Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Lake to River Canal

CanalizationMap150

Proposed canal route

One of the most interesting “might have beens” in Youngstown history, is whether Michael Kirwan’s “Big Ditch” would have made a difference to the steel industry in Youngstown. Michael J. Kirwan was the congressman from Youngstown for most of the years I lived there. He was in office from 1937 to 1970, dying in office. James L. Wick, Jr. wrote to him in 1937 about the idea of a canal, and it was one he campaigned for until his dying day and the one initiative that most people who know him associate with his name. His vision was for a canal running south from Ashtabula on Lake Erie, connecting with the Mahoning River and running southeast into Pennsylvania, connecting with the Ohio River at Rochester, Pennsylvania. It would create a water route between the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Perhaps the interest in a canal goes back to the Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal completed in 1839 from New Castle, Pennsylvania to Akron, running through Youngstown, and connecting with the Ohio and Erie Canal, running from Cleveland to the Ohio River. For a period of time in the mid-1800’s, the canal contributed to the rise of the coal and iron industry in the Mahoning Valley, providing transport of both raw materials and finished products to Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The rise of the railroads led to the demise of the canal, which was abandoned in 1872 and officially closed in 1877.

Ironically, it was the rising freight rates on the railroads that sparked renewed interest in a lake to river canal. By the early 1900’s, the idea of a new canal was already under discussion, with a route from Ashtabula to Pittsburgh approved by 1912 by the National Waterways Commission. In 1919, the Army Corps of Engineers was authorized to study proposed routes, favoring a route that ran via the Mahoning and Beaver Rivers to the Ohio. The estimated the cost at the time at $120 million, which was deemed impractical and economically unsound. Supporters of the canal, particularly Youngstown Steel interests pressed their case. Routes were surveyed in 1926 and 1931. Against the steel interests were equally powerful rail interests that helped stall the project again and again. Disagreements over the route also caused problems. Pennsylvania interests started arguing a route that passed further east, entirely in Pennsylvania. Yet more funds were appropriated in 1935 for further study.

Another factor that stalled progress on the canal was opposition from rural communities in Ashtabula and northern Trumbull counties. Part of the canal plan included a dam near Farmington that would create a reservoir, the Grand River Reservoir running across Ashtabula County to just south of Ashtabula. Austinburg, Mechanicsville, Rock Creek, Eagleville, Mesopotamia, Windsor, East Trumbull and Farmington would be submerged. Rock Creek would have been under 42 feet of water.

Michael_J._Kirwan_84th_Congress_1955

Michael J. Kirwan

Michael Kirwan campaigned for the canal throughout his tenure. Given his tenure, he was a powerful figure on important committees, but he could never turn the canal into a reality. The railroads continued to resist, arguing the high costs of altering bridges. Further studies were made in 1958 and in 1965, the Army Corp of Engineers recommended construction. The death knell was sounded when Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Schafer, a Republican, refused to grant right-of-way for the canal construction in his state.

Even so, funds were allocated as late as 1988 and 1994 for feasibility studies. From an engineering and navigational point of view, it was judged feasible, but not from an economic point of view. But by then the steel industry had died.

Would the building of the canal have been a game-changer for the Valley’s steel industry? It seems to be a question of whether the enhanced and possibly more economical transportation facilities this would create would offset foreign competition. What might this have meant if it had been built by the 1960’s, enhancing a still strong industrial economy? Seems we’ll never know.

Sources:

1937-1939: Kirwan Pushes for ‘Big Ditch’ ” The Business Journal, January 8, 2008.

Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share: The Bicentennial History of Youngstown and Mahoning County (Youngstown: The Bicentennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio, 1975), pp. 216-218.

bkbrennan, “Congressman Kirwan’s Own Story” YSU Archives Weblog, May 22, 2008.

Canalization” Lake Erie and Ohio River Canal.

Judith J. Carroll, “Proposed Lake Erie-Ohio River Canal and Grand River Reservoir Records” Kent State University Libraries, April 2018.

Ed Runyan, “Warren Marker Teaches About Canal That Passed Through the Mahoning Valley” The Vindicator, July 20, 2013

Jeffrey Snedden, “A Missed Opportunity: The Canal That Never Was” The Times, October 10, 2017.

 

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Oak Hill Cemetery

David Tod Memorial.jpg

David Tod Memorial, courtesy of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society

This past weekend was one of the times many people visit cemeteries. It might be to remember a family member and place flowers at their grave. It might be to place flags at the graves of veterans to remember their service.

