Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Milk and Egg Delivery

milk truck

Isaly’s Dairy Truck

I remember when we used to get milk in glass bottles, and when you finished a bottle, you would wash it out and place it in an insulated metal box you kept outside your front door. Usually, about once a week, a milk truck would stop at your home, pick up the empties, and leave whatever your family had ordered. Often you would leave the money for your order in the box (it was a simpler, more honest time before “porch pirates”). When we were home during the summer, mom would always tell us to keep an eye out for the milkman from Dawson’s (not to be confused with Lawson’s, which came later) so we could get the milk in the house before it got warm. I also remember seeing the Isaly trucks, like the one pictured above, in our neighborhood.

Isaly's milk delivery box

Isaly milk delivery box

Various caps were used to seal the milk. I remember the ones that were made of cardboard, usually with a message on top that said something like “wash bottle before returning.” They had a little tab in the middle that you would pull up to open the bottle. I have vivid memories of this.  For a while, Dawson’s had a series that featured each of the fifty states. I believe they gave you a card to use as you collected these. Eventually, I got all fifty. I wish I still had it–it would probably be a collector’s item today.

We also had an egg man, an older local farmer, who delivered our eggs. His name may have been Bill. He delivered eggs in his car as I recall, and when it was in season, we would also buy fresh corn from him. Occasionally we bought brown-shelled eggs which tasted better. You paid him each week at the time of delivery.

Milk has been delivered in the United States since 1785 when farmers started delivering raw milk in Vermont. This continued for many years, often brought in galvanized pails, but there are limits to the distances it can be transported. Eventually milk pasteurization was introduced, mandated in 1910 in New York City. In pasteurization, milk is heated to around the boiling point, which kills much, but not all, of the bacteria (there is also a double pasteurization process that kills more).  Pasteurization extends the shelf life of milk to up to three weeks. The milk we received was both pasteurized and homogenized, the latter being a process by which the fat molecules in milk are broken down, instead of rising to the top as cream.

Many companies, like Isaly’s delivered a number of other dairy products like heavy cream, sour cream, cottage cheese, and buttermilk, and sometimes other grocery items like orange juice and eggs. Part of the attraction, it seems of having these items delivered, was that they were the things you tended to use up most quickly, and it wasn’t always convenient to go to the grocery store just for them.

Two things may have changed this, at least for milk. One was the opening of convenience stores like the Lawson’s just up the street from our house, and the other was the introduction of plastic jugs, which were lighter, less slippery, and easy to carry. I suspect that prices were often better. Yet I remember the fresh taste of the eggs we got from the egg man and the just picked corn. I can’t remember if the milk was better, but I do have to say, I always liked milk as a kid, much less so today, so there might have been something to this.

It is interesting how things have come full circle. I do remember, even into the 1980’s or so, some small grocers in Youngstown delivered, especially to their elderly customers. They are all but gone now and for a while none of the larger chains delivered and people didn’t seem to want that.

Even before the current virus pandemic, that has been changing. Everyone from Amazon and its Whole Foods subsidiary to our local groceries and drug store will deliver. The Community Supported Agriculture movement of local farmers also delivers fresh produce to its subscribers each week. There is even a growing movement in Ohio allowing for raw milk deliveries.

As many of us would say in Youngstown, “everything that goes around comes around.”

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Barney Bean

We would come in before dinner and plop down in front of the TV to catch The Barney Bean Show. If you were a kid during the Sixties, I’m sure you remember Barney Bean and his ventriloquist’s dummy, Sherwood. Barney and Sherwood would come out to talk with the live studio audience of children at the WYTV Channel 33 studio. Barney would wear a brown fringed vest and goofy hat with a big safety pin pinning up the brim. Sherwood was dress in a garish sport jacket, and there was always great repartee between them, with Sherwood often getting the best of Barney. They even combined on a locally produced 45 recording,  “BARNEY BEAN & SHERWOOD – FOR KIDS FOR FUN.”

