Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Lanterman’s Mill and Falls

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By Keith Roberts [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I suspect if someone were to try to come up with a list of the most scenic views in Mill Creek Metropark, Lanterman’s Mill and Falls would be at the top of the list. During my teen years, I loved exploring the trails that run through Mill Creek Park. Of course I had seen the falls and the mill many times from the Youngstown-Canfield Road bridge on car rides. It wasn’t until I was walking along the trail downstream from the falls and came to a point where the falls and the mill was framed by the Youngstown-Canfield Road bridge that I realized what an incredible view this offers.

Apparently people have thought this view one of the most spectacular over the years. Here is a photograph I found from the early 1900’s:

Historic Lanterman Falls

The picture shows an earlier, and less substantial bridge over the river gorge than the one I grew up with which is still there.

The history of this site goes back to the beginnings of Youngstown. Two of the surveyors working with John Young in 1797, Phineas Hill and Isaac Powers surveyed Mill Creek and came upon the falls and immediately recognized the potential for a mill on the site. Hill agreed to purchase 300 acres around this site with the condition that a saw- and gristmill be built within 18 months, one of the first industries in what would become Youngstown. They operated the mill from 1799 until 1822. In 1823 Eli Baldwin replaced the structure and operated it as a gristmill only until it was washed away in a flood in 1843. According to the Lanterman’s Mill History page at the Mill Creek Metropark website, the millstone is still resting about 500 feet downstream in the creek bed.

German Lanterman built the third mill on this site with it’s current wood frame structure. He operated a gristmill with three sets of grinstones until 1888. For most of this time the mill was highly successful. In 1892, as Volney Rogers was acquiring the land for Mill Creek park, saving it from an industrial future, he acquired a building falling into disrepair and, along with Pioneer Pavilion, initiated repairs and preserved this iconic structure.

Originally, it held a ballroom, bathhouse for the nearby Pool of Shadows which was used for swimming, and a concession stand. Boats were stored on the upper floor in the winter. Later in 1933 the first floor was converted into a nature museum. Later it became the park’s historical museum. Major renovations were made in the early 1980’s, and one of my college professors, Dr. John White organized an archaeological dig and found evidence of an earlier raceway. The work was made possible by the Florence and Ward Beecher Foundation who made a $600,000 grant to the project. Lorin Cameron, an expert gristmill renovator oversaw the project.

As a working mill, Lanterman’s Mill requires continued maintenance, especially the wood of the water wheel and its supporting structures. In 2013 a new support beam for the water wheel was installed. The first Recipes of Youngstown cookbook proceeds were dedicated to water wheel repairs.

The mill is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission for Mahoning County residents is $1.00, for non-residents $2.00, students and seniors $.75 and children under 6 are free. Visiting the mill is a lesson in Youngstown’s industrial history. Walking the paths, the covered bridge, and standing on the observation deck help visitors discover the scenic wonder that has captured the hearts of generations of Youngstown area residents, including mine.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Why We Remember

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It is hard for me to believe that I have been writing these posts for over three years (going back to April or May of 2014)! It has been quite a journey, not only through my own memories of growing up in Youngstown, but also the memories of so many of you who have commented on Facebook or on the blog itself. You have reminded me of things I’ve forgotten and enlightened me on things I either did not know about or poorly understood. My wife often sees me smiling when I am reading comments from you and that is because so many of them have recalled good things and brought joy to my heart, especially as we have savored memories of good food and good times in our common home.

That brings me to the question that is the title of this post–why do we remember? I have encountered a few along the way who scoff at this, who contend it is best to leave the past in the past, and as for Youngstown–we have to deal with what is now, and the future, however we see that. I respect that, and agree that we can’t live in the past.

