A Letter from Anna M. Kelsey

As part of our 150th anniversary celebration, we opened the time capsule that was first enclosed in 1948. One of the items was a letter from Anna Kelsey, the daughter of John and Amanda Kelsey, for whom our church is named.

It was a great window into some of the history of our congregation. We returned the letter to the time capsule, but you can read the contents here:

To the Members of the Mexican Methodist Church and Members of the Southwest District Conference, Corpus Christi, TX

July 4, 1948

Dear friends,

Kelsey Memorial Church is dedicated to the glory of God and to the memory of John Peter Kelsey and his wife Amanda Catherine Kelsey who were my adopted parents as a gift to the Mexican Methodists of Corpus Christi, Texas.

My reason for placing this memorial here is that they were a part of this city in its early days and were identified with its history and its progress and were among its pioneer citizens. John Peter Kelsey gave it the name of Corpus Christi from the bay on which it is located. Before that time, it was known as Aubrey and Kinney Ranch. Amanda Catherine Kelsey, his wife, organized and taught the first school here.

My reason for making this gift to the Mexican Methodists is as a recognition for their friendly spirit and kindness toward them during the years they lived among them in Mexico and on the border, particularly when Mr. Kelsey was very ill with the Cholera, and would have perished but for the attention of his good friend Don Matias Ramirez and his family. This was before he was married. He never forgot this kindness.

I have long hoped to place a memorial to them here as a memento of their connection with its history. And once in conversation with the Rev. B.Y. Dickenson, pastor of the Mexican Methodist church here, whom I have known for many years and of his work in the Mexican field, he turned to me and said “Ms. Kelsey, we need a new church here so much,” “Why not build one for us here?” And I thought it a wonderful idea of his. What finer memorial could there be? This is how and why the Kelsey Memorial was built.

John Peter Kelsey was born at Poughkeepsie, New York, June 11th 1818, of English and French parentage. He was the fourth son of James Kelsey and his wife Rachel Dubois. They reared nine sons and one daughter, Jane. John Peter Kelsey came to Texas a young man of twenty-one in the year 1839, landing at Galveston.

During the years that followed he made various trips to New York and into Mexico on business. In the year 1841 he located in Corpus Christi and established a General Mercantile Business which he carried on until he moved to Rio Grande City in the year 1849.

Amanda Catherine Brooks was born at Watertown, Ohio, October 19, 1828,  a daughter of Abija Brooks. Her mother was Lauren Woodford Brooks. Abija Brooks moved Corpus Christi from Marietta, OH in 1845 with his family of 5 children, 4 daughters and one son, Edward. Amanda was the eldest, 17years of age, first graduated from the Marietta Seminary for Girls. There being no regular school in Corpus at that time, several of the businessmen came to ask if she would teach if they would provide a suitable house. Amanda was very glad to do so as she said her ambition here was to teach and be at the head of a girls school such as the Marietta Seminary from which she had graduated. There are still today in Corpus Christ descendants of children that were pupils of her and had attended the school she taught. In 1847, she and John Peter Kelsey were married. Amanda continued to teach until they moved to Rio Grande City, Starr County TX in 1849.

John Peter Kelsey was a man of strong individuality, strictly temperate of high principals and integrity. My mother once said, “Anna, your father is so conscientious that he would rather lose in a business deal than to have anyone ever think that he was trying to take an unfair advantage of him.”

His business interests were many and varied: general merchandise, farming, stock raising, etc. and though he had a permit to practice law he did not practice it as a profession as his other interests did not permit. He was a friend to the oppressed and those in trouble. He was affectionately called Don Pedro. John Peter Kelsey died at his home in Rio Grande City, May 9, 1898.

Amanda Catherine Kelsey was much loved by all who knew her for her kind and generous spirit to all. She survived her husband 16 years, passing away November 25, 1914. They are buried in the old cemetery at Rio Grande City.

I was born at Marietta, Ohio. My father was Ira Allen and mother was Diantha McAllister Allen. My parents died at an early age having seven children, of whom I was the youngest.

John Peter Kelsey and Amanda were visiting relatives at Marietta, OH at that time. They learned of the Allen children. Having had no children born to them, they took me as their own, adopted me and bestowed on me their love and affection, which I returned with my whole heart. When they adopted me they changed my name from Hannah Rebecca Allen to Anna Marietta Kelsey.

Mr. L.R. Brooks, attorney of Rio Grande City, was the nephew of Amanda C. Kelsey, a son of her brother Edward Brooks. Mrs. Shirly Amanda Brooks, daughter of L.R. Brooks, is the artist who painted the portraits of John Peter Kelsey and Amanda C. Kelsey which are presented to this church today. Miss Adelaide Brooks is also a grandniece of Amanda Catherine Kelsey.

I am so happy to erect this monument of my adoptive parents and to give it to my Methodist brethren in Christ. And it is my fervent prayer that it will be the means of bringing many souls to him, and help them to live a Christian life while on earth and that we may all meet on that heavenly shore, when the trumpet calls us home.

May God be with us.

Sincerely and lovingly in his name,

Anna Marietta Kelsey