Napoleon’s first industry

Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 10:05 AM EST

(Reprinted with permission of the Northwest Signal)

Editor’s note: The City of Napoleon will be celebrating its 180th birthday in October of this year. As part of the celebration, the Northwest Signal and the Henry County Historical Society is partnering to take a look back at the city’s history each month. HCHS member Russell Patterson has provided the information.

The first industry in Napoleon was a saw mill that opened in 1843.

Sayger's Saw MillKnown as Sayger’s Saw-mill, it was established by John Powell and Hazel Strong between the Maumee River and the Miami and Erie Canal. This entire industrial area coincides with the land in and around the current city building on Riverview Avenue and Front Street.

(The photo at left is Sayger's Saw-Mll, which became Napoleon's first industry in 1843) (Click to enlarge)

The canal played a vital role in manufacturing at that time. Low water would often cause the early businesses to shut down periodically. Progress continued for the next 20 years and in 1863 the Napoleon Woolen Mill was established just down the road from the Saw-mill. Jacob Augenstein was credited with establishing the Woolen Mill.

Woolen MillWoolen Mill WorkersIt employed about 25 men and women of varying ages. One employee, 18-year-old Della Hess, was a weaver. In one week she was credited with weaving a record 639 yards of cloth. All that work netted her a grand total of $8. It’s recorded that she used that money to buy a necklace.

(The photo above left is the Napoleon Woolen Mill, established 1863) (Click to enlarge)

(The photo above right shows the workers from the Woolen Mill outside the facility) (Click to enlarge)

The earliest known photograph of Napoleon was taken by a traveling photographer on the canal in 1865. In it are shown the businesses that were located on the first block of East Washington Street, including C.J. McGinnis Saloon and Henry Ludeman’s general store. There was also a bar located at the back of the general store.

John and Jacob Frease built a general merchandise store in 1864 that adjoined the Ludeman Store. These two buildings were destroyed in a fire in 1869.

Also in this block were the John Powell House, which was built beside the Henry County Courthouse, which had been built in 1850.

In 1879, these two buildings were also destroyed in a fire.