At the same time, I do think there is value in remembering our experience in growing up in Youngstown. Here are several reasons why I think we remember:

  1. We enjoy remembering. While we may have painful memories, in time, many, but not all, fade and what stands out in our minds are the good experiences we have had through our lives. As we grow older, I suspect most of us would agree that while it is nice to have a flush bank account, what you really want is a bank of memories of family, friends, good food, and great experiences that you can make daily withdrawals from without it ever being depleted.
  2. We learn from our memories. Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher wrote, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” I have found that I’ve learned through reflecting on memories, particularly about how growing up in Youngstown shaped me. Everything from a love of beauty to being able to detect when someone is giving me a load of bull came out of growing up in Youngstown. Growing up in Youngstown taught me both how to work hard, and how to savor the fruits of work.
  3. We dignify what it means, and meant to be “working class.” Remembering, and celebrating our shared culture, and writing it down leaves a record of the richness of life in a working class town. In some educated circles, it is not unheard of to look down on people who grew up where we grew up. I would suggest that the culture of other classes, and what some call “elite” is not superior to working class culture, just different. We enjoyed a rich cultural life of food, music, sports, and celebrations, and there was an emphasis on education, hard work, the value of money, and appreciation of beautiful things and places like Mill Creek Park.
  4. Remembering is also a way that we sift out and decide what we want to take from our past and carry into our future. While some of the things I’ve written about are about the good things that are no more, there is so much about what made Youngstown a great, good place that had nothing to do with jobs and economics. They were already present when Youngstown was getting on its feet and are important for the future of Youngstown, or any place we live — good civic leadership, an investment into cultural institutions like art museums and symphonies, the creation of good parks as well as good businesses, the value of family and neighborhoods where people look out for each other, good schools and universities, and maybe most of all, lots of good occasions to gather over good food and drink.

Finally, without remembering we would not have stories to bore our grandchildren! Happy remembering!

To explore more memories of Youngstown and what it means to grow up working class, all my posts can be found at “On Youngstown” on the menu.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Ten Fall Activities

Lake Cohasset

Lake Cohasset, Photo (c) Bob Trube

I just came back from a trip and found my yard littered with leaves. That is the sign for me that fall has officially arrived. Cool crisp days. Early sunsets. First frosts. Football Fridays. All this set me to thinking of my top ten fall activities as I was growing up in Youngstown. Your list might be different but I bet at least a few of these are on yours!

10. Raking leaves into big piles and jumping into them. Wasn’t this a clever way for our parents to get us to rake the leaves?

9. Burning leaves when this was still allowed. Nearly every late afternoon, you could scent the smell of burning leaves in the air. The pyromaniac in me loved doing this. Thankfully, I never set anything on fire I wasn’t supposed to!

8. Hayrides at some of the rural farms in the area. Always more fun if you were with a girl, but I remember great evenings singing folk songs, eating fried donuts, drinking cider around a campfire.

7. Haunted houses. Weird lighting effects. Skeletons and ghouls that would leap out at you. Headless horsemen. Great for raising money for local causes.

6. Touch football after school. Seems like most of my buddies growing up weren’t good enough to play on a team but that didn’t keep us from playing epic contests at Borts field, pretending we were Frank Ryan, Jim Brown, or Gary Collins (those were the years I was a Browns fan). No helmets, no pads but can’t remember any of us getting hurt. We did manage to get muddy.

5. Pressing the most colorful leaves we could find into books between sheets of wax paper. Forgetting you did this until you cleaned out your parents’ house years later.

4. Listening to or watching the World Series. Most of the time it seems we were either rooting for the Yankees or against them. Sadly, no Indians teams to root for back then. So glad it is different now. This could be the year!

3. Football rivalries and homecomings. Our big rivalry was the Chaney-Austintown Fitch game. Every school had one.

2. Making our Halloween costumes. It was cheaper and somehow more fun to go as a pirate, bum, princess, or tramp then any of the cheesy costumes they sold at the store. And some people rewarded creativity with candy!

1. Probably for everyone, the big activity was walking, riding, or driving through Mill Creek Park savoring the smell of the leaves and the myriad of colors. I most loved how some of the trees seemed to glow with a light of their own on dark and rainy days.

While summer was probably my favorite season as a kid (no school), I think the fall season is probably my favorite now. I still love working in the yard on those cool, crisp days and the colors and smells of autumn leaves. While I’ve outgrown some of my favorite activities from those growing up years, I still enjoy the memory of them. How about you?

 

 

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — “The Rock” at Kilcawley

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Yes, that’s a picture of me as a somewhat shaggy first year student by The Rock at Kilcawley. Kind of a weird paint job. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Trube.

