two brothers, Daniel and James Heaton, constructed, on
Yellow Creek, the first blast furnace in the Mahoning Valley, and
probably the first blast furnace west of the Alleghenies, thus becoming
the founders of the industry that eventually made the region one
of the leading industrial areas in the United States.
about 1806, James Heaton selected as his permanent settlement the
vicinity near the junction of Mosquito Creek and the Mahoning River.
He purchased the land along the creek for at least a mile and a
half north of the river. He built his home, a saw mill and a grist
mill. This was the first industry in what is now called Niles. The
saw mill was abandoned, but the grist mill, with its sturdy timbers
was still in use in 1934 by Drake and McConnell. It was built of
oak planks two feet wide and two-one half inch thick, and axe-hewn
beams and pillars more than one foot square. Parts were held together
with wooden nails and stood as a monument to the hard labor and
capable workmanship of pioneer builders.
power the mill, James Heaton utilized the only available source,
water. At the site of the present dam on the Mosquito Creek, he
constructed a dam and south of that the gate and entrance to a mill
race, leading to a huge wooden water wheel at the mill, a third
of a mile distant. After the introduction of the electric power
in 1915, the need for the mill race passed and finally the old land
mark disappeared when the park commission in 1927 filled in the
abandoned bed as a part of the Central Park improvement program.
The Grist Mill building stood for sometime as a warehouse for the
distribution of flour and other products milled elsewhere.
building his grist mill, James Heaton constructed in 1809 a blooming
forge here, which manufactured the first bar iron in Ohio. The pig
iron for this product, Heaton had obtained from the Yellow Creek
furnace in Poland; but when war was declared in 1812 the furnace
men enlisted or were drafted and the furnace closed. James Heaton
immediately made plans to supply his own pig iron requirements and
in so doing developed an industry that for many years was to attract
settlers to the new community in Weathersfield Township.
The Heaton forge is believed to have stood on the bank of the Mosquito
Creek near the Baltimore and Ohio railroad bridge across the creek.
In 1812 James Heaton borrowed $1,448 from his brother, John, and
in 1813 completed the construction of a charcoal blast furnace capable
of producing the pig iron need for the manufacture of bar iron and
other products at the Heaton forge. He named his blast furnace “Maria
Furnace” in honor of his daughter, Maria, believed to be the
first white child born in Niles.
By 1834 the settlement had reached the proper proportions
of a village so James Heaton planned the streets, marked off the
lot division and named the village. Until 1834 the settlement was
appropriately called “Heaton’s Furnace”, but James
Heaton gave it a new name “Nilestown” in honor of Hezekiah
Niles, editor of the Niles Register, a Baltimore paper, who’s
whig principals Heaton greatly admired. Nilestown remained the name
till 1843 when the Post Office Department for convenience shortened
it to “Niles” and that is how Niles got its name.
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