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KELLY, Thomas

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KELLY, Thomas. (King's County, Ireland, 1808--Dubuque, IA, May 15, 1867). Kelly may have hidden a fortune of GOLD in the bluffs behind ST. RAPHAEL'S CATHEDRAL. Kelly, hearing of the fortunes made in LEAD MINING, came to East Dubuque in 1832. Secretive even in those days, he would buy and load a barge with his ore and float with it to St. Louis where everything would be sold. Kelly returned to Dubuque by steamboat. (1)

In 1847 on one of these occasions, the barge sank. To collect insurance on the barge, Kelly traveled to New York City where he noticed it was being followed by a man Kelly assumed was after his money. When the man boarded a wagon in which Kelly was riding, Kelly shot and killed him. In 1854 he escaped from an insane asylum in Utica, New York to return to Dubuque. (2) He operated a mine on the bluff behind the cathedral and made enough money to bring his relatives from Canada to Dubuque. In 1837 he built his own smelting furnace. (3)

In 1865 Kelly was judged insane; his brother, William, was named administrator of the estate. This news came as a surprise. The Dubuque Herald reported that although he was considered "odd and peculiar, it was not generally supposed that he was insane. (4) Kelly died without a will but left a note saying that if people wanted his gold they could look for it. His estate was estimated to be worth between $50,000 and $200,000. (5)

Kelly's wealth may be buried in an iron chest he had made just before his death. Three caches of gold have been found. A boy found $1,200 in gold, a man discovered $1,800, and two boys in 1900 uncovered a small iron chest with $10,000 in eagle and double eagle gold coins. (6)



1. Dubuque Folklore. American Trust and Savings Bank. 1976

2. "Kellys Gold Still Buried on His Bluff, Telegraph-Herald, September 15, 1946, p. 47

3. Dubuque Folklore

4. "The Owner of Kelly's Bluff," Dubuque Herald, December 31, 1865, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18651231&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5 Dubuque Folklore

6. Ibid.

Goodspeed, Weston Arthur. The History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago : Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911, p. 540