I’m sure I’ve driven through Girard, probably up Route 422 toward Warren, following along the course of the Mahoning River. Little did I realize that this road and this river were a significant reason why Girard existed. Girard was originally part of Liberty Township, the five mile by five mile township due west of Hubbard Township. The township was originally owned by four men: Moses Cleaveland (after whom Cleveland was named–they dropped the first “a”), Daniel Lathrop, Christopher Liffinwell, and Sam Huntington, Jr. The township was divided into 25 one mile lots. Lot 10, where Girard is located was in a prime location because the Mahoning River ran through it and State Road, which ran through it connecting Youngstown and Cleveland.
Hieronimus Eckman and his family settled the upper third of Lot 10 in 1802, The next year he petitioned to have an east-west road built between what became Girard and Hubbard. This is now Route 304, Churchill Road. The Eckmans were from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, a heavily German area. Others followed and settled in this area on the north side of Girard, so many that it became known as “Dutchtown.”
The southern third was settled by the Francis Carlton family and established the first school, a log cabin affair, on their land. They were an Irish family from western Pennsylvania. The middle section was owned by a succession of people winding up with Solomon Kline, after whom Kline Street was named
One of the other early families to settle in the area was the Henry Barnhisel family. The family eventually acquired 650 acres just north of Lot 10. The Union Church was the first church in the area and was built on land donated by the Barnhisels. In 1841 Barnhisel’s son built the Classic Revival mansion on State Street seen above.
Up until the 1830’s, the area was dominated by prosperous farms served by Andrew McCartney’s Grist Mill, powered by water from a dam across the river. Then plans developed for the Pennsylvania-Ohio Canal that would run from the Ohio River, up the Beaver and Mahoning Rivers and on to Akron. The reservoir above the dam made an ideal place to load and unload canal boats and this fact led to land speculation in which four men bought 42 acres of Solomon Kline’s land to form the town of Girard, likely named after Philadelphia philanthropist Stephen Girard, the richest man in America at the time of his death in 1831. One of the four was David Tod from Brier Hill, future industrialist and governor of Ohio.
The canal reached Girard in 1839. The dam was modified to a two levee dam with a canal lock at the east end. There was a basin north of the dam for loading and unloading barges and this both brought goods into Girard and enabled shipping of the local farm products. Taverns, a post office, a school and residences on the fifteen blocks of lots followed. By 1860, 500 people lived in Girard.
The next thirty years was a time of industrial expansion. Fredrick Krehl established a tannery in 1860 that grew to eventually turn out 600 hides a week. The major growth was due to the iron and steel industry. All the needed raw materials were nearby. An influx of Welsh settlers engaged in much of the mining. In 1866, David Tod, Joseph Butler, William Richards, and William Ward built a mill that could turn out 20,000 tons a month. Nearby, also on the south side of the Mahoning, Henry, Myron, and John Wick built the Girard Rolling Mill in 1872. The Girard Stove Works were nearby and eventually became part of Youngstown Foundry and Machine, building coal cars and castings.
All of this brought money and people into Girard. Fredrick Krehl built a mansion at State and West Broadway while Zenas Kline built a mansion on Churchill Road. The Girard Savings Bank and a newspaper sprang up and the Lotze Building on Liberty Street, which housed a number of stores and the Opera House on the second floor. Churches and new school buildings were erected. By 1890, the population surpassed 1,000 and in 1893 Girard was incorporated as a village with a mayor and city council. A descendant of the first settlers, Ambrose Eckman became mayor.
There is much more to tell of Girard’s story. One of the best accounts on which I drew extensively may be found at “Girard History” hosted by the Girard Free Library. The same factors that accounted for Youngstown’s early industrial development were factors with Girard–the Mahoning River, and nearby raw materials for steel making. The Tods, Wicks, and Butlers led the growth of these industries in both areas. Transportation both by canal and land, later augmented by rail brought goods into and out of both. I suspect some of this might have been a surprise to Hieronimus Eckman and Henry Barnhisel. But they had the foresight to recognize those transportation possibilities, good not only for the products of their farms, but far more.