Biography of Hon. Edgar Kelley

Hon. Edgar Kelley, a native of Wisconsin, was born in 1851 and raised on a farm. He became an accomplished farmer in Minnesota before settling in South Dakota. With a vast landholding of nearly 486 acres, his farm stands as a model in the state, complete with modern facilities and efficient methods. Kelley’s contributions extend beyond farming, as he plays an active role in the co-operative creamery and Farmers’ Co-operative Elevator Company, exemplifying the value of collective efforts. Despite his reluctance for political office, he served as a representative and gained recognition for his wise decisions. Kelley’s progressive mindset and dedication to community welfare make him a respected citizen.

HON. EDGAR KELLEY is a native of the Badger State, having been born on the paternal farmstead in Walworth County, Wisconsin, on the 23rd of November 1851. He is the son of Stephen and Mary A. (Leddell) Kelley, who were among the early settlers of that section. The father of the subject was born and raised in Herkimer County, New York, and was of Scotch-Irish descent. The family arrived in America during the early colonial period and settled in New England. The mother of the subject was born in Vermont and came from an English lineage. The Leddell family has a long history in American annals. Stephen Kelley worked in agricultural pursuits in Wisconsin until 1866 when he relocated to Freeborn County, Minnesota. He continued farming in Minnesota until his death in 1898 at the age of seventy-five. During the Civil War, he served honorably as a member of Company I, Forty-sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. He was a Republican in his political affiliations, having joined the “grand old party” at its formation. His wife passed away in 1895 at the age of seventy-one. Of their three sons and three daughters, all are living except Benjamin, who died at the age of twenty-six.

Edgar Kelley, the subject of this review, was raised on the family farm and gained experience in the demanding work of farming. He received his education from public schools in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. At the age of twenty, he moved to Iowa and worked on a farm in Franklin County for three years. He then returned to Minnesota and took charge of his father’s farm for the next four years. During this time, he cleared and cultivated much new land, using a breaking plow pulled by a team of six oxen. In 1879, Edgar Kelley left the homestead and settled in what is now South Dakota. He acquired a homestead claim in Melrose Township, Grant County. This property is now part of his current landholding, totaling four hundred and eighty-six acres, most of which is suitable for cultivation. His farm is considered one of the finest in the area, featuring well-built structures, modern facilities, and good fences. Edgar Kelley is a forward-thinking farmer who applies scientific methods and aims to achieve optimal results from his time and labor. He grows various crops suitable for the soil and climate and pays special attention to raising high-quality livestock. His farm also contributes significantly to the local dairy industry, as he supplies an average of two hundred pounds of milk daily to the co-operative creamery in Millbank. This creamery is a successful and important industrial enterprise in the county, boasting state-of-the-art equipment. Edgar Kelley was one of the founders and has been a director of the creamery since 1895. He is also a shareholder in the Farmers’ Co-operative Elevator Company of Millbank, which owns and operates a fine elevator. This organization has demonstrated the value of collective efforts by yielding a fifty percent dividend in 1903.

Mr. Kelley is known as a progressive, generous, and community-minded citizen who actively supports worthy projects and initiatives for the benefit of all. While he strongly advocates for the principles and policies of the Republican Party and actively participates in party activities, he has never sought or desired political office. However, in 1902, he was nominated by his party to represent Grant County in the general assembly. Despite his personal objections, he was elected to the position in November of that year with a substantial majority. His performance as a legislator has justified the trust placed in him by his constituents. Edgar Kelley is a member of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, the Ancient Order of United Workmen, and the Yeomen.

On July 26, 1879, in Albert Lea, Minnesota, Mr. Kelley married Miss Eliza Bessenger. She was born and raised in Freeborn County, Minnesota, and is the daughter of Morris and Anna Mary Bessenger, who are natives of Germany. Eliza’s father worked as a marble dealer and was an early settler of Minnesota. He and his wife currently reside in Albert Lea. Mr. and Mrs. Kelley have two children: Elmer D., who is studying at a commercial college in Mankato, Minnesota, and Elsie M., who is married to Henry Vandervoort.


Robinson, Doane, History of South Dakota: together with mention of Citizens of South Dakota, [Logansport? IN] : B. F. Bowen, 1904.

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