Isabella Duncan Kells was my mother's father's mother. She was born in Forrestburgh, Sullivan, New York on 6 Jun 1849, the fifth daughter of James and Margaret Hamilton Duncan. I am not entirely sure if her name was Isabelle or Isabella, it appears both ways in various records. Isabella is the most frequent and it is what her brother in law, Lyman Kells, calls her in her husband's pension records so I am going with that. Her father calls her Belle in his will.
The family moved to Grove, Stearns, Minnesota in 1864 when she was about 16. The first school in Melrose Township was No. 41 or "the Stewart School". Isabella taught there and was probably one of the first teachers. I suspect that she met Stephen Avery Kells through teaching. His son, Henry Avery, would've been 5 in 1876. Stephen and Isabella were married 27 Mar 1877. They were married at home with her brother, George and her father, James, as witnesses. She was 27 years old, he was 32. They proceeded to have 8 children: Margaret Hamilton (named after her mother), Stephen Archibald (the Archibald is her mother's father's name), Lucas Carlisle (named for Stephen's brother Lucas and either the philosopher Thomas Carlisle or the place Carlyle), James Duncan (named for her father), Oakford Allen (named for a prominent pioneer in Stearns Co.), Lyman Morris (Lyman for Stephen's brother), Mary Caroline (named for Stephen's mother, Caroline Avery) and Robert Homer (named for Stephens brother, Robert, and the Greek poet, Homer). The names show both the strong family ties and her love of literature.
Isabella was or became Catholic. I don't know if her parents were Catholic. The Kells children were baptized in the local Catholic Church, St. Boniface. Some remained Catholic and their descendants are today, while others became Protestant.
According to her granddaughter, Roberta Kells Dorr, "They seem to have lived in a log house until 1887 when the new house was built with the now famous parlor and conservatory. For that time the house was quite splendid. We know that she had some prize yellow roses." The house is still owned by her descendants. Here is a recent photo of it. She died of cancer and spent her last days lying in the conservatory. She died in February 1897.
My mother wrote me of her that, "Besides being able to teach all 8 grades in school, his (Lucas's) mother was a lover of music and passed that on to
Roberta goes on to say, "Before she died Isabelle (sic) wrote some lovely bits of poetry that have been saved. December 29, 1896, she wrote in (her daughter)Madge's autograph book
'The summer day of life is ended
The sunbeams vanish from the sky
Above the darkness, breaks the starlight
Heavens beacons to our home on high.'
Then she also wrote
'Like some long, childish dream thy life has run
But now the dream has reached the dark, deep sea
And sorrow, dim and crowned, is waiting thee.
Only the waving wing changes and brightens
Only the idle the dark future frightens.' "
Isabella is buried next to her husband in Oakland Cemetery, Sauk Centre, Stearns, Minnesota. She was remembered with great love by her children and her love of literature, music and education was passed on by them to the next generations.