In writing about Youngstown, I’ve discovered that Oak Hill Cemetery is the final resting place of many of people I’ve written about: early settlers like Daniel Shehy and James Hillman (both re-interred since they died before the cemetery opened), P. Ross Berry, George Borts, Col. L. T. Foster, George Lanterman, William F. Maag, Jr., G.M. McKelvey, Reuben McMillan, John S. Pollock, Henry H. Stambaugh and James L. Wick, Jr. Two of the most famous were Governor David Tod and Titanic casualty George Dennick Wick (memorialized only since his body was never recovered). Many others from the extended Wick and Arms families also are interred here. A walk through Oak Hill Cemetery is a walk through Youngstown history. The Mahoning Valley Historical Society leads such walks each year, the next scheduled for October 26, 2019. It’s one of those things on my Youngstown bucket list.

I never had occasion to visit the cemetery growing up though we drove past it, particularly when we were visiting South Side Hospital. I did not know anyone buried in it nor the history written on those gravestones. Somewhere in the curriculum of schools, there ought to be a study of local history, and this cemetery would make a good field trip for such a unit.

Oak Hill Cemetery Lot Numbers

Oak Hill Cemetery Map. Source: Find-A-Grave, contributed by Susan Less Philips

The Mahoning Cemetery Association was formed in 1852 in response to the outward growth of the city that was over-running early cemeteries located near the downtown area. In 1853, they acquired sixteen acres from Dr. Henry Manning, who was chairman of the association and a prominent local physician. Some of the earliest burials were re-interments from the older cemeteries, including the burials of Colonel James Hillman and Daniel Shehy. Three acres were added in 1856, purchased from Dr. Manning, for burials from Youngstown Township.

The cemetery took a great step forward in 1924 when Mahoning Cemetery Association chair Henry M. Garlick led a drive raising $500,000 from families with plots in the cemetery to create an endowment that provided for the perpetual care of the cemetery grounds. Among the improvements made at the time was 6,000 feet of macadam road, an eleven foot high fence around the perimeter, leveling the graves, and planting trees and landscaping, and in 1934 an administration building on the west side of the cemetery. The granite gates at the corner of Oak Hill and High were added in 1962.

Oak Hill Cemetery postcard

Entrance to Oak Hill Cemetery before construction of the granite gates

The cemetery was not merely the final resting place of the rich and famous. Overall, 25,000 people are buried here. Scrolling through the list of Oak Hill Cemetery Memorials one comes across names of many servicemen who died during the nations wars, infants and children, and ordinary workers in the city’s industries. At a couple of periods in the history, Oak Hill interred the indigent of the city. Those still interred in the cemetery are in the Youngstown Township section.

The cemetery was landscaped by Warren H. Manning, a protege of Frederick Law Olmstead, perhaps the country’s premier landscape architect. The beauty of his work is evident to this day in the wooded hillsides and curving drives of the cemetery. He designed a fitting resting place for the men and women who invested their lives in the city and a place of peace for those who visit to remember them, or to walk through Youngstown’s history.

Sources:

Sean Barron, “Learning About Valley Figures at Oak Hill CemeteryThe Vindicator, October 29, 2017.

Matt Farragher, History of Oak Hill Cemetery. Mahoning Valley Historical Society, October 17, 2012.

Oak Hill Cemetery Tour,” Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

Oak Hill Cemetery,” Find-A-Grave.

Oak Hill Cemetery Memorials,” Find-A-Grave.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Central Tower (First National Tower)

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First National Tower, Photo by Jack Pearce (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

Most of us who grew up in Youngstown knew it as Central Tower. Located at 1 West Federal Plaza, the building dominates Central Square as the tallest building in Youngstown at a height of 224 feet and seventeen stories. The next highest is the Wick Building at 184 feet. By big city standards, that is not very high. One World Trade Center in New York City is 1,792 feet high at the tip of the tower and has 104 floors. But when I was a kid and had an appointment at an orthodontist’s office in the building, it looked HUGE! I remembered the brass elevators, operated, if I remember correctly, by human elevator operators who would open and close the doors, greet you, and ask you what floor you wanted.

The building is a fine example of Art Deco style (the same style as the Warner Theater). In 2014, a historic marker was erected outside the building recognizing its distinctive style and historic status, by Youngstown Cityscape, The Frank and Pearl Gelbman Foundation, The Mahoning Valley Historical Society, and the Ohio History Connection. The inscription on the sign, as transcribed by the Historic Marker Database captures the distinctive style characteristics and history of the building:

Central TowerOne of northeast Ohio’s finest Art Deco examples, the 17-story Central Tower was designed by Morris W. Scheibel (1887-1976) for Central Savings & Loan in 1929. Scheibel’s use of stepped-back upper floors, an Egyptian-inspired entrance, and chevron-patterned tiles at the parapet reflects Art Deco’s streamlined style. The opulent interior of the tower lobby retains a Botticino marble staircase, engraved brass elevator doors, ornately decorated metalwork, nd a colorful molded plaster ceiling. Youngstown’s tallest skyscraper, whose name has evolved over time to reflect the changes in ownership, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Scheibel and his partner Edgar Stanley also designed the Realty Building directly across Market Street. 

