- Amish Country
During the early years of settlement in Portage County, like many counties in Ohio, the names associated with a particular location would change as circumstances changed. When the first settlers arrived in Franklin Township there of course were no towns or villages, just geologic features. Three things would happen that would change everything.
First, the establishment of a grist mill on the Cuyahoga River. Then the Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal connected the town to the Ohio and Erie Canal. And finally, the arrival of a railroad. All 3 of these events made it possible for local businesses and farmers to get their goods and produce to a wider market than would have otherwise been possible.
Located in Franklin Township of Portage County, Kent was originally known as Franklin Mills. That name dates back to the early 1800s. John Haymaker was the first settler to arrive here primarily because he like the land and he thought a mill could be successfully built here. A few years after arriving here, Haymaker successfully built a crude mill on the Cuyahoga River. Although this first mill only lasted a few years, it proved highly successful and the locals began to call it Franklin Mills. Several years later the Haymaker sold his mill to Jacob Reed who greatly improved the mill, and at that time the name the locals began call the area as Reedsburg. In 1816 Jacob Reed sold his mill to another group and at that time the name reverted back to Franklin Mills.
In 1863, Marvin Kent brought the first railroad to Franklin Mills which would result in dramatic changes to the industry and growth of Kent. The same year that the railroad came to Franklin Mills, the name of the community was changed to Kent in honor of Marvin Kent's efforts to not only bring the railroad here, but all of the successful industries that he helped develop here long before the railroad arrived. In 1867 the village of Kent was incorporated.
Originally known as the Kent State Normal School with the goal of teaching its students to become teachers, establish the standards of education for elementary grade classrooms. However, the founding president, John McGilvrey quickly realized that the country was in more need of institutions that could train future high school teachers. It was his guidance that quickly converted the 2-year college that began in 1913 to a 4-year college in 1915. Kent State University was officially recognized as such in 1935.
Today Kent State University has more than 22,000 undergraduate students and 6,500 graduate students coming from all 50 states and 100 countries world-wide. There are many notable professionals in all walks of life that have graduated from Kent State University. In the field of entertainment, KSU grads include Michael Keaton, Arsenio Hall, Steve Harvey, Joe Walsh, and John deLancie.
Marvin Kent was born in Ravenna. His father Zenas Kent (b. 1786) came to Ohio. He and his wife settled in Ravenna and opened a general store. It was in this store that Marvin worked and learned the business side of commerce from his parents. When he was 19 years old his father sent Marvin on a buying trip to Philadelphia and New York. This trip helped cement Marvin's credentials in his father's eye to become part of his business dealings in Ohio.
Marvin Kent supervised construction of several buildings in Franklin Mills, assumed managed of a tannery, the Kent Flouring Mill, a glass works and then along with several other partners began the construction of a railroading project in 1851. When that railroad was completed to Franklin Mills in 1863. Within 2 years the town's population had doubled. Soon after this the community of Franklin Mills, changed the name to Kent.