Kelleys Island is both a
village in Erie
County, Ohio, United States, and the island which it
fully occupies in Lake
- There is also a Kelly's Island in Newfoundland, Canada.
Originally known as Island Number
and later Cunningham Island
, it was
renamed in 1840 for brothers Datus and Irad Kelley, who were
largely responsible for cultivatating the island's quarrying
industries. As of the 2000 census
, the village had a
total permanent population of 367. It is the largest of the American Lake Erie Islands, and is a part of the
Ohio Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Native American and early white settlers
Kelleys Island is a remnant of a Devonian
limestone ridge carved around 10,000 B.C. during the Pleistocene
The first known inhabitants of Kelleys Island were either Erie
, Cat, or Neutral Native Americans
lived in the area dating back to around the 17th century. On the
south shore of the island near what is now downtown, there is a
large limestone rock that features pictographs
drawn over a number of years by these
early settlers. White settlers in the mid-1800s named the piece
Inscription Rock. The Kelleys Island Historical Society believes
that the carvings date to roughly 1643, and that the rock was used
by the early Americans to impart information to one another about
how the hunting had been in the area, and where their group would
next be traveling to. Many different items and scenes are cut into
the large flat top side of the rock, which measures 32 feet by 21
feet (10 by 6 m). Over time, the elements have worn down much of
what was originally inscribed on the rock. The people inhabiting
the island were largely annihilated by the Iroquois
around 1665. In the late 1700s, the
Connecticut Land Company
did a geological survey of the Lake Erie area, and named the land
mass "Island Number 6".
The first white man known to have lived on the island was a
known only as "Cunningham". He
traveled to the island in 1803 with the intention of making his
home there, at a time when it was still inhabited by Native
Americans. For a while, Cunningham enjoyed friendly relationship
native people: he built a log cabin
their village, socialized with their hunters, and traded goods with
them on a regular basis. At some point, Cunningham had a
disagreement with the Native Americans, and a group of them tore
down his home, stole all his possessions, and attempted to kill
him. He escaped to the Ohio Peninsula via canoe
, but died shortly afterwards as a result of his
wounds. For many years after his death, the island was known as
Over the next decade, several other white adventurers attempted to
explore the island, all of them eventually being driven away by the
native people. During the War of
, the west shore of Cunningham Island was made a military
rendezvous post by General William Henry Harrison
. Shortly after
the war ended, the Native Americans finally abandoned the island.
In 1818, a man named Killam briefly attempted to start a logging
company, but abandoned the island after the large steam-powed boat
he used to transport wood to the mainland wrecked and sank. Around
1826, people slowly began settling on the island; by 1830,
approximately six families made up its entire population.
1833, a French-Canadian veteran of
the War of 1812 named Ben Napier attempted to appropriate
Cunningham Island and nearby Put-in-Bay as his own through squatters rights.
He and his
associates terrorized the families living in the area, hijacked
their cabins, and killed their livestock. Napier was eventually
legally ousted after it was realized that he did not legitimately
own the land.
In 1834 the principal game was wild hogs which were hunted in the
early part of winter. One islander noted that to encounter a drove
of them showing their great white tusks and long bristles standing
out straight made a formidable looking enemy, and must have been
about as exciting as hunting lions in South Africa. The dogs always
came home torn and disabled.
Acquisition by the Kelleys
In 1830, John Clemons and his brother began mining the island's
limestone, and opened its first quarry
built a dock its north side in order to ship the rock to the
American mainland. Shortly afterwards, brothers Datus and Irad
Kelley became aware of the island's potential worth, and slowly
began purchasing its land in parcels.
Irad Kelley were born in Middlefield, Connecticut on April 24, 1788 and October 24, 1791,
respectively. Datus moved to Rocky River, Ohio in 1811, working as a surveyor and sawmill owner. Irad moved to Cleveland,
Ohio in 1812, eventually becoming a successful merchant,
and real-estate investor. Irad Kelley first became aware of the
island after being forced to seek shelter there while transporting
goods via sloop sailboat from Detroit to his shop
On August 20, 1833, the two began purchasing
parcels of land on Cunningham Island at the rate of $1.50 per acre.
They eventually owned the entire 3,000 acre island, and in 1840
changed its name to Kelleys Island. By this time, the population
had risen to 68 people.
The brothers quickly began improving and expanding the island's
docks to export limestone, fruit, and red
lumber. Soon, 16 limestone kilns
. The village's various
industries hired a number of immigrants (including young children),
many of whom would work on the island during the summer and return
to their homeland during the winter. Among the nationalities
working on the island at that time were Poles
. Datus Kelley encouraged
, and paid his employees bonuses
for abstaining from "intoxifying liquors
Charles Carpenter (son-in-law of Datus Kelley) of Norwich,
Connecticut began growing and harvesting grapes for wine on Kelleys Island;
by the early 1900s, the island was annually producing 500,000
gallons of wine per year.
The quarries were the origin of the Kelley Island Lime
& Transport Company
, which was once the largest producer of
limestone and lime products in the world, operating between 1896
and the early 1960s. Numerous ruins of these operations and
quarries now dot the island.
