Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — William (Bill) Whitehouse

William “Bill” Whitehouse. Ⓒ Anthony F. Belfast. Used with permission.

One of the great assets that made Mill Creek Park such a treasure throughout much of its history was a succession of great naturalists, who knew about anything that lived in the park and loved sharing that knowledge with the public, especially school children, enhancing everyone’s love of the park. It began in 1929 when Ernest Vickers became the first naturalist. His son Lindley joined him in 1930, as assistant naturalist, and became naturalist in 1947 when Ernest retired at age 76. Many of us remember going on field trips and being led on nature walks with Mr. Vickers, who also had a regular column in the Vindicator of his nature observations in the park. The Vickers also established the nature museum at the Old Mill that many of you may remember visiting when you were young, before the Mill was renovated.

In 1952, Lindley Vickers observed a young man who was a regular at the museum from boyhood and offered him a job as attendant. That young man was Bill Whitehouse. At the time, he had been working up at Idora Park for $.75 an hour and the park was offering $1.00 an hour. That led to a thirty-three year career at the park and a volunteer association with Mill Creek for many years after that. In 1954, he became assistant naturalist, and soon began leading some of the nature walks. College followed at Youngstown College (later University) where he completed in 1966 a major in mathematics and a minor in biology, including a forestry class from Dike Beede! All this while continuing his full-time duties at the park, part of the time as naturalist, part of the time on a park work crew.

Nature hikes. Ⓒ Anthony F. Belfast. Used with permission.

Between 1954 and 1966, due to lack of public interest, there were no public nature hikes, only school programs. Then in September of 1966, they proposed the idea of Sunday afternoon nature walk was proposed, accepted and publicized. Over 200 turned up to the first and they became quite popular, and an ongoing part of the park programs. In this YouTube video, from a walk he led in 2016, he tells the story of these nature walks.

Bill Whitehouse presenting a nature program with a school group. Ⓒ Anthony F. Belfast. Used with permission.

When Lindley Vickers finally retired in 1970, Bill Whitehouse took over as the park’s third naturalist. One of his first projects was the opening of the Ford Nature Center. In 1968, the children of the late Judge John W. Ford donated the stone mansion the Fords has occupied to the Park. Working with assistant naturalist Tony Belfast, they created the exhibits that would go into the Nature Center. He was constantly on the go presenting nature programs at schools and with many community groups, as well as leading the nature walks and field trips from schools. Following in the footsteps of Lindley Vickers, he also wrote a regular column, Mill Creek Park Bulletin, that was also distributed to the YSU Biology Department and the public and parochial schools. He also consulted with Youngstown State’s teacher training course in “Elementary Science Field Experiences.”

“Mill Creek Park Bulletin” by William
Whitehouse, Youngstown Vindicator, August 27, 1972

For many of us, The Green Cathedral by Dr. John Melnick is our Mill Creek Park Bible. Bill Whitehouse played an important role as a consultant in the writing of the book, which was published in 1976, during the time that Whitehouse was naturalist. He also became a mentor to Ray Novotny, who first met Whitehouse at age 12. Novotny told Whitehouse that he wanted his job. Seventeen years later, he succeeded him as naturalist, after Whitehouse’s retirement in 1985. In 1988, Novotny interviewed Bill Whitehouse on Mill Creek Park History as part of Youngstown State University’s Oral History Program, an interview that is the source for much of the material in this article. The men remain close friends until this day.

Following retirement, Bill Whitehouse continued to serve as a volunteer naturalist, helping with nature education programs until as recent as 2016. He was part of a line of four generations of naturalists extending from 1929 through 2016. Bill Whitehouse alone, worked for and volunteered with the park between 1952 and 2016, 64 years or nearly half of the park’s history. He and the others represented the “soul of Mill Creek Park”–its connection with the vision of Volney Rogers. It is to be hoped that the new generation of nature educators at the MetroParks will be keepers of that vision and that ways will be found to remember the legacy of Bill Whitehouse and the other great naturalists who taught us to love Mill Creek Park.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mill Creek Park Trails

Mill Creek Park Trail, Photo by Marilyn Trube, all rights reserved

One of my most cherished memories of childhood was going for hikes with my dad in Mill Creek Park. I think the first one I remember was the One Way Trail, which at one time was One Way Road, beginning near the Green House, occupied by park foremen, on Lake Glacier, opposite the Parapet Bridge and ascending to overlook the Lily Pond and coming out by Bears Den Road. I also remember class trips starting at the Lily Pond with park naturalist Lindley Vickers

Trails generally run along the east and west sides of the lakes and gorges of Mill Creek. I grew up on the West Side, near the north end of the park. So walking the whole length of the trails was a challenge. Before I drove, I’d often ride to a trail entrance, and then walk my bike on a portion of the trails. Some of my favorite were the trails along the east and west sides of Lake Cohasset, one of the most beautiful parts of the park. My other favorite was the West Gorge Trail between Lake Cohasset and Lanterman’s Mill. This stretch helps you see how the creek carved out the gorge over generations and seemed to me one of the most untouched parts of the park.

