Charles E. Frohman Collections

Collection ID: FR-7
Location: FR-7

(Description ID: 594202)

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums

William Kelly


Biographical Sketch
Scope and Content

This collection is part of the Erie County, Ohio, Business Records of the Charles E. Frohman Collections.

Biographical Sketch
William Kelly was born to Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Kelly on 23 December 1779 in the Township of Benraw, Parrish of Drumgollin, County Down, Ireland.  He married Jane Reid on 21 November 1796, and the couple had eight children.  Kelly was involved with conflicts between the Catholics and the Protestants; he was a member of an anti-Catholic group known as the “Orangemen.”  The group apparently had violent clashes, as Jane sewed a steel plate in Kelly’s shirt over the heart to protect him in case he was shot by the Catholics.  Such a shooting did occur, and the plate saved Kelly’s life, but he was imprisoned.  Because of his membership in the Masonic Order in England, Jane appealed to the organization and the Masons secured his release.

Soon thereafter, in the early 1800s, Kelly voyaged to the United States.  He settled in Troy, New York, where Jane would join him around 1804-1805.  She died on 29 July 1815, and Kelly soon remarried.  He and Lydia Hartshorn were wed in Troy on 11 Feb 1816; she ultimately bore him five children.  In 1818, Kelly and his family moved to Sandusky, Ohio, where he became the city’s first stone mason.  In 1819, he became business partner to storekeeper and druggist David McMurray.  Kelly also worked in construction and was responsible for building and doing plastering for a number of the first homes and businesses in Sandusky.  The structure for which he is most recognized, however, is the Marblehead, Ohio, lighthouse.  It was constructed in 1821 following a government contract.  The work took almost two months and the total cost of construction was $7,232.  The completed lighthouse stood at fifty feet tall, 25 feet in diameter and five feet thick at the base, tapered to 12 feet in diameter at the top with walls two feet thick.  The original beacon consisted of thirteen small whale oil lamps and a set of sixteen-inch-in-diameter reflectors.  The Marblehead lighthouse is the oldest continuously operating beacon light on the Great Lakes.

Following the construction of the lighthouse, Kelly continued his work in stone masonry for Sandusky, Ohio.  He would build various homes and businesses and was hired to erect a steam mill in 1831.  Kelly’s lighthouse building skills were called upon once again in 1839, with the need for a beacon light at the entrance of the Sandusky Bay.  The resulting Cedar Point Lighthouse was a rectangular stone structure with an octagon tower extending from the roof peak.  Although the edifice would be reconstructed from 1862-1865, it was Kelly’s lighthouse that first guided ships along the rocky shores at the opening of the Sandusky Bay.

Lydia (Hartshorn) Kelly passed away on 12 March 1855.  William Kelly would reside in Sandusky, Ohio, for the remainder of his life, continuing to work as a stone mason, as well as dealing in goods and services.  He died on 7 December 1867 in Danbury Township, Ottawa County, Ohio, and was buried in Oakland Cemetery, Sandusky, Ohio; he was approximately 88 years old.

Scope and Content
This collection, spanning from 1801 to 1901, contains account ledgers and other records pertaining to William Kelly.  The first book, dating 1818 to 1826, consists of entries for construction on various homes and businesses in Sandusky, Ohio.  Included are transactions with David McMurray, owner of one of the first stores in Sandusky; McMurray took Kelly as a business partner in 1819.  Building work for Eleutherus Cooke is also noted.  Cooke was Sandusky’s first lawyer and the father of Jay Cooke, Union financier of the American Civil War.  Kelly built Eleutherus Cooke’s Sandusky home in 1821.  Also of importance are entries relating to Stephen Wolverton and the construction of the lighthouse in Marblehead, Ohio.  In 1819, the fifteenth U.S. Congress deemed the area surrounding the Marblehead Peninsula of Lake Erie too dangerous to be navigated without a beacon.  Stephen Wolverton of Erie, Pennsylvania, received a government contract for construction of the lighthouse, and contracted the work to William Kelly.  Kelly, with the assistance of two associates, worked on it for approximately two months and received a payment of $140.43¾ for his services.  The finished product serves as the oldest continually operational lighthouse on the Great Lakes.  Originally named the Sandusky Bay Light, it was rechristened as the Marblehead Lighthouse in 1870.

