Had it not been for the Cuyahoga River and its potential source of water-power to operate grist mills, Franklin Mills might not have been settled.
It was Jacob Haymaker, a millwright and carpenter who prospected through Portage county in 1805, who saw the possibilities of the Cuyahoga. He realized that the banks of the river would be a fine place to erect a grist mill. At the time Aaron Olmstead owned the entire township of Franklin. Jacob Haymaker offered to buy 2,093 acre of land. The price was $5,600, just a bit more than $2.50 an acre. Unable to return to Franklin Jacob sent his son John, to clear a spot in the virgin forest along the Cuyahoga for a permanent home. It was November of 1805 when John, his wife and three (Jacob, Eve, and Catherine) children arrived in Franklin. The family found shelter that winter in a crude hut, built by surveyors in 1803, just west of the present Crain Ave. bridge. In the spring of 1806, George Haymaker, brother of John, along with his brother Jacob, came to Franklin. In the fall of 1806, Frederick, another of Jacob's sons arrived and he and his father purchased another tract of land north of the previously purchased tracts. Their combined holdings included most of what would become Kent. On Sept. 11, 1807 Sally Haymaker, wife of John Haymaker, gave birth to their first settlement child, John F. Haymaker, to be born in Franklin Township. The photo is of John Franklin Haymaker who died at the age of 93. The photo was taken in 1900 prior to his death that same year.
To learn more about the Haymakers come to the Kent Historical Society.
The P & O. canal was one reason why a land boom was touched off in Franklin Mills in the promising 1830's.
For awhile the village's economic picture was rosy. The canal builders - mainly Irish workmen - arrived in Franklin Mills. They started by building a giant lock – it had a 19-foot drop – on the east bank of the river just below Main st. Subsequently the canal builders reconstructed a dam across the river to replace the one washed away by the flood of 1832. At the same time a sturdy covered bridge was built over the river at the foot of Main st. now the site of the stone bridge.
Those who came to work in Kent during the land boom – canal and bridge builders and carpenters and bricklayers employed on the new buildings – had to be fed and housed. Many stores opened and thrived. Evidence of prosperity was everywhere.
Kent held its first municipal election Tuesday, July 30, 1867 after being incorporated as a vilIage. One of the first acts of the council was to erect two oil lights in the covered bridge over the Cuyahoga river at Main St.
Commenting on the improvement the Kent Bulletin printed: "On Thursday evening the beacon lights first sent forth their warning rays to guide the lonely footman through this heretofore obnoxious passage. May they burn long and brilliantly."
This is a photo of Hose Co. #3, taken on Jan. 1, 1887, 124 years ago. The fire fighters are identified from left to right as: Joe Fitzpatrick, Joe Meloy, ? Malcolm, Al Ralston, Dave Marshall, W.B. Luff, Joe Donaghey, Max Norton, Patrick Fitzpatrick, James Cutler, Martin Conoway. Kent's fire department is 140 years old.
The first Hook and Ladder company was formed in 1870 to battle the serious fires which plagued the community. A fire house was erected and $1,000 was allocated by village council for equipment.
Officers of the first Hook and Ladder company were W. H. Patterson, foreman; F. Chess. first assistant; J. Richards, second assistant; L. C. Reed. secretary, and J. H. Hart, treasurer.
The first big fire occurred Sept. 18, 1873. in the brass foundry of the A. G. and W shops. The interior of the building and the roof burned, but the walls remained intact. Adjoining buildings were saved through the excellent work of the fire department and shop employees. Total loss was estimated at $30,000.
The Kent Comfort Station, advocated for years by the Kent Board of Trade and other civic organizations, was started on October 5, 1920. Money for the station, which was raised by public subscription, did not come in as rapidly as expected and the building was not completed until January, 1922. It stood adjacent to the depot in the spot now occupied by the gazebo. It was originally built as a men's and woman's public restroom but some years later was converted into a barber shop.
The newspaper clipping states the following:
The Comfort Station proposition has again been taken up and will be pushed to completion as soon as possible. We would refer you to the statement of Oct. 18, 1917. Below find names and amount each pledged and who paid. The money collected is on deposit with the City Banking Co. The list is in the hands of W. W. Reed at his office on South Water street. Any wishing to subscribe to the fund or to pay what they have subscribed can do so by calling on Mr. Reed, who will receipt for the money. This is certainly a good cause and it is hoped every one will help to push it along without asking. Please call and pay your subscription and save the time and expense of a collector. The plans and specifications will soon be ready to advertise for bids. The Comfort Station committee consists of Councilmen C. W. Keener and Reese Davis and Clerk W. W. Reed, representing the village, and H. C. Longcoy, B. G. Kneifel and: J. B. Miller, representing the Board of Trade.