The building opened on December 23, 1929, not quite two months after the stock market of 1929, as the headquarters for Central Savings and Loan. Sadly, the savings and loan did not survive the Depression but the building name endured. In 1976 Metropolitan Savings and Loan, which did survive the Depression, set up its headquarters in the tower, and in 1980, purchased it for $2 million, renaming it Metropolitan Tower. Metropolitan was acquired by First National Bank in 1985, changed its name in 1987 to Metropolitan National Bank, and in 2002 took the name of its parent company and became First National Bank. With the name change for the bank came another name change for the building, which became First National Tower. In 2007, First National Bank sold the tower to a Cleveland-based investment group led by Lou Frangos, while maintaining its name and operations in the building. Currently, most space in the building rents for $9 per square foot a year (comparable rents downtown in Columbus, where I live, range between $12 and $30 per square foot).

The building has gone through changes of ownership and name. To me, it will always be Central Tower.  I’m glad it’s distinctive architecture and features have been preserved and recognized. I hope it will be part of the renewal of downtown Youngstown and continue to stand head and shoulders above other buildings in the city.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — East Federal Street

East Federal Street

East Federal Street, probably some time in the 1940’s or early 50’s. Stambaugh Building and Realty Building are in the foreground. Photo source unknown.

One of the things that I’ve discovered is that there is a real gap in my memories of Youngstown east of Central Square. For a short time in the 1960’s my father worked at Haber’s Furniture at 200 East Federal and as a kid, I went to the YMCA on North Champion every Saturday for a couple years. I honestly have a hard time remembering much else. I remember the Stambaugh and Realty Buildings opposite each other just east of the square. Most of my memories of downtown, particularly because I worked at McKelvey’s during high school and college, were west of the square. I went to an orthodontist in Central Tower and remember stores like Strouss,’ Lustig’s, Reicharts, Fanny Farmers, Stambaugh-Thompson’s, Record Rendezvous, and of course, the Home Savings Building.

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East Federal Street in the 1960’s. Photo from Mahoning Valley Historical Society archives.

Looking at old photographs of East Federal Street, I am amazed at the sheer number of stores and businesses, many with awning fronts, that lined East Federal from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. In one photo, I can make out Rocky’s Tavern, Castle Jewelers, East Federal Furniture Company, Factory Shoe Store, Lewis Apparel on Credit, Volunteers of America Opportunity Store, Fishers Dry Goods, and a partially obscured sign for Modern…. Another has signs for the Bargain Store, Marlane, The Atlas Grille, and Downtown Tile Center. Others have signs for Nick’s Shoe Repair, a camera and jewelry store, Leonard’s Clothes Shop, Best Cleaners, Philco/Royal TV Service, the Regent Theater, LeCar Furniture Store, an Army-Navy store, and a Sherwin-Williams paint and wallpaper store. All of these can be seen in a Homeplate TV/MetroMonthly video of East Federal Street in the 1960’s. At one time Rulli Brothers had two stores on East Federal, at 345 and at 21. Eventually the consolidated to the 21 E. Federal location.

I noticed two things from the pictures. One was that this was usually a busy place, cars lining the streets and a number of people on the sidewalks. The other was that the names suggested that these stores may have served a more economically-challenged part of Youngstown than the stores on the other side of Central Square. Bargain stores, stores offering apparel on credit, repair shops for shoes and appliances probably served those who lived paycheck to paycheck.

All these old storefronts are gone. The Realty and Stambaugh Buildings remain (the latter now a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel) as does the Haber Building now owned by Ohio One with an additional story. East Gateway Community College now occupies the block between South Champion and South Walnut. The YMCA is still on North Champion. But the cityscape has totally changed.

The gap in my own memories of East Federal seems to be matched with a lack of information in books I have or online articles apart from a few videos. I’d love to hear from others who have memories of downtown east of Central Square. It’s plain to me that downtown wasn’t just on West Federal back then. I’d like to know more about what I missed.

 

 

Review: Clingan’s Chronicles

Clingan's Chronicles

Clingan’s Chronicles, Clingan Jackson. Youngstown: Youngstown Publishing Co., 1991.

Summary: A memoir of Youngstown political writer and office holder, Clingan Jackson.

Clingan Jackson was a newswriter, and later political editor of The Vindicator, Youngstown’s newspaper from 1929 until 1983. His life spanned most of the twentieth century (1907 to 1997), and this memoir, published six years before his death chronicles not only his life, but nearly a century of local and political history in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. As you can imagine, covering political life in the Mahoning Valley makes for an interesting narrative!

Jackson actually begins his account with family history of both the Clingans and the Jacksons that make up his lineage and how they came to Coitsville Township, what eventually became part of the East side of Youngstown. We learn about the family homestead on Jacobs Road (still standing) and how they were among the early settlers of the area. During part of his youth, his immediate family moved to Carbon, Pennsylvania, just across the state line, while he attended Lowellville High School in Ohio, holding his first political office as class president of his class of fifteen.

