THE GLACIERS – When glaciers passed over the Great Lakes, they rolled over a massive block of Columbus Limestone which became known as Kelleys Island, carving magnificent grooves into the Island north side. Over the years, many grooves were uncovered only to be quarried out. However, in 1892, a small section of quarry land was set aside by the Kelleys Island Lime & Transport Co. to preserve one of the last grooves. The Glacial Grooves are managed by the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources for the Ohio History Connection and are located at the corner of Division Street and Titus Road.
THE INDIANS – Indians also left their mark on the Island. While there were no year-round villages here, the Indians did have several permanent sites that they visited in spring and fall to take advantage of the exceptional fishing in the area. At one time were two INSCRIPTION ROCKS. The smaller one was located in the North Bay and has long since vanished. The larger one is located on the south shore. In 1885, Addison Kelley and others filled in the carvings on this rock so they could be photographed for posterity as they were already wearing away due to the soft nature of the limestone rock on which they were carved. The Inscription Rock site is managed by the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources for the Ohio History Connection and is located on the lake shore just west of the ferry dock at the foot of Addison St.
WHY “KELLEY’S” ISLAND? – Two brothers from a prominent Cleveland family, Datus and Irad Kelley, were looking for an investment opportunity and chose Kelleys Island because of its dense forest of red cedar, which was highly prized as steamboat fuel. Another feature was the small quarry on the north side of the Island. In 1833 the brothers began purchasing all the parcels on the Island. At the time, the Island was causally known as Cunningham’s Island. The name Kelley’s Island was formalized when the island became a township in 1840 and then a Village in 1887. Common use has dropped the apostrophe.
Some of our oldest houses.
THE COMMUNITY GREW QUICKLY – Irad returned to Cleveland while Datus and his wife Sara remained on the Island, building a small, close community. In 1861, Datus and Sara paid for the construction of a town hall and on their 50th wedding anniversary; they dedicated that building to the community. Much of the Island’s history comes from the hand-written newspaper, the Islander, which was published weekly each winter for 17 years. This paper contained family histories, reviews of plays and events, weddings, funerals, jokes, current events and wonderfully detailed essays about life on the island between 1861 and 1877. The paper was read and discussed each Saturday evening with upwards of 300 people attending the Kelley’s Hall meetings. The articles in The Island can be found in a 6-book series of Island history books.
VINEYARDS, WINE, FISHING & QUARRIES – As their Island family grew, the one-room school house because four school districts and later one large brick school. The CATHOLIC CHURCH, once located in the Lange house, became the first of five churches to serve the Island. Islanders made their living by FISHING (Blue Pike and White Fish) as Pound nets and later gill nets peppered the lake. Multiple small quarries were recombined until they became the Kelley’s Island Lime & Transport Co., one of the largest quarry operations in the United States. However it was the grapes (Catawba, Niagara, Isabella) that made Kelley’s Island WINES famous. Massive stone wineries were built in the 1800’s, as Kelley’s Island wines became more famous.
KELLEYS ISLAND TODAY – The legacy of the Kelley family lives on in the stories and the care given to our historic buildings and places. Our history can be found in the cemetery and in the displays of the Kelleys Island History Museum. For those interested in learning more about this Island’s history, there are several books that tell its story and all are available in the MUSEUM GIFT SHOP where you can order almost every book written about the history of the Island.
Welcome to Kelley’s Island. When you visit, be sure to take a close look at our Island, because around every corner and behind every door, there is a little bit of Island history.