When Steve Kelly (left) and Nicole Slater planned their wedding reception at Grand Prairie Events in Luverne Saturday, they didn’t know both families are related to two of the town’s earliest settlers.

Wedding links couple to Luverne's past

When Steve Kelly of Hartland, Wisconsin, proposed marriage to Nicole Slater of Rushmore, he had no idea they would be opening a time capsule to the earliest days of Luverne.

Prior to the couple meeting at Dordt College, Steve had never heard of Luverne. “My familiarity with Luverne was watching Laverne and Shirley reruns on TV,” Steve said.

That all changed the day Steve’s father, Mark Kelly, gave the couple a DNA test kit in January of 2018.

Research showed Nicole’s family emigrated from Prussia in what is now Northern Germany on the Rhine River near the border with the Netherlands.

They were among the original settlers in this area after getting to know Luverne founder Philo Hawe’s family near Red Wing in Goodhue County back in 1854.

“The Kelly family came to the United States to escape the potato famine in Ireland that started in 1854,” Steve said.

A book by Arthur Rose, “An Illustrated History of Rock and Pipesotne County,” documented that on June 17, 1869, Steve’s four-times great-uncle James C. Kelly (aka J. C. Kelley) located his lost herd of mules on the Rock River right below Blue Mounds State Park.

He loved the area, claimed the land next to the Rock River, and became one of the original settlers to Luverne and later married his wife, Bridge Ellen.

The couple’s research took a different turn when they found out J. C. Kelley had a brother named Patrick F. Kelley who also located in Luverne and was a leader in the community.

Fast forward  to the historic summer of 1876 when Gen. Custer and the 700 men of the 7th Calvary Regiment were defeated in the Battle of Little Big Horn at the end of June.

A week later on July 4, our nation celebrated its centennial, and on Sept. 5, 1876, Patrick F. Kelley married Eva Luverne Hawes who then became Eva Luverne Kelley.

“We planned our wedding reception in Luverne, not knowing our historical ties to the real Luverne. This is really an amazing discovery,” Steve Kelly said.

“What are the odds of having families of two of the original settlers finding each other from hundres of miles away, getting married, and then celebrating our marriage in the town named after a relative?”

He said they wonder if the Kelly and Slater families of 150 years ago knew each other.

“While we cannot be certain, the evidence we do have strongly suggests they did,” Steve said.

“It’s hard to believe a little spit in a test tube can tell you so much about your personal family history. Maybe it was fate, destiny or the spirits of Luverne’s past that Nicole and I are together.”


Steve Kelly and Nicole Slater were married June 29 in Sioux Center, Iowa, and celebrated with a reception at Grand Prairie Events in Luverne. Father of the groom, Mark Kelly, shared this information with the Star Herald on behalf of the family.


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