Grist Mill as it appeared in 1934.
Early image of the Mosquito Creek
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
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
1840 Map of Niles.
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
Lot 20 - William McKinley Sr.
Lot 22 - Jacob Robinson
Lot 29 - Ambrose Mason
31 - James Heaton
Lot 37 - J. Frederick
Lot 42 - David Bowell
Lots 43 & 44 - A. Kingsley
Lots 45,46 & 47 - Thomas Evans
Lot 49- school grounds
Lots 48,50,51 & 52- Warren
Lot 53 - John Dray
Lot 54 - James Dempsey
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
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.
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.