Barney was David William “Bill” Harris. He was a Mahoning Valley native, born April 10, 1929 in Hubbard. He graduated from Boardman High School and Youngstown College. He was a newscaster but was most well-known as the host of his children’s show. What most people remember was the segment in each show where children could send in to the show to have Barney Bean do a drawing for them on their birthday. With a sketchpad and a magic marker, he started with the child’s initials and would draw a cartoon–different every time! He spoke one time at a youth rally at our church, doing one of his drawings. I think there was a religious focus to his presentation, but all I remember was the drawing!

National celebrity Art Linkletter had a kid’s show around the same time called House Party. He subsequently wrote a book called Kid’s Say the Darndest Things. That proved to be a problem on one of Barney Bean’s live studio shows. He actually had Ronald McDonald on the show. Ronald interviewed the kids in the audience and reputedly asked one of the boys if he had heard any funny jokes. The boy responded with an off-color joke that left Ronald dumbfounded, to which the boy meanly responded, “Eat it, clown.” No chance to edit. That was live TV!

Locally produced children’s shows eventually gave way to national shows like Sesame Street. Bill Harris continued to live in the area working with Gordon Brothers until retiring in 2004. His obituary also indicates that he was part of the Boardman Eagles Club and visited children in the hospital. I wonder if he did drawings for them. I’m also curious whatever happened to Sherwood. Harris lived until June 21, 2008, dying at age 79, leaving behind his wife of 58 years leaving five children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

He also left behind a bunch of amazing cartoons and good memories for a generation of Youngstown area children!

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Youngstown Air Reserve Station

Fairchild C-119

Fairchild C-119B-10-FA Flying Boxcar, U.S. Air Force Photo, Public Domain

If you were outside and you heard the roar of those engines overhead, you looked up to watch the “Flying Boxcars” winging their way to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, connected to what was then Youngstown Municipal Airport. The plane was used as a troop and cargo transport during the Korean War and into the 1960’s when the 910th Troop Carrier Group was first established at the Youngstown Air Force Base.

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F-84 Thunderjet. USAFNational Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Public Domain

The beginnings of the Youngstown Air Force Base goes back to the early Cold War. In 1951, the Air Defense Command negotiated with Youngstown to establish a base for defense of the north-central United States in the event of a nuclear attack from Soviet bombers. Originally, the 86th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron flew F-84 Thunderjets. Later, they upgraded to the F-102 Delta Dagger. which the 86th flew until moved in 1960. Also in 1955, the 79th Fighter Group was assigned to Youngstown.

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F-102 Delta Dagger, United States Air ForceDonald, David (2004), Public Domain

Also stationed at the Air Force Base in those early years was the Air Force Reserve’s 26th Fighter Bomber Squadron, a reserve unit flying the T-33 Shooting Star, a subsonic jet trainer, and very briefly the F-86H Sabres, a transonic fighter bomber.

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The April 1958 issue of Buckstone Carrier (the Youngstown Air Force Base periodical) features a sketch of a C-119 “Flying Boxcar,” tail number 0133, in flight. U.S. Air Force photo by Mr. Eric M. White, Public Domain

In 1959, the 86th was pulled out and the 26th inactivated. In 1960 the 79th was deactivated. The coming of the 910th in 1963 signaled the beginning of what is now a 57 year history. Over the years the mission changed from transport to air support special operations (1971-1973), a fighter group (1973-1981), and Tactical Airlift since then. Once again the loud roar of aircraft engines can be heard near the airport with the arrival of C-130’s. These aircraft can carry 92 troops, 64 paratroopers, and 45,000 pounds of cargo. The 910th has also had unique mission as a large area fixed spray operation, used in killing mosquitoes and other disease carrying insects. Currently, Ohio’s congressional delegation is working to get the latest version, the C-130J for the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

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C-130 over Youngstown Air Reserve Station, U. S. Air Force, Public Domain

Hopefully, the valley will continue to hear the sound of those C-130’s overhead for many years to come.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Why I Still Love Youngstown

Suspension BridgeOne of the things I’ve discovered in writing about Youngstown over the years is that it may be forty years or more, but many people formerly from Youngstown still love the city as they remember it. That’s not true for all, of course, but I’ve reflected on why so many still have a special place in their hearts for Youngstown. I feel that way even though I moved away for work after college in 1976, and have lived longer in my current home than I lived in Youngstown.

