Kelleys Island Part III: The Legend of Cunningham

The first European settler of Kelleys Island, according only to legend, was a man named Cunningham (supposedly French or French Canadian). Legend tells us that he went to the island around 1803 while it was still inhabited by indigenous Americans. For a while Cunningham lived on the island and had a good relationship with the native people. He built a cabin near their village. He often traded and socialized with their hunters.

Legend then tells us Cunningham had an argument with some of the Native Americans resulting in a group of them destroying his cabin, stealing everything he had and attempting to kill him. Supposedly Cunningham escaped to the Ohio Peninsula with a canoe, but died shortly after due to wounds inflicted by the Native Americans.

For some years after Cunningham’s death the island, supposedly, was referred to as Cunningham Island; however, the contemporary Catawba Island had formerly been named Cunningham by the British prior to 1804 so it is difficult to know which island Cunningham visited if a Cunningham existed at all. Additionally, the surname Cunningham is not usually of French origin, but rather Scottish.

Before the War of 1812 there is documentation of several European frontiersmen settling on Kelleys Island, all of them eventually being driven out by the Native Americans or incoming US pioneers. By the end of the War of 1812 most of the Native Americans had left the island as well.



Kelleys Island Part II: Inscription Rock and the Original Islanders

Kelleys Island, as we know, is composed of Devonian limestone and is a remnant ridge which was carved out during the Pleistocene (about 10,000 BC). The original people who lived on the island were likely Cat, Erie or Neutral Native Americans. They would have lived there around the 17th century.

Near the modern downtown of Kelleys Island is a limestone rock formation which has petroglyphs carved over a span of years by the afore mentioned inhabitants and maybe some earlier indigenous people. 19th Century scholars named it Inscription Rock. The Kelleys Island Historical Association prefers Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s investigations. He dated the carvings around 1643. Schoolcraft thought that the rock was used as a message board of sorts by various native tribes who stayed on the island seasonally.

They probably left information about hunting on the island that season and where they were next traveling. Inscription Rock measures about 32 feet by 21 feet. Many of the inscriptions on the rock have been eroded, though some are still visible.

The indigenous people who are thought to have inscribed the rock are thought to have been destroyed by the Iroqouis nation from the New York area. At the time they were conquering new territory to control the fur trade.

Kelleys Island Part I: Glacial Grooves

The Glacial Grooves on the north end of Kelleys Island, maintained and protected by Kelleys Island State Park and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, are a National Natural Landmark are one of a kind for both their accessibility and size. The grooves are about 10 feet deep, 35 feet wide and 400 feet long and are viewable from a walk way. The sheer size of the grooves visually informs visitors on the slow, but powerful movements of the glaciers that formed them.

The Grooves are formed from Devonian limestone and contain marine fossils that are 350 to 400 million years old. About 18,000 years ago a great sheet of ice covered parts of North America and cut these grooves into the limestone bedrock.

Believe it or not, the Kelleys Island Glacial Grooves are one of a kind—in the entire world. No other large and easily accessible examples of this phenomenon exist.

While Kelley’s Island is small, there are other activities and sites to see on the island. The island is accessible via a short ferry ride leaving from Marblehead. In Marblehead and near-by Sandusky there is plenty to do as well.


Ohio’s Favorite Christmas Candy 2019 and Other Christmas Candy Stuff

According to the Ohio’s favorite Christmas candy for 2019 is a classic—the Hersey Kiss. Last year, of all things, Ohioans favored Pez (which came in third in our beautiful Buckeye state this year). In third place, peppermint bark.

Our neighbors to the east, Pennsylvania and West Virginia favored Reese’s Cups Minis and peppermint bark respectively. To the west Kentucky also favored peppermint bark; Illinois liked mini Reese’s Cup Minis; and Michigan is voracious for Reindeer Corn this year.

A full, interactive map of the U.S. and state-by-state Christmas candy preferences is available at their website. According to their research, Candy Canes are still the most popular state-by-state, so here are some fun facts about the Christmas classic:

1.76 Billion candy canes are made every year and mostly sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The first known American reference to candy canes is from 1847 when a German immigrant living in Wooster, Ohio decorated his Christmas tree with them. This was not common practice until 1882. However, candy canes came long before these events.

German folklore tells us that in Cologne, 1670 there was a choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral who could be the father of the candy cane. He wanted to keep the children quiet during the traditional Living Creche on Christmas Eve. So, he asked a candy maker to create what he called a “sugar stick” for the children to keep them busy.

The Christmas Spirit During Wartime

The Christmas Truce of 1914 were widespread and unofficial ceasefires among the troops of the western front of WWI around Christmas time in 1914.

These truces happened in the infancy of the war (month five of a fifty-five month war). Before the Christmas Truce battle had gone into a lull as commanders on all sides reconsidered their tactics. The week before the 25th, British, French and German soldiers crossed the once deadly trenches to exchange Christmas greetings and talk.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, in some areas, men from all sides crossed the once-deadly no-man’s-land to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs.  The soldiers participated in joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps and some meetings even ended in caroling.

One of the most memorable images of the truce was a group of men playing soccer with each other. The peace was not complete, however, fighting continued in some areas while in others troops on both sides agreed to no more than arrangements to recover the bodies of fallen comrades.

Unfortunately, the following year the Christmas peace was not as nearly widespread. This was likely due to extreme orders on all sides against such truces and the devastating loses suffered by all sides.

While such truces existed outside of Christmas time they were never as widely participated in during a single period, making the Christmas Truce unique. And despite the fact that it did not involve any American or Ohioan troops this moment in history is a stark reminder of humanity’s ability to both show mercy in a time of giving even during such a violent and grim moment in our history.