Opinion

New generation of technology connects Kirkland to the past | Hawkinson

Jack Kellett, center, and his daughters, from left, Louisa and Isobel, talk with Kirkland Heritage Society President Loita Hawkinson at Heritage Hall in Kirkland on Monday. - Matt Phelps, Kirkland Reporter
Jack Kellett, center, and his daughters, from left, Louisa and Isobel, talk with Kirkland Heritage Society President Loita Hawkinson at Heritage Hall in Kirkland on Monday.
— image credit: Matt Phelps, Kirkland Reporter

In 2001, Jack Kellett from England wrote a note on an internet message board asking for information about his Kellett ancestors who came to America in 1888.

Jack’s grandfather, Peter Kellett had returned to England, leaving a mother and four sisters behind. On another forum, I too had left messages asking for history of the Kelletts, who had slipped through our historic fingers after Arline Ely wrote “Our Foundering Fathers: The Story of Kirkland.”

Because we used different message boards, our messages did not cross. In 2011, I found Jack’s message and wrote a reply. It then took another year before Jack’s youngest daughter, Lulu, said he should check his 2001 post.

When Jack found my post, he searched the internet and found the Kirkland Heritage Society website. He learned that on that very evening Marin Harris was presenting her program on the Kellett home, which is owned by her grandmother, Joann Harris. That evening Harris was awarded the Christine Neir Scholarship for her research and program. Former Kirkland mayor Bob Neir and his son Jim Neir presented the scholarship to Harris, who gave a wonderful program. She was not expecting the scholarship. It was an amazing evening. And the evening got better when I returned home to find an email from Jack Kellett, who was named for his great grandfather, John Kellett but he is called Jack.

From that time on, the Kirkland Heritage Society and the Kelletts have been exchanging information and photos. Jack did not know that John Kellett was one of Kirkland’s founders and is responsible for naming Kirkland after his employer Peter Kirk, that two of his grandfather’s sisters were born in the family home in Kirkland, or that he had cousins in California. In turn, we did not know when and why Peter Kellett returned to England. We now know that Kellett had loyalty to his mother country and returned to serve England during World War I. He had wanted to serve during the Boer War but his father was dying and begged him to remain in America, serving as the head of the household until his sisters were older. Jack has the original 1900 letter, which he scanned and shared with the Kirkland Heritage Society.

It is heartbreaking. John Kellett feared he had as little as five years to live. In reality, he only had two years, dying at age 48 and leaving his wife Martha with five children, the youngest not yet one year old.

When Peter Kellett could, he did return to England only to learn he could not serve because he had lost an eye in America, possibly while working at a shipyard.

There is still much to learn. But we do know that Peter Kellett married and had children and grandchildren and now great grandchildren. Jack remembers his grandpa very well because he saw him every few weeks. As always, he wishes he had asked some questions. But what we must learn from this saga is that the internet is a wonderful tool. We should check any postings from time to time, kind of like when we change our smoke detector batteries. We need to thank this younger generation for keeping history alive.

The Kelletts have now visited Kirkland. Jack and his daughters Issy and Lulu stayed at the historic Loomis Bed and Breakfast for two nights. The Kellett ancestors would have been well acquainted with Kirkland’s only historic Victorian home.

The Harris family hosted a dinner where the Kelletts got acquainted with the latest generation to live in their ancestral home. And of course, they toured the historic Kellett/Harris home so they could listen to the bricks talk. If only they could talk.

The more we learn, the more we want to know.

Loita Hawkinson is the president of the Kirkland Heritage Society.

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