Statement of Pledges.
H. L. Spelman, $100; W. S. Kent, $100; M. L. Davey, $62.50; Getz Bros., $25; Kneifel Grocery Co., $25; Longcoy & Sparrow, $25; The Mason Tire & Rubber Co., (paid) $25; F. W. Albrecht, Acme grocery store, $25; The City Banking Co., $25; Estate of D. L. Rockwell, $25; France Dry Goods Co., $25; M. E. Hanley, $25; J. C. Gigger, $10; W. B. Andrews, $10; B. E. Gorham, $10; F. A. Russell, $10; B. H. Jacob, $10; J. H. Krape, $10; E. J. Widdecombe, $10; Chas. Randall, $10; Martin Fereshetian, $10; Albert N. Kelley, $4; Britton Johnson, $12; J. B. Miller, $12; A. Ravenscroft, $5; E. J. Kline, $5; John Warth, $5; I. R. Marsh, $5; H. J. Wright, $10; Fred Bechtle, $5; W. L. Gauger, $3; F. W. Trory, $10; C. M. Davis, $3; Coe Livingston, $10; Geo. T. Cook, $5; John Arighi, $5; E. J. Rhodes, $5; E. O. Carlin, $5; Ed. Holden, $3; The Coterie, (paid) $25.
Jan. 30-'16, Mason Co...............$ 25.00
Nov. 22, Concert...............191.50
Nov. 23, Concert................ 22.00
Nov. 24, Concert............... 14.50
May 11-'17, Coterie................25.00
Nov. 23-'16, Mr. Elgin for music......... 11.20
Balance in bank.…..$266.80
"I first saw this standing stone in the fall of 1804. At that time there were two trees on top of it, a hemlock and a small pine. The top of the rock was higher than the banks on either side and covered with huckleberry bushes and moss. The Indians had felled a small sapling from the shore to the rock, forming what was called an Indian ladder, and by this means they could climb onto the top. Whenever an Indian family passed by here, they would climb on the rock and fasten a piece of bark to the hemlock, pointing in the direction they had gone. There were many pieces still clinging to the tree when I first saw it."
Confessions of an Old Settler
An event of unusual importance occurred on August 10, 1814. Franklin Township celebrated its first wedding! Neighbors from miles around gathered at noon at the home of Adam and Betsey Nighman to witness the marriage of their daughter Theresa to Christian Cackler, of Hudson. After the ceremony was performed, the wedding dinner was served—a substantial backwoods feast of beef, fowl and deer meat, together with as many different vegetables as could be procured. Following the dinner there was a dance which lasted into the small hours of the morning.
To Christian Cackler, the groom of this first wedding, Franklin Township is indebted for its only existing record of how the early settlers lived. In 1870, he wrote his “Recollections of an Old Settler” which was first printed in the Kent Bulletin.
Another man who helped materially in the upbuilding of the settlement arrived early in the spring of 1818. He was Joshua Woodard, of Geneva, New York, who had settled in Ravenna in 1811 and had there erected a saw and gristmill. Deciding that he would rather have his enterprises located on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, Woodard entered into partnership with Frederick Haymaker and together they financed the building of a small woolen factory and dye house on the east side of the river near the Crain Avenue bridge and a small cabinet shop on the west side of the river just below the bridge. Zenas Kent, prosperous Ravenna merchant and builder, saw fit to make investments in Franklin Mills. Whether he knew for certain that the Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal would be built, causing increased property values as they had in Akron, is problematical; whether he had learned how eastern capitalists were beginning to search for water power sites, no one can say. But Kent was a man of affairs, with many influential friends, and it is quite possible that he had a clear knowledge of the trend of events. If that was the case, Kent exercised sound judgment in making his investment; if not, he was lucky. The chances are, however, that “luck” was an inconsequential factor—Kent was first, last and always a keen business man who acted on knowledge and not on guesswork. Another project of the Kent's, launched about the same time as the cotton project, was destined to be more successful. For many years it had been generally known that Franklin Mills was underlain with a strata of sandstone rock from which could be made the finest grades of glass. Two glass factories, it will be recalled, had been established years before and they operated successfully until the boom of 1837 distracted the community’s attention from such prosaic things as manufacturing. Now the Kents decided to utilize the sandstone and establish a real glass factory for Franklin Mills. In partnership with George W. Wells and H. M. Grennell, they built a glass works on the east side of the river near Summit Street, the company being known as Kent, Wells and Co. For a number of years the small concern made little progress; in 1864, however, it was taken over by Ed. L. Day and Charles T. Williams who organized the Day, Williams and Co. Rock Glass Works, which ultimately became one of the leading glass works in the country, employing as many as several hundred men for a number of years. Kent obtained an important new industry late in the 1870s. In September, 1878, it became known that Joseph Turner, part owner of an alpaca mill in Jamestown, New York, was seeking a new location. He wanted to