Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Lake Cohasset

lake-cohasset

Lake Cohasset in Autumn, Photo by Bob Trube

“Cohasset” was significant to me in two respects. My grandparents, on my father’s side, lived on Cohasset Drive, at that time a beautiful tree-lined street, that on the west side of Glenwood Avenue dead ends on Mill Creek Park above Lake Cohasset, which I have always regarded as the most scenic of Mill Creek Park’s lakes.

There are a number of different definitions of the word “Cohasset,” all of which fit Lake Cohasset. Wikipedia states that it was an Algonquian name, a contraction of “Conahasset,” meaning “long rocky place.” Britannica’s definition is similar, saying the word derives from the Algonquian names “Quonohassit (Conohasset)” and meaning “rocky promontory” or “high place.” Carol Potter and Rick Shale, in Historic Mill Creek Park, state that the word means ” ‘place of the hemlocks or pines’ in the language of the Delaware Indians” (who are one of the Algonquian peoples). Similarly, the 20th Century History of Youngstown and Mahoning County says the word means “place of pines.” There are rocky bluffs on both sides of  this long, narrow lake, which is lined by hemlocks and other pines. However you define it, the name fits! And like many place names in Ohio (itself a Seneca name), it comes from the native peoples who were here before us.

Lake Cohasset, covering 28 acres, was the first artificial lake in the park, created by a dam at its north end in 1897, shortly after Volney Rogers helped create Mill Creek Park. The dam is 23 feet high, and the spillway 147 feet in length. Volney Rogers described the dam construction as follows:

“The foundation is a hard, fine grained sandstone rock, and this was excavated by pick only to a depth of from eighteen inches to four feet across the gorge, the width and length of walls and abutments. This excavation was filled with masonry of sandstone and cement. The walls are of cut stone, rock face, both beds and joints of every stone being broken. The result is a simple, strong, durable and appropriate structure, whose waterfall and accompanying scenery will delight visitors for long, long ages.”

More than 120 years later, visitors still delight in both the structure and accompanying scenery!

In the early days the park purchased a naphtha boat offering round trip excursions for 10 cents, in 1898. The boat was called the Narama. People would hold moonlight parties on the Lake. In 1924, a bathing pool and bath house were opened up on the south end of Lake Cohasset. Howard C. Aley writes in A Heritage to Share:

“A new bathing pool at the head of Lake Cohasset was opened to the public, with bathing suits in all sizes and colors available for rent at 20 cents an hour, plus 10 cents for dressing room and towel. Sunday bathing was available for those who could not swim during the week.”

Boating, swimming and fishing in Lake Cohasset have long been banned, as they are currently. One of the things that contributes to the serenity of the place is the lack of activity on the lake. Hiking on the trails that run along either side of the lake allows one to view the Lake in all its beauty throughout the year. The old East Drive above the lake is now converted to a hiking and biking trail, while the West Drive remains open for automobiles. In recent years 42 bird species have been observed around the lake.

The lake was dredged in 1949 and as far as I know, has not been since. One of the recommendations following high E. coli levels in the Mill Creek watershed that led to closure of all three lakes in 2015 was the dredging of Lake Cohasset due to sediment buildup. At this time, no further action has been taken.

Volney Rogers wrote of Lake Cohasset in A Partial Description of Mill Creek Park, Youngstown, Ohio:

“The vistas from both drives, and from the foot-paths present some of the most charming park scenes in America….

The cliffs and bluffs around the lake, and in view from its waters are clothed with lichens, mosses, ferns, wild flowers, and shrubs, as well as trees, and as a whole present one of Nature’s very best lake borders.”

This is one of the treasures of Youngstown that I hope the Mill Creek Metroparks leadership will exercise good stewardship to preserve. The views and the natural beauty of this setting that Rogers are those I remember from my youth and have treasured on visits back home. I hope they will be there for the “long, long ages” of which Rogers wrote.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mill Creek Park

First of all, I have to say a big “thank you” to all of you (mostly Youngstowners and former Youngstowners) who viewed and commented on my last post on Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown–Food. Far and away, this has been the most viewed post in my nine month experience of blogging. It has been a delight to share food memories with so many other Youngstowners (and our laments over the lack of good Italian food anywhere else!).

Lake Cohasset

Lake Cohasset (c)Robert C Trube, 2014

Along with food, Mill Creek Park (now MetroPark) has played a huge part in many of our lives growing up. The park grew up along the course of Mill Creek, a scenic stream that flowed into the industrial Mahoning River.  It was initially created through the efforts of Youngstown attorney Volney Rogers in 1891. In 1906, Lake Glacier was created by damning the stream at a narrow point. I remember that it was during the 1960s that the Lake Glacier Boat House was built. Lake Newport, added to the park through a land donation in 1924, was dammed in 1928. More recently, the south end has been allowed to revert to a wetlands area.  By far, the most beautiful of the lakes in my opinion is Lake Cohasset, the earliest to be created, in 1897. Lanterman’s Mill, the recipient of proceeds from the sales of Recipes of Youngstownand featured on the book’s cover, was built in 1845-46 and is still in operation and you can purchase freshly ground grain from the mill. (All the factual information for this part of my post comes from Wikipedia.)

The Lily Pond

The Lily Pond, (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

Located southwest of the industrial belt of steel mills lining the Mahoning River that runs through Youngstown, the park provided a respite from the hard work, noise, and pollution associated with steel-making. Picnic shelters situated throughout the park provided a wonderful place for family gatherings. Taking boats out onto Lakes Glacier or Newport on a summer Sunday afternoon or a baseball game on one of the diamonds at Rocky Ridge (now the James L Wick Recreation Area) or an evening family walk with day old bread to feed the gold fish at the Lily Pond were refreshing breaks from work in the mills or other manufacturing plants.

My life’s journey runs through Mill Creek Park even though we haven’t lived in Youngstown for many years. I treasure walks my dad and I took along the many trails running through the park. I still remember a Saturday morning when we got up early, took a frying pan, bacon and eggs, and made breakfast over an open fire at one of the fire rings in the park. My brother and his wife had wedding photographs taken on the little footbridge near the boat house at Lake Glacier in 1968 (I was best man). Often when I had free time in high school or college, I would be on my bike, riding the roads through the park, sometimes finding a scenic overlook where I might read or write or just think. Fellows Riverside Gardens, a beautiful public garden developed beginning in the 1960s was the site of countless wedding photographs (including ours in 1978) overlooking Lake Glacier and the site of our best friend’s daughter’s wedding just a few years back. In 2001, we celebrated my parents 60th anniversary at the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center. In my fathers last years (he passed in 2012), one of our cherished memories was rides through the park and listening to him revisit his youthful memories.

Lake Glacier from Fellows Riverside Gardens (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

Lake Glacier from Fellows Riverside Gardens (c) Robert C Trube, 2014

When we were growing up, the park reminded us that life was not all hard work and toil–that there was beauty, and peace, and goodness to life as well. I may not be able to speak to this as well as those who still live in the Youngstown area, but I sense that the renewed efforts to maintain the park in the formation of the MetroPark district represents a symbol of hope that as Youngstown seeks to “re-invent” itself, this city can be a good place not only to work, but to live.