The Coxey Building ruins remain as a testament to an age of industry and innovation in Mount Vernon. When Jacob Coxey opened the building as a steel plant around 1900, he founded it on a network of railroads, pipelines, and commerce in Ohio. Natural resources abounded. Knox County’s industrial boom began when the Ohio Fuel Supply Company drilled a natural gas well that produced 7,000,000 cubic feet of gas every day. The company piped the gas through the Columbia Gas Transmission Company, making Mount Vernon a significant supplier to cities like Wilmington, Virginia, and Charleston, West Virginia.

 All over the state, towns like Mount Vernon launched themselves on similar trajectories. Bountiful resources in the form of sand, gas, and clay allowed entrepreneurs to break ground with production plants. New industries not only employed many of the residents of these small cities, they also created surpluses to trade throughout the state. The bricks of the Coxey Building provide one example: Each one bears the inscription of their maker, “BELDEN, CANTON, OHIO.” In 1885 Henry S. Belden founded the Diebold Fire Brick Company in Canton. He became the first to pave Canton’s roads with brick. Next, his bricks helped pave roads statewide. And just fifteen years after its founding, his company laid the foundation for the Coxey Building and the heart of Mount Vernon’s glass industry for years to come.

“Steel Mills” at Ohio History Central: “steel plant” in “When Jacob Coxey opened the building as a steel plant around 1900.” 

Steel Mill

Photo: Steelworkers at Upper Union Mills, a manufacturing plant owned and operated by the Carnegie Steel Company, around 1915. Courtesy Ohio History Central.

Ohio Industry

Photo: Manufacturing prospered in Ohio during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries because of early industrialization through coal mining and iron production in the early 1800s. Courtesy Ohio History Central.


“Brick Company History: 1885.” The Belden Brick History: A Legacy of Outstanding Performance. The Belden Brick Company, 2012. 10 Apr. 2017. This webpage details the history of Henry Belden and the Diebold Fire Brick Company.

"Early Industrialization." Ohio History Central. Ohio History Connection, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2017. This webpage summarizes the early coal and iron industries in Ohio that manufacturing industries succeeded.

Lorey, Frederick N. History of Knox County, Ohio, 1876-1976. Mount Vernon, Ohio: Knox County Historical Society, 1976. Print. In this book, Lorey explains the history of the Coxey Building as well as how the gas and glass industries took hold in Mount Vernon.


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Leah Dunbar, Teahelahn Keithrafferty, Samantha Manno, and Cameron Messinides, all students at Kenyon College in 2017, participated in the Coxey Building portion of the Learning Trails project. Professor of American Studies Peter Rutkoff served as project advisor.