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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.

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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 375 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.

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!