Grist Mill

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Grist Mill as it appeared in 1934.
Grist Mill as it appeared in 1934.

Early image of the Mosquito Creek dam.
Early image of the Mosquito Creek dam.

Niles' First Industry
This article appeared in the Niles Daily Times Bicentennial Edition issued in 1934

The two brothers, Daniel and James Heaton constructed, on Yellow Creek in Poland, Ohio, 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.

In 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 old 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 and one half inch thick with axe-hewn beams and pillars more than one foot square. The parts were fitted and held together with wooden nails, the old grist mill stood as a monument to the hard labor and capable workmanship of pioneer builders.

To 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. In 1940 the Niles Daily Times reported the story of the blaze that destroyed the city's oldest landmark, the Grist Mill built in 1806-1807 by James Heaton on what later became known as Race Alley, a narrow path from the dam to the grist mill.


 

1840 Map of Niles.
1840 Map of Niles. PO1.665

1840 Map of Niles.

Of the 54 lots platted in 1834, they were listed as follows: 23 lots, James & Warren Heaton, 12 lots - Heaton & Robbins, Lot 18 - M. Rider, 20 - William McKinley Sr., 22 - Jacob Robinson, 29 - Ambrose Mason, 31 - James Heaton, 37 - J. Frederick, 42 - David Bowell, 43 & 44 - A. Kingsley, 45,46 & 47 - Thomas Evans, 49- school grounds, 48,50,51 & 52- Warren Heaton, 53 - John Dray, and 54 - James Dempsey.

1882 Panoramic Map of Niles. PO1.654
1882 Panoramic Map of Niles. PO1.654

 

1882 panoramic map of Niles. Red line shows path of mill race from the Mosquito Creek dam to the grist mill.

An undated map of Niles showing the area east of Robbins Avenue.
An undated map of Niles showing the area east of Robbins Avenue. PO1.653

An undated map of Niles showing the area east of Robbins Avenue and northern part of Niles by the current high school. Several entries are typed on the photo itself. Red line shows path of mill race from the Mosquito Creek dam to the grist mill.


In 1818 James Heaton built this house on the southwest corner of what is now Robbins Avenue and Cleveland.
PO1.440

In 1818 James Heaton built this house on the southwest corner of what is now Robbins Avenue and Cleveland.
PO1.439

In 1818 James Heaton built this house on the southwest corner of what is now Robbins Avenue and Cleveland. In 1834 he sold it to Ambrose Mason and it became known as the Heaton-Mason Homestead, being occupied by five successive generations of the Mason family.

It was an imposing white brick structure with wooden pegs that held the timbers in place. Its cherry circular staircase and numerous spacious rooms with fireplaces were features of the landmark.

Photographs of the Heaton-Mason Residence shortly before it was demolished in 1966.


Drawing of James Heaton, founder of Niles.

Drawing of James Heaton, founder of Niles.

 

Ohio Historical marker listing James Heaton's accomplishments located on South Main Street across from The McKinley Museum and Research Center.
After 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, Ohio; 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 until 1843 when the Post Office Department for convenience shortened it to “Niles” and that is how Niles got its name.

Ohio Historical marker listing James Heaton's accomplishments located on South Main Street across from The McKinley Museum and Research Center.

     
     
 
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