From The Kelly Lake Scrapbook Of Joanne Ellis Alley
John T. (Jack) Ellis first came to Kelly Lake from his home in Kewaunee, Illinois in 1893 at age 12 with his parents, John and Alice Ellis. The family spent some of each summer in a rented cabin on the lake shore. In 1897, J.R. Underwood of Aurora, Illinois purchased the George Trecartin farm on the cast shore of Kelly, which, according to a newspaper article of the time, consisted of “100 acres of pasture and woodland, on which he plans to convert about 20 acres into lawn and grove for cottages, and will beautify about five acres where the dwelling house stands by converting it into a park.
The house will be remodeled and improved before occupancy by his family”. The house is the large white Victorian opposite the Holiday Inn, which now belongs to the Funk-White family. On or before 1906, George B. Cooper of Bloomington, Illinois, leased the properly from Underwood to establish a resort called the “Kelly Lake Health Resort”. A brochure dated 1906 describes the resort as having “accommodations for about 100 guests” in the Club House and cottages. Board and room per week ranged from $7.00 to $8.00.
In 1910, Jack Ellis acquired the resort in partnership with Earl Johnson, a step-son of J. R. Underwood. Earl’s wife, Minnie, was a niece of’ Mary Todd Lincoln, and their summer home was a log cabin on a lot which is across the road from what is now the Leo Hotfman home and farm. Earl operated a small store on the lake shore in front of his home. The cabin was torn down in 1966, and a new home belonging to the Sullivans now stands there.
Ellis’ and Johnson’s holdings included a club house, ten cottages, a dancing pavilion, and a central dining hall which was attached to the Underwood home.
Ellis also purchased, according to a 1910 newspaper article, “the most central strip of lake frontage at the resort, on which he will erect and operate a store and general gathering place called the OUTSYDE INN. ” The deed states that the property was purchased from U. G. Orendorff, another early settler from Canton, Illinois. His original homes now belong to Janet Hagins. The plot Ellis purchased was 100′ oil the lake by 350′ to the road.
The OUTSYDE INN was constructed in the winter of 1911 on the lake shore. In front of it was placed a large rock from the lake, and a tower platform was erected with a tall flag pole and stairs to the top. On the land between the OUTSYDE INN and the road were a tennis court and ball field. All the social gatherings were held there, and according to a 1911 brochure, titled “Johnson and Ellis Kelly Lake Resort and Outsyde Inn”, the building offered a “fine view of the lake and camp”, plus “a full line of ice cream, candies, soft drinks, cigars, curies and photographs of local lake views”. It also served as an office where guests were received.
The cottages did not have kitchens (or bathrooms) so the renters ate at the central dining hall. It was there on July 2, 1913 that Jack Ellis observed a young woman from Evanston, Illinois named Winifred (Fritzi) Hanna on her first visit to Kelly Lake. By July 24 Jack had persuaded her to marry him, they were engaged on Thanksgiving, and married the following April, 1914 in Evanston. They spent their honeymoon in a cottage Jack had built in 1910, which is now owned by Robert Erzinger. There my brother, John T. (Jack) Ellis, Jr., was born in 1C)1′).
By 1921 Jack and Earl were no longer in the resort business, and Jack had the OUTSYDE INN moved from the lake front to the road side. The big rock was also moved, but the tower platform was taken down. In 1921 Jack and Winifred built a large home called “Trail’s End” on the lake lot, where they lived full-time from 1929 until 1972. Jack died in 1966, and Winifred in 1972, at which time it was purchased by Henry Funk. It is a three story house which stands behind a tall cedar hedge two doors north of the Underwood home.
In 1920, Jack Ellis retained the lot on which he would built his home, and sold the rest of the land, extending to the road, to a group of IO men for $1000, each man paying $100. He retained a 10′ easement to his home from the road. The buyers were Pert Alien (listed as Trustee), Alfred Turner Sr. (Treasurer), William Fowler Sr., Pierre Grace Sr., Howard Erzinger Sr. Mr. Shearer, Mr. Holden, Mr. Watson Mr. Clayton, and U. G. Orendorff. Jack Ellis was an eleventh member of the group which was known as THE KELLY LAKE WELFARE ASSOCIATION. This was changed in later years to the KELLY LAKE ADVANCEMENT ASSOCIATION.
The OUTSYDE INN was sold to James Pecard for $200, and he later sold it to the Association for $750. It was the scene, during the 1920’s and 30’s of many happy community get-togethers: skits, carnivals, corn roasts, plays, dancing, Sunday School, and rainy-day play by many children. The “big stone” in front of the Inn was a nightly meeting place for large groups of children, and was a home base for Kick The Can, Run Sheep Run, Hide and Seek, and many other delightful games. The low roof served well for teams throwing a ball back and forth over it in the game of Allay Allay Over. In the 1930’s and early 40’s, there were about thirty young people who met almost daily in “the field” between the Inn and the Ellis home to play softball, the games mentioned above, or just to socialize. We had great fun, got into very little trouble, and did a minimum of damage.
A cinder-block addition was added to the back of the original Outsyde Inn in the late 30’s or early 40’s to house an old fire engine, which was maintained by volunteers to provide some fire protection to the lake. In about 1953 Russel Zalusky Sr. acquired the engine, and Russel Jr. now drives it around the lake on special occasions.
On August 26, 1976, the KLAA voted to demolish the OUTSYDE INN, saving the fireplace and erecting a pavilion. A Times-Herald newspaper report said it would cost $30,000 or more to repair or remodel. There are no plumbing facilities. The present pavilion still provides a central meeting place for the Association, which sponsors the annual Pancake Breakfast, a great event at which to meet and greet old and new friends, the July 4th boat parade, and the Putt-Putt Golf Tournament. The KLAA maintains the Inn and land as community property, and has, throughout its long history, been involved with all concerns of importance to Kelly Lake, providing information and a public forum for the residents.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joanne Ellis Alley is the daughter of John T. (Jack) Ellis. She was born at the first Oconto Falls Hospital, attended Kelly Lake grade school and three years at Oconto Falls High School before going to finish school in Elgin Illinois, and graduated from the music school of Northwestern University. She has spent every summer of her life at Kelly Lake and has owned Featherstone Lodge on North Kelly Lake Road for 38 years, retiring there full-time in 1987 with her husband Dr. George D. Alley, who died in 1993.