Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Village of Poland

Old Stone Tavern (Fowler’s Tavern), built in 1804 in Poland, Ohio. Note that William McKinley, later president, enlisted into the Union Army here in 1861.

If the naming conventions used to name other villages and townships in Mahoning County had been followed, the village would have been called either Kirtland or Fowler (and yes there are towns in Ohio that have these names). Kirtland would be for Turhand Kirtland, who was the Connecticut Land Company agent who surveyed this part of the Western Reserve. It is the southeasternmost part and was designated “Town 1, Range 1” which may be seen on signs for the village and township to this day. Fowler was Jonathan Fowler, Kirtland’s brother-in-law and the first settler, with his wife Lydia in the township, coming there in 1799. A daughter, Rachel, was born to them in 1800, the first child born in the township. He built a sawmill and gristmill in 1801 and what is now know as the Old Stone Tavern (then Fowler’s Tavern) in 1804. Poland served as the gateway for many coming through Pennsylvania to the Western Reserve, up the Beaver and Mahoning River. Fowler’s Tavern was a good stopover, before going on to Warren or Cleveland or other places in the Western Reserve. Sadly, Jonathan Fowler drowned on the Beaver River in 1806 while engaged in merchandise trade that took him as far as New Orleans.

Location of Poland Township

So how did the village and township get the name Poland? For a time it was known as Fowler’s Place. It has to do with two statues commemorating the Revolutionary War heroes, Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Kasimierz Pulaski. As I understand it, this is the only place, in Peterson Park, where the two are depicted together. Kirtland and Fowler decided to name the township “Poland” in honor of these heroes’ country of origin. And so it is to this day.

Poland’s second resident was John Struthers, who settled on 400 acres of land along Yellow Creek a few months later in 1799 than Fowler. He was involved with the second owner of the Hopewell Furnace, but business losses necessitated the sale of his land. He lost his wife and two daughters. His son, Thomas Struthers, prospered in a law practice, and recovered the land John had lost and eventually formed the new town of Struthers, down river from Poland.

For a small village, it has a lot of history associated with it. In addition to the many century-or-more-old homes, it was where William McKinley lived for a time, and, as noted above, it is where he enlisted to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he returned to Poland for a time to read law, and then went to Albany to complete his legal training before moving to Canton, Ohio.

McKinley graduated from Poland Academy, which later became Poland Seminary in 1859. Poland Seminary was home for a time to a woman who eventually became one of America’s outstanding journalists, Ida M. Tarbell. Tarbell, investigated John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil and her stories contributed to the breaking up of his monopoly.

In the late 1800’s, the seminary struggled. In 1895 portions of its building collapsed. In 1909, the remaining facilities where sold to the local school district with the provision that the name “Seminary” be retained in the high school’s name, which is true to this day.

Poland Library, (c) Robert C Trube, 2014.

Poland wasn’t formally incorporated as a village until 1866, which means in 2016 that it celebrated 150 years. In 1938, the village acquired Poland Municipal Forest, a 265 acre park. In 2010, its population was 2,555. Along with Canfield, it is considered one of the best places to live in the Youngstown area, with good schools, a quaint town center, a gorgeous library, and parks and lots of history.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

13 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Village of Poland

  1. That’s a lot of very interesting history in a small space. The tie-ins with the Kirtlands and the Struthers families was a nice nugget. I sometimes forget how the towns would, by necessity, tend to develop first along the system of rivers and creeks. In modern times, those rivers and creeks become just that water under the bridge we’re crossing over it on. Thanks, Bob.

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  2. I like the name Poland — it is the only town or place in the U.S. so-named that I have ever visited — and I have always liked the way it is pronounced and how it rolls off the tongue and into the conversation. I was not sure how the town got its name, but am not surprised to find Mr. Pulaski and Mr. Kosciuszko were involved. They were heroes of our American Revolution and have had a number of sites and landmarks named after them.

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  3. Seminary, at that time, meant a school that educated both boys and girls. Growing up in Youngstown I was very familiar with Poland but until I began teaching at the new high school on Dobbins Rd where there was a plaque on the wall from the old high school that explained the meaning of this term. As a matter of fact, our track and field team were invited to be in a tournament in KY (I think) at a Christian High School because the other school thought Poland Seminary was a boys school and were rather shocked when the team from Poland showed up!

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  4. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Your Favorites of 2021 | Bob on Books

  5. I appreciate this good article. Wondered many times, working at Mahoning National Bank, Downtown, about that area, Struthers-Poland ( we had a branch bank in that area.) The definition of the word, Seminary, in it’s original form, meant a School for boys and girls. Most folks associate “seminary” with a masculine definition, not so. Interesting. Thanks again. For God & Country

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  6. Loved growing up in Poland, you could ride your bike everywhere, there was a bike rack at the library and it was always full. You could be out until dark, no one locked their doors, you could play in the creek…good times!

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  7. Bob, another theory as to Poland’s name had to do with the regular “cattle” drive from Cleveland to Pittsburgh that came through and stooped over for the night in Fowler’s Village. The particular “cattle” being driven and giving up the name to the little settlement were Poland White pigs. Having lived and practiced medicine in Poland for 34 years, I prefer the heroes to the putative pigs narrative.

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