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Kelley's Island's Greatest Industry - the Kelley's Island Lime & Transport Co.

LOOKING BACK - May 1925 – From the Erie Echo (a small newspaper that was published for all the schools in Erie Co.), the column was called Kelleys Island Ramblings. By Leslie Korenko

Kelley’s Island’s Greatest Industry - The Kelley’s Island Lime & Transport Co. is our greatest industry. 

At present this company employees 125 men and its average by-weekly pay roll is $7,700 or enough to give every man, woman and child on the Island approximately five dollars a week. Few realize, even including those who live on the Island, the value of this company. It can be seen from the above that almost one-fourth of the families living here are more or less dependent upon this company. The economic effect of one summer’s shut-down could easily be foretold.

Yet, notwithstanding the above, the fact remains that it is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The present state of depletion can not always continue. At present the surface of the Island is being stripped to a depth of eight or ten feet at the rate of more than 2,500 tons per day and it is expected that 750,000 tons will be removed this summer or enough to load a train of cars 130 miles in length. Few stop to think what this means to the beauty and usefulness of the island. If continued, in less than fifty years - not quite two generations – two-thirds of the once beautiful island will be a dreary waste and what then will be the means of making a living? What will the children and grandchildren do then? The grape industry is rapidly dwindling away and after the above company is through with the land, the industry could not be revived or could any kind of farming be done.

Surely the above spells decreased population in the coming years unless the present generation do something to establish a permanent industry here on the island. Decreased population means decreased church and school opportunities. The boys and girls who are now attending school and who will continue to fill the school will learn to read these signs and emigration will likely increase from that cause. The future prosperity of the Island demands that the boys and girls stay on the Island and to this end it behooves the mothers and fathers of today to turn their attention to the establishment of some permanent industry and to thus, in some way, check the present depletion. “Ill fares the day when wealth accumulates and men decay.”

The author was not far wrong. Kelleys Island reached its peak population in 1900 when it began a steady decline.

1840        68
1850      186
1860      477
1870      857
1880      838
1890    1156
1900    1174
1910     1017
1920      708
1930      638
1940      564
1950      324
1960       171
1970       175
1980       121
1990       172
2000      367
2010       312*The data collected indicates that there are 175 households and of the 312 residents, 146 are over 60 years of age (47%). There are 859 houses on the island and of those, 620 are seasonal housing units (72%) and 42 are for rent.

 During this period of decline, Islanders endured the Spanish Flu epidemic (1918), World War I (1914-1918, Prohibition (1920-1933). In addition, competition from California and New York wines, insect invasions, and legislation that caused Island wines to be labeled Adulterated (due to the addition of sugar) impacted the wine industry. The commercial fishing industry was already experiencing problems as gill nets became prevalent in Lake and was believed to result in overfishing and the decline in fish catches.

The KIL&T Co. closed its Island operations in 1940, selling and donating much of its land holdings to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in 1955. Kellstone purchased the quarry in 1963 and closed it in 1972. Capital Control bought the property in 1989 and leased it to LaFarge in 2004. The quarry is currently closed.



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