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Darlene E. Kelley
donkeyskid@webtv.net
April 20, 1999
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Newspaper Article
From the Plains Dealer 1925                     
written by S. J. Kelly
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The outlaw of Kelleys Island

Ice bound in winter but in summer deep in its forests of Cedar, Kelleys 
Island in the early days was a haunt of outlaws.  Trader Cunningham, the 
first white man on the island, moved there in 1808 when only an occasional
vessel beat its way along the northern horizon while through South Pass, 
at long intervals, sailed a schooner bound in or out of the small port of 
Sandusky.  With its rocky shores, broken by deep coves and wide beaches 
bordered with woods, it was an inviting spot for the lawless. From ancient 
times it was a camping place for Indians who found in the surrounding lake
and passes an unequaled fishing ground.  Some remained throughout the year.
Cunningham built a cabin for his trading and Indians exchanged maple
sugar, pelts and furs for blankets, beads, trinkets and whiskey. He sat
besides their camp fires, smoked pipes and carried on a successful
business until his fight with the red men.  His escape to the mainland
and his death have been told--. In 1810,two Frenchmen, Poschile and
Bebo, made clearings and built cabins.  Both left in 1812 and the latter
was captured by the Indians in the war.  Perry's navel victory ended the
supremacy of Indians and British on the lake and a small colony
established themselves on what was still called Cunningham's Island.--
In 1818, a man named Killam with one or two others started a wood yard
there to supply the Walk-in-the-Water with cedar logs for fuel. The
steamer was wrecked in March, 1821, and soon after Killam left with his
family and helpers.  For six years the island was the resort of lawless
men and squatters. Two of these, Barnum and Grummets became involved in
a feud over cedar wood. Barnum shot Grummets and testified that he set
his body afloat in a skiff.---In 1826, Elssha Ellis settled on the
island. He was followed by Ilam Beardsley.  Peter Shook arrived.  The
first two remained and built cabins of cedar.  Lawless ruffians
continued to haunt the place and quarrels were frequent.  Henry
Ellithorpe, his wife, and three other families of honest settlers were
living there by 1830.  Cunningham's Island was part of the Connecticut
Land Companys purchase of the Western Reserve and much of it was owned
by Gen. Simon Perkins of Warren.---In April,1833, the greatest outlaw in
history of the island arrived.  This was Benjamin A. Napier, a gigantic
ruffian more than six feet tall and powerfully built.  Commanding a
rakish schooner with a crew of six armed men as forbidding as himself,
he landed at the south wharf.  His first move was to announce himself as
owner of Cunningham's Island.  He commanded all to leave or be ejected
by force.  His ferocious appearance and threats intimadated the
islanders and no resistance was offered.---Napier took possession of the
Ellis cabin as headquarters for his outlaw crew.  He herded their cattle
from the " free commons" on the island to pastures near his stolen home.
>From trees he shot the settlers pigs roaming in the woods. From the
islanders stock of provisions, he took what he wanted.--The pioneers had
no real title to the land. Ignorant as to Napiers rights,they were
powerless to legally remove him.  News of his high-handed proceedings
reached Cleveland and Warren.  In June,1883, a conference of the agents
of the owners of Cunningham's Island was held at Norwalk.  John W. Allen
of Cleveland attended as agent.  He returned to this city and persuaded
Datus and Irad Kelley to purchase almost half of the outlaw ridden
island.--The next step of the Kelley brothers was to buy the land around
the cabin occupied by Napier with all rights to improvements from
Ellis,who had built the log house. Then they legally ejected Napier,who
had armed himself and resisted.---Long litigation followed.  Every title
was aired and it showed that he had no claim or a shadow of an equity to
any of the island.  Still he hung around and committed lawless acts,
until arrested as a criminal.--Convicted and with a term of imprisonment
hanging over him he left and was never seen again.  

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