We used to joke that it was really a pebble, grown into rock with all those layers of paint. Sitting outside of Kilcawley Center on the Youngstown State campus, “The Rock” was in a central location, and hardly a week went by, sometimes not even a day, when we would pass by a new paint job–a fraternity, a sorority, a club, a cause, or just a group rallying us to support the team for the next football game. One of my favorites was a picture I saw of The Rock being painted to look like the Great Pumpkin! Sometimes, when there was a protest, the rock would be painted by the group protesting and it would serve as a gathering point. After the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. there was a message of loss on The Rock.

According to Penguin Community, the rock was dug up during the construction of Kilcawley Center in 1966. It just sat there for about a year until March 18, 1967 when it was first painted by a group of students, after a Jambar article naming it “Tradition Rock.” Apparently it was known as Tradition Rock during the early years of YSU as a state university. This apparently did not last very long because by the time we arrived on campus in 1972, we just called it “The Rock” or “Kilcawley Rock.”

The Rock has grown over the years, not from a pebble perhaps. A study in 1988 found that the coating of paint was at least two inches thick on the rock. It is estimated that students add about an eighth of an inch to The Rock each year, which would mean about another four inches of paint since that 1988 study!

To accommodate changing landscaping and traffic patterns, The Rock was moved to a different location within about 100 yards of where it was when we were students. It is still at the center of campus, and part of a cherished student tradition.

In November of 2015, that tradition was violated when some party painted messages supporting ISIS. There was an outcry in the community and even the FBI was called in. But this was the students’ rock and students quickly addressed the situation, repainting the rock in red, white, and blue with an American flag, patriotic messages, and an incredible show of campus unity. President Tressel later gave a video interview describing that response, that students came together and basically said, “you don’t mess with our Rock.”

That’s Youngstown–the city and the campus. You don’t mess with Youngstown.

I’d love to hear your stories of painting The Rock, or other Youngstown State memories!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — James Hillman

James Hillman

Colonel James Hillman

Recently I wrote a post about John Young, from whom Youngstown gets its name. As I read the early history of Youngstown, I am inclined to think that Colonel James Hillman deserves more than to have a street and a couple of abandoned and demolished school buildings named after him. While Young purchased, surveyed, and subsequently sold the land that is Youngstown today, Hillman arguably was one of the first true settlers and played a significant role in bringing law and order to the newly founded community.

Hillman was born in Northumberland County in Pennsylvania in 1762. He fought in the Revolutionary was as a young man and was captured at Yorktown. He subsequently fought in the Indian Wars until a treaty in 1785. He married Catherine in 1786 (she was fourteen), and appears to have lived for a time near Pittsburgh, in Beavertown. He was employed by a trading company, Duncan & Wilson, in Pittsburgh, and built a cabin at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River (near what would eventually be downtown Cleveland) for their trading operations. Travel between Pittsburgh and this cabin would have taken him up the Beaver and Mahoning Rivers so he would have been well familiar with the Mahoning Valley ten years or more before John Young.

It was on one of these trading trips, in late June of 1797, that he spotted smoke on the banks of the Mahoning and encountered John Young and his surveying party. The story is that Hillman had leftover whiskey from his trading efforts and Young traded the deerskin he was sleeping on for whisky for what Joseph Green Butler calls a “frolic.” The two men became friends quickly. Purportedly, Young and his party joined Hillman on his trip home to Beavertown, celebrating the 4th of July there, and then Hillman returned with Young to help lay out the settlement. Young offered the Hillmans six acres if they would move to the new town, and it was Hillman who built the first cabin near Spring Common. Hillman’s skills as a woodsman were invaluable in carving a town out of the wilderness.

In 1798 he purchased 60 acres of land bordered by present day Market Street on the east, Oak Hill on the west, the Mahoning River on the north and Myrtle Street on the south. The frame house they built there was later the site of South Side Hospital. In 1800, he became the first constable of the new town. Later he served as a tax collector. In 1804, he built a log cabin tavern near the present day DeYor Center. In 1806, he became sheriff for Trumbull County, which at that time comprised both Mahoning and present day Trumbull County.

