Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Liberty Township

By P. J. Browne, surveyor [2] – Map of Trumbull County, Ohio (Philadelphia: Gillette Matthews & Co., 1856) [1] hosted at Newton Falls Information Network, Public Domain,

I don’t think I realized until I was older that Liberty Township wasn’t part of Youngstown. As a kid, we used to go to church picnics at Churchill Park. In high school, a girl I dated for a bit lived in Liberty. I remember walking from her home to the Liberty Plaza to watch Let it Be. That was probably bad luck. We broke up shortly after watching the movie about the break up of the Beatles. In later years my wife and I got meals at the Bob Evans and at Kravitz’s Deli (one of my dad’s favorites), and at Station Square with friends. All those places are in Liberty Township.

Liberty Township isn’t a part of Youngstown. It isn’t even part of Mahoning County, but rather Trumbull County. But I’m not the only one to connect them. Local historian Howard C. Aley writes,

No other community on Mahoning County’s perimeter has quite the same unique relationship that exists between Liberty Township and its neighboring political subdivision to the south. Contrary to Robert Frost’s neighbor who contended that “Good fences make good neighbors,” there are no fences between Liberty Township and the Youngstown boundary lines, and the communities are, indeed, good neighbors.

Aley wrote this in 1976. Much has changed and I wonder whether the two communities would still think this way, but it does illustrate the close connection. At one time, some of the elite Youngstown families had estates in Liberty Township–the McKelveys, the Logans, the Andrew, the Wicks, and the Stambaughs.

Liberty Township Map from 1918

Did you know that Liberty Township is one of 25 Liberty Townships in Ohio? We live just south of one near Columbus, also in a neighboring county. It was one of the five by five mile townships laid out in the survey of the Western Reserve, west of Hubbard and east of Weathersfield Township. And if you remember, Youngstown, just to the south was at one time part of Trumbull County until Mahoning County was created in 1846. Liberty Township was established in 1806, though settled as early as 1798.

Present day Liberty Township consists of the Village of Girard and unincorporated township lands. At one time there were also villages of Churchill, Sodom, and Seceders Corners. Churchill is a Census Designated Place to this day. The others have disappeared.

Peter Kline

Much of the land outside of Girard was farmland. In 1860 coal was discovered on Alexander McCleery’s farm. Peter Kline, son of one of the leading families in the area amassed the largest farm in Liberty Township, bordering on Churchill, with 700 acres, much of which was devoted to livestock. He also had the good fortune of having coal discovered on his land, mined by Tod, Stambaugh, & Co. At one time 17 mines were operating in the township. Samuel Goist’s farm was a stopping point on the Underground Railroad.

The township is led by elected township trustees and a financial officer. Outside of Girard, the education is provided by the Liberty Township School District including E. J. Blott Elementary School, William S. Guy Middle School, and Liberty High School. Former director of the Ohio Department of Health Amy Acton, who led the state’s early response to COVID-19, is a Liberty High School graduate.

Liberty Plaza, probably in the 1960’s. Photo by Hank Perkins, used with permission of the Mahoning Valley History Society Business and Media Archives collection (http://mahoninghistory.org).

The complexion of the southern part of Liberty Township along Belmont Avenue has changed. Liberty Plaza was one of the premiere shopping centers in the area at one time. Now the area is a Walmart and a small strip of stores. At the same time, a complex of restaurants and lodgings have sprung up around the I-80 interchange with Belmont. Further south, Jack Kravitz continues to serve up some of the best deli food in the area. And to the north, the township retains its rural character.

Liberty Township. Youngstown’s near neighbor. Stop off place for interstate travelers. Gateway to rural northeast Ohio.