Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Elijah Boardman and Family

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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 — Ward Beecher Hall and Planetarium

Ward Beecher

Ward Beecher

Nothing like an astronomy class at 2 pm in the afternoon during your first quarter at Youngstown State to catch you napping. That was me. The reclining seats in the planetarium combined with the dimmed lights was the perfect recipe for an afternoon snooze. You just hoped nothing was said that would go on the test.

I had many classes in Ward Beecher during my years at Youngstown State (1972-76). I can’t say that I gave a thought to the name of the building at time. Only later did I realize that generally, college buildings bear the name of people (or their family) who gave large sums of money toward the construction of the building.

I’ve written about others whose names are on YSU buildings: Kilcawley, Beeghly, Maag, and Jones. But never Ward Beecher. Like many others I’ve written about, I discovered a family that has invested deeply in Youngstown. And I was left with an unanswered question.

Ward Beecher’s family traces back to Connecticut, where his father Leonard, and mother, Ruth Webster Beecher lived. She was the daughter of Noah Webster, of dictionary fame. Their son Walter came to Youngstown at age 19, around 1864 and became involved in a number of community enterprises including the Ohio Powder Company and the Mahoning Bank. He married Eleanor Price, whose family owned a large farm extending along South Belle Vista from Mahoning Avenue to Bears Den Road. Price Road is named after the family and their homestead is now part of the Franciscan Friary on South Belle Vista.

Ward was born September 27, 1887 and graduated from the Rayen School in 1907, going on to study metallurgy at Carnegie Institute of Technology followed by war service with the 309th Engineers in France in World War 1. He returned to Youngstown and in 1923 married Florence Simon, a granddaughter of Col. L. T. Foster, after whom Fosterville is named. He worked for a time as an auditor with Republic Rubber Company, as secretary and treasurer of the Lau Iron Works, and treasurer of Powell Pressed Steel.  From 1922 on, he occupied a number of positions at Commercial Shearing and Stamping Company, ending up as Vice President of Finance. He also followed his father’s footsteps, serving as a director of the Mahoning Bank. He attended a directors meeting the day of his death.

He took a major interest in the development of Youngstown State, contributing significant funds for the construction of the science hall and planetarium that now bears his name, which opened in 1967. One of his stipulations was that the planetarium would always be free to the public.

Like many other business leaders of his generation, he served as a leader and benefactor of a number of Youngstown organizations from the Salvation Army to Boys’ Club, as well as the Youngstown Club, the Youngstown Country Club, the Elks, and other organizations. In the late 1950’s, the Beechers sold the Price homestead, where they were living to the Franciscan Friary. Later on, they made substantial contributions for improvements.

After this time, the Beechers moved to Boardman, where they lived together until Ward’s death on October 26, 1970. He was buried, along with many other famous Youngstown residents, at Oak Hill Cemetery. Florence Beecher lived until 1991, supporting a number of Youngstown cultural institutions including the Mahoning Valley Historical Society and the Butler Institute of American Art whose Beecher Court is named in her honor.

The family and the foundations established by Ward and Florence Beecher continue to invest in Youngstown. In 2006 Eleonor Beecher Flad, the Beechers’ daugher, and the Ward Beecher and Florence Simon Beecher Foundations contributed significant funds for a state of the art star projector in the planetarium to replace the one that had been there even before I was a student. Similar contributions were responsible for the construction of the Eleanor Beecher Flad Pavilion on the west side of the DeYor Center, a performance and event space to complement the beauty of Powers Auditorium and renovations of Lanterman’s Mill in the late 1980’s. Eleanor Beecher Flad is now an emeritus trustee of the YSU Foundation, serving for many years as one of the few women trustees of the Foundation.

I mentioned a question. Beechers have played an important part in American history. Both Lyman Beecher and Henry Ward Beecher were abolitionist preachers and leaders, also coming from Connecticut. Henry Ward Beecher’s sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. From the online family trees I accessed, I could find no connection, despite the shared names. It would not surprise me that there would be a connection, and I’d love to find it.

