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The city of Beaver Falls can trace its beginnings back to 1792, when General Daniel Brodhead filed for and purchased two four hundred acre tracts of land known locally as "Black Walnut Bottom" and "Middle Falls. " Nine years later, Brodhead sold his estate to Daniel Hoopes, who intended to develop the site for industrial use. Hoopes encountered problems when he found settlers living on the land and claiming title to it under an old law involving rights based on "settlement" and "improvement." (Another 64 years would pass before Brodhead's title would be cleared.) To resolve the immediate problem, Hoopes bought 50 acres of land from the settlers.
An iron blast-furnace was built (the first in Beaver County) and several other mills and factories were constructed. In 1806, Isaac Wilson bought the property and had a town plot surveyed. The village was named Brighton, for Brighton, England, at the suggestion of the surveyors. Ten years later, Ohio Township was divided and the eastern part, which included Brighton village, was given that name as well.
The industries failed, economically, in the national depression of 1818, and the town lay dormant until 1829, when James Patterson of Philadelphia purchased the estate. Patterson revived the industries and made many improvements, including a mill race and a short canal (Part of the millrace is still in use today, supplying water for hydroelectric power to two industries). The construction of the Beaver Division canal in 1832 increased the value and usefulness of Patterson's mills, but land title problems continued and were not finally resolved until 1865 by a decision of the Supreme Court.
The village of Brighton was included when Patterson Township was formed in 1841 from parts of Brighton and Chippewa Townships. In 1866, with the title finally cleared, Patterson sold his Brighton estate to the Harmony Society, who had briefly considered purchasing it in 1814 before moving from Harmony, Pa. to Indiana. The Society immediately enlarged the town plot, laying out many of the streets in use today. The name was changed to Beaver Falls, (by which the area had originally been known) because of confusion between New Brighton (across the river), and "old" Brighton. The new town was incorporated as a borough in 1868, and included the village of Adamstown, near the upper falls. Adamstown reflected the name of the area's earliest physician, Dr. Samuel Adams, and was the site of some water powered mills in 1800 or earlier.
Under Harmonist management, Beaver Falls grew and thrived. Experiments were tried, some successful, some failures. In 1880, Geneva College, founded in 1848 in Northwood, Ohio by the Reformed Presbyterian Church, was induced to move to donated land north of town. Chinese workers were brought in to work in the cutlery factory in 1872, in what is probably the most colorful moment of the city's history. Extensive industrial development occurred during this period, and the city was described as "one of the most well-established manufacturing towns in Western Pa."
White Township was erected from Chippewa in 1887, and in 1892, the village that grew up around Geneva College was incorporated as College Hill Borough. Beaver Falls entered the 20th century with continuing prosperity, and made a brief attempt at city government in 1916, but soon reverted to borough status. In 1932, the present city of Beaver Falls was created from a merger of the borough with College Hill to the north.
Beaver Falls has assumed a role of leadership among communities in northern Beaver County. The Beaver Falls Municipal Authority supplies water to homes as far away as Baden. A new high school is being constructed in the city for the Big Beaver Falls Area School District, which includes six other towns. The city's business district on Seventh Avenue has survived the advent of suburban shopping centers better than other county communities. Business and industry continue to thrive in Beaver Falls as the city enters the nation's third century.