Hillman fought under Colonel William Rayen in the War of 1812, during which he attained the rank of Colonel. Afterwards he was involved in settling several incidents between Indians in the area and settlers. Two of these incidents involved deaths of settlers. In one case, Hillman tracked the Indians involved all the way to Chillicothe and single-handedly brought them back to stand trial.

He served in the state legislature in 1814-15 and later, in 1825 as a Justice of the Peace. He was a Master Mason, and a Masonic Lodge was named after him in 1874. He died November 12, 1848 at age 86 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery. In Joseph G. Butler’s History of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, he summarizes Hillman’s life in this way:

“Not only in actual term of residence but in leadership, Col. James Hillman was the first citizen of Youngstown in its youthful days.”

Sources consulted:

Joseph Green Butler, History of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, Ohio, Volume 1, 1921.

Ted Heineman, Riverside Cemetery Journal, Colonel James Hillman.

Mahoning Valley Historical Society, Historical Collections of the Mahoning Valley, Volume One, 1876.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Black Monday

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Photo by Stu Spivak [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

Most of the posts I’ve written about Youngstown are about good memories. This one isn’t, but September 19, 2017 marks forty years since Black Monday. Youngstown never has given up, but it never has been the same.

On Monday, September 19, 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube, no longer locally controlled, issued this statement:

“Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, a subsidiary of Lykes Corporation, announced today that it is implementing steps immediately to concentrate a major portion of its steel production at the Indian Harbor Works near Chicago. . . .The company now employs 22,000 people. The production cut-back at the Campbell Works will require the lay-off or termination of approximately 5,000 employees in the Youngstown workers.” (cited in Robert Bruno, Steelworker Alley, p.9).

Five thousand people and their families faced the lost of a major income source, and work generations had counted on for a career. Between 1979 and 1980, U. S. Steel left Youngstown. By the mid-1980’s Republic Steel declared bankruptcy and ceased operations. Like a rock thrown into a pond, the big splash of Black Monday rippled throughout the Youngstown economy. It is estimated the area lost 40,000 manufacturing jobs and 400 satellite businesses.

There were probably multiple causes, including suburban malls and plazas, but McKelvey’s (Higbee’s) closed a couple years later, leaving my father without a job at age 59. Many younger workers left Youngstown to find work in other cities, many moving south and west. Older workers like my dad found whatever they could locally, to get by until retiring, usually at much lower wages. At the time, my wife and I were starting out our lives together and living in Toledo (a city that suffered similar catastrophic losses of automotive manufacturing jobs later on). When we heard the news, we realized that we would not be returning to the same Youngstown that we had grown up in when we visited parents. Gone was the glow of blast furnaces lighting up the valley at night.

I could go over all the history of attempts to re-start the mills, or lure manufacturers to Youngstown, or talk about all the reasons the mills failed. Others have hashed all that out. All I can say is I’ve never had much tolerance for those who blame workers or followers or circumstances for failure, particularly if the ones doing the blaming are management or leadership (I say that as one who has worked in management).

When someone dear to you dies, you grieve and face how life will be different after the loss. I remember the anniversaries of my parent’s deaths. As the years pass, I probably think less of the loss than of what we had. I also realize we can never go back to that life, or bring our parents back.

Perhaps that’s what the fortieth anniversary of Black Monday is like, as well. We grieve what the Valley lost, remember what was good, and maybe learn from the past so we don’t repeat it. We learn not to put all our eggs in one economic basket, and that we no longer can count on a particular type of job always being there for ourselves and our kids. We learn that ultimately the company won’t look out for us, nor can we count on the government to look out for us. And maybe we remember that our greatest resources are still our faith, our families and friends, and our own hard work, initiative, and a Youngstown “stick-to-it-ive-ness” that doesn’t give up, but keeps on getting up.

For those who will be in the Youngstown area on September 19, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society is hosting “Remembering Black Monday: 40 Years Later” at the Tyler History Center from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. A panel of historians and community leaders will discuss the impact and legacy event. This is a free event. More information is available at the Mahoning Valley Historical Society website.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Home Savings

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Home Savings Building, Photo by Jack Pierce, 2013 (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

Growing up on the West Side of Youngstown, the most recognizable feature of downtown Youngstown that I could see from my home was the main offices of Home Savings and Loan. When I was young, I had the back bedroom in our house, which faced east toward downtown. I used to love looking over the valley. One Christmas, I received a telescope as a gift. It was fun looking at the Home Savings Building, and the clock tower on top. If memory serves me correctly at that time, there were neon signs with the name “Home Savings” that would alternately light up on the north and south, and east and west sides of the building.

