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.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr.

Nehemiah Hubbard Jr.

Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr.

My aunt’s sister Winifred used to live on the outskirts of Hubbard. We would visit occasionally, usually when my uncle came up from Texas. We would drive up Wick Ave to Logan Avenue, and then turn onto Youngstown-Hubbard Road (Route 62), crossing Crab Creek. All of a sudden, it seemed we were out in the country, with the glow of the mills behind us. Winifred lived in a home on a large lot on the east side of Youngstown-Hubbard Road. That is the extent of my memories of Hubbard.

Like so many places in the Mahoning Valley, Hubbard is named after one of the land speculators who purchased land in the Connecticut Western Reserve. Like many, he never moved to Ohio. Hubbard is named after Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr. of Middletown, Connecticut. He was born on April 10, 1752 as the third of thirteen children of Nehemiah and Sarah Hubbard. From the age of 14 to 21, he clerked in Samuel Talcott’s store and then went to sea in the West Indies, eventually becoming a captain and later, a merchant. In 1776, Governor Jonathan Trumbull Sr. appointed Hubbard as paymaster to Colonel Charles Burrall’s regiment. He advanced to deputy quartermaster for the State of Connecticut. In 1780 served with contractors supplying the French at Yorktown. He was on hand when General Cornwallis surrendered, ending the war.

After the war, he returned to Middletown, becoming a successful merchant, and eventually the president of Middletown Bank, and later the Savings Bank. He became one of the original founders of the Connecticut Land Company. He acquired 15,274 acres, which formed Range 1, Township 3 of the Western Reserve (nominally these were 16,000 acres but varied because of surveying errors). He also acquired land in Ashtabula and elsewhere, owning roughly 58,000 acres.

Hubbard sold the first parcel of land to Samuel Tylee, who acted as Hubbard’s agent in selling plots of two hundred acres (sometimes subdivided) in Hubbard Township, and moved his family from Middletown, Connecticut to Ohio. The township itself remained small until coal fields in the Mahoning Valley opened up in the 1850’s and 1860’s. This attracted settlers from Europe and in 1861 Hubbard became a village, and in 1868 it became a statutorily incorporated municipality.

While Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr. never moved to Ohio, his nephew, William Hubbard moved to Ashtabula in 1834, three year’s before Nehemiah’s death, serving as his agent to sell the remainder of his lands. William Hubbard was known for his abolitionist efforts, joining his brothers Matthew and Henry who had previously settled in the area and who were also engaged in anti-slavery efforts. He was active in the Underground Railroad, at one time sheltering 39 fugitive slaves. His house in Ashtabula, at one point facing demolition, has been restored as the Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum.

Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr. died February 6, 1837. He has been described as “tall and commanding. He was a man of unbending integrity, of quick and discriminating judgment, and of a noble, frank deportment.” In other places he has been described as energetic. He was a pillar of his community, a Revolutionary War veteran, a founder of the Connecticut Land Company and part of a family that not only gave Hubbard its name but had influence throughout the Western Reserve, particularly in anti-slavery efforts.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Elijah Boardman and Family

Ralph_Earl_-_Elijah_Boardman_-_WGA7452

Elijah Boardman, by Ralph Earl – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, via Wikimedia

One of the things I’ve discovered is that many of the street and place names in and around Youngstown are connected to real people who played a role in area beginnings — John Young, James Hillman, Daniel Sheehy, John Struthers, Calvin Austin, and James Anson Campbell,. just to name a few. So I wondered if that was the case with Boardman. I discovered once again a figure who played a role in not only the Youngstown area, but also in our national beginnings.

Boardman is named after Elijah Boardman, a son of one of the founding families of New Milford, Connecticut. Born in 1760, he grew up on a family farm on the Housatonic River. As was common in prominent families, he was educated by a private tutor, Reverend Nathaniel Taylor, until he enlisted in one of the early militia units to fight in the Revolutionary War at age 16 in 1776. He went first to Boston, and was later a part of the American forces defeated on Long Island, New York. He suffered ill health for about six months after the battle, and then was called up to fight the British on the Connecticut border until General Burgoyne surrendered, when he resumed his tutoring.

His rise began in 1781 when he trained as a shopkeeper in New Haven. Before the year was out, he set up his own dry goods shop in New Milford, along with his two brothers. One sign of his prosperity, even then, was that in the 1780 census, Boardman was the largest slave owner in New Milford, owning six slaves. In 1792, he married Mary Anna Whiting whose memoir provides a great deal of information about the family. In 1795 he became part of the Connecticut Land Company and an investor in the Connecticut Western Reserve. His investment entitled him to two townships, and by this means, he acquired Medina and Boardman townships.

