A HISTORY SET IN STONE
by George D. Kanaan
Berea got its name by the flip of a coin back in 1836. Reverend Henry O. Sheldon, a circuit rider and later Berea's first postmaster, chose the name over another biblical locale: Tabor (Mount Tabor). Baldwin called "heads" and the rest is history.
Information obtained from the Berea Historical Society reveals that a New Englander named John Baldwin is credited with being one of Berea's founding fathers. He is also known as a founder of the Baldwin institute, which later became Baldwin-Wallace College. John Baldwin prospered in Berea by successfully transforming the sandstone along the banks of the Rocky River into a successful industry beginning in the early 1840s and lasting nearly a century.
His invention, a lathe to cut slabs of stone into grindstones, would make "Berea stone" world famous. The grindstones were used to sharpen tools for farm, home and industry. Building stone from Berea quarries was used in prestigious buildings in the United States and abroad. A festival named for the grindstones that were synonymous with Berea is held each July 4th weekend.
Quarry workers in mid-1800s were of English, Scottish and German ancestry. As time passed, German, Irish and Polish immigrants arrived to work in the quarries. In the 1940s, Carborundum grinding wheels replaced grindstones, and cement was being used more extensively in construction. Berea's industrial greatness had ended.
Today, Berea is moving forward with renewed conviction and purpose. Berea finds itself with numerous opportunities to revitalize its economic future while keeping alive its historic past. The town will continue to be a great place to call home, as it continues to evolve and change. The most dynamic treasures are diversity of culture, education, entertainment, religion, recreation, commerce and most important, our citizens. Woven into the character of its people is a fierce community pride kindled by the legacy left by Berea's strong and hearty settlers and founding fathers. The tough pioneering spirit they implanted is still in evidence today.