The small village grew quickly, and soon a library
and post office
were erected. In 1901, the Estes Schoolhouse
was built at a cost of
Recent history and modern day
Kelleys Island is heavily forested among several residential
areas, some for year-round
residents, others for summer vacationers. Some small farms and a
small limestone quarrying operation exist on the island.
northern side, Kelleys Island State Park offers camping and protects the Glacial Grooves
State Memorial and the North Shore Alvar State
puts Kelleys in mild fame as inside are the largest
and most easily accessible remains of glacial grooves in the
The Erie County 4H Camp
is located on the
north side of the island. Camp Patmos, a conservative Christian
youth camp, is located on the northeast side of the island.
Kelleys Island has a cemetery
Division Street, about a mile north from the center of downtown.
Although the cemetery is relatively small, several hundred people
are buried or have memorial headstones there. Among those buried
there include Datus Kelley, an early developer of the area and one
of the island's namesakes.
Currently, the Kelleys Island Ferry is the only line that runs
regularly between the island and the mainland. The boat line is
owned by James "Jim" Palladino and his family. In the past,
Palladino has been tied to the Cleveland
. Islanders do most of their non-grocery
shopping on the mainland via the private ferry, which runs to
Ohio every half hour during the tourist season.
During the summer, another ferry runs from Sandusky to Kelleys
Island and Put-In-Bay.
The most common types of establishments on Kelleys Island are
, almost all of which close for the
winter season in September and reopen around May.
The Island is also home to The Kelley's Island Wine Company,
originally one of the largest wineries in the U.S., established in
1872. It stopped operation after two major fires eventually
destroyed its facility during prohibition. The ruins of the
original winery are still standing on the island. The Zettler
family re-established The Kelley's Island Wine in 1982 at the site
of one of the oldest stone cottages on the island, known as the
Nicholas Smith house (built circa 1865). Kirt and Robby Zettler
continue to operate it as a working winery and tourist
In 1975, on the island's southern shore were designated a historic district
"Kelleys Island South Shore District," and added to the National Register of
. In 1988, the district was renamed to the
"Kelleys Island Historic District" and expanded to include the
Kelleys Island is located at (41.601343, -82.697442).
According to the United
States Census Bureau
, the village has a total area of
4.6 square miles (12.0 km²), of which, 4.6 square
miles (11.8 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles
(0.2 km²) of it (1.30%) is water.
As of the census
of 2000, there were 367
people, 183 households, and 112 families residing in the village.
The population density
people per square mile (31.1/km²). There were 709 housing units at
an average density of 155.5/sq mi (60.0/km²). The racial
makeup of the village was 99.46% White
, 0.27% African American
, 0.27% from
of any race were 0.27% of the
There were 183 households out of which 15.8% had children under the
age of 18 living with them, 53.6% were married
living together, 5.5% had a female householder with no
husband present, and 38.3% were non-families. 35.5% of all
households were made up of individuals and 15.3% had someone living
alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size
was 1.99 and the average family size was 2.55.
In the village the population was spread out with 15.0% under the
age of 18, 2.2% from 18 to 24, 19.9% from 25 to 44, 40.1% from 45
to 64, and 22.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age
was 52 years. For every 100 females there were 100.5 males. For
every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.6 males.
The median income for a household in the village was $35,500, and
the median income for a family was $49,375. Males had a median
income of $29,643 versus $26,071 for females. The per capita income
for the village was
$21,944. About 7.6% of families and 9.8% of the population were
below the poverty line
, including none
of those under age 18 and 14.0% of those age 65 or over.
- Kelleys Island Nature article: " About Kelleys Island".
- Kelleys Island Historical Society page for Inscription Rock.
- Kelleys Island Chamber of Commerce page: " Island history".
- Kelleys Island Chamber of Commerce page: "".
- Touring Ohio page: " Kelleys Island".
- Lake Erie Islands: Sketches & Stories of the First
Century After the Battle of Lake Erie by Michael Gora -
pages 108 - 125.
- Archive.org article: " Full text of "Sketches and stories of the Lake Erie
- Concerning the Van Bunschoten Or Van Benschoten Family in
America by William Henry Van Benschoten - page 266.
Dealer article: " The outlaw of Kelleys Island".
- THE STEAMER ADVENTURE and the KELLEYS ISLAND, OHIO
- The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center
article: " Paper Trail - No. 9 SEPTEMBER 2004 - QUARRYING ON
- Kelleys Island Historical Society article: " Irad Kelley".
- Kelleys Island Historical Society article: " Datus Kelley".
- Ohio: A History: page 79 at Google Books.
- Lakewood, Ohio Public Library page: " Local History Files: 7: Biography K-L".
- USGenWeb Archives Special Projects: Kelleys Island cemetery information.
- Kelleys Island Historical Society page for Datus Kelley.
- Kellys Life newsletter article: " Circus is coming again! Kelly Miller Circus to
appear on Kelleys Aug. 9 & 10".
- Cleveland Scene article: " The Mafia Plot To Kill Dennis Kucinich - A Former
Cleveland Police Chief Finally Tells The Whole Story".
- ClevelandMob.com article: " War