Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Elijah Boardman and Family


Elijah Boardman, by Ralph Earl – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, via Wikimedia

One of the things I’ve discovered is that many of the street and place names in and around Youngstown are connected to real people who played a role in area beginnings — John Young, James Hillman, Daniel Sheehy, John Struthers, Calvin Austin, and James Anson Campbell,. just to name a few. So I wondered if that was the case with Boardman. I discovered once again a figure who played a role in not only the Youngstown area, but also in our national beginnings.

Boardman is descended from one of the founding families of New Milford, Connecticut. Born in 1760, he grew up on a family farm on the Housatonic River. As was common in prominent families, he was educated by a private tutor, Reverend Nathaniel Taylor, until he enlisted in one of the early militia units to fight in the Revolutionary War at age 16 in 1776. He went first to Boston, and was later a part of the American forces defeated on Long Island, New York. He suffered ill health for about six months after the battle, and then was called up to fight the British on the Connecticut border until General Burgoyne surrendered, when he resumed his tutoring.

His rise began in 1781 when he trained as a shopkeeper in New Haven. Before the year was out, he set up his own dry goods shop in New Milford, along with his two brothers. In 1792, he married Mary Anna Whiting whose memoir provides a great deal of information about the family. In 1795 he became part of the Connecticut Land Company and an investor in the Connecticut Western Reserve. His investment entitled him to two townships, and by this means, he acquired Medina and Boardman townships.

While Boardman spent most of his time in Connecticut, he did survey the land in 1798, laid out the town center of Boardman Township (a marker for which with the initials E.B. was found in 1878-1879), and opened a sawmill, grist mill, and cloth mill on Mill Creek. Other early settlers were George Stilson who operated a tavern, Charles Boardman (no immediate relation that I can establish) and William Ingersoll opened a store, James Moody a tannery, and Andrew Webb a blacksmith shop. By 1806, the township was populous enough to set up its own township government, separating from Youngstown township government.

What kept Boardman in Connecticut was politics. One of his first political acts was to write to President Thomas Jefferson in 1801, enclosing a sermon that opposed the establishment of state supported religion. Others were advancing state support of the Congregationalists, putting other religious bodies at a disadvantage or even active persecution. He wrote:

“Feeling as I did that if a measure of this kind should be adopted it would eventually prove fatal to the Civil & Religious liberties of my country, and expressing these ideas to a Clergiman living in the Town to which I belong, it was found that he entertained ideas similar to my own, and in October last he delivd a discourse a copy of which his friends requested for the Press and, Sir, I have taken the liberty of Sending to Your Excellency one of those Sermons.”

He went on to serve as a state representative 1803-1805 and 1816, and state senator 1817-1821. He then went on to the U.S. Senate, serving from 1821 to 1823. In 1818, Sarah Hall Benham married Boardman’s son, Henry Mason, and a year later, the young couple moved to Boardman, where Henry took up the management of Elijah’s business interests on the Western Reserve. In 1828, Henry participated in and contributed to the building of the St. James Episcopal Church building, now known as St. James Meeting House in Boardman Park. A significant part of the Boardman family archives, housed at Yale University consists of correspondence between Henry and his father regarding his land holdings.

Elijah Boardman died in Boardman Township on one of his business trips to see his son. Both Henry and his son Elijah are buried in Boardman Cemetery. But the elder Elijah was interred in his home town of New Milford and the U.S. Senate declared a 30 day period of mourning in his honor. His life was a story of honor: enlisted in the Revolutionary War fight, building a prosperous business, taking the risks of investing in the Western Reserve, advocating for liberty from state established religion, and engaging in a long legislative career. Among these accomplishments, he founded and gave his name to Boardman, Ohio.

[I edited this post on July 9, 2021, based on comments below from a descendent of Boardman and further inquiry, I found some statements in this post likely inaccurate and have edited the post accordingly.]

25 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Elijah Boardman and Family

  1. In sentence, “One of his first political acts was to write to President Thomas Jefferson in 1801, enclosing a sermon that proposed the establishment of state supported religion,” I think you meant “opposed” vice “proposed.” Otherwise, you have my thanks and appreciation for educating us about the place where I was raised. —sgb

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bob
    Great post. We lived in Boardman for a long time. Both our kids are products of Boardman schools K-12. Keep the fine writing/research coming!
    Happy Ground Hog Day–early spring.
    Michelle Humans White

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Daniel L. Coit and Coitsville | Bob on Books

  4. As far as the largest slaveholder in New Milford, in the 1790 U.S. Census (the first federal census), Elisha Bostwick was shown as owning 6 slaves. There was no 1780 state census.