What I do know is that Ward Beecher, and his family have left an indelible imprint on the educational, cultural, charitable, religious, and historic institutions of the city. I may have been napping as a student, but I find myself deeply grateful now for the investment in both time and financial resources this family has given Youngstown.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Christmas Tree Twinkler

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The Christmas Tree Twinkler, Photo by Bob Trube © 2019

On Christmas Day, we were visiting with my son and his wife. While we were there, he gave me the box of ornaments you see above. Mutual friends, whose son works with my son, passed along this box of ornaments, which had belonged to one of their parents, knowing of our interest in all things Youngstown (yes, we are getting a reputation!).

So I thought I would look into the history of The Christmas Tree Twinkler (or as some people call them, spinners). In the process, I found a fascinating account of the man who invented it, the Plakie Toy Company in Youngstown who manufactured it, and the Hoover family who started the company which lasted until 1992.

John Garver grew up on a farm outside Youngstown, learning to tinker as he had to repair farm implements. After college in Indiana, he returned to teach at Boardman High School. He continued to tinker. Eventually he had ten patents to his name including the patent for The Christmas Tree Twinkler (you can see his patent drawings in this Popular Mechanics article). He created the dual brake pedal used in driver training vehicles and machines that could throw tennis balls, footballs, and baseballs (he even wrote a book on baseball cybernetics).

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A Birdcage Twinkler. Photo by Bob Trube © 2019

The Twinkler was a simple idea: mount a spinner on a pin inside a hollow plastic cylinder within a decorative birdcage or star. Place it above a Christmas tree light (one of the old C7 lights that generated a bit of heat) and the heat would set the spinner in motion, hence the twinkling. The idea for the star apparently came from his wife, who was cutting star cookies and suggested putting a spinner in the middle. He patented it in 1954, took it to one of his classes, and mentioned that he was interested in marketing his invention.

It turns out that one of his students was Dean Hoover, son of Frank and Dorothy Hoover, who had a toy company called Plakie Toys based in Youngstown. In 1932, Frank Hoover returned to Youngstown after a stint of working in steel plants in Detroit. He started out manufacturing custom gearshift nobs for manual transmissions. By 1935, his business began to struggle with the rise of the automatic transmission. By then he had married and had an infant son Dean. One day, he spotted his infant son having a great time shaking some plastic squares strung on a chain, and the idea for a plastic toy company was born. The company name, Plakie, came from “play key.” During the war, they diverted to wood toys because plastic was scarce. Right after the war, his father purchased one of the first blow mold machines in the world, and the business was off and running.

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A Twinkler set. Photo by Bob Trube © 2019

So Plakie was a natural fit for manufacturing John Garver’s invention. They began selling them at Strouss, selling as many as 1,000 in a day. Eventually they were manufacturing over three million of them a year. They had a few problems. The biggest was that if the ornaments were too close to the lights, the plastic would melt (it is kind of amazing in light of this to receive a full intact set!). There were problems with the machine that cut the pins, which were sometimes dull, preventing the spinner from twirling.

The big problem was the advent of artificial trees, which could be flammable. Cooler midget lights were invented, but they did not get hot enough to make the spinners move. Still, it is estimated that there could be as many as ten million of these still out there, probably stashed away in attics. They are a collectible and I found them selling online for anything between $15 and $50.

Frank Hoover died in 1960. Dorothy took over the company at that time and shifted the focus of the company to cloth products for children–blankets, crib sheets, cloth toys, cloth covered book, dolls, and dust ruffles. The companies sales grew to $4 million a year during this time. Eventually production costs and competition led the company to close its doors in 1992.

John Garver lived until 2015. He actually kept working on a Twinkler design using anodized aluminum until his death in 2015.

I don’t remember these ornaments from my childhood. I would have been fascinated back then, and I delight in their designs even now. They are one more point of Youngstown pride–both invented and manufactured in the Mahoning Valley.

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A Star Twinkler. Photo by Bob Trube © 2019

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Penalty Flag

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Photo by Hector Alejandro [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

We love that yellow flag when it is thrown against the opposing football team and groan and complain when it is thrown against one of our home team guys. But did you know that the penalty flag is a Youngstown invention and first used on one of our own venerable football fields? It is an invention more famous (or infamous) than its inventor.

Dwight “Dike” Beede was the coach of the Penguin football team from the beginning of the Youngstown football program in 1938 until 1972. Before coaching at Youngstown, he coached at Westminster College and Geneva College, both nearby schools in western Pennsylvania. In fact, his first football game in Youngstown was a decade before he became Youngstown’s coach. On September 24, 1927, Westminster College played Carnegie Tech at South High Stadium in the first college-level game played in Youngstown.

