One of the things I’ve enjoyed as I’ve written about Youngstown is to learn about the people who contributed to making Youngstown a great, good place to grow up. I thought I would share my personal “Hall of Fame” of people I’ve written about. I’ve limited it to ten, which was tough because there are so many others who could be on this list. The links embedded in each name take you to the article I wrote about that person. See what you think of this list!
1. John Young. He gave Youngstown its name, purchased the township from the Connecticut Land Company in 1797, surveyed the township, layed out the initial plats that formed what is now downtown Youngstown, living there for a short while as one of the early settlers.
2. Judge William Rayen. An early settler, he established a tavern and mercantile by Spring Common, held a number of civic offices including a judgeship. He was prosperous and owned extensive lands and from his estate bequeathed the money to establish Youngstown’s first public high school, The Rayen School.
3. P. Ross Berry. Speaking of The Rayen School, this was one of the many building projects in or near downtown Youngstown in which Berry, a Black bricklayer and architect was involved. He owned his own brick foundry, manufacturing a distinctive red-orange brick which you may observe in the still standing Rayen building on Wick Avenue.
4. David Tod. He inherited his father’s farm in Brier Hill, discovered the block coal beneath it the fueled the iron industry in which he made his fortune, leading the transformation of Youngstown into an iron and steel center. If that wasn’t enough, he was Ohio’s governor and Lincoln’s confidant during the Civil War.
5. Joseph G. Butler, Jr. If you have visited the Butler, not paying any admission, you have benefited from Butler’s bequest, the fruit of his labor. He was a steel magnate, civic leader, political insider and friend of William McKinley, author of a history of Youngstown, and consummate art collector.
6. Volney Rogers. Without him, there would be no Mill Creek Park with its lakes, bridges, pavilions, and trails. Mill Creek would have been one more industrial river. The city broke his heart when they won a fight against him to run storm sewer lines into the park, resulting in problems to this day.
7. Wiiliam F. Maag, Sr. He and his family owned The Vindicator for much of its history after getting his start with German language papers. Under his son, the paper grew even further while he also developed radio and television outlets.
8. James Anson Campbell. Along with George Dennick Wick, he formed Youngstown Sheet and Tube in 1901. He rebuilt East Youngstown after the 1916 riots, built some of the best worker housing in the country, and he was remembered when East Youngstown was renamed after him and became Campbell.
9. Esther Hamilton. She wrote “Around Town,” a community news column for nearly 70 years, 52 of those years as a daily column. She emceed The Vindicator spelling bee and organized an annual Christmas fund-raiser, the Esther Hamilton Alias Santa Claus Show, recruiting community leaders to work as “candy butchers” to raise money from other well-heeled attendees. Truly one of a kind!
10. “Boots” Bell. “Yes, indeedy, doody-daddy. Have yourself a happy!” Many of us still can hear that rich, buoyant baritone voice in our minds. He was a Purple Heart veteran of the Korean War, introduced The Beatles at their Pittsburgh concert, invited us all to join him on his “Booter scooter” during his afternoon broadcasts on WHOT and spun the tunes at record hops all over the Valley.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with my list. And you’d be right. There are so many others who could be on it. What they all had in common were there contributions to making Youngstown the city it was when we were growing up. For some, like Butler or Rogers, there influence continues to be felt to this day. I’d love to hear who you’d add to the list. Chances are, I thought of them and probably have written about them.
To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!