He spent his college years at the University of Colorado in Boulder, majoring in English and History, good preparation for a political writer. He describes the typical experiences both of learning and social fraternities, and the highlight of hearing Will Rogers speak. Reading this narrative, one senses he sought in his own writing to be a commentator on politics in the vein of Rogers.

After graduation, he returned to Youngstown in 1929, and almost immediately hired on with The Vindicator. At the end of 1929, he received notice that his job was ending, but when he went to turn in his key, the publisher let him stay on until he found another job. He ended up staying fifty-four years.  His account of covering The Little Steel Strike of 1937 was one of the most riveting parts of the book. Here is a portion:

“Ed Salt, a Vindicator photographer, and I were dispatched to Poland Avenue to cover the tense situation. It was growing dark by that time, lights were being shot out and hundreds of men were milling along the street. We parked near the fire station and started walking down the sidewalk. As we passed by a bush, we saw its leaves completely eliminated as a shotgun blast rang out. Being a brave man, I went back to the fire station; needing to take pictures, Salt pushed onward.

When I arrived at the station someone exclaimed, ‘Salt has been shot.’ Mustering my courage, I went to his rescue, and found him with his white shirt completely bloodied. I got him into the car, and we headed up Poland Avenue. Although the street was barricaded, I persuaded the pickets to let the car through by explaining I had a passenger who needed to go to the hospital.”

His tenure as political editor spanned the presidencies from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. Perhaps one of the little known facts about Jackson that came out in the book was that he was a pioneer in political polling and his polls more often than not were right on the money. The Gallup organization consulted with him on his methods. His book narrates his coverage of a number of the national political conventions during these years as well as the local politics of Youngstown, and particularly its shift over time to a Democrat Party-dominated town. We meet both office-holders and party leaders, including John Vitullo who helped lead the Democrats to their ascendancy.

One of the unique aspects of Jackson’s career is that he both covered politics and held office at the same time, and satisfied his publisher with his ability to impartially cover politics. He held office as a city council person in Lowellville, and state representative and senator. Later, he was appointed to a number of state commissions. His career was distinguished by introducing the first strip-mining act, helping create the state Department of Natural Resources, and participating in commissions that laid out the state’s interstate highways and later, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. As he writes about his various association with both Democrat and Republican governors and other leaders, one has the sense that he, like Hubert Humphrey, was a “happy warrior,” far removed from the partisan vitriol of the present day.

His final chapters reflect back over his career, his retired life (although he continued contributing articles for the Youngstown-Warren Business Journal into the 1990), and his three marriages. Though aware of his own failings, what makes this part of the book quite wonderful is the deep joy and gratitude evident as he thinks of his times, his acceptance of his own mortality, and his thankfulness for each of his wives, two of whom pre-deceased him. He wrote of his three wives, “Good fortune is a necessary element of most any man’s success, and mine was having three farm girls for wives.”

The book includes a number of photographs of his life, surroundings, and of the people and places of Youngstown. Between each chapter are columns he wrote between the 1950’s and the 1990’s.

The voice in this memoir is warm and personal and has the feeling of a transcription of oral history. It strikes me that his book is a memoir of what might be looked back upon as a golden age of journalism, politics, and perhaps, the Mahoning Valley. People interested in any of these subjects will enjoy his account.

____________________________

Although published in 1991, I learned that new copies of the book may be purchased by contacting The Business Journal (the last publication Jackson wrote for) at 330-744-5023 Ext. 1008, asking for Eileen Lovell. Cost is $20 plus sales tax.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — How Mahoning Became a County

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Map of Mahoning County showing original lots and farms from 1860. Image source: Library of Congress

Have you ever looked at a map of Mahoning County? Have you ever wondered why the five townships that make up the southern part of the county are bigger than the townships in the northern part of the county (six instead of five miles square), destroying what would be a neat rectangle? Have you wondered why the southern county line jogs north, cutting out parts of Green and Goshen Townships? Why is the county fair of Mahoning County in Canfield? And did you know that “Mahoning” is the fourth county designation in our local history?

Originally, the Mahoning Valley was part of a huge Washington County that stretched from the Ohio River to Lake Erie at the time of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787. General Arthur St. Clair set up the county on July 27, 1788. Eventually, the county was subdivided into a smaller northern portion, named Jefferson County. Then with the creation of the Western Reserve, what were the two rows of five townships in the northernmost part of what is now Mahoning County, became the southernmost part of Trumbull County. From 1800 to 1846, Youngstown was one of the villages in Trumbull County, and involved from the beginning in a battle for the honor of being county seat, the honor going to Warren.

In the 1840’s the routing of canals and railroads through Youngstown led to a much more rapid industrial expansion than in Warren. Warren’s old frame courthouse at the time was somewhat unbecoming and too small. Also, the growing population in Youngstown, Canfield, and other southern townships had no voice in the state legislature while those from the northern parts of Trumbull County dominated. Finally with the election of Eben Newton from Canfield in 1842 to the State Senate and representatives in the lower house from Youngstown forces coalesced over the next several years to explore several proposals for a new county. Finally, a proposal creating Mahoning County passed in the state legislature on February 16, 1846.

