There are several tales to the creative name Put-in-Bay still holds to this day, the most common theory, is that of the sailors. The theory conveys that the unique name most likely originated from the sailors who would seek refuge on the bay, as it provides safe dockage. It is said when it was too rough to sail-they would “put in the bay”.
Put-in-Bay offered help to many newcomers. The Indians, the first people to the Lake Erie Islands, used Put-in-Bay for shelter when crossing Lake Erie. When the quick island storms would come about, Put-in-Bay was their protection. The Remains of pre-historic people have shown up all over the Lake Erie Islands. Pre-historic people were common throughout North America – and after the plowing and nurturing of the soil, their remnants were found. Of the main tribes visiting the Lake Erie Islands , the Senecas, Eries, Shawnee, Iriquois, Miamis and Ottawas were among them.
The first large ship to sail the Great Lakes was the Griffon, sailed by Robert LaSalle in 1679. They sailed in from Queensland, Ontario to Green Bay, Wisconsin. Lasalle and Friar Hennepin, found many flowers while celebrating the First Mass in the Mid West, and the island was named, Isle des Fleurs. It remained Isle des Fleurs for 200 years.
Pierpont Edwards bought a part of the Connecticut Western Reserve tract in 1893 that consisted of Middle Bass, South Bass, and the Sugar Islands. He later became a shareholder in the Connecticut Land Company, and was rewarded with a tract covering Lorain County. The error in this was that the shoreline was uneven and did not provide the correct amount of land that was agreed upon. To correct the error, Edwards was also presented with the Lake Erie Islands, one of which is known as Put-in-Bay.
Edward’s kept the Lake Erie Islands in his family for over 50 years, he sent his agent to clear and improve the land of Put-in-Bay in 1811, but never saw the islands. Edward’s agent planted one hundred acres of wheat that was soon destroyed when the Indians, cleared with British support, ran them out in the War of 1812.
Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory on September 10, 1813 will be remembered forever. There is a 352 foot high Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial honoring the hard-fought victory against the British. The Doric column was constructed for the centennial celebration around 1913 and 1916 and is located in the heart of Put-in-Bay. Lying beneath the floor of the rotunda, are three British and three American officers that were killed during the battle.
After purchasing South Bass Island (Put-in-Bay) and Middle Bass Island from Edwards in 1854, Jose De Rivera St. Jurgo, a wealthy Spaniard, brought in sheep, built a sawmill, and had the Island surveyed into 10 acre plots. In 1860, De Rivera established grapes as the crop for making wine. Rhine-landers from Germany came and brought Catawba, Concord, Niagra, and Reisling grapevines to the Lake Erie Islands, contributing to the wine that is present on the Lake Erie Islands today. Land prices rose greatly from $10 to $1500 per acre within only ten years of the wine outbreak of abundance.