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O’Kelly, Berrylocked

(1860–14 March 1931)
  • Loren Schweninger

Extract

O’Kelly, Berry (1860–14 March 1931), businessman, was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the son of slave parents. His father’s name is unknown. His mother, Frances Stroud, died when O’Kelly was very young, and he was raised by members of her family. After emancipation, he attended local schools in Orange and Wake counties, North Carolina, and subsequently worked as a railroad freight and ticket agent. Frugal and hard-working, O’Kelly saved the wages he earned working as a store clerk in the all-black town of Mason Village, near Raleigh, North Carolina, and eventually bought a share of the business. By 1889 he was the sole owner of the general store, serving both Mason Village and Raleigh customers. Described as optimistic, genial, warm, and sympathetic, he was also a hard-nosed businessman and real estate investor. In 1890 Mason Village was renamed Method, and O’Kelly became the town’s postmaster, a position he held for more than twenty-five years. He married Chanie Ligon, who died childless in 1902....

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