In 1797, Charles Parker, a surveyor with the Connecticut Land Company, built a cabin on the marsh paving the way for other pioneers to establish this new land called the Western Reserve Territory. By 1811, Charles moved on to settle Milan, Ohio, but his younger brother, Clark would spend the rest of his life here. He married Margaret Jordan (whose family settled Concord Township) and they raised 13 children. Part of their property on Mentor Avenue was donated to the newly-established Mentor Methodist Church. Many of Mentor’s first settlers are buried at Mentor Cemetery.
The name Mentor originated in Greek literature; Mentor was the tutor of Telemachus, the son of Odysseus. Other place names in the Western Reserve, including Solon, Euclid and Macedonia, were also inspired by the early Americans’ fascination with the ancient world.
According to advertisements and rumors that spread from farmhouse to village, this new land in the West was not a grim wilderness, but Eden itself, an earthly Paradise where the ground was level and fertile and the climate mild.
The pioneers traveled mostly by horse and covered wagon loaded with every possession — a bed, a chest, some quilts and featherbeds, a trunk full of clothing, and, of course, the family Bible. They also brought with them a sense of community that resulted in the quick establishment of churches, schools and libraries. Over the years, this young farming community grew. Foot trails became roads. Farmlands gave way to nurseries. Ultimately, Mentor became the major commercial center that we know today.
Take a drive through Mentor’s Old Village today and you’ll see Mentor’s oldest house (at 7597 Center Street), the first public library building (at Center Street and Nowlen), and an elegant home that began as a barn (Perkins Drive). In fact, Mentor’s first manufacturing plant – the Hart Nut & Washer Co. — still stands on Station Street today. It is shown here as the Mentor Knitting Mills, but it has also been known as the Lake Shore Chemical Company and the Columbia Match Factory.
Books on the History of Mentor
Want to learn more? “Mentor: The First 200 Years” was published in 1997 as the first comprehensive history of Mentor. It is filled with pictures and interviews from people that remember what life was like before the freeways and shopping centers. Copies are available at Mentor City Hall by stopping by the Recreation Office, or by calling (440) 974-5740. Copies are also available at the James A. Garfield National Historic Site.
Some of the earlier books written are no longer in print, but may be available at the Mentor Public Library, Morley Library in Painesville or The Lake County History Center. These include “History of Mentor Headlands and Vicinity” (1957), “By the Buckeye” (1984), and “Mentor – a retrospective” (1988).
In 2013, Mentor celebrates its 50th year as a city. A series of lectures will be held at Wildwood Cultural Center during April and May. Presenters will reminisce about what life was like during the city’s early years. Call (440) 974-5735 to register or write firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.