    Elijah Boardman had a slave by the name of Isabella. She can be found in the Elijah Boardman papers housed at the New Milford Historical Society and the Litchfield History Society in Connecticut.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Your Favorites of 2020 | Bob on Books

  6. A bit late in this post but I grew up in the house that was built for the Boardman family in roughly 1821. It was always referred to as Elijah Boardman’s house but it seems it may have been his son’s home. It was sited at the corner of 224 and Market street and was later moved to Claybourne Avenue. It was probably originally situated on the corner ( south East or south west) in proximity to the St. James church, which was moved to Boardman Park. I recall walking to the elementary school on Market Street in the lates 60s and walked past old historical buildings that may have been part of the town’s historical center. Of course these were torn down and replaced by the Mall and other types of commercial business development. There was some mention that the house was downsized in the move and that it had a small ballroom attached to it. This was a traditional Colonial house with a formal parlor, dining room; lots of folklore around burnt attic timber’s from an Indian attack, to a carriage house with an Underground Railroad hiding spot back staircase that may have been for a servant and an attic with enormous hand hued floorboards. Sadly, the house was never recognized for its historical value by the town and today it stands as a plumbing and air conditioning business. All landscape around the house and signs of the great giant willows and fields that surrounded the house up to 224 are gone. One would never know the rich history to this house and the area. Truly a “paved paradise and put up a parking lot” story.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks to an inquiring BHS student reporter, we have unearthed some account of this honorable house, as was reported in Boardman High School newspaper, The Bugle, February 22, 1974.

        Built in 1820 by Henry Mason Boardman (1797- 1846), second son of Elijah Boardman. He came from New Milford with his bride Sarah Hall Benham (1796-1870). The house was sited on the northwest corner of Boardman Center, now the intersection of rt 224 and Market Street. The house was moved to Claybourne Avenue in 1959 ( by the Ewing family).

        According to Mr. Claude Luce, a Boardman resident since 1926/( now deceased), the house was part of the Underground Railroad before the Civil war. “ There was what I thought to be a carriage house behind the house with a tunnel going to it from the home, where hidden slaves stopped over while en route to Canada “.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. History Is very important and should never be taken for granted one should write It down , video tape it or speak about it much like yourself Bob , Thanks again Sir for helping us preserve our history .

    Joseph Napier Sr.
    Napiervision Productions

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I was born on Shadyside Drive (at home) in Boardman in 1937, went to Boardman School as did our children. I enjoyed this history lesson.
    Sue Pool Anzellotti Ray

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for the history lesson on Boardman where I was raised. Interestingly, I lived with my husband and children in Simsbury, CT for 8 years before we moved to CA. So I found it interesting that Elijah Boardman lived in CT, also. I enjoy your Facebook page on books. I am an avid reader.


  10. This is a little confusing was Henry Mason Elijah Boardman son? In WIKIPEDIA Bio it does not mention him by name as his son . There is another son named but not Henry Mason. Also what year and how old was Henry Mason when he passed ?


  11. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — St James Meeting House | Bob on Books

  12. I’m Bob Boardman. Elijah Boardman was my 4th great grandfather. I was surprised at the content of your February 1, 2020 post on Elijah and family. I consulted with my brother, John Boardman (Yale 1964) who, over the years has spent countless hours at the Yale Libraries and in New Milford researching the Boardman Genealogical record. He identified a number of errors in your post. I will quote from his email to me:

    “The first U.S. Census was not not until 1790–the Constitution was not even written 1780. In 1780, Elijah was only about 21 and living at home. Here is a screen shot of part of the 1790 Census for New Milford [I don’t know how to attach it to this post]. Elijah Boardman does not appear in this census either. My guess is that he was living with his father Deacon Sherman (a farmer and town leader who had three slaves–according to Carl Cobb they were freed by Sherman) [Carl Boardman Cobb 1921-2011 a Cleveland native and active in the Western Reserve Historical Society. He was our cousin and third great grandson of Elijah; he was also our family genealogist and spent a lifetime researching the Boardman family]; or perhaps Elijah lived with his older brother and business partner Daniel, a Yale grad who later moved to NYC. The last column [of the Census page] is the number of slaves. Elisha Bostwick is listed as having six slaves in his household. This is probably where the six slaves came from. The author also has the entire genealogy mixed up. The grandfather was Daniel (Yale 1709) the first minister of the Congregational Church; his daughter married Nathanial Taylor who became the second pastor in New Milford and who’s grandson was a well known theologian at Yale.

    The Bostwicks were a leading family in New Milford. Elisha as I recall was the commander of Elijah’s company in the Revolution, and wrote a diary that is a major source of info on Washington’s crossing of the Delaware. If Elijah had not been med-evaced from Long Island he would have also taken part in the crossing.”

    I hope our comments are helpful. As descendants of Elijah, we have the same interest as you in having his history and, by extension, the history of Boardman, Ohio be true and accurate.

    Thanks and best wishes,

    Bob Boardman

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bob, thank you for this information. You should engage with Wikipedia, from which the information on slavery was drawn:

      After checking on census history and realizing Boardman’s age in 1780 and that he was only beginning work as a shopkeeper, I concur with your comments and deleted the reference in the post to the census and slavery. I’ve also adjusted the language on descent to a more general one: “Boardman is descended from one of the founding families of New Milford, Connecticut.” Thank you again for sending this information.


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