Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
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James "Nigger Jim" Kelly

 

(1839 - February 7, 1912)

 

Jim Kelly was born in Texas and the son of black parents who worked for James Olive, the father of Print Olive. James Kelly was named after James Olive.

 

Print Olive and James Kelly became childhood friends. When Print Olive returned home from the Civil War, he hired Jim Kelly as horsebreaker and horse trainer. Kelly had a way with horses and the Olive horses were the envy of many Texas drovers bringing top dollar whenever they were sold.

 

As Print Olive's trail boss, Kelly was dependable, a good worker and a good hand when trouble arose on the trail. He had quick reflexes, was good with a gun and loyal to Print Olive.

 

On one occasion, Jim Kelly entered a bar to buy a bottle of whiskey, but was ignored by the bartender. In a loud voice and hand on his gun, he requested the bottle again. During the pin-drop silence, the bartender handed Kelly the bottle.

 

In Ellsworth, Kansas while their boss Print Olive was playing cards in a saloon, Jim and another drover sat on the bench outside watching the people. James Kennedy entered the saloon with gun in hand. Print Olive previously had questioned Kennedy's dealing in another poker game essentially accusing him of cheating. The angry armed Kennedy walked up to Print Olive and began firing. The first bullet entered the hand, the second in the groin and the third in the thigh. As Kennedy was about to fire a fourth bullet, Jim Kelly had turned around, saw Print in trouble, drew his gun and fired a shot through the window throwing Kennedy off balance. A drover's fist to Kennedy's head stopped the ambush of Print Olive.

 

In a time when racism was strong, "Nigger Jim" Kelly look at every man as his equal, never backed down from any man - white or black, was a top drover, had pride in himself, his race and was fearless.

 

Jim Kelly is buried in the Ansley Cemetery in Ansley, Nebraska. The cemetery is on the west side of Hwy 183 north of Ansley, Nebraska. Jim Kelly's headstone is next to the fence for the north boundary of the cemetery.

 

 

Information compiled by Steve Grimm

Books About Jim Kelly

 

The Ladder of Rivers by Harry E. Chrisman

 

This is a book about the Olive Family - primarily Print Olive, but includes material on Jim Kelly.

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http://www.WildWestHistory.org

© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation

http://www.WildWestHistory.org