Maybe it is just how people feel about their home town, no matter what. Could be, but I find people from Youngstown seem to light up when they have a chance to talk about what was special about home. We make pilgrimages to remind ourselves of what we loved–the Canfield Fair, the original Handel’s, Mill Creek Park, the Butler, or even New York City to ride the old Idora carousel.

If I had to come up with one reason for this love, I think it is simply because, for so many of us, the Youngstown of our memories was a good place to grow up–not perfect, but pretty good. It was a city of families–often extended families living within blocks of each other. It was a city that worked hard, and sometimes partied hard–particularly at weddings and wakes. It was a city that was both gritty and beautiful–with both mills and Mill Creek, blast furnaces and the Butler, both neighborhood garages and grand family-owned department stores. In many parts of town, most of the necessities of life were within walking distance.

Of course there was the food, and the endless quest of Youngstowners to find anything so good elsewhere, whether pizza or pizzelles, halushki or Handel’s. The Recipes of Youngstown cookbooks are a treasure trove for those who lost grandma’s recipe for one or another great Youngstown recipe. Sometimes the best food in the city could be found in her kitchen and her recipe box a family treasure.

The more I’ve delved into the people and history of Youngstown, the more I’ve been impressed by so many who loved the city and gave back and made it the rich place I enjoyed as a child–Volney Rogers, Joseph Butler, Anson Campbell, P. Berry Ross, William Rayen, Reuben MacMillan, the Warner Brothers, the McKelvey and Strouss families, and so many more. I didn’t know most of these stories until recent years, but those stories wove the fabric of my life and that of so many others in the city. They made it a good place industrially, commercially, educationally, culturally, and architecturally. Knowing these stories has deepened my love for such a historically and culturally rich place.

We love it for all our memories–family gatherings, first communions, first dates, first jobs. Some of us married there, and whether those lasted or our spouses survived, we remember. Many of us have buried our parents there. Even if we haven’t visited for some time, we remember our favorite places, whether the beauty of places like Crandall Park, skating on Lake Glacier in winter, the grand old houses around Wick Park and Stambaugh Auditorium.

I could go on, but all the posts I’ve written over the years are really an extended love letter for the city. And I would love to hear about the things you loved, and still love about Youngstown.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — John Struthers

Places names, in and around Youngstown, often bear the names of people connected with those places. Struthers is one such place that bears the name of its founder, John Struthers. That came later, however, and is part of a story of land purchased, lost, and reclaimed by the Struthers family.

The best biography I have found of John Struthers is that written by Ted Heineman in his Riverside Journal and much of what I include in this article is drawn from Ted’s fine work on those buried in Riverside Cemetery, including John Struthers. Struthers was born in Maryland in 1759 and moved to Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1775. John fought in the Revolutionary War and in 1786 married Mary Foster, whose brother William was the father of composer and songwriter Stephen Foster. They acquired land in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, where they had four of their children. John had charge of a troop of Pennsylvania Cavalry, and at one point pursued marauding Native tribal people up the Beaver and Mahoning Rivers to what is now Yellow Creek. Taken with the beauty of the area, he acquired 400 acres along Yellow Creek in Poland Township from Judge Turhand Kirtland in October of 1798. (I mention Turhand Kirtland in an article about his son, Jared Potter Kirtland). Turhan Kirtland recorded the transaction in his diary:

Tuesday, Oct. 9 – Went to Pittsburg [sic] to breakfast and from that across the Monongahela to Cannonsburg, seventeen miles, to John Struthers, to receive money due the company for two lots sold him in No. 1 for Mill place.