Until 1941, penalties were signaled by the blowing of horns or whistles. Often, neither the players nor the fans could hear them, and when they could, the sound was irritating. Before a game against Oklahoma City University, played on October 17, 1941, Beede shared an idea with his wife, Irma. He asked her to sew together bright red cloth from an old Halloween costume with white stripes from old sheets. Lead sinkers used in fishing were used on one end to weigh down the 16 inch by 16 inch flag. Irma Beede has been named “The Betsy Ross of football” for her contribution. The opposing coach and the officials agreed to use the flags in the game, played at The Rayen Stadium, where Youngstown’s games were played until Stambaugh Stadium was opened in 1982.

The flag caught on. One of the officials, Jack McPhee used the flags in an Ohio State-Iowa game attended by league commissioner Major John Griffith. Griffith liked the idea and mandated its use in the Western Conference, now the Big Ten. In 1948, professional football adopted the flag, changing the color to yellow in 1965.

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Dwight “Dike” Beede coached football for forty years. His last year, 1972, as a coach was my first year as a Youngstown State student. His later years were predominated by losing seasons. Things were a bit better in 1972 when he and the team finished 4-4-1, perhaps because of the talented leadership of Ron Jaworski, known as the “Polish Rifle,” who later went on to an NFL career with the Eagles, and then a broadcast career.

What most don’t realize is that Beede actually finished his 40 year career with a winning overall record of 175-146-20, and a 147-118-4 record at Youngstown. He had 17 winning seasons including an 8-2 record in 1947 and an undefeated season in 1941, not to be repeated until the Tressel years. He created the “spinner” play. In 1957 he was named Small College Coach of the Year.

Off the field, he taught forestry and held the status of Associate Professor in the Biology Department. He was a dedicated tree farmer and on the Ohio Forestry Advisory Council. He retired at the end of his 1972 season, and died just a month later, on December 10, 1972, from a drowning accident in Little Beaver Creek near his farm in Elkton. His son, Ruud, also died from drowning in 1957.

In 1982, the playing surface at Stambaugh Stadium was named Beede Field. He was part of the inaugural class named to the Youngstown State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1985. In Mosure Hall, on the fourth level of Stambaugh Stadium, visitors can see two of the original penalty flags used in that first game in October of 1941, the idea of Dwight “Dike” Beede, and the creation of Irma Beede, that changed the game of football forever.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Leon A. Beeghly

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Beeghly Center, By Greenstrat – Own work, Public Domain, via Wikimedia

I spent a lot of time at Beeghly Center as a student at Youngstown State. I had a number of classes there including an utterly forgettable health class, a number of psych classes (my major), and a memorable philosophy class with Professor Thomas Shipka. Then there was the physical conditioning class! Of course we went to many basketball teams coached by Dom Roselli as well as concerts. I first heard James Taylor live in Beeghly Center. Amazing that he is still performing!

I never thought “who was Beeghly?” Beeghly was Leon A. Beeghly. He was not a Youngstown native, born in 1884 and raised in a small northwestern Ohio town named Bloomville in Seneca County. After college at Tri-State University in Indiana he began working with the France Company of Bloomville, that operated a number of stone quarries. Eventually the company moved to Toledo. It was here that Beeghly became interested in slag, a by-product of steel production used in concrete, road bases, railroad ballast, waterway construction, and even for soil amendments in agriculture.

Beeghly first formed a slag company in Toledo, but quickly realized that the blast furnaces of Youngstown offered a far greater output of this material. He joined with two other men whose names are also well-known on the Youngstown State campus, William E. Bliss and William H. Kilcawley, in forming the Standard Slag Company of Youngstown. He served as company president. In 1918, he and his wife Mabel and four children (Charles, James, Thornton, and Lucille) moved to Youngstown.

Leon BeeghlyBeeghly continued to work with inventors to develop new processes and products including the cold forming of metal resulting in the Cold Metal Products Company where son Charles was involved before becoming president and chairman of Jones and Laughlin Steel, at that time the fourth largest steel company in the country. James and Thornton and later-born John all were involved in Standard Slag. Last-born son Thomas served as president of International Carbonic Company of Santa Ana, California.

