Elyria is the county seat of Lorain County. The town's first resident was Heman Ely, who arrived in 1817. Residents named the town in honor of Ely, who donated much of the land for the community. The town grew quickly. In 1846, 1,500 people resided in the community. That same year, Elyria contained six churches, one private school, ten stores, one newspaper office, one woolen mill, one axe factory, and one sash and blind factory.
Over the next four decades, Elyria continued to expand. In 1880, 4,777 people resided in the town, and by 1890, 5,611 inhabited the community. By 1886, two banks, two newspaper offices, and seven churches existed in Elyria. Numerous manufacturing businesses also operated in the town. Most of these businesses provided services or products to farmers residing in the surrounding countryside. Elyria's largest employer was the Elyria Canning Company, which produced canned goods.
During the twentieth century, Elyria continued to grow. In 2000, the county seat was Lorain County's second largest city, with a population of 55,953 residents. Lorain was the county's largest city, exceeding Elyria's population by approximately thirteen thousand people. One of the primary reasons for this growth was Elyria's and Lorain County's proximity to Cleveland, Ohio, in neighboring Cuyahoga County. Many Cleveland residents have sought to escape the busyness of the larger city by moving to the less congested Lorain County. Numerous Elyria residents commute to Cleveland to work.