William Elsey Connelley (1855-1930), the son of Constantine and Rebecca J. (McCarty) Connelley, was born in Johnson County, Kentucky. Self-educated, Connelley taught school in Johnson County between 1872 and 1880, and continued that profession after coming to Wyandotte County, Kansas, (1881-1882) before turning to other pursuits. Connelley located in Tiblow, now Bonner Springs. His first job was that of a farmhand. He attended the County Normal Institute and received a certificate to teach in the county. He served a term as Deputy County Clerk and in 1883 was elected County Clerk and served two terms. He was the first county clerk to serve in the new Wyandotte County Court House when it was built on the northwest corner of 7th Street and Minnesota Avenue. From 1883 to 1887 he served as county clerk for Wyandotte County; between 1888 and 1892 he was in the wholesale lumber business; and in 1892 he was again in Wyandotte County associated with banking interests.
The 1890s found Connelly beginning his avocation of historical research and writing. Among his most important contributions is The Provisional Government of Nebraska Territory (1899), Quantrill and the Border Wars (1909), Eastern Kentucky Papers (1910), Life of Preston Plumb (1913), a five volume History of Kansas (1917), a five volume History of Kentucky (1922) and Indian Myths (1928).
In 1899, he was given a power-of-attorney to act in behalf of the remnant of the Wyandotte Tribe in the Indian Territory in the sale of the Huron Cemetery for a public building fronting on 7th Street and the removal of the graves to Quindaro Cemetery. The resident Absentee Wyandot voiced opposition to the sale of the cemetery. The building was built at another location and the cemetery was saved from being sold.
Connelley became secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society in 1914. In the 16 years he was secretary, it was said, “…because of his labors and the work of George W. Martin, his predecessor, the state has one of the best preserved historical records in the nation.”
Among his books, works and collections are:
» Emmigrant Indian Tribes of Wyandotte County – Delaware, Shawnee, Wyandotte.
» History of Kansas – State and People.
» A Standard of History of Kansas and Kansans – (5 volumes).
» Wyandotte Folklore.
» The Journals of Governor William Walker and Abelard Guthrie
» Kansas Territorial Governors.
» Huron Place.
» Quantrell and the Border Wars.
» and much more.
It was said that Connelley’s many historical and biographical volumes constitute the most authentic and comprehensive record of Wyandotte County. A Kansan editorial following his death prophesized, “But 50 years hence his works will have begun to assume their proper place…” Connelley’s works are a valuable source of information for the early history of the city. Kansas City Kansas Public Library has a large collection of Connelley’s books and other works.