Author: Leslie Korenko

KELLEYS ISLA​ND 1810-1861

The courageous, poignant & often quirky lives of island pioneers
       By Leslie Korenko

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This first book in the series was published in May 2009, and presents a comprehensive and richly detailed history of Kelley’s Island, a small remote island in Lake Erie. Its history is told by the islanders, in their own words. You can read their correspondence, letters to newspapers and articles found in an incredible handwritten newspaper, the Islander.

Experience first hand the challenges and rewards of settling and developing a small island community in the 1830’s to the 1860’s. ​
Click HERE to view the index for this first book. 

TOUR ISLAND HOMES - Many island homes are over 150 years old. Meet the original owners and builders and take a peak inside.

MEET THE PIRATE – “He was a perfect giant in stature…His head was large even in proportion to his Herculean frame, and covered with a shock of the strangest hair that mortal ever wore. It was grey…with irregular streaks of dirty gray running in every direction; and these gray streaks were rather bristles than hair, and ‘twas said he had the power of erecting them at will, as a porcupine does his quills.” [1833]

EXPLORE THE ISLAND WITH THE SETTLERS – “The principal game was wild hogs which were hunted in the early part of winter. 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.” [1834]

TRAVEL THE ROADS - “Our roads on the Island were then mere paths winding about in the woods, so muddy and rough that horses and wagons were of no account as they could not stand such rough usage.Ox carts were the only vehicles that would stand a trip to the north side and back and no one would think of making the trip except from necessity.” [1838]

FOLLOW THE GROWTH OF THE GRAPE & WINE INDUSTRY – “The first wine from the product of his vineyard was made in 1850 in the old log house, his former residence, with such primitive appliances in the shape of press, etc., as were at his command. The first was a five gallon keg full made by C. Carpenter in 1850. The grapes, which were very nice, were mashed by hand and pressed in a keg with holes bored in it, with a lever.” [1850]

READ HOW THESE PIONEERS BUILT A THRIVING COMMUNITY - “The state of society is rather unique. Though numbering some 50 or 60 families, no Doctor, Lawyer or Clergyman has even taken up a residence on the Island. Owing to its salubrity and the simple habits of its people, the former would find poor encouragement, especially as fire-water is not among their articles of consumption…Lawyers are looked upon as a species of voracious animals not needed to settle the affairs of a people who intend to take care of their own, with no wish to encroach upon their neighbors’ rights, either local or national.” [1850]

LEARN THE RISKS OF QUARRYING – “John McDonald and Hugh Cottenaugh were blasting stone in the quarry...A blast was put in, which, after being fired, did not explode. Supposing the fuse had not ignited, they went up to examine, when the blast went off, killing McDonald instantly, blowing his head all to atoms, and badly, though not fatally, injuring Cottenaugh, the powder and tamping striking him in the face.” [1854]

EXPERIENCE THE PERILS OF CROSSING THE ICE IN THE WINTER – “Friday, James Wright, proceeding from the Peninsula to Kelley’s Island with a horse and sleigh, had the misfortune to lose the animal by drowning. The ice gave way and let the horse in; he was extricated, however, and turned to come home. In leaping a crack he broke loose from the cutter and made for the opening at the mouth of the Bay. Coming to the barrier of ice thrown up there, he leaped it and plunged into the water and was not seen again.” [1856]

FOLLOW THE CIVIL WAR THROUGH DIARY ENTRIES -April 21 – “Queen made a trip, had but few fish, trade about given up. Rumor of Washington being taken, but turned out a hoax.”April 22 – “Queen took over eight volunteers today from Island and two from Ottawa City.” [1861]

​All this and more. This book has over 300 pages of stories and personal accounts; over 150 pictures and illustrations, and an extensive index and bibliography.


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​Leslie was awarded the Henry Howe

Award for outstanding Ohio History Book at the 2012 Ohio Genealogical Society Conference in Cleveland.


Kelleys Is. 1810-1861 $24.99