Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Colonel George Dennick Wick

George_dennick_wick

Colonel George Dennick Wick, photo in the Public Domain

The Wick family is one of the prominent families in Youngstown history. Wicks were among the early settlers of the city, and have been prominent leaders in the steel, and banking and finance institutions of the city as well as in civic affairs. I am still learning about the family history but one thing I discovered very quickly is that it there is far more material than can be covered in a single blog post. So I thought I would start with one of the most interesting members of the family–one with two wives and a daughter named Mary, the founder of one of the major steel companies in the Valley, and a passenger on a fateful voyage.

Colonel Wick was the son of Paul and Susan Wick and born in Youngstown on June 24, 1854. His father was a banker. He was educated in Youngstown schools and then went to Williams College. On graduation, he began his career in the iron and steel industry with Wick, Bonnell and Company in Chicago. Later he moved to Cleveland, selling iron commodities. It was here he met prominent socialite Mary Caroline Chamberlain who he married in 1879.

They moved to Youngstown in 1882 where he was president first of Trumbull Iron Company, then in 1895 he and James A. Campbell formed the Mahoning Valley Iron Company which he also served as president. When Republic Iron and Steel took over the firm around 1900, Wick and Campbell resigned, and with a group of local investors formed Youngstown Sheet and Tube in 1901, of which Colonel Wick was the first president.

Wick was married twice, and both wives names were Mary. His first wife died in 1893. They had one daughter, Mary Natalie, born in 1880. After three years, Wick married fellow Youngstown native Mary Peebles Hitchcock. Their son, George Dennick Jr was born in 1897. In 1896, he served as aide de camp for Governor Asa Bushnell, which also made him a staff officer in the National Guard, and hence the rank of Colonel.

Due to ill health, Wick turned the presidency of Youngstown Sheet and Tube over to James A. Campbell in 1904. He never fully regained his health but did return to the company a few years before he died. It was ill health that led him to go to Europe in February of 1912 with his wife and daughter and a cousin’s daughter, Caroline Bonnell. They toured Italy, France, and London, before their return voyage home–on the Titanic.

The Wick party were in their first class cabins when they heard the tearing sound of the Titanic colliding with the iceberg. At first they were unconcerned believing the reports of the Titanic’s unsinkability. Eventually they were told to report to the A deck and Mrs Wick, Mary and Caroline Bonnell were boarded on a lifeboat. Colonel Wick, like other gentlemen of the time remained behind to take a later boat. Sadly, there were not enough boats, and Colonel Wick, was last seen waving to his wife and daughter from the ship’s railing. He went down with the ship and his body was never recovered.

A memorial service was held for George Dennick Wick on April 24, 1912. At 11 am, factories, schools, and businesses observed five minutes of silence. The family’s pew at First Presbyterian Church was roped off. Mary returned to Youngstown and lived until 1920. She is buried in lot 748 of Oak Hill Cemetery next to a monument for her husband.

The Wick Mansion where Mary lived until her death is now owned by Youngstown State University where it is a co-ed student residence, Wick House. In researching this post, I discovered several articles, including this one from The Vindicator, recounting stories of the house being haunted, perhaps by Mary’s ghost!

Colonel Wick was one of a group of civic leaders that led Youngstown to eminence in steel manufacturing. He served on numerous boards and was an active civic leader. He ended his life like so many others on that ship, courageously and a gentleman to the end.

 

3 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Colonel George Dennick Wick

  1. Interesting. I got to know Warren Corning Wick and his wife Mildred when both were in their late 90s. Mrs Wick was the great granddaughter of Henry Clay (Henry Clay* (April 12, 1777-1852) – The Great Compromiser, United States Senator, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Secretary of State. Born in Hanover County, Virginia, died in Washington, D.C. Clay’s estate is named Ashland, in Lexington.) Their love story was remarkable. Mildred’s sister died leaving two young daughters. Though already engaged to Warren, Mildred postponed their wedding for years as she raised the girls. It was as if God smiled down on them for her selfless devotion to those girls, for when Warren and Mildred finally married they had a child of their own. Mildred was 54 years old when she gave birth, making medical history at the time.

  2. Woops. Mildred’s rolling in her grave! I thought that sounded wrong so I checked. Mildred’s great grandad wasn’t Clay, it was Vice President Calhoun!

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