Early Pioneers to Industrial Giants

From Early Pioneers to Industrial Giants

The very early pioneer residents of Norton found that there were many problems to just exist. First they had to have a roof over their heads, next they had to have a few acres of cleared land to grow the absolute necessities to live by and feed the few animals they brought with them if they were among the fortunate to bring some livestock with them.

But as soon as they had shelter and food, many early settlers set up some kind of little business, the income of which enabled them to live a little easier. Sawmills, gristmills, and tanneries, and blacksmith shops were the most important of the early industries in our village.

The first saw mill was built by Thomas Johnson at Johnson Corners in 1823. Early settlers were able to bring logs they cleared from their farms and have them converted into lumber to build barns and houses. The second saw mill was built by Hezchiah Ward on Hudson Run in the northwest corner of the township. In 1837, Nathan Seiberling built a large saw mill further down Hudson Run using, like all the other saw mill operators, water power derived from Hudson Run. At one time five saw mills were operating on Hudson Run.

The first gristmill in Norton was built at Johnson Corners by Thomas Johnson about 1830. A picture of this early mill is in this history. Clarks Mill was built about 1837, but burned to the ground in 1879.

The first tannery was opened at Western Star about 1830, and was operated by Lebbens Hoskinson. In 1835, another tannery was started at Bates Corners. The first blacksmith shop was opened by Samuel Baker who previously operated a similar shop in Stow.

These first little industries gave Norton area residents a place to get vital services performed. The proprietors and operators of these early saw mills, grist mills, etc. had to be men of much mechanical ingenuity as they didn't have machine shops and parts facilities available and machinery had to be kept in operation with whatever could be improvised.

When Nathan Seiberling settled in Norton he brought with him some of the German ability to build something better mechanically. When he started his first saw mill he tried a new kind of saw, which was called a geared muley saw, so designed that it cut much faster than the saws used by other area mill operators. This put Mr. Seiberling in a very favorable competitive position amongst his competitors and he profited accordingly.

Six of Nathan Seiberling's sons grew up on their father's farm near Western Star and showed extraordinary mechanical ability. The oldest of these sons, John F. Seiberling, early turned his mechanical ability to inventing farm machinery. He invented his first reaper, the Excelsior, in 1859. In 1861, he patented the first dropper for a reaper and in 1862, he invented the side brace bar coupling. In 1870, he started a completely new line of mowers and reapers called the Empire. Our surrounding area by the 1880s was fast becoming the farm machinery center of America.

Two of John F. Seiberling's sons, Frank A. and Charles W were born in the Seiberling home at Western Star and after serving an apprenticeship in their father's various industries, struck out in the industrial world for themselves. In 1898, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company was organized with Frank Seiberling as president and Charles W as treasurer. By this time, Akron was beginning to change from a machinery and cereal manufacturing center to the rubber center of the world. Most of the early major rubber companies were establishing headquarters in Akron. Most of these rubber companies were plagued with financial and patent problems. Competition was fierce but the Seiberlings were to see Goodyear grow to one of the world's largest rubber companies in the next 20 years. After the financial difficulties of the early 1920s the Seiberlings started the Seiberling Rubber Company in Barberton.

While the Seiberlings born in the southwest part of Norton were building companies with branches all over the world, north of Loyal Oak on Reimer Road, another man was growing up who was destined to head some of the largest companies in the world in their fields. EJ. Young was born 12-30, 1857, the son of Charles Young who had come to the Loyal Oak area as an early settler from Pennsylvania. As a young man Young taught school several terms and then studied music for a while at Oberlin College. After trying to give organ lessons and various clerking jobs, he became interested in the design of injectors. The enthusiasm and determination with which he worked served an important part in the phenomenal growth of the Ohio Companies in Wadsworth. Young's companies got into the manufacture of injectors and valves, paper products, salt and matches. His Ohio Match Co. was destined to become the largest match plant in the world giving employment to many hundreds of person.

While the successes enjoyed by the Seiberlings and the Youngs were probably the most outstanding on our Norton area sons, many other have left their imprint on the business and cultural life of our area.