Wednesday, Oct. 10 – I was obliged to stay at Struthers waiting for the money to be collected.

Thursday, Oct. 11 – I set out for home.

In 1799, Struthers built a log cabin above Yellow Creek near what is now Park Way Avenue in Struthers. At the time, he called the settlement Marbletown. He improved a nearby dam on Yellow Creek and built a grist mill. In the next years John and Mary would have four more children. In 1802, James and Daniel (H)Eaton (they dropped the “H”) built the Hopewell Furnace. The Hopewell Furnace was sold in 1807 to Robert Montgomery, who owned another furnace downstream on Yellow Creek. John Struthers was a partner with Montgomery. Hopewell shut down in 1808, and the other furnace in 1812, due to the rapid depletion of wood for charcoal in the area, and the war of 1812, which drew off workers. Struthers also fought in the war, only to find his enterprises in ruins, necessitating selling his land to pay his bills.

These were hard years for John. He lost his son Alexander in the war. After purchasing land in Coitsville Township, his wife Mary died in 1814. Later, in 1827, two of his daughters, Drucilla and Emma died in a boating accident on the Mahoning River. At age 68, with most of his surviving children having moved away, John was left with his daughter Mathilda on the Coitsville farm.

It is at this point that Stephen Foster enters into the story. Mary’s brother William was in steep debt. John invited him and his family, including Stephen, to move into the largely empty farmhouse. Thus the Youngstown area, and Coitsville in particular, became part of the Stephen Foster story. Stephen spent time hunting with his uncle, being regaled with stories of life on the frontier.

Meanwhile, John’s son, Thomas Struthers thrived in legal practice, rail and oil enterprises, eventually becoming a multi-millionaire. During this time, John died and was buried alongside his wife and two daughters, originally next to the Poland Presbyterian Church, in 1845. Later, they were reinterred in a family plot in Riverside Cemetery. After the Civil War, Thomas used some of his wealth to reacquire all the land his father had lost along Yellow Creek, laying out a new town, “Struthers,” named in honor of his father. He also used his resources and ties to bring industry to the area.

In 1902, Struthers was incorporated as a village, then in 1920 with the growth of the steel industry, as a city. In a way, John Struthers not only gave the city its name and location along Yellow Creek, but also its industrial history, through his partnership with Robert Montgomery, and through his successful son.

[You might want to visit this Business Journal article for another account of the beginnings of Struthers and a great picture of Ted Heineman beside the original Struthers gravesite next to Poland Presbyterian Church.]

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Wick Six

Wick Six

Car Ads from the Wick Six

At one time, if you wanted to buy a new car in Youngstown, you most likely would have at least looked at the dealerships on Wick Avenue known as the “Wick Six.” We had a ’56 Dodge from Strausbaugh’s and my wife’s father, who worked nearby at General Fireproofing, bought all his cars at State Chevrolet, and my wife’s first car, a ’76 Nova, came from State Chevrolet.

Actually a number of automobiles with legendary names like Nash and Huppmobile were once sold at dealerships along Wick Avenue. Volume 58 of Motor World from 1919 announced that:

Stearns Auto Sales Co., Youngstown, Ohio has purchased 70 feet on Wick Avenue where it will build a new salesroom.

There is a direct connection from Stearns Auto Sales to the Wick Six. Gene Hopper was one of the founders of Stearns. His sister married Arthur Sweeney, who, in 1955, founded the State Chevrolet dealership. The Sweeney family also was connected with the beginnings of Buick Youngstown, through the Sterns Company’s acquisition of the Buick franchise for the area in 1931.

Other franchisees followed. Hugh Kroehle, a classic car guy founded the Kroehle Lincoln-Mercury franchise. W. O. Stausbaugh launched Strausbaugh Dodge. Richard Barrett, who was in the auto business for 40 years owned Barrett Cadillac. Stackhouse Olds, also named after its founder rounded out the six.

I also found evidence of  Pontiac franchises along Wick Avenue during this time, first Buckeye Pontiac, and later Valley Pontiac. But they were never considered a part of the “Wick Six.”

