The history of Niles dates back to 1806 when it was founded by James Heaton, the first owner of an iron ore processing plant in the state. At first, the town was known as Heaton’s Furnace, but later, the town changed its name to Nilestown after the Niles Register newspaper editor, Hezekiah Niles. By 1843, the town once again changed its name, this time to only Niles.
In the 19th century, Heaton constructed a charcoal blast furnace on the western side of Mosquito Creek and just a tad east of where the central park is today. He is also known for the creation of the first iron bar in the state of Ohio.
The iron industry boomed until near the end of the 19th century when the depression in 1873 closed the James Ward and Company which was the town’s biggest industrial firm.
During the beginning of the 1900s, the town began to see new companies opening their doors including the Niles and Iron and Steel Roofing Company, Niles Glass Works of the General Electric Company and Ohio Galvanizing. With these industries, the town started to grow and in twenty years from 1900 through 1920, the population went from 7,468 to over 13,000.
Niles had had its rough times besides the depression due to heavy rains that flooded the state of Ohio in 1913, and other natural disasters have also hit the area including earthquakes and tornadoes. In 1913, flood was so extreme that 428 residents failed to survive and the damage left behind was over $3 million.
The Mahoning Valley is the home of Niles and it is still considered to be the center for the production of steel. Religious and ethnic issues hit the town during the World War I and during the 1920’s, the Ku Klux Klan marched through the town targeting a high number of Catholic population that called the town home. Violence because of religious, ethnic issues and the Ku Klux Klan have plagued the town.