In 1940, Leon Beeghly formed the L. A. Beeghly Fund, to which the family has continued to contribute. This fund has invested in a number of religious, charitable, scientific and literary causes, as well as ten college buildings (two at Youngstown State with the new education building) at nine college campuses. Beeghly was a director for Youngstown Sheet and Tube and headed the Youngstown Chamber of Commerce three times. He led initiatives as diverse as vocational training and mental health care.

Leon Beeghly died in 1967. He was recognized at the time not only as a successful industrialist, but as a supporter of inventors and entrepreneurs and technological development, as well as a community leader and philanthropist. His family has continued Beeghly’s philanthropic tradition, with Youngstown State being one of the most significant beneficiaries. Beeghly Physical Education Center opened December 2, 1972 (at the end of my first quarter on campus), built in part with donations from the Beeghly family. More recently, Beeghly Hall became the home of Youngstown State’s College of Education. In 2017, a $1.5 million gift was announced from Bruce and Nancy Beeghly toward a new endowment to the college as well as two graduate fellowships in Electrical and Computer Engineering and in Business Administration.

For over 100 years the Beeghly family has provided both industrial leadership and philanthropic investment in the Mahoning Valley. Their recent gifts suggest an investment in Youngstown’s future. Leon Beeghly always cared about encouraging technological development coupled with supporting the educational foundations needed for any technological advance. His grandchildren are carrying on that work, an important piece in the economic rebirth of Youngstown.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Jared Potter Kirtland

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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 — Lucius B. McKelvey

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Lucius B. McKelvey, photo courtesy of The Vindicator, July 24, 1944

If you have followed my posts, you may know that my father worked at McKelvey’s and I worked there during high school and college. During the time I worked there, William B. McKelvey was president of the store, which had already merged with the Higbee Company. Lucius B. McKelvey, who was William’s father was a name we heard from time to time, mostly in connection with the Lucius B. McKelvey Society, of which I know little, except that its membership was composed of long time employees of the company.

In the course of the writing of this blog, I’ve come to discover that Lucius B. McKelvey presided over the store during some of its greatest years. More than that, he was deeply involved in civic and business affairs in the city, and in charitable efforts.

Lucius B. McKelvey was the son of G.M. McKelvey, the founder of McKelvey’s. Born in Hubbard on October 5, 1879, he attended Youngstown city schools, playing on the first Rayen High School football team of 1894. He went on to study mining engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He engaged in mining for several years in Idaho but returned to Youngstown in 1903 when his father’s health was failing. His father died two years later, but he did not assume the leadership of McKelvey’s until 1917, continuing as president until his death.

Due to his business acumen, he was tapped for several roles. In 1920, he became president of the Youngstown Club, a position in which he served for over a decade. In 1922 he became a director of the Mahoning Water Company, and later its president. This included administering the reservoir on the east side that later bore his name, McKelvey Lake. In 1933 he became the president of the Youngstown Chamber of Commerce.

His popularity in the Valley may well have helped Herbert Hoover win the 19th district’s votes for president. He was friends with his rival Isaac Strouss, and served as one of his pall-bearers when Strouss died in 1925. He was an approachable presence in the store, know as L.B., and rarely called “Mr. McKelvey.” He made an effort to get to know new employees. On Christmas Eve, he would be the last to leave the store. He was an active member of Esther Hamilton’s Alias Santa Claus Shows, winning an award on at least one occasion as the best “candy butcher.” He not only raised money for Christmas baskets but personally delivered some of them. This was only one of a number of charitable efforts including raising money for polio victims, and for the Community Chest. He received an award in 1941 for efforts in China relief.

He was in poor health for several months before his death but thought to be improving when he suffered a stroke on the morning of July 24, 1944, dying a few hours later. At the time of his death, the Red Cross has been trying to arrange a furlough for his son William, who was serving in Italy in the war effort at the time.

Lucius B. McKelvey was far more than the approachable, hard-working president of the G.M. McKelvey Company for twenty-seven years. He was a leader in Youngstown’s business community in giving back to the city and seeking its development. He unsuccessfully labored to bring airplane manufacturing to the city and believed diversification of its industry vital to its future. He was comfortable relating to the man on the street, the customer in his store, the indigent, and the powerful.  I wish I had known him…

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Clingan Jackson

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Clingan Jackson, on the cover of Clingan’s Chronicles

Recently, one of the followers of this blog recommended reading Clingan’s Chronicles written by Clingan Jackson. I remembered his columns from when I delivered The Vindicator, and who read him avidly as one of the first eighteen-year-olds to get the vote. I’m in the middle of the book, which is a fascinating combination of memoir, and history of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. Particularly its political history.