While Boardman spent most of his time in Connecticut, he did survey the land in 1798, laid out the town center of Boardman Township (a marker for which with the initials E.B. was found in 1878-1879), and opened a sawmill, grist mill, and cloth mill on Mill Creek. Other early settlers were George Stilson who operated a tavern, Charles Boardman (no immediate relation that I can establish) and William Ingersoll opened a store, James Moody a tannery, and Andrew Webb a blacksmith shop. By 1806, the township was populous enough to set up its own township government, separating from Youngstown township government.

What kept Boardman in Connecticut was politics. One of his first political acts was to write to President Thomas Jefferson in 1801, enclosing a sermon that opposed the establishment of state supported religion. Others were advancing state support of the Congregationalists, putting other religious bodies at a disadvantage or even active persecution. He wrote:

“Feeling as I did that if a measure of this kind should be adopted it would eventually prove fatal to the Civil & Religious liberties of my country, and expressing these ideas to a Clergiman living in the Town to which I belong, it was found that he entertained ideas similar to my own, and in October last he delivd a discourse a copy of which his friends requested for the Press and, Sir, I have taken the liberty of Sending to Your Excellency one of those Sermons.”

He went on to serve as a state representative 1803-1805 and 1816, and state senator 1817-1821. He then went on to the U.S. Senate, serving from 1821 to 1823. In 1818, Sarah Hall Benham married Boardman’s son, Henry Mason, and a year later, the young couple moved to Boardman, where Henry took up the management of Elijah’s business interests on the Western Reserve. In 1828, Henry participated in and contributed to the building of the St. James Episcopal Church building, now known as St. James Meeting House in Boardman Park. A significant part of the Boardman family archives, housed at Yale University consists of correspondence between Henry and his father regarding his land holdings.

Elijah Boardman died in Boardman Township on one of his business trips to see his son. Both Henry and his son Elijah are buried in Boardman Cemetery. But the elder Elijah was interred in his home town of New Milford and the U.S. Senate declared a 30 day period of mourning in his honor. Apart from his slave ownership (not uncommon in the North at this time), his life was a story of honor: enlisted in the Revolutionary War fight, building a prosperous business, taking the risks of investing in the Western Reserve, advocating for liberty from state established religion, and engaging in a long legislative career. Among these accomplishments, he founded and gave his name to Boardman, Ohio.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Jared Potter Kirtland

Front Cover

Jared Potter Kirtland, By Allen Smith – The Ohio Journal of Science, vol. 30 (3) – 1930, Public Domain, via Wikimedia

He grew up in Connecticut and took his medical training at Yale. He was Poland, Ohio’s first physician. His home in Poland was a stop on the Underground Railroad. His father Turhand helped lay out the settlement of Youngstown and has a town east of Cleveland named after him. He has two snakes and a rare warbler named after him. He served in the state legislature, taught at medical schools at both ends of the state and started a natural history museum. He was an ornithologist (birds), an ichthyologist (fish), and horticulturalist (plants). If anyone could ever have been said to have lived an interesting life, it would be him. And until this week, I never heard of him.

He is Jared Potter Kirtland. I’m reading a biography of Frederick Douglass, the black abolitionist, who I discovered spoke at several gatherings in Salem and Youngstown. It made me explore Underground Railroad stops in the area (a post for another time). Along the way, I came across this statement in The Underground Railroad From Slavery to Freedom by William Henry Siebert: “Dr. Jared P. Kirtland, a distinguished physician and scientist from Ohio, kept a station in Poland, Mahoning County, where he resided from 1823 to 1837.” So I searched for more material on Kirtland and discovered this interesting life, part of which was lived in the Mahoning Valley.

He was born on November 10, 1793 in Wallingford, Connecticut. His father Turhand was a land agent with the Connecticut Land Company that was involved in the settlement of Ohio’s Western Reserve. Turhand owned various pieces of land throughout the Western Reserve, including in Poland, and the town that would eventually bear his name. His diary for August of 1798 records him assisting John Young in the survey of Youngstown. He was involved in establishing schools and libraries throughout the Western Reserve including a library in Poland in 1805. Later, he was a State Senator for Trumbull County and a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Warren. He contributed to the founding of Western Reserve College, originally in Hudson (and still the home of Western Reserve Academy).

Jared remained in Connecticut in his youth, enrolling at Yale College in 1811 and then in the first class of the new Medical College at Yale in 1813, graduating in 1815. He thought about moving to Ohio to join his father but remained in Connecticut until the death of his first wife in 1823. He became the village of Poland’s first physician with a rapidly growing practice. Turhand built a larger home at what is now Rt. 224 and Ohio. In 1828, he was elected to the Ohio legislature, where he served three terms. He played a key role in the passage of legislation of the Ohio and Pennsylvania canal that played a major role in the industrial growth of Youngstown. Perhaps his statewide contacts led to his next opportunity, that took him forever away from the Youngstown area.

From 1837 to 1842, he taught Medicine at the Medical College of Cincinnati. Then in 1843, he moved to Cleveland, where he helped establish the Cleveland Medical College at Western Reserve University, where he taught until his death in 1877, occupying the chair of theory and practice.