Whenever I look at old pictures of West Federal Street, you almost always see the Home Savings and Loan building at the far west end, presiding over the financial fortunes of the businesses along that street, as it were. While some of the great old theaters and the McKelvey buildings have been torn down, this main branch remains standing strong.

Home Savings was started in 1889 and the “Savings and Loan” name reflected its mission of providing a safe place to deposit funds at interest and to borrow money to purchase homes, and for other purposes. The bank helped many generations of working class people to realize the dream of home ownership. One of the encouraging things is that despite economic troubles in the Valley, the bank has continued to grow. In 1998 the bank went through a mutual-to-stock conversion, setting up a parent holding company, the United Community Financial Corporation. At the same time, a Home Savings Charitable Foundation was set up and focuses on areas of education, health care and disadvantaged children and adults, according to the “history” section of the Home Savings website. In 2014, United Community Financial Corporation acquired Premier Bank & Trust, a regional bank in the Canton area, bringing its total number of offices to 35 and its current assets to approximately $2.5 billion. In 2016, they created the Home Savings Insurance Group, acquiring a couple local insurance agencies. In 2017, to reflect an increasing involvement in commercial services, the name was changed to Home Savings Bank. While most of Home Savings offices are still in northeast Ohio, there are some in north central Ohio, and loan offices in Cleveland, in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Morgantown, West Virginia, Toledo, and in my own backyard of Worthington, in suburban Columbus.

Some of my memories of my father’s last years involved Home Savings. I was his financial power of attorney and when I began to manage his affairs, one of the things we needed to do was close out his safe deposit box at the main branch. We went down to the basement where the safe deposit boxes were located, off of a richly paneled lobby. I deeply appreciated the respect the bank personnel showed to my elderly father as we completed this transaction. He also had funds on deposit with the bank and, once again, I found the people at the bank great to work with, both before and after my father’s passing.

In an age when it is easy to live in a town where all the banks are from places like Chicago, or New York, or a city somewhere else in Ohio, it is encouraging to see Home Savings still going strong as a Youngstown-based bank. Let’s hope that is a sign for other Youngstown-based businesses.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Golden Drumstick

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Did your family do this? You piled in the car, went for a Sunday afternoon drive through Mill Creek Park, and ended up at the Golden Drumstick Restaurant on the corner of Market and Midlothian. It had that art-deco look that reminded you of the 20th Century Restaurant (there was a reason for that).

I still think of their chicken as some of the best I’ve eaten. It had a breaded coating and seasoning that defined fried chicken for me. The Colonel’s just doesn’t hold a candle to it, at least in my memory. They had these big pieces of fried potatoes, cole slaw and hot biscuits with honey–and the biscuits had taste!

I discovered that our Golden Drumstick Restaurant was not the first but was inspired by Golden Drumstick Restaurants in Arizona.  I found this article online about one in Flagstaff, Arizona that mentions other locations, including the Youngstown location. Harry and Faye Malkoff, who established the 20th Century, spotted one of the Arizona restaurants and even copied the building design to bring it back to Youngstown, opening the restaurant on the south side, just outside the Youngstown city limits.

According to Classic Restaurants of Youngstown (a treasure trove of information about Youngstown restaurants past and present), the Malkoff’s found the chicken recipe at a Texas restaurant called Gaylord’s. They advertised the chicken as “the best fried chicken this side of chicken heaven.” I think most of us growing up around Youngstown would agree.

The restaurant had both a dine in and carryout operation. We always did carryout. The problem was that the smell of the chicken would drive you crazy and it was hard to resist pulling out a drumstick on the way home. Sometimes, with friends, you would just sit in your car and eat, and then run over to Handel’s for some ice cream. Life couldn’t get much better.

