While digging around in a creek in Kansas City North in the mid-1990s, archaeologist-turned-author Mark Kelly found not only remnants of what life was like on a Missouri plantation, he also stumbled into a fascination with Maj. John Dougherty, an Indian agent, explorer and interpretor.
“I found a stone cutter and wagon wheel hubs and all kinds of stuff,” Kelly said.
Kelly was hired as a professional archaeologist to write a report for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for an area proposed for upscale residential development near where Staley High School is now located.
In the area west of Interstate 435 and 96th Street, a magnificent mansion, known as Multnomah, was once a working plantation and the home of the Dougherty family. Built in 1856, the long-abandoned house was destroyed in a fire set by vandals in 1963, according to the Clay County Archives.
As a result of his digging and research, Kelly decided to write a book. “Lost Voices on the Missouri, John Dougherty and the Indian Frontier,” an 855-page book on Dougherty’s life and times, was recently published. The book sells for $54.95.
The local author said he had an initial 1,000 copies printed. He will be signing the book at the Clay County Museum & Historical Society, 14 N. Main St., from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 16.
“The book grew from the report I was obligated to write,” Kelly said. “It begins in Ireland in 1737. It’s a fabulous story.”
Kelly said after 18 years of learning and writing about the Dougherty family, he almost cannot believe that he actually finished the book and had it published.
“It hasn’t sunk in that I’ve gotten it done,” Kelly said. “I dedicated the book to my father, Thomas W. Kelly, who died in 2009. I promised him that I would get it done and I have. He loved stories of the old West.”
Kelly said John and Mary (Hertzog) Dougherty had nine children, but only four survived, and three have descendants, Kelly said.
“I’ve contacted all the descendants,” Kelly said. “That’s been the fun part.”
Elise Cooper, a great-great-granddaughter of John Dougherty, said she was impressed with what Kelly had accomplished, and she is in awe that he spent so many years researching and writing about someone he didn’t know.
“I do love the book. I’m trying to read through it right now, but the print is so small,” Cooper said. “Mark has been a wonderful friend. We’ve adopted him.”
Kelly said he is working on another book based on Dougherty’s daughter Annie’s letters. He said Annie married Lt. Col. Charles Fredrick Ruff, who served under Alexander Doniphan.
“The letters are so interesting,” Kelly said. “I’m well on my way to getting it done — two years.”
In addition to being an author, historian and archaeologist, Kelly is also a licensed environmental permitting and historic preservation attorney with a particular interest in federal Indian law and treaty construction. As a hobby, Kelly raises paint horses on his farm.
As a follow-up to the book signing, the Clay County Museum and Historic Society Study Group will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, at the museum, to discuss Multnomah, Dougherty’s 1,162-acre plantation that featured three-stories with four rooms on the first and second floors separated by central halls, according to Jana Becker, president of the museum’s board of directors. The third story had a ballroom that spanned the width of the house. At the time it was built, it was considered to be the most beautiful home west of the Mississippi, Becker said.
Author Mark W. Kelly will sign his book, “Lost Voices on the Missouri, John Dougherty and the Indian Frontier,” from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at the Clay County Museum and Historical Society, 14 N. Main St. on the west side of the Liberty Square. Kelly will talk about his research and writing of the book and take questions from the audience. The public is invited, and refreshments will be served.
Liberty Editor Angie Anaya Borgedalen can be reached at 389-6636 or firstname.lastname@example.org