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Nettie Kelley, Vaudeville Actress

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Nettie Kelley, Vaudeville Actress
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Date Added
8/1/2020 11:09:11 AM
Historical People
Gift of
Robert Underhill
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Nettie Kelley was born in Clarendon Springs 2-28-1887 to Jones Griggs Kelley (1847 - 1928) and Ella (Lincoln) Kelley (1852 - 1927), the youngest of 7 children.  See the Erastus Kelley House entry in the Homes collection for her paternal grandparents house and the Moses Kelley House entry for her great uncle's home.  The 6-21-1901 Vermont Tribune in Ludlow noted that a commencement at the Clarendon Town Hall had occurred for Nettie and 8 other children. 

At just 16 years old she married George Louis Phillips in Cavendish 8-15-1903.  George was born 12-17-1885 in Altona, NY and was thus only 17 himself.  The marriage record says she was living in Weathersfield, VT at the time of her wedding and that George was working as a machinist.

On 10-21-1905 in Springfield, MA, their only known child, Bernard George Phillips, was born.  At the time George was working as a motorman.  What happened to the marriage and when exactly Nettie's vaudeville career began is not known but at the time of the 1910 census, then 4 year old Bernard was living in the Children's Home in Springfield, MA.  Nothing more is known of George Louis Phillips though it is possible he is the George L Phillips remarried and living in Los Angeles in 1920.  Neither George or Nettie have been found in 1910 nor has Bernard or Nettie has been found yet in 1920.  Bernard went on to marry twice, have at least 6 children, and serve in WWII.  He died 8-14-1991 and is buried in the Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island.

There were several newspaper articles in Rutland in 1916 mentioning Nettie.  From a 5-9-1916 edition:

Miss Nettie Kelley who is appearing in a vaudeville act at the Grand, "Babe and Eva Dolly." is a former Rutland girl.  She is a sister of William P. Kelley of Melrose avenue, local agent for the Metropolitan Life Insurance company and of Mrs. Walter Blanchard of No. 184 North Main street.

Miss Kelley, who has been on the road for about five years, has played in Canada, Cuba, Paris and other cities in France.  She is now playing on the summer circuit of the United States Vaudeville Managers' association.

Miss Kelley has appeared with "The Four Kings," "The Three Dolly Sisters," "Manny and Dolly," and with other acts.  She played at the Shrine theater last February

That article likely indicates why her son was in the orphanage in 1910.  She was on the road performing and Bernard's father was gone elsewhere. 

In June 1916 Nettie applied for a passport to travel to South America for the All Americas Theatrical Company.  The passport application indicated her stage name at that time was Babian Dolly.  It also indicated her address was the White Rats Club at 227-231 West 46th St. in NYC.  The White Rats Club was both a performance venue and residence for performers.  A photo of the building in 1914 can be seen below. 

A record of the actual marriage hasn't been found but Nettie is said to have married Clinton Adams in 1918.  When she died in Moira, NY 7-8-1934 at age 47 she was Nettie Kelley Adams.  Nettie was buried in the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, NY in the National Vaudeville Association burial grounds. 

The cover photo of Nettie is from her 1916 passport application.
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