To keep Warren roughly central in Trumbull County, it was decided to form the new county out of the two southern rows of five townships (Poland, Boardman, Canfield, Ellsworth and Berlin, in the south, and Coitsville, Youngstown, Austintown,  Jackson, and Milton in the north). It was also proposed to make the northern tier of Columbiana County townships part of the new county (Springfield, Beaver, Green, Goshen, and Smith). The Western Reserve townships were surveyed on five mile squares, Columbiana townships on six mile squares. That accounts for the irregular shape of Mahoning County with the southern tier of townships extending further west. Also, the jog in the southern county line of the new Mahoning County kept Salem in Columbiana County.

While the creation of Mahoning County resolved the conflict between Youngstown and Warren, it created a new one between Youngstown and Canfield. If you look at a map of the county, Canfield is geographically central. As it turns out, Canfield officials also were on the ball. Eben Newton, now a judge, donated the land for a courthouse and the people subscribed $10,000 for its construction, beating out Youngstown at the time.

With the creation of the new county with its county seat in Canfield, the new county staged its first county fair in Canfield the following year in 1847, the first of these annual events. Canfield got the county seat and the county fair, but the war for the seat of government in Mahoning County was not over. In 1876, Youngstown finally won the county seat. But that’s a story for another time.

And that is the story of how Mahoning became a county.

Sources:

Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share: The Bicentennial History of Youngstown and Mahoning County (Youngstown: The Bicentennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio, 1975), pp. 67-72.

Joseph G. Butler, History of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley, Ohio. Volume 1 (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1921), pp. 184-191.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Clingan Jackson

Clingan's Chronicles

Clingan Jackson, on the cover of Clingan’s Chronicles

Recently, one of the followers of this blog recommended reading Clingan’s Chronicles written by Clingan Jackson. I remembered his columns from when I delivered The Vindicator, and who read him avidly as one of the first eighteen-year-olds to get the vote. I’m in the middle of the book, which is a fascinating combination of memoir, and history of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. Particularly its political history.

Clingan Jackson was the long time political editor at The Vindicator. He not only knew the political history of the Valley better than anyone of his time. He helped make it as a State Representative and later State Senator in the 1930’s. In 1950, he finally lost his Senate seat to Charles Carney, who later represented the Youngstown area in Congress. During his time at the State House, he introduced the first strip mining act, and later helped create the Ohio Department of Natural Resources–an environmentalist long before this became a cause. He ran for governor in 1958, losing badly. He also served on several state commissions.

Jackson was born into one of the “first families” of Youngstown. Ancestors, the McFalls, actually lived as trappers on Dry Run Creek (where McKelvey Lake is now located) even before John Young first established Youngstown. His great grandfather, John Calvin Jackson settled in the Coitsville area on the east side of Youngstown in 1804. His grandfather, who served as a Mahoning County Commissioner in the 1870’s and helped engineer the move of the county seat to Youngstown, built the family homestead on Jacobs Road. Clingan Jackson was born on March 28, 1907. He says one of his earliest memories was seeing his father come in on a snowy day to announce the election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912. It was a political family where heated discussion was common and not all agreed.

Jackson’s parents moved around. For a time, they lived across the state line in Hillsville where his father worked at the Carbon Limestone Company. He was allowed to attend Lowellville High School because of his Ohio roots. He joined his brother John at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1925 and returned to Youngstown after graduation in 1929. He worked at the electric company for a few months and then started working for The Vindicator for $25 a week. His first job was fetching stock quotations from local brokerages, which gave him a first hand glimpse of the panic when the market crashed in October of 1929. He covered the beginnings of the labor movement in Youngstown in the early 1930’s and the Little Steel Strike of 1937. His narrative captures the risks reporters of his time went through to get the story:

“Ed Salt, a Vindicator photographer, and I were dispatched to Poland Avenue to cover the tense situation. It was growing dark by that time, lights were being shot out and hundreds of men were milling along the street. We parked near the fire station and started walking down the sidewalk. As we passed by a bush, we saw its leaves completely eliminated as a shotgun blast rang out. Being a brave man, I went back to the fire station; needing to take pictures, Salt pushed onward.

When I arrived at the station someone exclaimed, ‘Salt has been shot.’ Mustering my courage, I went to his rescue, and found him with his white shirt completely bloodied. I got him into the car, and we headed up Poland Avenue. Although the street was barricaded, I persuaded the pickets to let the car through by explaining I had a passenger who needed to go to the hospital.”

It turns out that Salt was covered with shotgun pellet wounds, none serious.

