Local History - Area History

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Dams, to the early settlers, meant power: the power of falling water harnessed to do the hard work of grinding grain and sawing logs.

In about 1812, Francis Kelsey, a millwright, and Isaac Wilcox built a dam across the Cuyahoga River at the place in Cuyahoga Falls where the railroad bridge now crosses. There they erected a gristmill and a sawmill. At about the time the gristmill was ready to grind grain, it caught fire and burned up. The fire was supposed to be the work of its rival in Northampton. The next year, Wilcox and Kelsey rebuilt, but their dam was soon carried off by a flood, and being disgusted with the business, Wilcox returned to his farm. Kelsey built anew upstream at the present-day Munroe Falls. This is how the little settlement became known as Kelsey's Mills.

Kelsey teamed up with two other men to build this dam, made of logs, in about 1817. They erected the first sawmill in Stow Township there. Kelsey also built a gristmill. The mills used millraces, one on each side of the river. That way they only needed one dam. The dam was washed out and replaced a few times over the years.

The Village, and later the City, of Munroe Falls takes its name from the lovely waterfall created by this dam.

The present dam was strengthened in 1913, after a great flood damaged it. It has long been owned by the various paper companies, the latest one being Sonoco. Currently (2005), in response to a ruling by the Ohio EPA, the dam is being lowered in order to improve the quality of the river.

Note: This account was taken from articles written by Marilyn Lown and Becky Hladik, and The Bronson Book.