Lorenzo Alson Kelsey d 13 February 1890

Internet Research*

KELSEY, LORENZO A. (22 Feb. 1803-13 Feb. 1890), steamboat captain and mayor of Cleveland from 1848-49, was born in Port Leyden, N.Y., the son of ship owner, Eber Kelsey and Lucy Ann Leete Kelsey. He was educated in his local district and moved to Youngstown to work in lumber. Kelsey moved to Cleveland in 1837 with his wife and became manager of the Cleveland House Hotel for 1 year. He then became captain of the steamship Chesapeake, and later captain of the General Harrison. He also served as proprietor of the New England Hotel. With no political experience, Kelsey ran as a dark-horse mayoral candidate for the Democratic party in 1848, defeating 2 other opponents, Chas. Bradburn and Milo Hickox. As mayor, Kelsey supported civic improvements and worked frequently with top members of the Democratic party. Throughout his career, he served as a delegate to Democratic conventions. In 1849 he returned to the hotel business until his retirement in the late 1850s. Kelsey married Sophia Smith (1806-1893) of Windsor, Conn., in 1825. [They had 7 children.  Among them, Theodore Kelsey was killed in battle at Chickamauga, during the civil war, and Eugene moved back East to Lowell MA.]

1837  KELSEY

Who of the past generation does not recall with a reminiscent smile the miniature steamboat floating in the fountain at the southwest corner of the Public Square, and the crowd of eager youngsters following its every movement, making wild rushes and frantic scrambles to secure a closer view whenever it approached the outer rim of the basin? and staid adults, and often old age were not above pausing for a moment on their way through the Square to watch the small craft and to guess in just which direction it would next head. How fascinating were the little figures on the deck ! the gallant captain always and bravely in command; the faithful watchman ever on the lookout ; the sturdy wheelsman perpetually on duty ! All three stood for thorough seamanship and were in no wise responsible for the erratic steering of their little craft.

No, the beautiful toy was not purchased and placed there by the board of public works, nor by any other department of our city’s government. It belonged to a man who was nearing or past his 80th birthday when he whittled out the boat and carved the tiny figures laboriously under a microscope, his only tool a pocket knife.

One could rest assured that the little steamer was perfectly true in detail for its builder, Capt. Lorenzo A. Kelsey, in his day commanded the finest passenger boats on our Great Lakes; one of them the “Chespeake,” then considered to be the last word in size and in elegance of appointment. Fashionable Cleveland and nautical Cleveland strolled down to the river, and climbed the steep hill, returning, in order to view the much talked of steamer as it lay at the wharf ready to take on its first cargo and passengers.

It was characteristic of Capt. Kelsey to place his toy in the Public Square where it might amuse and instruct the youth of his city. To the very last of his life little children clung to his hands certain of sympathy and affection, and young people adored him, and, today, his grandchildren cherish his memory as a rare bequest.

He was the direct descendant of William Leet, one of Connecticut’s earliest governors. His father was Eli Kelsey of Leyden, a little village in New York state, where Capt. Kelsey was born. The latter was 34 years old and had a family when he came to this city in 1837.

When the fine New England House was erected at the foot of Superior street, he was persuaded by many friends to become its first landlord. One can imagine that the position of clerk was a most important office in that hotel. For there were professional dead-beats, even in that day, needing some one of sterner mold, than was Capt. Kelsey, to thwart their dishonest schemes. For he was generous to a fault, and seldom could deny an urgent request. Even the little steamer in the Square fountain was begged from him by an impecunious artist, much to the regret- of the Kelsey posterity.

In 1848 the city of Cleveland proffered the highest gift it could bestow upon Capt. Kelsey, and he became its mayor and chief officer. The annual salary was $4001 In view of this, and the hundred and one demands upon a mayor’s pocket-book, by no means his official one, it is not surprising that the mayor of 1848 was quite willing to retire from office at the end of the year.

* [http://www.heritagepursuit.com/Cuyahoga/Cleveland502.htm]


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