Eventually the Malkoff’s rented the restaurant to other owners for about ten years until it was sold to First Federal Savings. It is unclear to me, but it appears their may have been an attempt by Joseph Levy to combine a Golden Drumstick-20th Century on the site that did not work out. First Federal was eventually taken over and ended operations in 2008.

I find myself wondering sometimes what happened to that recipe. I can’t help but think that some savvy entrepreneur could give KFC a run for its money. But maybe it is better to treasure the memory of the smell and taste of Golden Drumstick chicken.

What are your memories of The Golden Drumstick?

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Civil War Soldiers Monument

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The Man on the Monument. Photo by Jack Pierce (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

I have to admit that I never really looked closely at the monument on Central Square when I was growing up and if I were honest, I couldn’t tell you its story. All I know is that it was a slender, tall pillar with a man on top looking off to the north. I presumed he was a soldier–he looked like he was in uniform and was holding a rifle. Apparently that’s what most people around Youngstown see, because often this landmark is simply called “The Man on the Monument” when in fact it is the Civil War Soldiers Monument.

The recent controversies about statues of Confederate soldiers and other figures got me wondering about the story of the monument. [Note: please do not hi-jack comments either on this blog or Facebook to debate the current controversy–they will be taken down, that’s not what this post is about]. What I learned was that this was a monument to remember the men of Youngstown who died in the Civil War to restore the Union and end slavery. On the north side of the base, you can read the following:

“ERECTED BY THE CITIZENS OF YOUNGSTOWN IN MEMORY OF THE HEROES OF
THE TOWNSHIP WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES TO THEIR COUNTRY IN THE WAR OF THE REBELLION, 1861 – 1865.”

On the four sides of the base of the monument, you can read the names of these men. The Ohio Geneological Society’s Mahoning Chapter has compiled a document organized providing information about each man who died. Here is an example of the kinds of information they provide about each of the men listed:

Shannon, Thomas J., First Infantry Division, Army of Virginia. Surgeon-in-Chief, Cedar Creek. Residence was not listed; Enlisted on 7/22/1863 as a Surgeon. On 7/22/1863 he was commissioned into Field & Staff Ohio 116th Infantry. He died of wounds on 10/20/1864 at Cedar Creek, Virginia. He was listed as: * Wounded 10/19/1864 Cedar Creek, Virginia.. Other Information: Buried: Winchester National Cemetery, Winchester, Virginia. Sources used by HDS: – Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio – Roll of Honor of Ohio Soldiers.- The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War.

On the pillar above the base the battlefields on which they fought are listed, along with the words “E Pluribus Unum” (out of the many, one), the motto of the United States, fitting in an effort to re-unite the states. The eight battlefields mentioned are Antietam, Chickamauga, Shiloh, Winchester, Stone River, Cedar Mountain, Perryville, and Vicksburg. The soldier at the top is standing at “parade rest.”

Governor David Tod first proposed the monument in 1864. One of the most interesting stories about it is that it was funded by ordinary citizens of Youngstown. I came across this interesting account in Stories of Central Square:

“No one who was in Youngstown on the Fourth of July in 1867 will ever forget it. Mrs. Susanna A. Filton, Mrs. Henry Tod and Miss Nancy Van Fleet recalled some of the circumstances yesterday at the Vindicator’s request. To raise money for the monument, as well as to provider for the crowds that were expected, the ladies of the town organized by wards: there were only four or five wards here then, and a friendly, though spirited rivalry existed as to which should raise the most money. Mrs. Felton recalled that on the morning of the Fourth the ladies of the Fourth ward which then took in the streets south of Federal and west of Market, met at the home of their chairman, Mrs. Breaden, the mother of Miss Nancy M. Breaden of Madison avenue. For several days previous they had been busy, cooking and baking, and they had scoured the country fo miles around for milk and cream and eggs. Dawn on the morning of the Fourth found them hard at work freezing ice cream and attending to the thousands of details that had been left until the last.

They had a long table on the Diamond. It was in the form of an L, and extended from Federal street around to Market. Their supplies were in the old Disciple church. Even though every girl and woman of Youngstown helped in one way or another, with the preparation and serving, the crowds that came from every part of the state were needed. The ladies of the Fourth Ward served all day long; besides a big dinner at noon, they served luncheons and ice cream and cake until late in the evening. They worked so hard, indeed, that some of them fainted from the strain, and it was midnight before they returned home. But they were happy after their long task, for they had led the other wards in the amount of money raised and turned over $400 as their contribution toward the expense of the monument.

