Alfred Kelley first stepped foot in Ohio in 1810. As a boy, Alfred had heard stories of the Ohio land told by his uncle Joshua Stow who had helped survey northern Ohio along with Moses Cleaveland. It was the result of these stores that brought Alfred to the newest state in the Union.
His goal was to settle in Cleaveland which had 3 frame houses, and 9 log cabins that faced a wooded common that would in time, become the town square. Kelley opened the first law office in Cleaveland (the name was later changed in 1831, to Cleveland).
Alfred sent glowing reports back to his family about the area, and soon Kelley's parents and 5 brothers joined him in Cleaveland. In a few years, the Kelley brothers opened a general store at about the same time Cleaveland was incorporated as a village. With a total of 12 votes being cast, Alfred was elected the first Village president (4 of the votes coming from the Kelley family).
In time, the Kelley brothers were deeply involved in most of just about everything going on in Cleaveland. Irad (Alfred's brother) became the first postmaster, the brothers opened the Commercial Bank of Lake Erie, and they organized the Cleaveland Pier Company.
While sailing to Detroit with merchandise, Irad Kelley stopped at an island referred to as Island Number 6 on the Connecticut Land Company's Survey (which his uncle, Joshua Stow had helped create). Irad and his brother Datus bought that island from the back east owners and named it Kelleys Island.
Alfred Kelley was elected to the state legislature as its youngest member. He regularly made trips from Cleveland to Columbus for legislative sessions. On those trips he would notice the fertile farm fields along the way and the rich harvests in the fall. He also noticed that the farmers were extremely poor and many of the crops went to waste after the farmers reaped as much of the crops as they needed for the next year. It was on one of these trips that he decided that what Ohio needed was a way to move the excess harvests to markets beyond the local farms, even beyond the state itself. A canal system in the state would solve that problem.
Along with Governor's Ethan Allen Brown and Jeremiah Morrow, Alfred Kelley pushed for the creation of a commission to study the feasibility of canals across the state. Being a surveyor by trade, he even surveyed possible routes. Thanks to his dedication and determination, the state legislature created a Board of Canal Commissioners in 1825 and in July of that year, a group of settlers, some mounted calvary, and a marching militia, arrived at a muddy field 3 miles southeast of Newark where they met an already assembled a restless crowd to dedicate the first shovel full of dirt in the beginning of the Ohio and Erie Canal. Also in attendance was Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York and Ohio Governor, Morrow, who all took turns digging up the soil. Across the state, on the very same day, July 4, a crowd of about 75 people gathered in Van Wert for similar ceremonies, marking the beginning of the Miami and Erie Canal.
As an assemblyman, Alfred Kelley was responsible for pushing canal bills through the state legislature. As a canal commissioner, he surveyed the land, signed contracts, and kept diligent records of the entire operation. The canal would be mostly completed by 1833.
By the 1840s and 1850s, Kelley realized the canals were being out done by a new form of transportation, the railroad. At his urging, the city of Cleveland began a long-term project to connect with Cincinnati by railroad. By 1851, the railroad already had been completed from Cleveland to Columbus. Kelley later served as president the Columbus and Xenia Railroad, and the Cleveland, Painesville, and Ashtabula Railroad.
Kelley died in 1859 and was buried in Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus. During his years of public service, the state of Ohio and the city of Cleveland had grown tremendously and, because of his support of transportation and financial reforms, Kelley had played an important role in their transformation.
Alfred Kelley was born in Middletownh, Connecticut on Nov. 7, 1789. He died in Columbus Dec. 2, 1859 and was buried in Green Lawn Cemetery. His wife, Mary Seymour Welles, was born in Albany, New York in 1799 and she died in 1882 is buried next to her husband.