Akron has a rich heritage. Native American history, joined with that of the pioneers who settled here, continues to influence the community through street names, cultural activities, and traditions.
The route to Akron
The Great Iroquois Indian Trail became the route of travel for the hardy pioneers as they came by foot, ox cart, and horse following the formation of the Holland Land Company and it s survey of this territory in 1798.
They came to an area of dense virgin forests, fertile soil, and waterpower for their mills. The route they followed passed through what is now the Tonawanda Indian Reservation, the present site of the Village of Akron, and continued on to the Buffalo Road (Route 5).
One of the first areas settled in the Holland Purchase was situated on Main Road (Route 5) between the intersection of Routes 5 and 93 and the Clarence Hollow, in the Town of Clarence. Two young farmers transported the first crop of wheat grown on the land over the Buffalo Road to Canada for milling in 1800.
The first town meeting was held at Peter VanDerVenter Tavern on the Buffalo Road. Archibald S. Clarke arrived in 1805, opening the first store in Erie County, outside of Buffalo. He has the distinction of having served as a member of the State Assembly, Judge of Common Pleas, State Senator, and a member of Congress. Two Methodist missionaries organized the first church in Newstead and in Erie County in July 1807, the same year as the first school in Newstead was founded.
Jonathan Russell cleared enough forrest to erect a combination frame house and general store at what is now the corner of Clinton and Main Streets in 1829. Later, Mr. Russell built a small schoolhouse at the corner of Church and John Streets, established Maple Lawn Cemetery opposite the park which bears his name, and donated sites for the Methodist and Baptist Churches. A high elevation led to the village's eventual name of Akron, meaning "high place". By 1831, Akron had a grocery store and a hotel, and Dr. Isaac Parcell began answering calls on horseback.
Early industries in Akron included lumbering, barrel making, blacksmithing, flour and cement milling, gypsum processing, and cigar making. The cement and gypsum industries sustained the Akron economy for over a century.
A growing vital Akron became an Incorporated Village on September 19, 1849, twenty years after its founding. Elijah Knight became the first president (Mayor).
War Between the States
Sons of Akron answered the call of Lincoln by the score during the War Between the States. The sons of the Tonawanda Indians also responded to the call. Among them was General Ely S. Parker, who later helped write the terms of the surrender at Appomattox. General Parker became the first Master of the Masonic Lodge. The "Grant Club" was erected at Main Road and Buell Street in 1872 by Akron supporters of Ulysses S. Grant's run for the Presidency of the United States.
An 1880 census showed a booming business climate in Akron with the town's commercial properties listed as the largest in Erie County, although there were only 1,050 inhabitants. Edison Telephone Company began bringing service to the area in 1879. West Shore Railroad came to Akron in 1884, adding to the service provided by a brand of the New York Central, dubbed the "peanut", running form Niagara Falls to Canandaigua beginning in 1854. 1884 saw the Park Theatre and Rink opened.
A New Century The 1900's began with a municipal water supply in place and a power plant to convert the natural gas streetlights to electricity was imminent.
About 1917, American solders joined the allies against the Germans during World War I, with many Akron residents answering the call. To meet the growing educational needs of the area a high school building was constructed in 1925, on Bloomingdale Avenue. The Great Depression left its mark with many businesses closing their doors and stores remaining empty. Akron's young were once again called to war, as a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor brought America into another world conflict. A milestone I the local history of public power was reached in 1949 as a new, modern outdoors electrical transformer substation and distribution equipment were accepted on January 16, 1949. The plant located on Mill Street cost approximately $35,000 and had the capacity to distribute 1500 KVA. It replaced equipment installed in 1918.
School districts in Akron, the Town of Newstead and portions of the towns of Clarence, Royalton, Alabama and Pembroke were centralized in 1949.
Severe storms and flooding welcomed the spring of 1950 and the "Sands of Iwo Jima" was playing at the Park Theatre. The Korean "War" took Akron's youth back to foreign soil.
Akron was chosen as the site for the Buffalo Arms plant, at the corner of Clarence Center Road and Buell Street. Initially the plant manufactured 20mm cannons. After the peace returned to the nations, Wales-Strippit, a subsidiary of Houdaille Industries, converted the plant to manufacturing metal working tools and machinery, its purpose today, as Strippit, a division of IPEX.
Business changed in 1952 as the ruins of old Jebb's Cement works were torn down, the New York State Thruway was constructed through the farmlands of the Town of Newstead, and the Carborundum Plant was started on Clarence Center Road, now the site of the I Squared R Element Company and Niagara Specialty Metals. Whiting Roll Up Doors Jackson Street plant was destroyed by fire in December of 1953. Plans for making doors, six trucks and courage took the family business to its present location at 113 Cedar Street, where it has grown in size and recognition for quality products throughout the world. A new elementary school was built on Bloomingdale Avenue, as was a new gym and swimming pool in 1956.
The village saw progress in many forms, as streets were widened and repaved, storefronts modernized, the Park Theatre converted into a supermarket, and more recently into a restaurant and Video store. A shopping plaza on Buell Street came into being containing a supermarket, drug store and Laundromat. The Akron Airport became a reality with a paved runway positioning it for growth.
An Akron Airport became a reliever airport to the Buffalo Airport. Blizzards in 1966 and 1977 became history with many stories to share. Akron Central School saw a major expansion and renovation project in 1965. Perrys Ice Cream went from a small location on Pearl Street to a newly built plant and storage facility on Cedar Street. A new Village Hall was built on Main Street replacing the old Akron Candy Kitchen.
Progress in the past decade
The past decade saw the construction of a new power substation on Eckerson Avenue replacing the old substation on Mill Street. A major upgrade occurred at the Sewer Plant providing dual digesting capability and more efficient operations. The water transmission line between Bennington and Akron was replaced as Akron implemented the largest utility project in its history. Plans are now underway to replace the Spillway and Dam in Bennington to preserve the Akron Water System for another 75 or more years.
Perry's Ice Cream has become a major regional ice cream manufacturer and distributor of food products throughout the state. A major renovation to Main Street, and storefronts, combining the historical aspects with current needs has taken place. A new library is underway on Main Street adjacent to the Village Hall with opening planned for late 2001. Whiting Roll Up Doors has grown in size and recognition for quality products throughout the world. Akron Rule, Strippit, Ford Gum, and I Squared R are flourishing. Adessa Auto Auction, a new industry just outside of village limits, has become a major employer in the greater Akron area and being serviced by the Akron Sewer System.
An annual "New Year's Eve Ball Drop" has become a major winter event in the village, along with renewed interest in the "fourth of July" celebration that has occurred in Akron for more than a half century. The Akron Band continues its summer concerts in Russell Park that is seen as major Friday night events during July and August.
Elected officials of the Village
Elected Mayors, Trustees and Justices of the village since its inception are found at the link below. We have provided a list all elected officials who have served the village over the past century and one-half.
- Officials Archive (pdf)