Island History

At least two Indian villages existed on Kelleys Island, probably the Erie (or Cat) nation, which was annihilated by the Iroquois in 1665. The petroglyphs of Inscription Rock, on the south side of the island, were probably carved over a period of years by the Eries and may describe certain important events in their history.  A man named Cunningham is believed to have been the first white man to inhabit Kelleys Island, living here from about 1800 until about 1812.

datus_kelley Island History
Datus Kelley
irad_kelley Island History
Irad Kelley

The island became the property of the Connecticut Land Company in about 1817 and was divided into 13 lots, which were given to stockholders in the Company. In 1833 the Kelley brothers, Datus and Irad, immigrants to the Cleveland area from Connecticut, began to buy parcels of land and soon owned the entire island. The Kelleys and their families began developing the island and its industries; wine-making, quarrying, logging, fruit-growing, and fishing as well as encouraging the cultural enrichment of the inhabitants. The original Kelleys Mansion is being privately restored and is located on 211 East Lakeshore Drive. It is not open to the public.

Eventually the island, previously known as Cunningham Island, or Island No. 6, became known as Kelleys Island. With over 325 full time residents, some of which are descendants of the Kelleys, quarrying continues, but the island is now a vacation destination for sport fishing, boating or just relaxing.

Signs of the island’s era as an Indian hunting ground remain on Inscription Rock State Memorial.  This flat-topped limestone boulder on the south shore of Kelleys Island has faint pictographs of men, birds and animals carved by the Erie Indians 300-400 years ago.

Near Inscription Rock State Memorial you’ll also see the majestic Kelley Mansion facing out to the lake, built by island co-founder Addison Kelley in the 1860s.  The mansion features a widow’s walk, an amazing free-standing spiral staircase, rose-colored cut crystal windows and beautiful woodwork.  The mansion is not open to the public at this time.

The Kelleys Island Historical Association is located on Division Street and is an excellent source for documents, photographs, artifacts and other printed material of Kelleys Island history-be sure to visit this Island treasure!

Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial

August 29 to September 2, 2013

Lake Erie and the western basin, including Kelleys Island, played host to the celebration of 200 years of peace following the Battle of Lake Erie.

Tall ships representing the U.S./Great Britain gathered together for the celebration.  Navy and crew members boarded tall ships and set sail for a rousing re-enactment of the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Erie at the actual battle site.  Parades and many events surrounded the long celebration in many of the host ports.

Kelleys Island was a host port for a tall ship, docked at Portside Marina.  Visitors could tour the ship and even take cruises on Lake Erie.  The celebration overflowed onto Kelleys Island with festivals, music and entertainment, a parade, vendors and lots of fun for all ages.

Stay tuned as the tall ships make an appearance from time to time in our fair port at Kelleys Island!