Clingan Jackson was the long time political editor at The Vindicator. He not only knew the political history of the Valley better than anyone of his time. He helped make it as a State Representative and later State Senator in the 1930’s. In 1950, he finally lost his Senate seat to Charles Carney, who later represented the Youngstown area in Congress. During his time at the State House, he introduced the first strip mining act, and later helped create the Ohio Department of Natural Resources–an environmentalist long before this became a cause. He ran for governor in 1958, losing badly. He also served on several state commissions.

Jackson was born into one of the “first families” of Youngstown. Ancestors, the McFalls, actually lived as trappers on Dry Run Creek (where McKelvey Lake is now located) even before John Young first established Youngstown. His great grandfather, John Calvin Jackson settled in the Coitsville area on the east side of Youngstown in 1804. His grandfather, who served as a Mahoning County Commissioner in the 1870’s and helped engineer the move of the county seat to Youngstown, built the family homestead on Jacobs Road. Clingan Jackson was born on March 28, 1907. He says one of his earliest memories was seeing his father come in on a snowy day to announce the election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912. It was a political family where heated discussion was common and not all agreed.

Jackson’s parents moved around. For a time, they lived across the state line in Hillsville where his father worked at the Carbon Limestone Company. He was allowed to attend Lowellville High School because of his Ohio roots. He joined his brother John at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1925 and returned to Youngstown after graduation in 1929. He worked at the electric company for a few months and then started working for The Vindicator for $25 a week. His first job was fetching stock quotations from local brokerages, which gave him a first hand glimpse of the panic when the market crashed in October of 1929. He covered the beginnings of the labor movement in Youngstown in the early 1930’s and the Little Steel Strike of 1937. His narrative captures the risks reporters of his time went through to get the story:

“Ed Salt, a Vindicator photographer, and I were dispatched to Poland Avenue to cover the tense situation. It was growing dark by that time, lights were being shot out and hundreds of men were milling along the street. We parked near the fire station and started walking down the sidewalk. As we passed by a bush, we saw its leaves completely eliminated as a shotgun blast rang out. Being a brave man, I went back to the fire station; needing to take pictures, Salt pushed onward.

When I arrived at the station someone exclaimed, ‘Salt has been shot.’ Mustering my courage, I went to his rescue, and found him with his white shirt completely bloodied. I got him into the car, and we headed up Poland Avenue. Although the street was barricaded, I persuaded the pickets to let the car through by explaining I had a passenger who needed to go to the hospital.”

It turns out that Salt was covered with shotgun pellet wounds, none serious.

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Part of Clingan Jackson’s column from the September 1, 1968 Vindicator, the Sunday after the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention

He became the political editor of The Vindicator in 1938 and continued in that role until 1983. He covered every president from Roosevelt through Reagan, and the congressional terms of Michael Kirwan, Charles Carney, Lyle Williams, and Jim Traficant. Although a lifelong Democrat, and at times an officeholder, his real fascination was with the practice of politics and he was able to cover Democrats and Republicans impartially. He was one of the pioneers in political polling, and the accuracy of his polls brought him to the attention of George Gallup.

Andrea Wood did a feature for WYTV on Clingan Jackson toward the end of his tenure at the Vindicator, in 1980. It is fascinating to watch him hunt and peck at a computer terminal while chomping on his trademark cigar. He comes across as the classic newspaper man. She later helped him with the editing work on Clingan’s Chronicles.

He retired from The Vindicator in 1983. He went on to contribute a column to the Youngstown-Warren Business Journal into the 1990’s. He passed away on March 26, 1997, two days shy of 90. He joined a number of his ancestors who are buried in the Coitsville Presbyterian-Jackson Cemetery. He was married three times, with two of his wives preceding him in death, Virginia and Thelma (“Billy”). His third wife, Loretta Fitch Jackson owned Loretta Fitch Florist at the intersection of Routes 616 and 422 in Coitsville. He wrote of his three wives, “Good fortune is a necessary element of most any man’s success, and mine was having three farm girls for wives.”

