much of her information.

Source Ancestor Branch
Mary Elizabeth O'Kelley died 1919  "Aunt Betty" was interviewed in 1910 or almost 60 years before Ms Macon printed her book. James O'Kelley Charles
Elizabeth Carter (Tuck) died 1937 Louisa Disey O'Kelley Charles
Kate Walker (O'Kelley)  In 1966 this family had a very old and important O'Kelley bibleThe likely source for James being our ancestor's name. Thomas Dean O'Kelley Francis
Joseph Fred O'Kelly Joseph Fred O'Kelly Charles
Clare Winters (O'Kelley) George Wiley O'Kelley Charles
Charles Thomas Stamps    
Cora Morton (Tuck)  died 1967 Louisa Disey O'Kelley (grandmother) Charles
Ruth Carter (O'Kelley) Augustus Franklin O'Kelley Charles
Frances Moore (O'Kelley) Johnson STAMPS O'Kelley  Charles
Florrie Smith (Carter) Louisa Disey O'Kelley (grandmother) Charles
Kathleen Scales (O'Kelley)  Dr. Henry Thomas O'Kelley
Benjamin

1 On page 44 of his 1966 book,  author J Fred O'Kelly states, "Mrs. Carl C Walker, Conyers Ga, a descendant of Francis and Delilah has an old family bible which contains proof that Charles and Francis Kelley of Mecklenburg Co Va were the same men as Charles and Francis O'Kelley of Oglethorpe Co Ga."  This bible has been located and is in the possession of one of Kate's sons. 


I have been fortunate to communicate with several people who personally met Ms Macon and everyone speaks of her in very positive memories a testament  most likely about her as a person.  I have been told her community named a school after her, although it is no longer in use.  Rick O'Kelley March 15, 2011

This is an story provided to me by a descendant of Francis Marion O'Kelley who actually met numerous time with Althea Jane Macon.  He writes,

"In order to fully understand the story behind meeting Jane Macon, you have to go back to the period right after the Civil War. It appears as though my great-great grandfather, Francis Marion O'Kelley, joined the Union Army in Nashville, Tennessee February 23, 1864. He served with Company G, 10th Tennessee Calvary. The oral family history tells that he was captured near Pulaski, Tennessee later that year by Confederate forces who, needless to say, didn't think much of a Southern boy fighting against them. The story goes that he and his companions were lined up against a river and were going to be executed. My great-great grandfather jumped into the river and managed to escape.  He returned to his home in Georgia. Soon after the war ended, he and his family began a trek west. They first stopped in Ten Mile, Tennessee where my grandfather, Benjamin Fletcher O'Kelley was born. Then it was on to Arkansas where Francis Marion died and is buried in Union, Arkansas.

The remaining 8 children stayed in the Cushing area.  In the late 1930's or early 40's, my grandfather made a trip to visit his son in South Carolina.  He passed through north Georgia on the way and while stopped at a restaurant to eat, asked the waitress if she knew of any O'Kelley's living in the area since he knew that was where his father was from. The waitress is reported to have said "yes, and you look just like Uncle Ben O'Kelley."  My grandfather replied "I AM Uncle Ben O'Kelley", but made no effort to locate the other "Uncle Ben".

Fast forward to the late 1960's when I became interested in the family genealogy. One of my aunt's gave me a "filler" she cut out of the newspaper. It was a short article about a "Ben O'Kelley" who lived in Homer, Georgia and made dog collars for a living. I was in South Carolina at the time and went to Homer seeking this individual.  I found him. His name was Benjamin Franklin O'Kelley vs. my grandfather's Benjamin Fletcher O'Kelley. He was totally uninterested in the story of our family and totally uninterested in talking to me.  He told me to see his sister, Ruth Carter who ran a country store nearby with her husband, Loney Luke Carter. Since I was that far along, I went seeking Mrs. Carter and soon located her. She was EXTREMELY interested in genealogy and extremely interested in talking to me.  I never will forget the tour she gave of their house which was attached to the store. She and Loney Luke slept in separate bedrooms (they were probably in their late 70's to early 80's at that time). It was like walking through an antique store. Beside her bed, lying on a hand braided rug was a double barreled shotgun broken down with shells in each chamber. I have no doubt whatsoever that this barely 5 foot woman who might have weighed 100 pounds soaking wet not only knew exactly how to use that gun, had the determination to do so if necessary.  Ruth told me the person I really needed to talk to was cousin Jane Macon who lived in nearby Clayton, Georgia.  A short time later I was face to face with Ms. Macon.

She was living in her summer cabin on a steep hill overlooking the town. She was one of the most gracious southern ladies I have ever had the privilege to meet. She told me she had finished the draft of her book on the O'Kelley family and was ready to send it to the publisher. She had written to the Oklahoma branch of the O'Kelley's repeatedly and never received a response, so was leaving that entire family out.  I told her that was my family, and I didn't have a lot, but what I did have she was welcome too. She delayed sending her draft to the publisher until I could get my information to her and copied into her work.

Ms. Macon was a well thought of schoolteacher who actually lived in Brunswick, Georgia. If you Google her name, you will soon come up with "Jane Macon Middle School, Brunswick, Georgia".  She told us of being one of the few people with a job during the depression. She used what money she had to purchase the land and build a summer cabin in the mountains to escape the heat during the summer months. The cabin was as plain a possible, with windows that allowed a nice breeze to come through nearly all day long. The house was plain, but the fireplace was magnificent. She said it was built by local stonemasons for the price of $50. She felt so bad about the work being done so cheaply, she paid the men an extra $20, which was all she had at the time. The mason came back the next day and installed an iron sway so she could cook over the open fire, saying he couldn't accept her money without doing something to earn it.

I made an attempt to visit Ms. Macon every year when she was in Clayton until her death in 1977. On one of those trips I found her banged up from a fall in her yard while working in her flowers. She was well past 90 at the time, fell on her back and slid down the hillside until she stopped in some weeds.   Years later my wife and I made a trip to Clayton and visited the cabin one more time. It was occupied by two of Ms. Macon's nieces, who said they (along with a brother) inherited it and continued to use it as a family vacation home.

My only regret is that I didn't have more time to spend with Ms. Macon and her delightful interest in not only the family history, but the world around her."