West Valley Pioneer: Edmond Levi Kelley

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by Jeanine Buettner

Edmond Kelley was born in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania, on April 18, 1860 and was educated and lived in Pennsylvania until coming to Montana in 1885, first locating in Butte and then moving to the Flathead Valley in 1887. He spent his first night in Somers. He was told that the valley farther up had some value as a range for cattle but of no value for farming. The next day he walked to the site that would later become Demersville.

Edmond walked a good portion of the valley to find a location to establish a home. His capital consisted of “a good set of running gear, a pair of willing hands, high hopes and a vivid imagination.” One of his many treks across the valley took him to the northwest part of the valley. Kelley settled just 2 3/4 miles northwest of Kalispell (where the Kalispell Church of Christ now sits on Stillwater Road) and developed a dairy and the Hill View Stock Ranch. His farm became known as one of the show places of the Fathead Valley. The ranch was comprised of 160 acres and was devoted to the breeding and raising of thoroughbred Jersey cattle and at one time had up to 50 head. He sold milk to families that drove out to the farm and also ran a regular milk route.  

The magnificent Kelley Barn, showing the round portion enabling the circular track and silo.

The barn was regarded as one of the finest and best equipped in the valley. It was round, sixty-two feet in diameter and was large enough to hold forty cows. It had concrete floors and manger with steel stanchions. The silo in the center was fourteen feet in diameter and fifty-two feet high. An annex to the barn measured 36×40 feet and accommodated ten head of horses and twenty head of young stock.

Other additions included a bedrock well near the barn which water piped to a tank thirty feet above the barn, providing water pressure for cleaning purposes. The hay loft of the barn could hold 160 tons of hay. A circular track attached to the room enabled workers to deliver the hay to any part of the loft.

The original Kelley home, where they first lived when moving into the valley.

The Kelley’s built a home which at the time was one of the most modern farm homes in the valley. The home was electrically lighted, had hot and cold running water, bathrooms and an electric washer and ironer. Poplar trees were planted in front of the home and they are still standing today. In 1930 the barn burned down and a few years later the farm house also burned. These fires destroyed two important agricultural landmarks in the Flathead Valley.

Poplar trees back in the day.
The same poplars in August 2022.

Edmond Kelley married Mamie (Mary) King in Kalispell on April 6, 1887.  Mary was also from Pennsylvania. They had one daughter, Doris, born on April 21, 1906.  Doris served in the United States Army.

Edmond passed away on Dec. 12, 1943 and Mary on July 4, 1952.

A good set of running gear. Winter transport, with the more modern home in the background.

Side note:  Edmond’s older brother Oliver Burton Kelley served under Company D-Pennsylvania 18th Cavalry in the Civil War.  He was born in 1849 and passed away in 1902 in Kalispell. He is one of only a few buried in the Spring Creek Cemetery on West Valley Dr. who served in the Civil War.

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