The climax of this walk came as you approached Youngstown-Canfield Road and the falls and mill just beyond, framed by the bridge. This was a view you could only see on the trail. Two other short trails, on either side of the Hemlock Gorge flowing north from Pioneer Pavilion are also quite scenic. The one on the west is appropriately called Artist’s Trail. One the other side is Slippery Rock Trail, leading to Slippery Rock Pavilion.

I most often traveled along the west side of Lake Glacier. It is a whole different view if you take the East Glacier Trail, which runs the length of Lake Glacier from Volney Rogers Field to Slippery Rock Pavilion, with a close up view of the Parapet Bridge.

There were no wetlands at Lake Newport when I grew up. The trails followed the lake on either side, coming out at Shields Road. Now there is a boardwalk wetland trail, allowing people to walk through the wetlands while keeping their feet dry. East Newport Drive is now only open to one way, northbound traffic, and serves as a paved walking and cycling trail. On the other side of Shields, the road on the east side of Mill Creek is now closed to vehicles entirely, making for an easy walking and cycling trail, arched by trees.

Looking at the current trail map of the park, I don’t see some of the trails I remember, such as the Bears Den Trail running from the parking lot to the rock formations, or the trail between the Lily Pond and the Rock Garden that followed a creek. I know there are quite a few trails in John Melnick’s The Green Cathedral (pp. 409-411) that I don’t see on today’s park maps. I wonder if these have been kept up. It would be interesting to go back and explore!

What walking the trails gave was a sense of the rugged beauty of the park. The trails were up and down, following the contours of the gorge. There was so much of the park you could not see just driving or walking along the roads. Nor could you listen to the burbling of the creek unless you walked along. In the fall, you could savor the smell and crunch of fallen leaves. It was part of the wisdom of Volney Rogers and those who worked with him to lay out trails, occasionally with bridges or stone steps, but mostly just packed dirt that gave you a sense that you were walking in the park, and not just through it. They are part of what make it such a special place.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Cascade Run Stone Bridge

“Cascade Run Stone Bridge” Bob Trube, (c) 2015.

The Lanterman Falls Bridge, the silver Suspension Bridge and the Parapet Bridge are probably the most photographed bridges in Mill Creek Park. But there are many bridges in Mill Creek Park. Several years ago, on a fall visit to Youngstown we took a number of pictures in the park. One of those was of the Cascade Run Stone Bridge. I was on the north bank of Cascade Run, between the bridge and Lake Cohasset, looking toward the bridge and up the ravine beyond in the afternoon sunlight.

That picture turned into the painting above a few years ago when I was practicing working with an easel and paints before joining my wife and a group of artist friends in a plein air retreat at Linwood Park on Lake Erie. I don’t claim this is great art, more of a beginners effort. I suspect I am just one of many who have been inspired by a place in the park.

A early photo of the Cascade Run Stone Bridge (Source: The Vindicator)

The pictured bridge is a small stone bridge over Cascade Run, just before it flows into Mill Creek at the south end of Lake Cohasset. If you are driving north on Valley Drive from the Suspension Bridge, it crosses the Cascade Run Stone Bridge just before West Gorge Drive and West Cohasset Drive. Cascade Run Ravine is one of the most scenic spots in the park, running parallel to West Gorge Drive. It is a steep ravine (as is West Gorge Drive) punctuated with cascading waterfalls as it makes its way to Lake Cohasset. According to John C. Melnick, it was one of Volney Rogers’ favorite places.

Cascade Ravine was among the earliest park acquisitions. 29.36 acres west of Mill Creek. The deed was signed by George Tod and H. H. Stambaugh on September 15, 1891. A steel bridge at the top of the ravine was built in 1894. A new bridge was built in 1990. The stone bridge over Cascade Run on Valley Drive was built in 1913, which means it has lasted over a century, like many of the other bridges in the park.