Youngstown Vindicator Clingan Jackson 09011968

Part of Clingan Jackson’s column from the September 1, 1968 Vindicator, the Sunday after the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention

He became the political editor of The Vindicator in 1938 and continued in that role until 1983. He covered every president from Roosevelt through Reagan, and the congressional terms of Michael Kirwan, Charles Carney, Lyle Williams, and Jim Traficant. Although a lifelong Democrat, and at times an officeholder, his real fascination was with the practice of politics and he was able to cover Democrats and Republicans impartially. He was one of the pioneers in political polling, and the accuracy of his polls brought him to the attention of George Gallup.

Andrea Wood did a feature for WYTV on Clingan Jackson toward the end of his tenure at the Vindicator, in 1980. It is fascinating to watch him hunt and peck at a computer terminal while chomping on his trademark cigar. He comes across as the classic newspaper man. She later helped him with the editing work on Clingan’s Chronicles.

He retired from The Vindicator in 1983. He went on to contribute a column to the Youngstown-Warren Business Journal into the 1990’s. He passed away on March 26, 1997, two days shy of 90. He joined a number of his ancestors who are buried in the Coitsville Presbyterian-Jackson Cemetery. He was married three times, with two of his wives preceding him in death, Virginia and Thelma (“Billy”). His third wife, Loretta Fitch Jackson owned Loretta Fitch Florist at the intersection of Routes 616 and 422 in Coitsville. He wrote of his three wives, “Good fortune is a necessary element of most any man’s success, and mine was having three farm girls for wives.”

Sources:

Clingan Jackson, Clingan’s Chronicles (Youngstown: Youngstown Publishing Co., 1991)

Ted Heineman, Senator Clingan Jackson” Riverside Cemetery Journal, 2009.

Andrea Wood, Monthly News Magazine — WYTV, February 1980.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — John D. “Bonesetter” Reese

John_D.__Bonesetter__Reese_

John D. “Bonesetter” Reese. Public Domain

When I wrote about the Welsh in Youngstown last week and the Welsh Congregational Church, someone asked me about “Bonesetter” Reese. I had to tell the truth that I had never heard of him. It turns out that he may win the award of the most famous Welshman to have a Youngstown connection. More remarkable, he treated everyone from mill workers to athletes to a British Prime Minister yet he dropped out of medical school after only three weeks. He was known as the nation’s “baseball doctor.” He would never be able to do what he did today. And there is evidence that the medical profession at the time wasn’t too happy about him.

He was born in 1855 in Rhymney, Wales, losing his father in infancy and his mother ten years later. He went to work in the ironworks and was befriended by a fellow worker, Tom Jones who was known as a “bonesetter.” The term had to do with manipulating bones and muscles to alleviate various strains of muscles and tendons, and maybe some dislocations, but not actual broken bones. His work sounds akin to a contemporary chiropractor.

He moved to the United States in 1887, working first for Jones & Laughlin Steel. Later, he moved to Youngstown, working for Brown-Bonnell and then for the Mahoning Valley Iron Company as a roller, a skilled position. His other skills soon became evident as he treated fellow-workers suffering various strains and sprains. James Anson Campbell, at that time an administrator, and later Chairman of Youngstown Sheet and Tube, encouraged him to go to medical school.

By 1894, he had so many “patients,” he had to quit his work at the mill. This attracted the notice of local doctors who accused him of practicing medicine without a license. As a result, he did not charge a set fee for his services, which would violate law. He told factory workers “pay me when you get it.” To address the criticism, he went to the medical school at Case in 1897–for three weeks before dropping out. It didn’t hinder his practice and eventually, the tensions were alleviated, both because of influential friends, and strict boundaries of what he would treat, referring acute illnesses to physicians. Eventually the Ohio Legislature, by extraordinary action, licensed his practice.

His initial connection with Major League Baseball came through treating Jimmy McAleer, a fellow Youngstowner who played for the Cleveland Spiders. Eventually, McAleer managed the St. Louis Browns and sent players to Reese. In 1903, the Pirates tried to hire him as team doctor but he refused to leave Youngstown and his practice with the mill workers who were always his first priority.

He became skilled in treating players and many came to him including some of the most famous of the time including Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Walter Johnson, and John McGraw. He dealt with sore elbows, often the affliction of fastball pitchers, and sore shoulders, the affliction of curve ball pitchers. He also treated boxers and football players. Other famous people sought his services including Will Rogers, Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Evans Hughes and fellow Welshman David Lloyd George, who eventually served as Great Britain’s Prime Minister.

His obituary in The New York Times tells this story of some of the wonders he worked:

“One of Mr. Reese’s most remarkable cures was worked on the throwing arm of Glenn Wright, Brooklyn shortstop. The limb was injured in a basketball game in the off-season and in the middle of the 1929 National League campaign Wright quit the game, apparently ‘through.’ Reese worked on the arm that Autumn, and in the Spring of 1930 the brilliant infielder came back with a wing that cut down baserunners with rifle-like throws from all angles of the short field.”