Youngstown was neither large nor wealthy in those days and before the monument was entirely paid for it was necessary for a committee to canvass the town and secure subscriptions from nearly every man and woman in it. But most of the money was raised by the patriotic ladies.”

The monument was dedicated on July 4, 1870. Two future presidents, Governor Rutherford B. Hayes and congressman James Garfield spoke at the event.

Central Square has undergone a number of changes over the years. At one time, there was a fountain opposite the statue. Eventually this was covered over and a library branch was erected. It was turned into “Federal Plaza” in the mid-1970’s, closed off to traffic and bricked over. In 2005 Federal Street and Central Square were re-opened to traffic. Through all these changes, one thing has stayed the same–“The Man on the Monument”, the Civil War Soldiers Monument.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — John Young

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John Young Memorial, photo by Jack Pierce. (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

Did you know that Youngstown gets its name from the first European-American to settle on and acquire the land?  Youngstown is literally “Young’s Town.” Sure, you knew that! That’s Youngstown history 101. What was interesting to me was to find out a bit more history about Young. Along the way, I discovered that his presence, on and off for under six years, was sufficient to shape the early contours of the city, still evident to this day, and to attract one of the key early settlers who helped found the city. I also discovered that there is some controversy about whether Young really is Youngstown’s first settler.

According to biographical information provided by Charles Young, a son of John Young to the Mahoning Valley Historical Society in 1875, John Young was born in 1763 in Petersborough, New Hampshire and moved to Whitestown, New York, about 1780. He married Mary Stone White in 1792. He moved to the Ohio lands in 1796, building a log cabin on the northeast bank of the Mahoning River near Spring Common. In 1797, he began the settlement of Youngstown, purchasing a township of 15,560 acres from the Connecticut Land Company for $16,085.16, with the establishment of the city being recorded in 1802. In 1799, his family moved to Youngstown and were there until 1803, when health concerns for Mary led them to return to New York. During his time in Youngstown he laid out the first plats of the city including Federal Street, Central Square, North, (now Wood) Street and South (now Front) Street, town lots and larger farm-size plats. After returning to Whitestown, he was involved in various public works in upstate New York until his death in 1825.

On Young’s first trip into the area, he and his surveyor Alfred Wolcott were reputed to have met up with Colonel James Hillman, who sighted smoke from a fire the Young party had set as he was canoeing up the Mahoning from Beaver, Pennsylvania. Young persuaded Hillman to join him for a “frolic” that evening (with an exchange of skins for whiskey). That supposedly led to Hillman deciding to settle in Youngstown. Hillman became Youngstown’s first constable, and later, during the war of 1812 led a militia that defended the area against Indian attacks. He later served as a representative in the state legislature, and is probably worthy of a post to more fully tell his story!

No one will dispute that John Young did not permanently reside in the town that bears his name. But did he actually settle there? Howard C. Aley, in A Heritage to Share, introduces a letter from a descendent of Daniel Shehy, one of the first to buy land from Young (1000 acres for $2000) and settle in Youngstown. He contends that it is Daniel Shehy, and not John Young, that built that first log cabin along the Mahoning and that Young did no more than travel back and forth between New York and Youngstown. There is evidence of a dispute between the two men over the land purchase, which in the end meant that Shehy only acquired 400 rather than 1000 acres. Might that help account for the conflicting narratives?

Whether Shehy played a larger role than most of the histories narrate will probably remain disputed. Sheehy was definitely one of the first to purchase land from Young. What is beyond question is that Young was involved in the surveys that gave shape to Youngstown, it was Young who purchased the land and sold it to Shehy and others and for this alone deserves a singular place in Youngstown history as that man who gave the city its name and had the vision of a thriving city on the banks of the Mahoning. 

[After writing this post, I heard from two Shehy descendents. In researching the article, I came across two spellings of the name, Sheehy and Shehy. I used the wrong one and have now corrected it. It is “Shehy.”]