The early vessels which navigated the water of the great lakes were sailing ships. Indeed the sailing vessels maintained their supremacy against steamers in the commerce of the inland seas until well toward the close of the 19th century. They were peculiarly adapted to the lumber carrying trade.
As they plied between the southern ports of Lake Michigan, and the ports of Traverse Bay or the straits of Mackinaw, it was necessary for them to sail not far from the land after they passed between Sleeping Bear Point and the Little Manitou. They must beware of the shore in that district of strong and frequent and at times very sudden storms of northwest wind. They were safe enough where they had plenty of room to tack and change their course until the wind abated; but there was scant sea room between the Manitous, Beaver and Fox Island to windward and the mainland to leeward for such a task in a storm.
The had to look out for that "Lee Land" and many a shipwreck upon that Lee Land shore attested the danger they incurred. That "Lee Land" became a mighty fact in the thoughts and plans of sailors and ship and cargo owners. The Lee Land was well known to them before 1850. The called it by its proper English, "Lee-land" as they were English men, and Americans, French, Swedes, Danes and others adopted it. "Lee – the quarter toward which the wind blows" – Leeland. Now LELAND.
From Joseph Littell's booklet: Leland, An Historical Sketch (copyright 1920)