In 1926, the American branch of the Welsh Gorsedd selected Reese for its highest honor, the Druidic degree, recognizing his service to humanity. The degree was awarded during an Eisteddfod at Wick Park.

He died of heart disease on November 29, 1931 in Youngstown. His funeral service was held at the Welsh Congregational Church. His minister summed up his life in these terms:

“He began to serve early in his life and kept on. He was faithful to the end. The only life worth living is the life of service”

Reese called Youngstown home for forty years and chose to stay and serve local residents as well as the illustrious who sought his treatment. His remains rest to this day, along with those of his wife, Sarah, at Oak Hill Cemetery.

Sources:

Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share: The Bicentennial History of Youngstown and Mahoning County (Youngstown: The Bicentennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio, 1975), pp. 236-237.

David W. Anderson, “Bonesetter Reese” Society for American Baseball Research.

John D. Reese,” Wikipedia.

BONESETTER REESE DIES AT AGE OF 76,” The New York Times, November 30, 1931, p. 17.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Welsh in Youngstown

Welsh_Congregational_Church

Welsh Congregational Church building. Photo by Nyttend. Public Domain via Wikimedia

When I was a student at Youngstown State, I would often finish classes in the afternoon and walk down to McKelvey’s, either to work on Monday and Thursday evenings when they were open, or to catch a ride home on other days, with my father, who also worked there. My route would take me past the magnificent St. Columba’s, but also past a much plainer church building on the other side of Elm St., the Welsh Congregational Church. The church had wood siding painted white, similar to many churches one sees in rural towns, but with a cruciform shape with the two arms toward the front of the building. Dormer windows had crosses above them, and a steeple topped the entry facade.

I knew Youngstown was a mix of many ethnic communities, but I knew absolutely nothing about the Welsh community in Youngstown. In writing about Youngstown over the last several years, I discovered that the Welsh played an important role in the development of the coal, iron, and steel industry in the city. David Tod, who opened one of the first coal mines in Brier Hill, employed John Davis to run his mining operation. Davis played a crucial role in recruiting a number of other Welsh immigrants to come to the Mahoning Valley. Welshman William Philpot built the Eagle Furnace in Brier Hill and William Richards, another Welshman managed the operation. By the 1840’s, there was a sizable community living in Brier Hill and elsewhere. 

The Welsh are known for their singing.  Music festivals known as eisteddfods were major occasions with various choirs competing for top honors. Given the robust Welsh community in Youngstown, it was the home for the first eisteddfod in Ohio in 1860, and the first annual state competition in 1885. St. David is the patron saint of Wales, and Saint David’s Day, March 1, is another time when the Welsh gathered for food and song. The St. David’s Society was formed in 1891 in Youngstown, hosting banquets complete with music and storytelling down to this day. At one time, in the early 1900’s, up to 15,000 Welsh from Youngstown and surrounding areas gathered for annual picnics at Idora Park.

In 1845, a group of Welsh formed a Congregational Church in Brier Hill. The name reflected their history as churches independent of the Church of England in England and Wales. Thomas Evans was their first pastor.  In 1861, Thomas W. Davis became the church’s pastor and they built the church I walked past 110 or so years later. It quickly became a center of Welsh community activities. In 1887, the building underwent major reconstruction, essentially in the form it survives in to this day.

The church worshiped at this site for over 100 years. In 1976, the building was sold to the Messiah Holiness Church of God in Christ, who worshiped there until 1997, when a fire resulted in the building being permanently closed. This would spell the end of most buildings, but in 1986, the building was registered in the National Register of Historic Places because of its architecture and community history. It is the oldest church building in Youngstown.

The Youngstown Catholic Diocese now owns the property, wants to preserve the building while re-purposing the space, and has asked Youngstown CityScape, a non-profit involved in beautification and redevelopment efforts in the greater downtown, to move the building. Youngstown CityScape has funds to move the building, which has been deemed architecturally sound for such a move, and are seeking funds to renovate the building, at an estimated cost of $700,000. The problem has been finding a suitable site nearby. Originally, there were plans to move the church building to Wick Park, where CityScape has been engaged in a number of improvement projects. That move has been nixed, and other sites have been proposed from land in the Youngstown Land Bank, to the “Wedge” greenspace near the Steel Museum, to the site of St. Anthony’s on the River on Oak Hill. A major issue for any location is that the city not be saddled with ongoing costs.

It is not clear at this time what the solution is. One clearly needs to be found soon to avoid further deterioration of the building, necessitating razing the structure. It is a significant part of Youngstown history, representing a community that contributed significantly to the building of the city, and the oldest house of worship in the city. Perhaps it is time for an appeal to St. David…

Sources for this article:

Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share: The Bicentennial History of Youngstown and Mahoning County (Youngstown: The Bicentennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio, 1975), pp. 45-46.