Buckeye Pontiac

Pontiac ad listing Buckeye Pontiac on Wick Avenue.

 

Some classic cars were sold at these dealerships: all the finned “boats” of the late ’50’s and early sixties, the Mercury Comet and the Dodge Dart, Corvairs and Corvettes, the Olds 88 and the Cutlass, and all the muscle cars of the late ’60’s.

During this period, Youngstown was changing as people moved into the suburbs west and south of the city. A number of these dealerships followed, most moving to the Boardman area where a new concentration of dealerships formed. Buick Youngstown hung on until 1986 when they relocated to Market Street. State Chevrolet closed in 1998.

The buildings where these dealerships were located became derelict, and in 2016, the City of Youngstown began demolishing them. But at the Sweeney Chevrolet and Buick dealerships a couple of the Wick Six families are carrying on the car business, according to a 2019 Business Journal article. Doug Sweeney, who dusted parts shelves at State Chevrolet as a 14 year old owns these GM Franchises, buying out brother Dave’s Buick franchise in 2009. Doug had taken over the State Chevrolet franchise in 1981 until selling it in 1998. In 2009, GM awarded Doug with a Chevrolet franchise once again. His daughter Alexa Sweeney Blackann is vice president of the company. Bobby Stackhouse, grandson of the founder of Stackhouse Olds is also a managing partner.

The “Wick Six” recalls a different era that connects all the way back to the infancy of the automotive industry. It is a reminder of a time when Wick Avenue north of the mansions, the Butler, and what was then Youngstown University consisted of a thriving business district where Youngstown bought its cars.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Gorant Chocolatier (Gorant Candies)

Gorants on Federal street

The original Gorant store on Federal street.

Chocolate is one of the languages of love. This is Valentine’s weekend and reminded me of a name synonymous with good chocolate. If you grew up in Youngstown, Gorant Candies was probably the place when you went to buy chocolate for the holidays, for your special Valentine, for a birthday, for Mother’s Day, or just to satisfy your chocolate craving. Chocolate covered strawberries, assortments of milk and dark chocolates, chocolate pecan tootles, milk chocolate raspberry parfaits, French mints, chocolate covered pretzels, cherry cordials, and of course–buckeyes!

Is your mouth watering yet? Well, Gorant Chocolatier is still in business and you can order chocolate at their website. You can also visit one of their five locations, all in the greater Youngstown area. If at all possible, you want to visit the factory and store at 8301 Market Street in Boardman. The smell of the chocolate is to die for!

It all began in 1949 with two brothers, Charles and Sam Gorant. They began not with chocolate but with sugar mints that they sold door to door. They opened a store on Federal Street between McKelvey’s and Strouss and sold them in both downtown department stores. By 1954 they had three stores and had moved into the chocolate business. An individual who remains anonymous to this day sold them his recipe along with chocolate making equipment.

In 1972, they launched their Yum Yum Tree stores selling gifts and greeting cards in addition to candy, many in the new shopping malls springing up around the country. In 1977, they opened their manufacturing plant on Market Street. The company history notes that all the candies are still poured on tables and cut by hand. The Gorant brothers philosophy was expressed in this statement: “If the work is done by hand you can catch the imperfections and ensure the quality of all the chocolates before they are packed.”

Sam Gorant died in 1982. Charles sold the company in 1986, and it changed hands several times, eventually owned by Cleveland’s American Greeting Card Company which sold the product in 500 of their stores and through another 200 wholesale accounts. In 2009, American Greetings sold off Gorant, closing 34 stores, to Joe Miller, who at this writing is still the owner of the company, now renamed Gorant Chocolatier. At the time of the sale, they went from an $11 million to a $3 million company.

While the company has a smaller retail presence than it once had, they have expanded their sales to private label customers, fund-raising, mail order and internet business. They’ve streamlined inventory, manufacturing, and cost control processes and gained SQF certification for food safety that expands Gorant Chocolatier’s global marketing possibilities.