This is not one of the more dramatic sights in the park, yet it is one more example of the careful workmanship and aesthetic sense of Volney Rogers and those who worked with him to create scenic and durable structures to complement that natural beauty of Mill Creek Park. It caught my eye on an afternoon roaming the park, and on another afternoon when I painted the scene. It is one of the reasons the park is such a treasure–favorite places to return to at different times of the year, and a thousand new ones to discover.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mill Creek Before the Park

MillCrMahoning pdf

Map of the Mill Creek watershed in Columbiana County from its origin with Mill Creek highlighted, from Mill Creek Watershed Action Plan (Ohio DNR)

Before there ever was a Mill Creek Metropark, there was Mill Creek. As it turns out, the portion of Mill Creek most of us are familiar with is only the northern half, running from Boardman Township north to Lake Newport, then Lanterman’s Falls and the gorge, emptying into Lake Cohasset, and then running to the south end of Lake Glacier, and from there emptying into the Mahoning River. It got its name from the grist mills built along the Creek. There are several “Mill Creeks” in Ohio.

Mill Creek originates in Columbiana County. For the first forty-plus years of Mill Creek Park, no one knew exactly where the headwaters of Mill Creek were. In 1904, Volney Rogers was finally able to try to search for the headwaters. It was a winter day. He began where Mill Creek flows into the Mahoning River and made it as far as Lanterman’s Falls, no where near Columbiana. In 1921, John H. Chase and his daughter followed the creek into Columbiana County but they were unsuccessful in identifying its source. This was complicated by small streams that flowed in, but weren’t Mill Creek. Finally John Chase and Bruce Rogers, Park Superintendent and brother of Volney, traced the headwaters to a farm owned by William Cope in Fairfield Township on a ridge about 2 1/2 miles south of Columbiana and 20.9 miles from where Mill Creek flows into the Mahoning River. The spring actually started underneath the farmhouse.

rogers and spring

Bruce Rogers pointing to Spring by foundations behind the farmhouse. (Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, April 1934)

A ceremony was held on October 7, 1933 christening the headwaters, attended by a number of prominent local guests with remarks by Bruce Rogers, a poem, and an account of how they reached the determination that this was the origin of Mill Creek, an account later published in the Ohio Archaelogical and Historical Quarterly written by Charles B. Galbreath, who gave the keynote at the gathering. The christening involved water collected from the Bay of Fundy, the Suwanee River, the Pacific Ocean, the Indian River, Crater Lake, and snow melt from Mount Rainier.

In 1965, the farm was sold to Harry Pierson and became known as the “Headquarters Farm.” It turns out that this property lies just south of the Fairfield Township offices. Beginning in 2016, a combination of Boy and Girl Scout projects and township funded work created an observation and seating area that is Phase One of the Fairfield Township Trustees plan to develop the Headwaters Nature Trail. Phase Two, projected to be completed in 2019 involves more trail clearing, bridges, benches and trail marking.

cope homestead

(Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, April 1934)

Mill Creek at its origin is 1175 feet above sea level and falls 345 feet enroute to the Mahoning River. According to the Mill Creek Watershed Action Plan the creek cut through a clay and loam layer deposited by glaciers down through the Mississippian age siltstone and shales, and the Pennsylvanian age sandstone and shales, creating the beautiful gorges we know today. There are ten name tributaries feeding Mill Creek and 90 unnamed ones. Ultimately, all the water in this watershed flows into the Mahoning River, which joins with the Beaver River south of New Castle, Pa. and then flows into the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico. It is amazing to think of the journey of that water from a hard-to-find spring in Fairfield Township all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Equally amazing to me is to think that this little rivulet, joined with small tributaries over millennia cut the beautiful gorges of the park so many of us love.

Other source:

John C. Melnick, The Green Cathedral. Youngstown: Youngstown Lithography, 1976, pp. 311-318.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Wall Garden


The Wall Garden, looking east. Photo by Bob Trube ©  2019.

In childhood, my grandmother always loved to visit what we then called “the Rock Garden” when all the flowers were in bloom in spring. She loved the cascades of the yellow basket-of-gold flowers, purple creeping flox and the white flowers of the yucca plants they somehow managed to grow.

Most of the time, drivers probably give little thought to this rock retaining wall on West Drive between the south end of West Glacier Drive, and the Birch Hill Cabin and Lily Pond areas. That is too bad, because the Wall Garden, as it is formally called was part of one of the major construction projects in the development of Mill Creek Park.