start a mill of his own somewhere in northern Ohio, with his sons as partners. Negotiations were started with him to locate the mill here. Coming to Kent, Turner inspected the old “cotton mill,” built by the Kents in the early Fifties, but never occupied, and said that it could be made suitable for his purposes. The upshot of the negotiations was that Turner agreed to come here providing Marvin Kent, then owner of the building, would spend $15,000 on improvements; Turner also asked that $15,000 additional be subscribed by Kent people to help the company get started. The village of Franklin Mills undoubtedly owed its existence to the Cuyahoga River, for it was this river, rushing and roaring through the narrow gorge above and below the present Crain Avenue bridge, which provided the water-power needed for the operation of grist and saw mills. As was the case throughout the entire Western Reserve, mills were built where waterpower existed, and where mills were built, there sprang up some of the most thriving settlements. The ignoring of Franklin Mills by the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad Company irritated no one more than it did Marvin Kent, and from that time on he concentrated his energies on the problem of bringing a railroad to the village in which his family owned so much property. This work became the most important enterprise of his life, made him one of the outstanding figures of Ohio, and ultimately resulted in the name of Franklin Mills being changed to Kent. The story of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad, which Kent helped to build, is told elsewhere in this history; at this point it is necessary to mention only that on May 21, 1851, he aided in organizing one of the companies which built the railroad, and that on July 4, 1853, he broke ground for the new road by removing a shovelful of earth from the right of way. The railroad was coming to Franklin Mills, but it was a long time getting there. The tracks were not laid westward to the village until February 1863, and the first train did not arrive until March 7, 1863.
To learn more about the railroad and Kent come to the historical society and browse our library of books.
The original proprietor of this Township was Aaron Olmsted, of Westfield, Mass., who named it in honor of his son Franklin. It contains sixteen thousand acres, and was purchased by Mr. Olmsted, of Hartford, Conn., in the summer of 1798, for twelve and a half cents per acre. It was surveyed in 1798 by Ezekiel Hoover and Ralph Buckland, a brother-in-law of the late Zenas Kent.
The first family that came into the Township was that of John Haymaker, who arrived from near Pittsburg(h), in December of 1805. His father, Jacob, came out previously and purchased a site for a mill, which was the rapids in the river, at what is now called Kent.
In the following year, George and Frederick, brothers of John Haymaker, arrived. Frederick was a scholar, and was private secretary to Aaron Burr in that famous expedition for which Burr was tried fur treason in 1807.
It is believed that Mr. Haymaker, had he felt disposed so to do, could have furnished the documents which would have put forever at rest the speculations respecting the objects and aims of Burr in that still unexplained expedition, and filled an important chasm in our country's history. He maintained, however, an unbroken silence on the subject, and the secret died with him, as nothing bearing upon the matter was ever found among his papers.
In the spring of 1806, Samuel Burnett came from Warren, and commenced a clearing on Lot 65, where John Reed lately resided, and built the first house in the Township.
The first grist-mill was built by the Haymaker family about the year 1808, on the site of the present Kent mill. The millstones were made from the common stones. The bolt was a small concern turned by hand, sifting out the coarsest bran. In 1811 the Haymakers sold it to Jacob Reed, and in 1816 he sold it to Price & DePeyster.
In 1825 a hemp-mill was erected, but, as the business was not profitable, it was abandoned.
In 1827 a forge was built, and in 1828 a trip-hammer was put into operation, for the purpose of manufacturing scythes, axes, and forks.
In March, 1833, there came a freshet (the flood of a river from heavy rain or melted snow). which swept the whole thing down the river, mill and all. In May of the same year, Zenas Kent and David Ladd bought the mill-site and built the mill which now is owned by H. A. and M. Kent.
The first child born in the Township was John K., son of John Haymaker, on September 11, 1807. The first death in the Township was that of Eve Haymaker, in October, 1810. She was the wife of Jacob Haymaker, and the mother of John, George, and Frederick Haymaker. Jacob, the father, died in 1810; John died in 1827, George in 1838, and Frederick, in Trumbull County, in 1851.
This brief history of Franklin Township was first published in “Combination Atlas map of Portage County, Ohio, by L.H. Everts, Chicago, IL 1874”
Some of the english and syntax is rather quaint but of the period that it was written.
This clipping from the Kent News of 1879 is interesting as the second paragraph reflects an attitude found in the political climate of today. Seems like pretty strong words even by today's standards.