About 50 people work at the factory and store year round with extra employees during the peak season from September through April. While the company has changed ownership and marketing strategy, they continue not only making their chocolates by hand out of the best ingredients. Over the course of the year they produce 400 different chocolate products.

Recently, my wife and I stayed at the Inn at Amish Door in Wilmot, Ohio. It is part of an “Amish village” with a restaurant, banquet, bakery, and store complex with a number of special events. We delighted in the quality construction, comfortable lodging, and great food we enjoyed during a short, overnight stay. While researching this post, I discovered that previous to purchasing Gorant, Joe Miller was Vice Chairman and President of the Amish Door company, started and still operated by his parents, and helped develop the complex into a major attraction in the quiet village of Wilmot. One hopes that he will continue to lead Gorant Chocolatier in the same way.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Simon Family

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Simon Homestead, photo courtesy of Joanne Simon Tailele.

It’s funny how one thing leads to another. I wrote last week about Elijah Boardman, the Connecticut senator and Western Reserve investor after whom Boardman township was named. I received a comment from an descendant of another early settler in Boardman township, who lived in the township nineteen years before Henry Mason Boardman made his home there. The family owned a farm that extended from Midlothian Boulevard to Indianola Road, and from Southern Boulevard to South Avenue. Lake Park Cemetery was originally their family cemetery, eventually donated to the community. Simon Road is named after them. The family is the Simon family.

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Simon Family in July 1914, image courtesy of Joanne Simon Tailele

Michael Simon, who was born in 1741, moved to Boardman township in 1800, purchasing 640 acres. He was the first to bring wheat into Boardman township and raise a wheat crop. He was married three times and had fifteen children and died in 1839. His fourth son Adam also moved to Boardman in 1800, and is listed as one of the original township trustees. Given the size of this family and multiplied by descendants, I cannot tell the story of the whole family. At an 1882 reunion, 172 blood relations were present as well as 75 others related through marriage. Bernice Simon, who died in 1997, compiled a Simon family history and genealogy, as well as other genealogies and lists of early residents in the Western Reserve. Bernice and her husband Howard donated many of their documents and artifacts to the Detchon House, located in Boardman Park.

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Drawing of Simon Homestead, early Boardman map, and Jesse Simon, Image courtesy of Joanne Simon Tailele.

Michael’s grandson Jesse built the homestead that is still standing on Indianola Road, as are a number of other homes built by Simon family members in the area. Jesse’s grandson Clyde, and his wife Alpharetta Walters Simon, lived down the street. Clyde was an official at Home Savings and Loan, serving as assistant treasurer of the real estate division, contributing significantly to the residential growth of the Youngstown area. Alpharetta, as a young woman, taught in a one room school house, the Heasly School, on South Avenue, where many of the German children in the area learned to speak English.

Alpharetta Simon at Heasly School 1912

Alpharetta Walters Simon at the Heasly School in 1912, photo courtesy of Joanne Simon Tailele

To this day, there is an area west of Simon Road and north of Indianola still referred to as “New England Lanes.” This was once part of the Simon farmland. In the 1950’s, Clyde and Alpharetta’s son Howard Simon (Bernice’s husband) was a home builder and president of the Youngstown Homebuilders Association. He built many of the homes in this area. After Bernice died in 1997, he moved to Lewis Center, Ohio (near Columbus) to live with his daughter Joanne Simon Tailele, who along with her daughter Candy, provided much of the information and photographs for this story. Howard Simon passed away in 2006.

The Simon family both made Boardman history and preserved it. They brought wheat farming to the area, taught area children, contributed to the residential growth of the area and then painstakingly documented both the family’s history and that of the area. This is one of the many family stories of Youngstown. One of the things I’ve loved about writing on Youngstown is that I keep discovering these stories, often from descendants of the people who made the stories. Through their character and hard work, they gave the Valley its history, and inspire us to continue it.

