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Heaton, James (1770-1856)

Submitted by Niles Historical Society

James Heaton was the founder of the city of Niles.  He was a pioneer in the establishment of the iron and steel business in the Mahoning Valley.  He was born in Virginia in 1770 and in 1802 came with his brother Daniel to build the first Iron Furnace in Yellow Creek in Poland Township.

He established his own settlement on the Mosquito Creek, just north of the Mahoning River.  He built a gristmill, a sawmill, and a forge on the banks of Mosquito Creek.  He produced iron from the ore in the area and during the War of 1812, his forge made cannon balls for Admiral Perry.  He built a number of cottages for his workmen. His settlement became known as Heaton’s Furnace but was changed to Nilestown because of his great admiration for Hezekiah Niles who published the Niles Register in Baltimore. The post office later changed the name to Niles. 

In 1837, when the Pennsylvania-Ohio canal was nearing completion, Heaton platted fifty-four lots which became the downtown of Niles.  He set aside certain lots for churches and a school.  He sold lot 20 to William McKinley Senior.

Heaton retired in 1839 giving the reins to his son Warren.  After Warren’s death, other parties leased the furnace but it became obsolete in 1854.  James Heaton died in 1856 at the time that new industrial growth was beginning to emerge.