When William Kelley turned 84 the Register of 21 June 1910, published his life story, which was headed, A WORTHY PIONEER.
On Saturday Mr William Kelley of Orroroo, attained his eighty-fourth birthday, and on the same day celebrated with his wife the sixtieth anniversary of their wedding day. Mr Kelley is widely known throughout the north and to many members of Parliament, for he has always been a prime mover in everything for the advancement of Orroroo. He agitated for the Pekina Creek irrigation scheme for over 20 years, and it was a proud day for him when the irrigation Bill passed through Parliament, and a prouder one still when he saw the attainment of his efforts in the completion and opening of the scheme.
The smaller water scheme, which reticulates the town of Orroroo, was also obtained after a fight, in which Mr Kelley took a prominent part. In the Port Germein to Orroroo Railway project he was also an energetic worker, but without result to Orroroo.
Mr Kelley was born at Redruth, Cornwall, on June 18, 1826, and lived there until 1847. He learned carpentry from his father, and when a young man decided to go to London. The great metropolis, however, did not get him, as hearing that a company wanted men to work a mine in Australia be obtained a guarantee of three years' work with the Australian Mining Company, and decided to settle in this country.
With his father, mother, and sister he joined the ship Rajah of Leith (Capt Charles Ferguson), and arrived in South Australia in September, 1847. On this ship also travelled Miss Frances Moyle, who a few years later became Mr Kelley's life partner. The Australian Mining Company at this time owned 20,000 acres of land at Reedy Creek, and here Mr Kelley first worked with an Aborigine for a mate, making pine huts for the miners. After a few months he was sent to Allan's Creek Mine, near Kapunda, but returned to Reedy Creek and then again to Kapunda, where he completed the term of his agreement.
During this time he acquired 22 acres of land and an 80-acre block adjoining Kapunda, on which he lived for many years. At the conclusion of his term he bought a team of bullocks from Mr H Hughes, of Booyoolie, and carted between Adelaide and Kapunda, and on June 15, 1850, was married. The Victorian diggings at this time were inflaming the imagination of the people, and Mr Kelley caught the gold fever in 1852. With his team of bullocks he proceeded overland, but at Lake Albert lost his horse, and for two days was looking for it.
In Victoria he sold his bullocks for £145, but all this money was spent except a few pounds before he had any success in mining. They then struck it rich, and Mr Kelley says his party had taken as much as 7 lb. of gold in one day. On the whole that venture was successful. Mrs Kelley had accompanied her husband. After four months Mr and Mrs Kelley returned to Kapunda, but the gold fever again attacked him, and he went to Victoria, this time by sea.
Unfortunately this venture was unsuccessful, and he returned overland. They had to walk across the 90 mile desert, as their horses were done up. He had another experience in Victoria in 1869 but this time, with two teams of bullocks, carted between Daisy Hills and Englewood. He finally sold the bullock teams for £160, against a value of £20 in South Australia. With this £160 strapped round his body Mr Kelley had a rather curious experience with bushrangers, from which his ready wit, however, extricated him.
Near a country public house two men, whom he took for bushrangers, joined him, and from their conversation gathered that they were going to rob him. He, however, said, ‘Well, chaps, there's a pub handy. Let's bust my last half-crown, after which I shall have to stick up the first traveller I come across.’ He was not interfered with. Mr Kelley had other mining experiences. In 1862 he went to the Blinman, and worked in the Blinman Mine under Captain Pascoe for some time. On his return to Kapunda his horse got away from him, and he had to walk from Blinman to Kapunda carrying his saddle, bridle, and swag.
Again, in 1872, the Northern Territory was attracting attention, and Mr Kelley joined a Kapunda syndicate, which was fitted out with 12 months provisions, wagons, horses, &c., and sailed for Port Darwin. On leaving Port Darwin he had a gun accident, which nearly cost him an arm if not his life. For many months he was in Port Darwin Hospital, and only fully recovered after returning to Kapunda. He again returned to the Territory, and was with the syndicate which discovered Yam Creek and Radford's Blow. The latter, a hill of white quartz, Mr Kelley condemned.
A visit to Pine Creek, and a 6-ft lode was found, and, although valuable, his syndicate had to let it go for want of funds to carry on. Mr Kelley has pleasant re-collections of the Territory, which he regards as a rich country and with wonderful recuperative powers. He also predicted the discovery of tin, and thinks there is a great future before it. With him in his first return to South Australia were a number of the construction party of the overland telegraph line. Superintendent Harvey was in charge, and he had laid section E. In this section it had been reported that gold was plentiful, but Mr Harvey thought that was an erroneous idea.
He said, however, that after years of experience at Newcastle-on-Tyne and later in Welsh coal districts he had little doubt that there were large coal deposits in this section E. None of this has yet been discovered, though, added Mr Kelley; but that's not to say it's not there. The Northern Territory experiences completed Mr Kelley's mining life, and he has since adopted a less exciting means of livelihood.
After the second of his Victorian ventures, in 1854, the Kapunda Milling Company was formed, and a mill built, which has since been destroyed by fire. The members of the first company were Mr Holdham (Manager of the Kapunda Mine), Mr William Kelley, sen, Capt Ned Bagot, Mr John Pothill, Dr Blood, John Warn, Thomas Terin, Edward Vague, and Mr Kelley. Eventually Mr Holdham bought all the other members out, and in 1868 sold to Barton, Bennett, W and J Jeffs, and W Kelley; while in 1872 Mr Kelley became sole proprietor. During this year Mr Kelley sent two bags of flour, made from wheat grown at Hamilton, to the Vienna World Exhibition, and there gained a gold medal for the best flour.
At this time he had business reverses, and found it necessary to dispose of the mill. Subsequently he was appointed manager of the Laura Mill, receiving a share in the profits, and with this money he bought his first land in the north, 519 acres on the Walloway Plain.
About 1880 he made a home for Mrs Kelley and family on the block of land on Walloway Plain, and, as Orroroo was then in course of construction, he obtained work as a carpenter, after nearly 20 years absence from the bench. He was engaged on the cabinet work in the first hotel built in Orroroo, and now known as the Orroroo Hotel. At the conclusion of this he was engaged by Giles & Smith to superintend the building of the mill at Melrose, and was later appointed manager. Here again he was a participant in the profits, and during his 10 years' employment there bought 6,393 acres of land at Peak Vale, about six miles from Orroroo.
There and in Orroroo he has lived for the last 20 years, taking keen interest in all matters appertaining to the advancement of the town. He was a Councillor for some years for Erskine Ward in the Orroroo District Council, and has helped the Methodist Church, of which he is a member, in many ways. He has also been an Oddfellow since 1854 and a Forester since 1856. Now, at the age of 84, he has retired, having sold his land at Peak Vale. He is still active and strong, reads the paper with a glass, and is handy with his tools. How many men at 84 can tell such a tale? Indeed it would be a hard act to follow.