If you live in the south side, you are familiar with Powers Way, rising from Poland Avenue and running to Midlothian Boulevard. The Powers family name traces its roots back to the beginnings of Youngstown. Actually, Isaac’s father, Abraham Powers, living in Pennsylvania’s Ligonier Valley chased a band of Native Americans who had killed a settler. Their pursuit took them all the way to Mahoning County where they exchanged fire at an encampment alongside the Mahoning River, then continued pursuit all the way to the Salt Springs, turning back when they learned that a number of tribes had gathered in a council. The story is significant because that encampment where they had exchanged fire became the site of the Powers farm on the south side of the Mahoning River, above what became Poland Avenue, southeast of the town center of Youngstown, and across the river from where Daniel Shehy settled.
Isaac Powers was born on April 12, 1777 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania to Irish-American parents, Abraham and Phoebe Powers. When John Young purchased the land from the Connecticut Land Company, Isaac Powers and Daniel Shehy undertook the survey of the area. Later on, Isaac Powers was working with Phineas Hill to explore and survey Mill Creek when they came upon the falls where Lanterman’s Mill was eventually located. They immediately recognized the potential of the site. Hill purchased 300 acres of land around the site and contracted with Powers to build the first mill, which was completed within the 18 months John Young had stipulated in selling the land.
Like many early founders, he fought in the War of 1812. He also served terms as a Township Trustee and as a Representative in the Ohio State Assembly
Grain mills were not the only millwork Isaac Powers was involved in. In 1846, Powers was one of the proprietors in the Youngstown Rolling Mill Company, the first finishing mill in the Mahoning Valley making products other than iron bars. It operated until 1855 when it sold to Brown, Bonnell, and Company, making it one of the leading iron works in the country.
Powers was a religious man and, along with his wife Leah, was part of the founding class of six in 1803 under the ministry of Dr. Shadrack Bostwick, that formed the nucleus of Trinity United Methodist Church, still a presence in downtown Youngstown. He was “noted as a faithful and earnest worker in the church until his death.” He also played a role in the formation of the Methodist society in Coitsville, donating the land on which the church was built.
The Powers farm, which Powers and his father sited on the location of the old encampment occupied much of the land east of Pine Hollow and between there and what became Powers Way, running south most of the way to the township border, what is now Midlothian Boulevard. In the early days of Youngstown as a township, the farm was one of four locations to have a school house. He was one of the first to heat his home with coal. The painting above, by an unknown artist, hangs in the Americana and Folk wing of the Butler Institute of American Art. It shows a brick home, an office building, a carriage house, and a home owned by one of his sons.
Isaac Powers died May 9, 1861 at the age of 84. He and his wife are buried in the Powers Estate Cemetery, which may be found at the end of Pine Hollow Drive and Lennox Avenue, overlooking Interstate I-680. It had been neglected and overgrown but through the efforts of Dr. John White, an anthropology professor at Youngstown State, and a volunteer team, the cemetery was restored.
I could not find nearly the material on Powers that exists for John Young, James Hillman, Daniel Shehy or other Youngstown founders. Yet he played an important role in Youngstown’s beginnings, surveying the township, helping establish the site of Lanterman’s Mill, contributing to the beginnings of Youngstown’s iron and steel industry, creating a flourishing farm, and devoting himself to civic and religious concerns. He was part of that first generation that came together to build a city.
To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!