When I was a student at Youngstown State, we regular walked by the Arms Museum, but I don’t think we ever visited. I did not realize that the name of the museum referred to the family who had at one time lived in the home. We thought it was a collection of “arms” or weapons, and in the anti-war times of the early 1970’s, that didn’t hold much appeal. If we had paid closer attention, we would have realized that it was the home of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society (MVHS)–a home with a history of its own.
Before the house at 648 Wick Avenue was taken over by MVHS, it was the residence of Wilford P. and Olive Freeman Arms, who were distant cousins. Wilford’s grandfather, Daniel Arms, was Olive’s great-grandfather, making them half first cousins, once removed. They also are related to various Youngstown “royalty”–the Wicks, Baldwins, Booths, and Bonnells among them.
The Arms family goes back to early American New England stock. William Arms settled in the colonies in 1677. Wilford Paddock Arms was born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1861 to Mr. and Mrs. Lawson Arms, who after ten years returned to their native Sodus, New York. He went to the Sodus Academy, then worked on his parents farm until 1881, when he went to work for Powers, Brown, and Company, a Youngstown coal company that operated a mine in Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania. After a few years there, he worked with a company quarrying marble near Knoxville, Tennessee until moving to Youngstown in 1888. Apart from two years in Pittsburgh working with the Pittsburgh Coal Company, he lived in Youngstown the rest of his life.
He worked with several different Youngstown area firms: The Brier Hill Iron and Coal Co., The Falcon Iron and Nail Co. in Niles, The Warren Rolling Mill in Warren, and the Trumbull Iron Co. of Girard. During the latter part of his work he worked with the Realty Trust Company and was chairman of the board of Palace Realty Co. in Youngstown and McCaskey Register Co. in Alliance. He was also a director of the Central Store Co. in Youngstown.
He held a federal appointment, a position of trust, as central fuel administrator for Mahoning County during World War I. Joseph G. Butler paid this tribute in describing his work as “a position entailing a vast amount of work and responsibility, and [he] discharged his duties in a manner that earned him the commendation of all who knew of his work in that relation.”
Wilford P. Arms married Olive Freeman Arms in 1899. Olive was born to Charles Dayton and Hannah Wick Arms in 1865. A biographical entry for her appears in Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographical Dictionary and she is described as a watercolorist and designer. She had studied at the Bradford and Peebles schools in New York as well as spending time in art studies in Europe. In 1904, a building permit was issued to built a home at 648 Wick Avenue, next to Olive’s parent’s home. The construction was completed in 1905 and the home, which Olive helped design, was named “Greystones,” after the stone exterior of this Arts and Crafts style English residence.
Mr. Arms could regularly be seen walking to and from his office in the Realty Building on Central Square until the year before his death, when he suffered a fall in his home from which he never fully recovered. At the time of his death, he and Olive had begun to develop a property on Logan Avenue Extension, that later became a residential development.
Wilford P. Arms was described in a Vindicator article on April 28, 1947 as follows:
“Mr. Arms was a gentleman of the old school, the soul of courtesy and consideration for others. In this day of free and easy manners there was something refreshing and uplifting in his lifelong predilection for formality and the proprieties. It was good to have him remind us that careful attention to the graces and amenities of life adds much to one’s own and others’ enjoyment of it.”
Olive Arms continued to reside in Greystones the rest of her life. She was the source of a wealth of information about Youngstown’s early history and families, particularly given her connections to so many of them. She worked closely with then-president of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, James L. Wick, Jr. at a time that the Society had no home for its archives, many of which Wick stored at his own residence. On Mrs. Arms death in 1960 at 95, she left Greystones and its furnishings to the Society along with an endowment for its maintenance, augmented by Wick’s fundraising efforts. She specified that the facility be named after her parents, hence the name The Arms Museum (now The Arms Family Museum, a name change perhaps motivated by the confusion of many like me as to the nature of the museum!).
The Arms Family Museum is now one of two facilities operated by the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, the other being the Tyler History Center. Wilford P. Arms and Olive Freeman Arms not only contributed to the commerce and arts of Youngstown but to the preservation of our history. It only makes sense that their family name should adorn the home of the organization preserving that history!
“The Arms Family History,” Mahoning Valley History.
“The Arms Family Museum — Celebrating 50 Years!” Mahoning Valley History
“Olive Freeman Arms Arms,” Find-A-Grave
“Wilford Paddock Arms,” Find-A-Grave
Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share: The Bicentennial History of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio.
Joseph Green Butler, History of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley, “Wilford P. Arms,” p. 2. Accessed on Google Books.
Jeffrey Weidman, Artists in Ohio, 1797-1900: A Biographical Dictionary, “Arms, Olive Freeman,” pp. 23-24. Accessed on Google Books.