Sources:

Clingan Jackson, Clingan’s Chronicles (Youngstown: Youngstown Publishing Co., 1991)

Ted Heineman, Senator Clingan Jackson” Riverside Cemetery Journal, 2009.

Andrea Wood, Monthly News Magazine — WYTV, February 1980.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — John D. “Bonesetter” Reese

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John D. “Bonesetter” Reese. Public Domain

When I wrote about the Welsh in Youngstown last week and the Welsh Congregational Church, someone asked me about “Bonesetter” Reese. I had to tell the truth that I had never heard of him. It turns out that he may win the award of the most famous Welshman to have a Youngstown connection. More remarkable, he treated everyone from mill workers to athletes to a British Prime Minister yet he dropped out of medical school after only three weeks. He was known as the nation’s “baseball doctor.” He would never be able to do what he did today. And there is evidence that the medical profession at the time wasn’t too happy about him.

He was born in 1855 in Rhymney, Wales, losing his father in infancy and his mother ten years later. He went to work in the ironworks and was befriended by a fellow worker, Tom Jones who was known as a “bonesetter.” The term had to do with manipulating bones and muscles to alleviate various strains of muscles and tendons, and maybe some dislocations, but not actual broken bones. His work sounds akin to a contemporary chiropractor.

He moved to the United States in 1887, working first for Jones & Laughlin Steel. Later, he moved to Youngstown, working for Brown-Bonnell and then for the Mahoning Valley Iron Company as a roller, a skilled position. His other skills soon became evident as he treated fellow-workers suffering various strains and sprains. James Anson Campbell, at that time an administrator, and later Chairman of Youngstown Sheet and Tube, encouraged him to go to medical school.

By 1894, he had so many “patients,” he had to quit his work at the mill. This attracted the notice of local doctors who accused him of practicing medicine without a license. As a result, he did not charge a set fee for his services, which would violate law. He told factory workers “pay me when you get it.” To address the criticism, he went to the medical school at Case in 1897–for three weeks before dropping out. It didn’t hinder his practice and eventually, the tensions were alleviated, both because of influential friends, and strict boundaries of what he would treat, referring acute illnesses to physicians. Eventually the Ohio Legislature, by extraordinary action, licensed his practice.

His initial connection with Major League Baseball came through treating Jimmy McAleer, a fellow Youngstowner who played for the Cleveland Spiders. Eventually, McAleer managed the St. Louis Browns and sent players to Reese. In 1903, the Pirates tried to hire him as team doctor but he refused to leave Youngstown and his practice with the mill workers who were always his first priority.

He became skilled in treating players and many came to him including some of the most famous of the time including Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Walter Johnson, and John McGraw. He dealt with sore elbows, often the affliction of fastball pitchers, and sore shoulders, the affliction of curve ball pitchers. He also treated boxers and football players. Other famous people sought his services including Will Rogers, Teddy Roosevelt, Charles Evans Hughes and fellow Welshman David Lloyd George, who eventually served as Great Britain’s Prime Minister.

His obituary in The New York Times tells this story of some of the wonders he worked:

“One of Mr. Reese’s most remarkable cures was worked on the throwing arm of Glenn Wright, Brooklyn shortstop. The limb was injured in a basketball game in the off-season and in the middle of the 1929 National League campaign Wright quit the game, apparently ‘through.’ Reese worked on the arm that Autumn, and in the Spring of 1930 the brilliant infielder came back with a wing that cut down baserunners with rifle-like throws from all angles of the short field.”

In 1926, the American branch of the Welsh Gorsedd selected Reese for its highest honor, the Druidic degree, recognizing his service to humanity. The degree was awarded during an Eisteddfod at Wick Park.

He died of heart disease on November 29, 1931 in Youngstown. His funeral service was held at the Welsh Congregational Church. His minister summed up his life in these terms:

“He began to serve early in his life and kept on. He was faithful to the end. The only life worth living is the life of service”

Reese called Youngstown home for forty years and chose to stay and serve local residents as well as the illustrious who sought his treatment. His remains rest to this day, along with those of his wife, Sarah, at Oak Hill Cemetery.

Sources:

Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share: The Bicentennial History of Youngstown and Mahoning County (Youngstown: The Bicentennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio, 1975), pp. 236-237.

