Johannes (John) Kells was born on 24 Feb 1741 in Claverack, Columbia, New York and baptized in the Dutch Reformed Church of Linlithgo. He was the son of Hendryk or Henry Kells and Anna Margaretha Eswein. Her family were German Palatines from Pfalz, Germany. His antecedents we are not sure of currently. On 20 Dec 1763, Johannes' marriage to Maria Elizabeth Ennes Anderson is recorded in the same Linlithgo Church. They had eight children, two girls and six boys.
In the Revolutionary War, Johannes was a private in Capt. Andrew Finck, Jr.'s Company in the First Battalion of New York Forces. He enlisted on 12 Mar 1776 for a period of three years. In Oct of 1777 he was Fort Schuyler in the Mohawk Valley of New York. This fort played a key role in helping the Americans defeat the British in Western New York.