In the early years of the park, created in 1891, most of the roads were little more than dirt roads along Mill Creek or Bear Creek, which flowed into Mill Creek from the west. There was one such road, called the Old Hamilton Road along Bear Creek at the base of the steep hill where the two creeks met. Atop of the hill was a dirt road for many years called One Way Drive (now One Way Trail, one I hiked as a kid). The road ran from McCollum Road above the Lily Pond, atop the hill and came out by the foreman’s house on West Glacier Drive.

After Lake Glacier was created, William Henry Manning, the consulting architect for Mill Creek Park, decided in 1921 to cut through part of the big hill above Bear Creek and create West Drive, connecting up with Birch Hill Cabin, the Lily Pond, and the Bears Den area further west. The project was known as “the Big Cut,” and to prevent soil and rock slides, or a collapse of part of the One Way Drive atop the hill, stone was quarried from Bears Den to serve as a retaining wall for the area below “Lookout Point” which overlooks the Lily Pond and Birch Hill area.

The Wall Garden was begun in 1925 and completed in 1927. Altogether, it is 552 feet long and 54 feet high and was planted with plants that could grow in the soil and crevices between the rocks. What may have been a necessity from an engineering point of view was turned into another facet of the beauty that is Mill Creek Park that has endured for nearly a century.


John C. Melnick, M.D., The Green Cathedral (Youngstown: Youngstown Lithographing, 1976), pp. 117-120.

Carol Potter and Rick Shale, Historic Mill Creek Park (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press, 2005), p. 81.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Bears Den

1908 Postcard of Bears Den

1908 Postcard of Bears Den

Did you ever climb around the rocks in the Bears Den area of Mill Creek Park? The area makes you wonder if there was a time when a group of giants were tossing the huge boulders at each other, they look so tumbled down.

Maybe your visits were tamer, perhaps hiking a trail along Bears Den Creek or going to a gathering at Bears Den Cabin, having a picnic in the picnic area in the Upper and Lower Meadows, or playing a game of ultimate frisbee on the open field of the Upper Meadow.

I think at one time or another, I probably did all of these things. You probably did as well. Have you ever wondered about the history of this area, where all those rocks came from and how the area developed?

I always thought all those blocks were left by glaciers. I came to discover that the more likely explanation was that as Bears Den Run (or Bear Creek as it is sometimes called) flowed into Mill Creek, it cut through the sandstone, of which the rocks consist to underlying softer layers of shale, undercutting the sandstone until pieces of it collapsed into the creek. Gradually the descending creek cut the ravine we see today. It’s not particularly complicated. It mostly comes down to running water. (From a paper by John S. Petrek, Geological Features in Mill Creek Park Youngstown, OhioJune 1971, pp. 26-27).

I say mostly because there were industries along Bears Den Run at various periods. Grist and sawmills. Blacksmith shops. And most significant, several quarrying operations, one of which was in the ravine behind Bears Den Cabin (William McKinley was one of the business partners), another, the Jake Stambaugh quarry in the bluff next to the Wick Recreation Area along Bears Den Road. Stone from these quarries were used for bridges over Bears Den Run, the Bruce Rogers Bridge at Birch Hill, the Lake Cohasset Dam, and the Wall Garden overlooking West Drive.


Part of Bear Creek (Bears Den Run), Bob Trube © 2019

If you look at a map of Mill Creek Park, you readily notice that most of it runs south to north on either side of Mill Creek and the three lakes formed by dams. Bears Den and the Wick Recreation Area to the north jut out to the west from the rest of the park. The park was created in 1891. Volney Rogers continued to acquire parcels, and acquired the Bears Den properties in 1894. However this area was not connected to the rest of the park until 1921 when another 60 acres were acquired in the Bear Creek Valley (the narrow corridor connecting Bears Den with the rest of the park at West Drive) and Bears Den Drive was constructed.

Bears Den Cabin was built in 1931 in the northwest corner of the Upper Meadows. A kitchen was installed in 1960, a parking lot in 1962 and modern lighting in 1963. Pictures on the park website suggest the kitchen and interior has been further updated. The cabin is heated and also has a fireplace but no air conditioning. It can accommodate up to 40 people and be rented by the half or full day ($75 for a half day; $125 for a full day for Mahoning County residents; $100/$165 for non-residents, as of 8/2019).

