Black History Month: Allen Kelly
Friday, February 26th, 2021
History instructor, Dr. Daryl White took a look back in time to celebrate Black History Month by searching early settlers in the Peace Region. His first submission is Mr. Allen Kelly.
The 1921 census records fewer than a dozen Black Canadian residents in northwestern Alberta. The Kelly family accounted for half of them. Allen Kelly’s early life has proven difficult to trace. He was born in the southern United States. The birth year he gave varied somewhat over the years; not an uncommon event for Black Americans born into the slave-owning societies there.
Kelly came to Edmonton just before the First World War with his wife, Cornelia, and three children (Stella, Elizabeth, and Emma). He worked as a plasterer and Cornelia as a laundress. He became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 1914.
In 1917, Kelly came to the Peace Region. He filed for a homestead on a quarter section near Peace River and built a house, a stable, and a hen house. Within a few years he had cropped 35 acres. The family was well established in the community and Kelly’s mother-in-law, Allie Rice, came to live with the family for an extended period.
In his 70s, he had a extended hospital stay in 1933 and left Peace River for about a year to live with one of his daughters. He returned for a few years before he passed away in 1938. The Peace River Gazette credited him as the earliest Black Canadian settler in the district.
Learn more about Dr. Daryl White and our other GPRC research experts at GPRC.me/FindAnExpert.