Welsh Congregational Church,” Wikipedia

William Osborn, Music in Ohio (Kent: Kent State University Press, 2004), p. 363.

Linda Linonis, “St. David’s Society Preserves Welsh Heritage,” The Vindicator, February 19, 2014.

The Old Welsh Congregational Church,” Y-Town is My Town, Monday April 10, 2006.

CityScape shares plans to move Welsh church to Wick Park,” The Vindicator, July 20, 2018.

Graig Graziosi, “Welsh Congregational Church may stay put for the moment,” The Vindicator, September 16, 2018.

Wick Park no longer site for relocating Youngstown’s oldest church,”  WKBN.com,  September 27, 2018.

Preserve Wick Park,” Facebook.

Jordyn Grzelewski, “Oak Hill Collaborative announces sale of former Anthony’s On the River,” The Vindicator, November 29, 2018.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — George J. Renner Jr.

George J Renner JrHe built the largest brewery in Youngstown. He made failing businesses profitable and suffered several reverses from which he re-built each time. He built one of the most beautiful homes bordering Wick Park, now on the National Register of Historic Places. He was George J. Renner Jr.

A big man at six foot three inches with broad shoulders, he could lift a full barrel of beer onto a wagon by himself. A professional wrestler once persisted in challenging him to a match at a bar, the loser buying a round of drinks. Renner refused, was repeatedly badgered, until they finally came to grips, at which Renner threw the other man over his head and walked out.

Renner came from a brewing family. His father ran breweries in Cincinnati, Mansfield, and Akron. After learning the trade from his father, he ran breweries in Zanesville and Wooster, making losing operations profitable. Learning of an idle brewing plant on Pike Street on the south side of Youngstown, off Oak Hill, overlooking the Mahoning River (and what is now I-680), he purchased the plant for $4800 in 1885. The plant had an onsite water source, an artesian well. 

Renner’s first home was next to the plant at 209 Pike Street. He refurbished the plant and began operating it more or less as a solo operation at first, brewing, selling, delivering, and collecting payments. By January of 1889, he had a small core of employees including plant engineer, George Richter. A plant boiler exploded, killing Richter, and resulting in a fire destroying the plant, now valued at $75,000. Parts of the boiler were found on the other side of the Mahoning River.

Obtaining loans and an inadequate insurance payment, Renner built a state of the art brewery from the ground up in 1890, adding a bottling operation in 1895. The new plant had an 18,000 barrel annual capacity and this was further enlarged in 1913. He had stables for 52 horses for the delivery wagons. In 1907, he had sixty employees and the largest brewing operation in the city.

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George J. Renner Jr. Mansion, 277 Park Avenue. Photo by Nyttend, Public Domain via Wikipedia

In the same year, he began construction of his home on Park Avenue by Wick Park. It is a three-story, Georgian Revival brick mansion. The two story portico on the front is support by four pairs of columns with ionic capitals. It has a tiled roof. The interior walls between rooms are 18 inches thick with many of the rooms having pocket doors. The construction cost was projected at $40,000 but eventually soared to $75,000 by the time the home was complete.

The brewery explosion was not the last setback Renner faced. The beginning of Prohibition in 1919 led to shutting down the plant after an unprofitable attempt to sell a non-alcoholic beer (Reno). After 1921, they bottled soft drinks and stayed afloat due to real estate holdings. Most of the plant lay dormant. When Prohibition ended in 1933, Renner spent $250,000 renovating and expanding the plant, employing 200 men at the height of the Depression. The renovated plant had a capacity of 100,000 barrels annual production, later raised to 175,000. They produced a number of lines of beers and ales, serving Youngstown and neighboring counties. At this time, close to Renner’s death on December 1, 1935, the company’s stock was valued at $600,000, quite a significant increase from Renner’s initial investment of $4800 in 1885.

The family sold the home in 1939, at which time it was broken up into apartments. As for the brewery, Renner’s son Emil became chairman of the board for the remainder of the company’s history. His son Robert became president in 1948, at a time when national companies increasingly challenged its position in local markets. Efforts to modernize and compete kept them afloat for a time but the brewery shut down in November of 1962. An investment group purchased the buildings in 1963 but they remained vacant until a fire on the site in 1978, after which most of the buildings were razed.

The Renner House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. All this does is state that the home has historic and architectural value that is worth preserving. Currently, it is a rental property listed as having fifteen apartments. Hopefully it will remain as the one visible mark of Youngstown’s greatest brewers. And the next time you pour yourself a tall, cold one, raise a glass to George J. Renner, Jr., Youngstown’s greatest brewer.

Sources:

George J. Renner Jr. (1856-1935)“, Riverside Cemetery Journal.

Renner Brewing Company, Youngstown, Ohio” Ohio Breweriana.com

George J. Renner Jr. House” Wikipedia.

George J. Renner Jr. Mansion” All Things Youngstown

277 Park Avenue – Youngstown, Ohio” ApartmentFinder