Akron History in a Nutshell
Native Americans, Settlers, canals, John Brown, The Underground Railroad, Sojourner Truth and Alcoholics Anonymous. Not what you normally think of when you think of Akron, but all of these people and things have played important parts in the history of Akron. Akron used to be part of the Western Reserve, and for some reason, people flocked to this new land away from civility and any known luxuries, to slaughter Native Americans and start their new happy lives.
As settlers moved west, the Native Americans had little choice other then to move even further west. Part of their trek was an 8 mile walk or “portage” between the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas rivers. This became known as the Portage Path. For a while it served as a boundary between the States and Native land. Akron has celebrated this not by giving land back to the Native Tribes, but by naming a street after it and placing giant metal arrowheads along the road.
By 1803 Ohio was its own state. Then General Simon Perkins came around, and he and Paul Williams founded Akron 1825. In 1837, construction on the locks and canal of the Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal began. Akron ended up with 17 locks in its portion of the canal. Akron was a high spot (hence Summit County) and when a ship entered the Akron Lock system, it wouldn’t emerge for a good 13 hours, so the pubs, hotels and the like all sprouted up to serve the needs of the crew.
Owen Brown and his family moved to the Akron area to work for the Perkins’ family tending sheep. Owen’s son, John Brown, became famous for his work with the Underground Railroad. He would go on trips to buy sheep for the Perkins family and return with runaway slaves on their way to Canada. In honor of John Brown, 19 year olds all across Ohio flee to Canada to legally get drunk.
Sojourner Truth gave her famous “Ain’t I a Woman” Speech here in 1851. This speech continues to inspire generations of women, and it all started here in Akron. The Railways came into play in the 1860’s and Akron embraced the change. New industries came into the area and took advantage of both the canals and the new railroads. Next came the cars, and with cars came tires. Companies like B.F. Goodrich, Firestone and Goodyear supplied thousands of jobs and caused a population boom. Akron became the “Rubber Capital of the World.” In 1935, one of the most famous groups in the world was founded in Akron: Alcoholics Anonymous. This group has helps countless people deal with the alcoholism and it all began in the Gate Lodge at Stan Hywet Hall.
Akron’s long history continues to grow. New companies are always being founded, new leaders are always emerging. Who knows, maybe RubberBuzz will be the next New York Times.