Kent owes its origins to the Cuyahoga River — the city’s great natural asset that drew founding father Jacob Haymaker to establish a grist mill in 1805, prompting the creation of a settlement known as Franklin Mills in what was previously wilderness. Some 25 years later, it was the river that attracted businessman Zenas Kent to the community that would later bear his family’s name.

From such humble beginnings did a substantial community grow, led through the 19th Century by three remarkable generations of the Kent family. The Kents were responsible for turning the community into a thriving railroad town at the end of the Civil War, and many years later played a major role in the founding and location of Kent State Normal College that evolved into Kent State University.


Canal Dam

The roaring waters of the Cuyahoga river have always been a focal point to Kent’s history. The Pennsylvania & Ohio canal brought prosperity to Kent.

Learn more about Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal

City History Timeline

1790

Capt. Brady’s leap across Cuyahoga River.

1801

Aaron Olmstead Purchased land in Kent.

1803

First bridge built. Aaron Olmstead hired surveyors to explore twp. and divided it into lots.

1805

(John) and Sally Haymaker arrived. First Permanent Settlers. Built first dam.

1807

First Grist Mill Constructed.

1812

Zenas Kent has 13 children. Partnered with John Brown who lived off and on in Kent. Built homes and tannery.

1814

First Wedding

1815

First election in Franklin Twp.

1816

First School established in small cabin.

1817

First School and church erected.

1830

Underground RR active in Kent.

1835

John Brown moved to Franklin Mills, entered into partnership with Zenas Kent.

1850

“Rail Service Came to Western Reserve”.

1857

Land for Standing Rock Cemetery purchased

1858

First lots in Standing Rock Cemetery sold.

1863

A&GW RR tracks laid in Franklin Mills, through the efforts of Marvin Kent. Franklin Mills name changed to “Kent” in honor of Marvin Kent. Influx of Italians RR workers. Two more interurban lines.

1864

Work begun building RR Shops.

1867

Village of Kent Incorporated.

1867

Kent held its first municipal election on Tuesday July 30, 1867. One of the first acts of the council was to erect two oil lights in the covered bridge over the Cuyahoga river on Main St.

1868

Catholic Church Columbus St. Completed.

1869

Anna Nutting first graduate of Kent High School.

1875

New Depot opened.

1880

Construction begins on the Marvin Kent Home.

1881

John Davey “The Tree Doctor” came to Kent, designed Standing Rock Cemetery.

1882

First Telephone exchange.

1884

July 25, Martin L. Davey born, son of John and Bertha Davey.

1890

Brady Lake Amusement Park- Summer Cottages, Spiritualist Camp.

1901

First automobile came to Kent.

1904

Kent Church of Brethren purchased land.

1908

Trinity Lutheran Church cornerstone laid.

1909

Davey Tree Institute of Tree Surgery founded. Davey Tree Expert Company Incorporated.

1910

William S. Kent donates land for KSU, accepted by State of Ohio.

1912

Cornerstone laid for Merrill Hall-first building of campus.

1913

Kent State Normal School opened its doors to its first students on the new campus.

1913

Major Floods. Remnants of Canal, Dam Destroyed by Flood. Martin L. Davey elected Mayor of Kent.

1915

Mason Tire and Rubber Co. Organized. Fred Haymaker opened Ford Agency & built garage. M.L. Davey re-elected Mayor of Kent.

1917

M.L. Davey re-elected Mayor of Kent.

1918

M.L. Davey elected to U.S. House of Rep. and re-elected 3 times.

1922

Roosevelt H.S. built on N. Prospect St.

1923

Martin L. Davey becomes President of Davey Tree Expert Co.

1924

St. Patrick’s School built.

1928

William A.Cluff Teacher’s Training School (University School) building erected. L.N. Gross Co. opened in Kent.

1930

Black and Decker began manufacturing in purchased part of Mason plant.

1934

Martin L. Davey elected Gov. Ohio.

1935

Kent State College becomes University.

1936

Kent Community Chest and Welfare Association formed. Martin L. Davey re-elected Gov. Ohio.

1946

March 31. Martin L. Davey died in Kent.

1956

Kent celebrated Sesquicentennial. Stow-Kent Shopping Center Built.

1957

University Plaza shopping center built.

1959

Roosevelt H.S. built N. Mantua St.

1961

Black Squirrels (10) Introduced into Kent by Larry Woodell.

1964

Opera House demolished.

1970

May 4, Ohio National Guard shoots and kills four KSU students.

1971

Kent Historical Society formed.

1972

Major Fire downtown, Kent Block burns to the ground.

1975

Kent Historical Society Purchased and renovated A&GW/Erie Depot. Pufferbelly Restaurant first floor, KHS offices and museum second floor. City Manager Gov’t Instituted in Kent. Haymaker Parkway completed.

1976

Kent Bicentennial Celebration.

1982

Nancy Hansford first woman Mayor of Kent.

1990

Priscilla Blanchard became first Kent City Manager.

1991

Carol Cartwright becomes first woman president of a state university in Ohio.

2005

Heritage Park Opens.

2017

Pufferbelly Restaurant closes, Treno Restaurant opens in place of Pufferbelly.