Kirtland was something of a Renaissance man, with interests in a number of fields of natural history. He assisted in the first geological survey of Ohio. He owned a farm in East Rockport, (now Lakewood, Ohio) and was interested in advancing horticulture and agriculture throughout the state. Kirtland’s warbler, Kirtland’s snake and the forest vine snake (Thelotornis kirtlandii) bear his name. He helped found the Cleveland Academy of Natural Science in 1845, which now is the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. In 1851, he served on a committee to ensure the safety of Cleveland’s water supply. He offered his services examining young men entering the army during the Civil War at age 70. He died in Rocky River, Ohio on December 11, 1877 at age 84.

Both Turhan and Jared Kirtland played important roles in the Youngstown and Western Reserve area. Jared was one of the early station masters of the Underground Railroad as the efforts to aid fugitive slaves in their flight to Canada developed. He was a frontier physician, and perhaps one of Ohio’s earliest scientists. He played a key role in Youngstown’s industrial growth as well as contributing to the growth of Cleveland. I’m glad to finally know something of his story.

Sources:

Biography of the Kirtland and Morse Family,” OhioLINK Finding Aid Repository.

Jared Potter Kirtland, Wikipedia.

Ted Heineman, “Dr. Jared Potter Kirtland, M.D., LL.D. (1793-1877)Riverside Cemetery Journal.

Turhan Kirtland, with Introduction by Mary L. W. Morse, Diary of Turhand Kirtland, While Surveying and Laying Out the Western Reserve for the Connecticut Land Company, 1798-1800

Turhand Kirtland,” Find A Grave.

Wilbur Henry Siebert, The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom. (New York: MacMillan, 1898), p. 104.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Western Reserve

Growing up I occasionally heard the phrase Western Reserve. It was a road that ran along the southern boundaries of Poland, Boardman, and Canfield. Later on, it was a part of the name of a university attended by one of my high school friends, Case Western Reserve University. Sometimes I heard that Youngstown was part of something known as “the Western Reserve.”

Believe it or not, there is a connection between the area of northeast Ohio and the state of Connecticut. When Connecticut received a royal charter in 1662, it was granted the strip of land between 41 degrees latitude and 42 degrees and 2 minutes from sea to sea across North America. That strip crosses a triangle of land in southeast New York, runs across northern Pennsylvania and across northern Ohio. The southern border of this strip in Ohio begins at the state line and runs westward along the southern edge of Poland Township, where Western Reserve Road runs. The northern part of that line runs through Lake Erie. Eventually Connecticut ceded the lands in New York and Pennsylvania. They also ceded the lands west of present day Huron County in 1786, but retained the land in northeast Ohio, which continued to be referred to as the Western Reserve of Connecticut. In 1795, the state of Connecticut sold all the land except for 500,000 acres designated as the “Firelands” to the Connecticut Land Company. The proceeds from this sale were used to fund the Connecticut schools. The sale of the “Firelands” were used to reimburse citizens whose homes were destroyed during the Revolutionary War.

Surveyors began surveying the land and laying out five square mile townships (instead of the six square mile townships elsewhere in Ohio) in 1796. Moses Cleaveland came over Lake Erie to the mouth of the Cuyahoga, and left his name on the newly settled town of Cleveland (a printer dropped the “a” for the sake of space). John Young came to eastern Ohio that same year surveying and settling on the land that would become Youngstown. Poland Township, on the southeast corner of the Western bears the honor of being designated “Town 1, Range 1.” In 1800, Connecticut ceded sovereignty of the Western Reserve, which became part of the Northwest territory. Trumbull County (which incorporated part of Mahoning County) became the first county, and Warren the first county seat. But the Connecticut influence remained.

1024px-Western_Reserve_Including_the_Fire_Lands_1826

William Summer, Map of the Western Reserve, 1826, Public Domain, from Cleveland Public Library via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most fascinating aspects of our Western Reserve history is the ongoing New England appearance on the names, the layout of streets, and even some of the architecture of our towns. Names like Canfield, Kent, Stow, Atwater, and others sound like New England, or even English names. Many of these towns have a town square, including the Central Square of Youngstown and Public Square in Cleveland. They were originally laid out as the town squares of a New England town and tall buildings grew up around them. But places like Canfield, or Burton, or Chardon to this day have a town square–a grassy or park-like center with the town’s buildings around it. In 1944, Life magazine photographed a Congregational Church on the village green of Tallmadge to represent “the devout spirit of the New England Puritans….” If you visit Hudson, or many other northeast Ohio towns you will find similar scenes.

Many other influences have shaped Youngstown and other Western Reserve towns in the years since. Industries grew up (and died) that the settlers had not envisioned. To the New England stock were added people migrating from every part of Europe, African-Americans from the South, and people from other parts of the world. But there is still a bit of “New Connecticut” that lingers, a heritage we are reminded of every time we hear the phrase “Western Reserve.”