David W. Anderson, “Bonesetter Reese” Society for American Baseball Research.

John D. Reese,” Wikipedia.

BONESETTER REESE DIES AT AGE OF 76,” The New York Times, November 30, 1931, p. 17.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — George J. Renner Jr.

George J Renner JrHe built the largest brewery in Youngstown. He made failing businesses profitable and suffered several reverses from which he re-built each time. He built one of the most beautiful homes bordering Wick Park, now on the National Register of Historic Places. He was George J. Renner Jr.

A big man at six foot three inches with broad shoulders, he could lift a full barrel of beer onto a wagon by himself. A professional wrestler once persisted in challenging him to a match at a bar, the loser buying a round of drinks. Renner refused, was repeatedly badgered, until they finally came to grips, at which Renner threw the other man over his head and walked out.

Renner came from a brewing family. His father ran breweries in Cincinnati, Mansfield, and Akron. After learning the trade from his father, he ran breweries in Zanesville and Wooster, making losing operations profitable. Learning of an idle brewing plant on Pike Street on the south side of Youngstown, off Oak Hill, overlooking the Mahoning River (and what is now I-680), he purchased the plant for $4800 in 1885. The plant had an onsite water source, an artesian well. 

Renner’s first home was next to the plant at 209 Pike Street. He refurbished the plant and began operating it more or less as a solo operation at first, brewing, selling, delivering, and collecting payments. By January of 1889, he had a small core of employees including plant engineer, George Richter. A plant boiler exploded, killing Richter, and resulting in a fire destroying the plant, now valued at $75,000. Parts of the boiler were found on the other side of the Mahoning River.

Obtaining loans and an inadequate insurance payment, Renner built a state of the art brewery from the ground up in 1890, adding a bottling operation in 1895. The new plant had an 18,000 barrel annual capacity and this was further enlarged in 1913. He had stables for 52 horses for the delivery wagons. In 1907, he had sixty employees and the largest brewing operation in the city.

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George J. Renner Jr. Mansion, 277 Park Avenue. Photo by Nyttend, Public Domain via Wikipedia

In the same year, he began construction of his home on Park Avenue by Wick Park. It is a three-story, Georgian Revival brick mansion. The two story portico on the front is support by four pairs of columns with ionic capitals. It has a tiled roof. The interior walls between rooms are 18 inches thick with many of the rooms having pocket doors. The construction cost was projected at $40,000 but eventually soared to $75,000 by the time the home was complete.

The brewery explosion was not the last setback Renner faced. The beginning of Prohibition in 1919 led to shutting down the plant after an unprofitable attempt to sell a non-alcoholic beer (Reno). After 1921, they bottled soft drinks and stayed afloat due to real estate holdings. Most of the plant lay dormant. When Prohibition ended in 1933, Renner spent $250,000 renovating and expanding the plant, employing 200 men at the height of the Depression. The renovated plant had a capacity of 100,000 barrels annual production, later raised to 175,000. They produced a number of lines of beers and ales, serving Youngstown and neighboring counties. At this time, close to Renner’s death on December 1, 1935, the company’s stock was valued at $600,000, quite a significant increase from Renner’s initial investment of $4800 in 1885.

The family sold the home in 1939, at which time it was broken up into apartments. As for the brewery, Renner’s son Emil became chairman of the board for the remainder of the company’s history. His son Robert became president in 1948, at a time when national companies increasingly challenged its position in local markets. Efforts to modernize and compete kept them afloat for a time but the brewery shut down in November of 1962. An investment group purchased the buildings in 1963 but they remained vacant until a fire on the site in 1978, after which most of the buildings were razed.

The Renner House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. All this does is state that the home has historic and architectural value that is worth preserving. Currently, it is a rental property listed as having fifteen apartments. Hopefully it will remain as the one visible mark of Youngstown’s greatest brewers. And the next time you pour yourself a tall, cold one, raise a glass to George J. Renner, Jr., Youngstown’s greatest brewer.

Sources:

George J. Renner Jr. (1856-1935)“, Riverside Cemetery Journal.

Renner Brewing Company, Youngstown, Ohio” Ohio Breweriana.com

George J. Renner Jr. House” Wikipedia.

George J. Renner Jr. Mansion” All Things Youngstown

277 Park Avenue – Youngstown, Ohio” ApartmentFinder