Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — George Borts Farm

Atlas of Mahoning County Ohio from actual surveys by and Full View HathiTrust Digital Library HathiTrust Digital Library

 Scanned from Titus, Simmons, and Titus Atlas of Mahoning County, Ohio, 1874

I spent countless hours growing up swimming at Borts Pool and playing baseball, football, basketball, and tennis at Borts Field. In the winter, I ice skated on the tennis courts which were flooded in cold weather. For several years I delivered papers on part of North Maryland and North Belle Vista Avenues between Oakwood and Mahoning Ave. One of the homes on my route was a gray, two story frame building, obviously older than the rest, that sat right next to Sparkle’s parking lot and grocery store. My father told me that it was the old Borts residence, but I didn’t give it much thought.

That is, until recently when I came across the image that appears above. With some changes, that was the house! Little did I realize that I walked by a piece of Youngstown history every day.

As it turns out, the Borts (or Bortz as it is sometimes spelled) family was one of the early families to settle in the area. In 1805, Philip Borts, Sr. moved from Pennsylvania and purchased a farm in Ellsworth township. His oldest son, Philip, Jr., who was born in 1802, married Mary Nickum. George, born in 1827, and his brother Philip were the two surviving sons of the marriage, and moved with the family to the West side of Youngstown in 1833, purchasing about 270 acres. George married Elizabeth Christey on October 18, 1847. They purchased a farm in Berlin township the next year but moved back to the Youngstown house in 1852 when Philip, Jr. died (he only outlived Philip, Sr. by two years).

George may have been bitten by the “gold bug.” He moved to California for three years in the 1850’s to engage in mining but then returned to Youngstown in 1861. He was one of the first to set up a draying, or hauling business, which he carried on for three years, before turning to farming. Whether because of family roots in the area or business success or a combination of the two, George Borts is among those listed by the Mahoning Valley Historical Society as initial subscribers to the founding of the historical society in 1875, along with names like Arms, McKelvey, Strouss, Pollock, and Wick. Borts died in May of 1905, and like many of Youngstown’s early prominent citizens, is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.  Elizabeth lived until 1920.

They had six children, five boys and one girl. Charles Albry worked as superintendent in a rolling mill. According to Miss Caldie Borts, their son William remained single and worked in the theater business. Their daughter Mary married John S. Pollock and died in an auto accident in 1928. Edward died young at age 16. I could find little about the other two sons, George and California. Most of the children are also buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.

According to Google street view, the old Borts home is gone and the lot is vacant. Borts Pool was demolished in 2014 and converted to green space. A 2015 Jambar article reports renovations engaged in by the Youngstown Steel Valley Rugby Club to convert the field to rugby play. A Disney grant has provided money for a walking trail and exercise equipment at Borts Field.

There was actually relatively little that I could find on the Borts family. They clearly were an influential family in the second half of the nineteenth century. With the efforts to rehabilitate Borts Field, the name lives on. I would love it if others can pass along what they know of this family!

[Most of the information on the Borts Family is from Find a Grave sites for Philip Borts (Bortz), Sr., Philip Borts (Bortz), Jr., George Borts, and links from this page to each of the children’s sites.]

11 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — George Borts Farm

  1. Interesting, thank you. I, too, enjoy learning about the history of Youngstown. I have many fond memories.

  2. I come from the Wick family. My grandpa was Irwin Miller Wick. He married out of his religion and was disowned. That’s all I have been told. Any information would be greatly appreciated.. thank you

    • Kim, I’ve not delved into the Wick family very much. From what I can tell, that is a big project. Would the Mahoning Valley Historical Society be able to help?

  3. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Your Favorites of 2019 | Bob on Books

  4. Love these articles. My family had a colorful history in Youngstown. My maternal grandparents were Greek immigrants. Vasiliki Goranitis and Peter Petrakos were both born in Sparta. They married and traveled to America in the early 1930s (I think). They eventually became the owners and operators of the Petrakos Grill in downtown Youngstown. The Petrakos Grill was a very popular restaurant and was known for hand made candies. Vasiliki Goranitis was a member of the family that eventually became Gorant’s Candies. My father, George N. Harris, was born in Pittsburgh. His parents were also Greek immigrants from Sparta. My father owned and operated the Harris Flower Shop, and then became the manager of both the Tod Hotel and the Hotel Ohio. My father was also a member of the Youngstown Board of Education for years, and the Board president for years. He was instrumental in hiring Robert Pegues as Superintendent of Schools, the first African-American to hold that position. Our home was the two-story, red-brick house at the bottom of McCollum Road, at the entrance to Mill Creek Park, and across the street from the Fresh Air Camp. Many memories.

    • Nicholas was your brother, no? I graduated from Chaney with him. Is he living in the area? Have not seen him since the early 70’s.

      • Yes. My brother Nick lives in NY, NY. You may remember he was the valedictorian of his high school class, and then graduated Harvard Summa cum laude. He has been a stage actor for many years.

  5. I went to Boardman High School with Fred Borts. I’m wondering if there is a relationship. I believe he is on Facebook. I will try to get in touch.

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