Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Daniel Shehy (Sheehy)

Daniel Shehy Cabin

An illustration of the cabin erected by Daniel Shehy, From History of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, Ohio, Volume 1, By Joseph Green Butler

Who was the first settler of Youngstown (other  than native peoples)? The standard answer of course is John Young who surveyed the land, purchased the township, platted the initial settlement, and built the first cabin near Spring Common. This has been disputed by a descendant of Daniel Shehy who contends that Young never lived in Youngstown, nor built the first cabin. Clarence A. Horton writes:

“After purchasing the land Daniel Shehy began at once to construct Youngstown’s first cabin along the river on it’s north-eastern side at a point which later became known as Edgewood Street and Truesdale Avenue. The cabin was made of rough logs about 16 by 20 feet, one story and all in one room.” (As quoted in Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share, p. 31).

Daniel Shehy (while it is often rendered “Sheehy”, a descendant wrote me to assert the spelling with the single “e”) without question was one of the first settlers. Born in 1756 in Tipperary, Ireland, he fled to America during the Revolution when two near relatives were executed for opposition to government policies. He joined John Young enroute to survey the township lands Young had agreed to purchased, subject to survey. He had $2,000 in gold to invest and agreed to purchase 1000 acres of land, 400 on the east side of the Mahoning, 600 on the west. Shehy and Young ended up in a land dispute when it appeared that Young sold the land Shehy had agreed to buy to a subsequent purchaser. It took two trips to Connecticut to resolve the question (Youngstown was part of Connecticut’s Western Reserve lands). The dispute even landed Shehy in jail and fined $25 for threats against Young.

Some contend that the settlement of the dispute, granting him the 400 acres east of the Mahoning, came when Shehy’s wife Jane named a son John Young Shehy. Daniel and Jane met July 4, 1797 when Shehy, Young, and James Hillman went to nearby Beavertown, Pennsylvania, to celebrate the holiday. They married the same year and had a number of children.

Beyond being one of the first, if not the first settler and presumably farming the land he finally gained title to, Shehy doesn’t appear to play a major role beyond appearing in an early list of taxpayers. The Reverend Thomas Martin celebrated the first Catholic services in Youngstown in their home in 1826.  His cabin appears in a famous horse race between Youngstown and Warren for the county seat of what was then a single county, Trumbull County. The Youngstown horse, Fly, won and kept running for a mile past the finish to Shehy’s cabin. For some reason, Warren still got the county seat.

Daniel Shehy died January 20, 1834, survived by Jane until 1856. His name endures on Shehy Street, on the east side, running from Wilson Avenue to Oak Street south of Himrod. Along with James Hillman and other early Youngstown residents, he is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

If some family descendants or others up on Youngstown history can add to this account, please leave comments here. Shehy was a key figure in Youngstown history but there is little more written about him that I could find than is written here.