The name “Bears Den”? At one time there really were bears living in those caves and roaming the ravine. One still hears reports of black bears in other areas around northeast Ohio, so this shouldn’t be entirely surprising,

Finally, about all that climbing around in Bears Den. This actually violates current park regulation 20.6 which reads: “No person is permitted to climb or rappel hillsides or ravine areas on Park District lands.” These regulations were first published in 1989 and most recently amended in 2017. Whether any of this existed when most of us were growing up I don’t know. Certainly none of us knew anything about that. Even the distinguished Dr. John C. Melnick recounts this incident from his youth in The Green Cathedral:

One of the author’s most harassing experiences occurred in Bears Den. Once as a young boy hiking in the Bears Den it was decided to climb up the side of huge boulders. After several of these were conquered, an attempt was made on a very high boulder measuring over 25 feet in height. By use of small hollows in the rock for steps and grasping places, success was achieved for about three quarters of the height when additional footing was lacking. No progress could be made either up or down. In a state of apprehension, help from his friends saved the day” (pp. 145, 147).

Whether it is the placid sound of the running waters of Bear Creek as you walk along side on one of the trails, the rugged beauty of the tumbled boulders in the ravines, or the pleasant picnic areas, the Bears Den area is one of areas of the park that has been delighting visitors over the last hundred years.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mill Creek Golf Course


Mill Creek Golf Course – Fairway North Course. Photo by Jack Pearce [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

I will admit up front that my connection with Mill Creek Golf Course is a slender one. I’m not a golfer. Given my hand-eye coordination and temperament, this would probably be, in words often attributed to Mark Twain, “a good walk spoiled.” My brother was the golfer, and I was delighted when he let his “little brother” “caddy” for him when he and some buddies went golfing. Besides remembering when one of the buddies got so mad after one shot that he flung one of his clubs at a tree, I mostly remembered the beauty of the tree-lined fairways and sipping a cold Coke while my brother and his buddies enjoyed more adult beverages after a round of golf.

The tree lined fairways reflected the design work of Donald Ross, once one of the premier golf course designers in the United States. Ross grew up in Scotland, the birthplace of the game of golf and home to some of its most fabled courses. Ross designed the golf course at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina and the Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Caroline, the home of the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship. In all, he designed over 400 courses around the country. His designs were marked by careful attention to detail and by creating challenging courses while moving very little earth, working with the natural contours and features of the land.

The Mill Creek Golf Course was opened in 1928. It consists of two 18 hole, par 70 courses, the North Course and the South Course. The Mill Creek Metropark website describes the different challenges of the two courses:

“The South Course plays over a flat terrain with tree-lined fairways. Natural areas and streams come into play on five holes. The South Course has been selected by Golfweek as one of America’s 30 Best Municipal Courses. The North Course weaves through tall trees and includes a variety of natural hazards.”

There are over one hundred bunkers on the course. In 2018, as part of course upgrades, the bunkers, beginning with the South Course have been restored, with improved drainage and bright white play sand, making them easier to see, and hopefully avoid. Donald Ross once said, “There’s no such thing as a misplaced bunker. Regardless of where the bunker may be, it is the business of the player to avoid it.”

The Fieldhouse, built in 1929 includes a pro shop and restaurant. Mill Creek also has golf pros on staff who offer golf instruction.

In addition to the natural beauty and challenge of the course, one thing that makes the course special is that it is a public course, serving area residents first. Mahoning County residents qualify for a discount on the course, but the highest price that non-residents will pay for 18 holes of golf riding in a golf cart is $41.00 ($34.00 for residents). Seniors over 60, and those under 17 choosing to walk can play 18 holes for $16–less than a dollar per hole.

If you are going to be in the area, it is recommended that you schedule your tee time online. People have different experiences on the course, often weather or time-of-play related. On TripAdvisor, 82 percent of people have rated the course excellent or very good. The course, especially the South Course, can get boggy when there have been heavy rains. Especially heavy rains at the end of May 2019 closed the course due to flooding and debris for several days. From reviews, it appears that the pace of play sometimes can be very slow, especially on weekends, and excellent at other times.

Mill Creek Golf Course has been serving area residents for over 90 years, offering natural beauty, especially in the autumn, and challenging play on a course designed by one of the great golf course designers of the time. It is encouraging to hear that the course is investing in upgrades, to preserve yet one more jewel of the Mahoning Valley.


Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown – The Parapet Bridge

Parapet Bridge

Parapet Bridge. Robert Trube, 2015, all rights reserved

From my childhood, I’ve loved the sight of the Parapet Bridge on the east side of Lake Glacier. I first saw it on walks with my dad. Later I sat on Lake Glacier’s banks enjoying the view of it with my girlfriend (now wife of 41 years). I ran past it on morning runs, cycled across it, and have revisited it many times over the years. It turns out that it is one of the most photographed features in Mill Creek Park.  Its massive stone construction with its dark “dragon’s teeth” parapets topping the stone work on each side of the road stands in stark contrast to the fairy-tale-like Silver Bridge. In fact, this accounts for one of its other names, “the Dragon Bridge.” It is also called “the Prehistoric Bridge.”

Apparently Volney and Bruce Rogers saw a similar bridge during a journey in Europe. Bruce’s sketches served as the basis of architect Julius Schweinfurth’s design. The bridge was built in 1913, spanning the Spring Brook Ravine, which empties into Lake Glacier. The combination of the graceful arch, the varicolored stonework, the darker upright parapet stones, and the viewing platforms on each side of each end of the bridge all draw one’s eye. The westward facing platforms look out over Lake Glacier, the eastward ones up Spring Book Ravine and the woods on either side of it.

The bridge is attractive in any season, framed by the surrounded forest. I remember it dark and foreboding on winter nights when I was skating on Lake Glacier, subdued and pristine in the winter covered in snow, newly alive with spring growth, and resplendent surrounded by fall colors. This last seems to be the favorite time to photograph it. Our photo albums have photographs spanning the years from 1973 to 2015.

Volney Rogers was known for his desire to create “fanciful park entrances.” The Silver Bridge is one kind of fanciful, delicate in its beauty. The Parapet Bridge is another kind of fanciful, evoking images of dragons, castle parapets, something old, almost organically grown out of the rock of the earth. Over 100 years later, the bridge stands (as do many other structures built in those early years) as a testimony to the vision of Volney and Bruce Rogers. I look forward to seeing it the next time I visit.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — 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 –The Sulphur Spring and Spring Water Trough

Sulphur Spring

Sulphur Spring

At one time Mill Creek Park had at least a couple springs that drew people from throughout the area who brought bottles to take the water home to drink. One of these was the Sulphur Spring. The Sulphur Spring was located on the east side of the Mill Creek Gorge below the Idora bridge. Dr. Timothy Woodbridge, who used the Old Log Cabin near Lake Glacier as his medical office, recommended the water as “spa water” to his patients. In a statement given in the July 23, 1900 Vindicator, Volney Rogers said, “I am glad so many persons are visiting this place. We intend to fix up the springs as soon as possible.”

The August 8, 1900 edition of the Vindicator reported, “There is a demand for electric lights, and the Vindicator has been requested that the necessity of such an improvement be called to the attention of the park commissioners.” Apparently people came from early in the morning to late at night to fill bottles with water from the spring, going on hands and knees to grope their way there at night. Crowds brought their own problems though. There were sanitary concerns as many dipped dirty bottles in the spring, making it less palatable for others.

Apparently Dr. Woodbridge’s claims were validated by many people. The August 8, 1900 article goes on to mention, “The water has worked such a world of good to so many people, that they cannot stay away, and the recommend the water cure to all of their friends for anything from an ingrowing toe nail to a broken leg.”

My grandmother swore by the health properties of a different spring, located near Slippery Rock Pavilion, filling a water trough. I remember going with her and my grandfather to fill up jugs of water. She claimed that it cured her of digestive ailments. I tasted some but didn’t think there was anything special about it. In “Mill Creek Park Remembered,” Robert A. Douglas writes, “At the bottom of the hill was the spring water trough. The cold refreshing water cascaded up or flowed down from an unusual faucet. We would always see how high we could make it rise. This was a really natural treat that attracted many people from all around. On hot summer days, people would bring lots of bottles to fill with the cold, clear spring water.”

Volney Rogers foresaw problems when the city decided to channel overflows from storm and sanitary sewers into the park’s waters. With the southward expansion of the city going into Boardman township, Rogers’ fears became reality and problems when high levels of e. coli and other bacteria in the waters made the lakes increasingly unsafe as well as the springs. In 1967, Mayor Anthony Flask recommended substituting city water in all drinking fountains, and subsequently the Sulfur Spring and the water trough at Slippery Rock were capped.

I have no idea why these waters were so popular and believed to have all kinds of curative effects. My grandmother swore by them, as did others I knew growing up. I suspect that whether there was water pollution or not, people today would not have been allowed to fill bottles and consume the water. I suspect liability concerns would have ruled this out. But these springs were yet another feature that made Mill Creek Park an attraction to area residents.