Elder Kelley was born in Warren county, Ky., in July, 1847. His parents brought their church letters to Texas in 1854, and joined Five Mile church, in Dallas county. They had no Sunday school, but had preaching occasionally. His mother died in 1861, and father died in the Confederate army in 1863. In August, 1864, J. R. Kelley was baptized into Five Mile church by J. W. Mitchell. He moved to Johnson county in 1867, and united with Alvarado church, where he was ordained July 7, 1872. His first pastorate was at Alvarado. He attended the Cleburne Institute, presided over by the beloved J. R. Clark and W. B. Featherston. In 1882 he was appointed missionary of the Waco Association to the Texas frontier. He entered the field September 21, 1882. His work was at Baird and Abilene, and adjoining territory. Elder L. S. Knight, missionary of Alvarado Association, was on this field a few week earlier, and rendered valuable aid to Brother Kelley in planning the work. The country was new and sparsely settled, which made difficult and laborious. The few Baptists at Abilene were mostly from South Texas, and were prejudiced against the work of the General Association. However, fourteen of them induced to unite with the church. He held a meeting in June, 1893, at Abilene, at the close of which $1,700 were subscribed to build a house of worship, and soon thereafter Elder Bennett Hatcher was settled as pastor. The Abilene church has since been prosperous. Bro. Kelley continued to preach at Baird and other points till J. F. Duncan, under appointment of the General Association, succeeded him, when he retired form the mission work. Waco Association paid Elder Kelley $75 per month, and kept him in the field two years, preaching to weak churches. While in the employ of our Association he delivered 464 sermons and addresses, organized two churches, traveled 7,058 miles, and baptized 28 persons. He now resides at Alvarado, Texas.
Source: J. L. Walker and C. P. Lumpkin, History of the Waco Baptist Association of Texas (Waco: Byrne-Hill Printing House, 1897), pp. 328-329.