Account book two, dating 1820 to 1825, further mentions Kelly’s transactions with Stephen Wolverton and Kelly’s services at the lighthouse.  It also references work done on the homes and businesses of various Sandusky, Ohio, residents.  For example, Kelly constructed the home of David Campbell, who established the first Sandusky paper in 1822, called “The Sandusky Clarion.”  The third ledger, spanning 1827 to 1836, continues with entries of further work Kelly did on homes and business in Sandusky.  Of note are Kelly’s transactions with F. D. Parish.  Parish was a Sandusky lawyer and leading abolitionist in the city; his home was the site of an Underground Railroad depot.  Parish, furthermore, was one of several Ohio men who helped to lay the foundations of the Republican Party in the 1850s.

The entries of account ledger four, comprised of the years 1841 to 1857, relate to payments to and from Kelly for various goods and services.  For example, Kelly makes note of paying someone to dig a garden, buying a pair of shoes, having his will written by F. D. Parish, and renting out a house.  Account book five (1835-1841, with several notations for 1842-1855) continues in this vein, largely consisting of one line entries.  These statements generally include a name, a monetary amount, and a brief descriptor, such as “cattle,” “merchandise,” “cash,” or “services.”

The sixth account book dates from 1838 to 1841.  Again, it contains ledger entries regarding payments to and from Kelly for goods and services.  Travel expenses for various trips made by Kelly, including ones to Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, are included.  Of note in this book are entries relating to the delivery of stone, lime, bricks, shingles, and other building materials for the construction of a beacon light at Cedar Point, Ohio.  As was the issue with the Marblehead Peninsula, concerns were raised in the 1820s and 1830s regarding the dangers of navigating the rocky shores of Cedar Point during the nighttime, in storms and gales, and amidst dense fog.  After much petitioning from citizens and ship owners, around 1838 Congress approved the construction of a beacon light at the entrance to Sandusky Bay on Cedar Point.  In 1839, Kelly performed labor and services in the construction of the Cedar Point Lighthouse.  The original structure stood until 1862, when building commenced to erect a taller limestone edifice to serve as the Cedar Point beacon light.  The new structure was completed in 1867, still utilizing the tower from the 1839 lighthouse.

Ledger seven, dating 1819 to 1820, consists of entries regarding transactions of goods, with items such as pork, deerskin, needles, and candles as the purchases.  Account book eight also holds ledgers for goods and service, but part of it contains Justice of the Peace records as well.  This documentation, spanning from 1851 to 1854, deals with legal case notes and a marriage ledger.  The eighth account book also includes entries from 1868 to 1901.  These records, however, would have to be penned by another individual, as William Kelly died in 1867.  It seems likely that Kelly’s son, W. E. Kelly, was in possession of his father’s account ledgers following Kelly’s death.

Account book nine is a smaller ledger dealing with work that Kelly did on a steam mill in Sandusky, Ohio, during 1831.  Little is known about this mill, but it appears as though Kelly was working in conjunction with an H. Kilbourn on the construction.  The latter is most likely Hector Kilbourn, who surveyed Sandusky in 1818 and made the first plat.  Finally, book ten dates from 1801 to 1802.  Affixed to the cover is a paper with the following written on it: “…shows the manner used by students of arithmetic to retain a knowledge of their work 126 years ago or more.  W E Kelly.”  Contained within are mathematic explanations, worked-out problems, and calculations done for practice.  Issues such as “rebate or discount,” “exchange,” and “rule of three infractions” are presented, as well as various story problems.

­­2 linear ft.

1.  Account ledger book, 1818-1826

2.  Account ledger book, 1820-1825

3.  Account ledger book, 1827-1836

4.  Account ledger book, 1841-1857

5.  Account ledger book, 1835-1855

6.  Account ledger book, 1838-1841

7.  Account ledger book, 1819-1820

8.  Account ledger book, 1846-1901

9.  Erie County, Ohio, business records—steam mill, 1831

10.  Mathematics problems ledger, 1801-1802