Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — David Tod

Image_David_Tod,_Abbots_History_of_Ohio

Governor David Tod, Public Domain via Wikimedia

Son of one of the Western Reserve’s early judges. A farm owner in Brier Hill. A pivotal figure in “block” or Brier Hill coal mining that spurred the growth of the iron industry in the Mahoning valley and owner of major coal, iron, and rail companies. State office holder. Civil War governor. David Tod was all of these.

David Tod was born in Youngstown on February 21, 1805 to George and Sarah Tod. His father served as a state lawmaker from 1804 to 1806, and then on the Ohio Supreme Court. It appeared that David would follow his father’s footsteps–working on the family farm in Brier Hill, attending the Burton Academy in Geauga County, and studying law in Warren. He was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1827, served as Warren’s Postmaster in 1832, and a one-term State Senator in 1838. He returned home to Brier Hill in 1840 to private practice. His father died the following year.

The year 1841 marked a turning point. Tod inherited his father’s farm and began to mine the seams of coal underneath it. The coal was slow burning and generated plenty of heat, making it a superior fuel source to the charcoal previously used in iron making. This coal propelled the growth of the iron industry in the valley and lead to growth in Tod’s wealth as it was shipped, first via canal, and later rail to Cleveland and other regional producers. The coal, called “block coal” also became known as Brier Hill coal, although it could be found in seams throughout the area, including Mineral Ridge and Girard, where Tod acquired additional land.

He had not lost the bug for political office, however. In 1844 and 1846, he made unsuccessful runs for governor. Then in 1847, he was appointed James K. Polk’s minister to Brazil, where he served until 1851. He became president of the Cleveland & Mahoning railroad, helping to expand the transport of both raw materials and finished products for the valley. He launched the Brier Hill Iron Company, later to be consolidated as Brier Hill Iron and coal, and resulting in the building of two blast furnaces, “Grace 1″ and Grace 2” in Brier Hill, both named after his daughter.

This was built around the time of the Civil War, which further stimulated the Valley’s industrial growth. These years also represented the culmination of Tod’s political ambitions, with election as governor in 1862 as a National Union candidate combining Republican and War Democrat party members. He worked hard to meet the troop quotas set by Lincoln, calling for Federal conscription. He arrested war resister Clement Vanlandingham, and defended the state from Morgan’s Raiders. He was not re-elected in 1864. Lincoln offered to appoint him secretary of the Treasury, but Tod’s health was weakening, and he declined. In 1868, he died of stroke at age 63.

Perhaps the greatest tribute to this industrial magnate and politician is this by Abraham Lincoln:

“Governor Tod has aided me more and troubled me less than any other governor.”

 

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