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Special thanks to Candy Cooper McDowell and Joanne Simon Tailele for the idea for this article, all the images used here, and much of the family history. Thank you for letting me share your story. Any inaccuracies are my responsibility.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Elijah Boardman and Family

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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 named after Elijah Boardman, a son of 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. One sign of his prosperity, even then, was that in the 1780 census, Boardman was the largest slave owner in New Milford, owning six slaves. 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. Apart from his slave ownership (not uncommon in the North at this time), 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.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — William B Pollock and His Company

wm b pollock

William B. Pollock

During my student days in the 1970’s, a student group I was part of met regularly at the Pollock House, often in the living room just inside the front door. At that time, the ROTC program had offices and classrooms upstairs. Years later, when the building had been converted to the Wick-Pollock Inn, we celebrated my parents fiftieth wedding anniversary there. Now, of course, it serves as the president’s residence for Jim and Ellen Tressel.

The house was built in 1897 as the home of Margaret Wick, the widow of Paul Wick and her daughter Mary. When Mary married Porter Pollock, the son of William B. Pollock whose company bore his name, they moved into and expanded the residence. In 1950, the Wick family donated the house to what was then Youngstown College.

But who was William Browning Pollock and what did he contribute to Youngstown history? It might be said that the iron and steel industry was in his blood, and that much of the machinery of iron and steel production was made by him. He was born in Pittsburgh in 1832, the son of a well-known machinist and engineer. At an early age, he began operating blast furnaces in the Shenango and Mahoning Valleys. Before long, he was building blast furnaces, first in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania and as far away as Chicago and St. Louis.

50-ton-ladle

Cyclopedia of Modern Shop Practice.  Chicago:  American Technical Society, 1907.

In 1863, Pollock recognized that the iron industry of Youngstown needed a plant to fabricate the boilers, furnaces, ovens and other equipment needed for iron production. The company was initially called the Mahoning Boiler Works but quickly adopted the name William B. Pollock Company. A publication of the company on its 75th anniversary in 1939, The William B. Pollock Company presents the seventy-five year history of its contribution to the advancement of the art of iron and steel makingstates that the company had been involved in the manufacture of more than 75 new blast furnaces, and rebuilt 447 blast furnaces, accounting for most of the blast furnaces in the United States at that time. Pollock created ingenious methods of increasing the capacity of blast furnaces, resulting in higher productivity.

Eventually, the company expanded into other products involved in iron and steel making including ladles and the cinder (for slag) and hot metal cars that transported molten iron from one part of a plant to another, allowing processing into steel without re-smelting.

Hot metal train - Pollock

A “hot metal” train exhibit at the Youngstown Steel Heritage Museum; part of President Rick Rowlands’ and other Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation members’ collection of heavy equipment salvaged during the drastic downturn in Youngstown, Ohio’s steel industry and economy. Photograph in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Porter Pollock work alongside his father for many years in leading the company until his father passed away in 1914. Porter’s diary reflected the work ethic held by him and his father.

“Honest work, honestly represented, honestly sold are the rules followed and tend to a high standard as well as a high rate of efficiency.”

When Porter Pollock passed away in 1931, his son William B. Pollock II took over. The expertise in metal plating allowed them to expand business into manufacturing oil tanker rail cars and even metal caissons for a New York skyscraper.

Over time, they moved from Basin Street to South Market Street to their final location on off Andrews Ave. An article in 1963 celebrated its 100th anniversary as a company, concluding with these words:

“On the strength of its first century’s achievements. you feel that its next 100 years really will be ‘a breeze.’ ”

In 1963, no one saw the demise of the major steel companies in Youngstown. The closure of these plants was followed by the closure of the William B. Pollock Company in 1983. Two specialty steel companies acquired parts of the facility in 1986, operating for a time until it went vacant. In 2011 Brilex Industries acquired the plant, bringing machining, fabricating, and assembly to this site once again.

The William B. Pollock Company didn’t make steel. They made the machinery that made the whole enterprise possible. For 120 years. In Youngstown.