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 (

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.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Youngstown Books

20160422_160834In case you haven’t figured it out, on Mondays through Fridays, this is a book blog. I thought that today I would bring books and Youngstown together. It is obvious that we like to read about Youngstown and remember the city where we grew up. Along the way, and particularly since I began this series of posts, I’ve acquired a number of Youngstown books (I haven’t read them all yet!). They appear in the picture above, spread out on my kitchen table. Below, I say a bit about them. For books in print, I’ve included links (usually to Amazon) in case you want to add them to your Youngstown shelf!

Aley, Howard C. A Heritage to ShareYoungstown: Bicentennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio, 1975. Published for our national bicentennial in 1976, this gives a year by year history of Youngstown and surrounding areas up until that time with feature articles and “it happened in…” for each year. This was a gift from my son who found it in a used bookstore in Columbus.

Allen, Bobbi Ennett, ed. Recipes of Youngstown. Lenexa, KS: Cookbook Publishers, 2014. This grew out of a Facebook group of people sharing Youngstown recipes and was published to benefit Lanterman’s Mill.

Allen, Bobbi Ennett, ed. Recipes of Youngstown 2Lenexa, KS: Cookbook Publishers, 2015. One cookbook was not enough for Bobbi’s group. The proceeds from this book are being used for the Tyler History Center’s “Recipes of Youngstown Kitchen” which will be dedicated on May 7. I posted about this here.

Bruno, Robert, Steelworker Alley: How Class Works in Youngstown. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999. Robert Bruno is a professor in Chicago who grew up in Struthers who described as well as anyone I know what it means to be working class. I reviewed the book here.

Hatcher, Harlan, The Western Reserve. Indianapolis: Bobbs, Merrill Co., 1949. Harlan Hatcher is a former Vice-President of Ohio State. He wrote a number of history books about Ohio including this one, which describes the New England roots and development of northeast Ohio. My copy is even signed by him and has a picture of Lanterman Falls on the frontispiece.

Marino, Jacqueline, and Miller, Will, Car Bombs to Cookie Tables. Cleveland: Belt Publishing, 2015.  An anthology of articles under the headings “Loss”, “Family”, “Work”, and “Rise.” Most are short and give an unvarnished look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of Youngstown.

Peyko, Mark C. ed., Remembering YoungstownCharleston: The History Press, 2009. Another collection of historical articles, more of a celebration of Youngstown’s history that includes beginnings, the rise of the steel industry, sports and popular culture, the arts, colorful figures, and icons of the Mahoning Valley like Idora Park.

Posey, Sean T. Lost Youngstown. Charleston: The History Press, 2016. Just arrived this week with stories of Youngstown Sheet and Tube, Republic Rubber, The Elms Ballroom, The Uptown, The Paramount, The Newport, and communities like Brier Hill and Smoky Hollow.

Potter, Carol and Shale, Rick, Historic Mill Creek Park. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2005. Found a signed copy in a local bookstore of this collection of photos of our beloved park from its founding by Volney Rogers.

Skardon, Alvin W. Steel Valley University: The Origin of Youngstown StateYoungstown: Youngstown State University, 1983. Written by a professor of history at Youngstown State and providing the history of the university up until 1983.

Summers, Susan J. and Ekoniak, Loretta A. Slovaks of the Greater Mahoning ValleyCharleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2011. A pictorial history of the Slovak migration to the Mahoning Valley–pictures of families, workplaces, churches and more.

Welsh, Thomas & Geltz, Michael, Strouss’. Charleston: The History Press, 2012. A history of one of the two great department stores in downtown Youngstown. I hope someone writes this history of McKelvey’s some day.

Welsh, Thomas & Morgan, Gordon F., Classic Restaurants of Youngstown. Charleston: American Palate, 2014. One of my favorites covering all the great restaurants all over Youngstown with lots of pictures.

I know there are a number of other books about Youngstown and its people and history. I’d love to hear about your favorites and hope this might help you find some enjoyable reading as well. For some, these are just a walk down memory lane, or the rediscovery of a recipe that mom made. But for others, and particularly those living in Youngstown, to know what the city could be may serve as an inspiration for what the city can be.

What are your favorite Youngstown books?

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