The first village, known as Franklin Mills, or locally as the "Lower Village", developed mostly around the original Haymaker property.In 1818, Joshua Woodard arrived in the area and began constructing buildings just north of the village forming the "Upper Village" that would come to be known briefly as Carthage.Historically a manufacturing center, education is the city's largest economic sector with Kent State University the city's, and one of the region's, largest employers.The Kent City School District and the Kent Free Library provide additional education opportunities and resources.It was incorporated as a village in 1867 and became a city after the 1920 Census.Today Kent is a college town best known as the home of the main campus of Kent State University, founded in 1910, and as the site of the 1970 Kent State shootings.They were joined by John's brother George and their father Jacob Haymaker and their families early the next year, and built a gristmill in 1807.Initial growth in the area was slow, but eventually two small villages would develop due to the potential for power generated by the Cuyahoga River that could be used in gristmills and manufacturing.
Leading up to the American Civil War, Franklin Mills was noted for its activity in the Underground Railroad.
Marvin Kent had started his own railroad company, the Franklin and Warren Railroad, in 1851 after Franklin Mills, already home to several Kent family ventures and properties, was bypassed by the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad that same year.
Kent was also successful in getting the village named as the location of the railroad's maintenance yards and shops in 1864.
In the 1820s, Franklin Mills was included in the route of the Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal (P & O Canal).
When construction began on the canal in the mid-1830s, land speculation was rampant in many areas of northeast Ohio along the canal, including Franklin Mills.