When someone asks Joe Kelly from Sidney, "Are you
really Irish?" Joe replies, "Well my mother's name was Bridgette Dougherty,
and she came directly from Ireland to Glendive. My father's name was Michael
Kelly, and he came from Ireland, too. Besides that I was born on the
seventeenth of March so if that doesn't make me Irish, I don't know what
would." The only reason he isn't Pat is that Pat was here before he was. Joe
was the third child of Michael and Bridgette Kelly, Pat was the first.
Michael Kelly had made his way to the New World in the 1870's. Three of his
brothers were already in this country, working in the mines at Butte, but
mining evidently didn't appeal to Michael. He chose tailoring instead, and
upon his arrival in the U.S. he located in Chicago where he learned the
The West must have been beckoning, even though he didn't go to Butte, because
he left Chicago for Denver, then sought out a little town just beginning to
sprout at the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad. There he set
up shop in the back of Gallagher's general store and began tailoring in
The Gallagher's were from Ireland, too, and that fall Mrs. Gallagher wrote to
her sister back in 'The Old Country' and asked her to come help out in the
Gallagher home. In December of that year her sister arrived, and that's how
Michael Kelly and Bridgette Dougherty met each other.
Miss Dougherty, coming from the mild Emerald Isle where snow never fell, was
greeted in Glendive by a foot of it. When she stepped off the train and saw
what lay before her she exclaimed, "If this is Glendive, God help me!"
Joe Kelly grew up in the Sidney area and learned first hand what hard times
are. He joked that he learned to write in the bank - signing his name on the
bottom of a note. He can laugh about it now, but the hard times were no
laughing matter when they were going through them. Joe recalled the time in
his own experience when, he says, one of Sidney's bankers could have taken
everything he had and set him out into the street - but he didn't.
Joe usually did his business at Sidney's other bank, but in this case he had
borrowed eleven hundred dollars from an individual who later sold the note to
the bank. The note came due, and Joe had nothing with which to pay. He walked
into the bank that morning feeling just about as cheerful as a man facing the
hangman's noose. If it had been the bank where he customarily did his business,
he might have hoped for leniency because of past satisfactory relationship,
but this was the competing bank.
The banker greeted him and asked, "What can I do for you, Joe?" (Everyone in
town was acquainted with everyone else). Joe's Irish optimism was hard pressed
as he replied, "I sure hope you can do something. I have an eleven hundred
dollar note due, and I don't have the money to pay it." The banker thought a
moment. "Just what can you do?" he asked, "I can pay the interest," Joe
replied. It seemed to him that his future was hanging in the balance. Then,
without any further discussion, the banker reached for a blank and made out
In his younger days, when eastern Montana was still largely ranch country, Joe
worked on ranches a good deal and rode in many roundups. One year as they were
gathering cattle on Burns Creek, he and a couple other cowboys spotted a pack
of wolves, so for a few hours they let themselves be sidetracked from the
business of collecting cattle and concentrated on wolves.
After chasing the pack awhile they succeeded in getting one wolf cut out.
After running about two hours, the wolf, tongue hanging out and thoroughly
fagged, dodged into a plum thicket. You can't very well rope a wolf in a plum
thicket so Johnny suggested to Joe, "You go in and run him out." The wolf may
have been on the verge of exhaustion, but Joe wasn't interested in getting
chummy with him in a plum thicket and told Johnny he could have the privilege
himself. Put that way, the idea didn't sound so good to Johnny either. After
considerable maneuvering they managed to get the wolf back out into the open
where they could rope him so they killed him and skinned him and turned in the
hide for a $10 bounty.
On Ren Mathew's spread the cook (at the house, not on the roundup wagon) was
very much interested in seeing a rattlesnake, so one morning when Matt
Obergfell found one in the course of his riding he captured it and took it
along to the house.
He carried that rattler all the way home on his saddle horse and when he went
in for dinner, carried it into the kitchen to display his prize. Right then
the cook discovered she just thought she wanted to see a rattler. Joe
sententiously concluded, "Dinner was just about ready, but what wasn't we had
to finish ourselves."
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