In 1811, Paul Williams settled near the corner of what is now Buchtel Avenue and Broadway. He suggested to General Simon Perkins, who was surveyor of the Connecticut Land Company's Connecticut Western Reserve, that they found a town at the summit of the developing Ohio and Erie Canal. The name is adapted from the Greek word ἄκρον (ákron), meaning summit or high point. It was laid out in December 1825, where the south part of the downtown Akron neighborhood sits today. Irish laborers working on the Ohio Canal built about 100 cabins nearby.
After Eliakim Crosby founded "North Akron" (also known as Cascade) in the northern portion of what is now downtown Akron in 1833, "South" was added to Akron's name until about three years later, when the two were merged and became an incorporated village in 1836. In 1840, Summit County formed from portions of Portage, Medina, and Stark Counties. Akron replaced Cuyahoga Falls as its county seat a year later and opened a canal connecting to Beaver, Pennsylvania, helping give birth to the stoneware, sewer pipe, fishing tackle, and farming equipment industries. In 1844, abolitionist John Brown moved into the John Brown House across the street from business partner Colonel Simon Perkins, who lived in the Perkins Stone Mansion. The Akron School Law of 1847 founded the city's public schools and created the K–12 grade school system, which currently is used in every U.S. state. The city's first school is now a museum on Broadway Street near the corner of Exchange.