Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Austin Log Cabin

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Austin Log Cabin. Photo by Jack Pearce [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

You probably drove by it on South Raccoon Road on the way from Austintown to Canfield. For many years it was the eyesore at the corner of South Raccoon Road and Burgett Road, just north of where Raccoon takes a bend to the right. It was an old home covered with fake brick shingles that sat vacant between 1964 and 1973. In that year, St. Andrews Episcopal Church, located next door to the property, acquired the property and started tearing down the house, until they discovered the log beams beneath the layers of siding. The log beams were joined at the corners by what was known as a “steeple notch,” a technique only used before 1824. Clearly this was a building that went back to the very earliest years of Austintown Township.

A title search on the property traced it all the way back to Calvin Austin, a land agent for the Connecticut Land Company, and later a judge, residing in Warren, then the county seat for the area that included Austintown and Youngstown. Austintown is name after him. In 1814, he sold just over 150 acres to John Packard for $500. It is likely he built the cabin the same year. Here is a brief history of the ownership of the cabin:

1827: Upon John’s death, the cabin was willed to William Packard, his son.
1828: William and Martha Packard transfer 30 acres to Samuel Dorwat
1829: Samuel and Sarah Dorwat sell 10 acres, including the house to Henry and Polly Lawrence for $50.
1845: The Lawrences sell the property to Abraham and Rebecca Dustman for $406. The Dustmans built a barn on the property that burned down in a fire.
1850: The Dustmans sold the house and property to Henry and Margaret Wehr for $510. The Wehrs added a hog shed and dug wells.
Date unknown: Levi (nephew) and Emma Wehr acquire the property. Levi builds a second barn in 1910.
1940’s: Willard Wesley Stricklin owned the home, digging out the root cellar under the kitchen.
1948: Joseph Hanko acquires home, digs out cellar under main house and adds small bathroom extension.
1964: House vacant.
1973: St. Andrews Episcopal Church acquires property.

When the cabin was discovered beneath the siding, the Austintown Community Council came together to raise funds to restore the cabin. A fundraiser was staged at the intersection of Mahoning Avenue and Raccoon Road. School children and PTAs chipped in. Bake sales and book sales were organized. This all-volunteer effort raised $50,000 that was supplemented with a Bicentennial grant of $2500. Working with an architect familiar with historic preservation, the roof was removed and replaced with a wood shake roof, interior walls were removed, windows replaced with those from a hundred year old school house. The chinking was replaced with a cement mixture and the logs were sealed. A restored fireplace was built with one hundred year old brick. A new furnace and plumbing were added. During the restoration, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 30, 1974. This became Austintown’s Bicentennial Project and was dedicated on July 4, 1976 after a parade down Raccoon Road to the site.

The Austintown Historical Society was formed the same month to maintain the cabin, which it has done since that time. The cabin serves as a historic museum for Austintown Township. Period furnishings include a bed Frank Ohl slept in, a spinning wheel and a yarn winder. The upstairs has been set up to resemble a one room school house and contains various memorabilia pertaining to John Fitch, who donated land for Austintown’s first high school, which bore his name as does the present high school. The basement contains a collection of farm implements, meticulously labeled as part of an Eagle Scout project. Also onsite is a family genealogy of Calvin Austin and his wedding certificate. Outdoors, there is a corn crib brought from another location, a three-seat outhouse, a smokehouse, a coal car, and various farm implements.

The late Dr. John White, an anthropology professor from Youngstown State supervised archaeological digs on the site. He located evidence of a multi-purpose shed used as a chicken coop, a stock well, a chicken house, two other outdoor privies, the foundations of the first and second barns on the property, a hog shed, a house well, a cistern, and a summer house. A book, The Archaeology of the Log House, written by Dr. White, along with various artifacts are on display at the house.

The Austin Log Cabin is located at 3797 S Raccoon Rd, Canfield, OH 44406. The phone number posted online is: (330) 799-8051. It is open for free tours on the first Sunday of each month from 1 to 4 pm, and other times by appointment. The cabin offers a combination of local history and captures what living conditions were like in the early years of the Western Reserve when the area was slowly becoming dotted with cabins like this one. As I write, the upcoming Sunday is the first of the month. This might make a great afternoon outing!

Sources:

Austin Log HouseWikipedia

Joyce Hunsinger Pogany, “History of Austintown and the Log Cabin” The Town Crier, March 10, 2017.

Vision of the Valley – Austin Log Cabin” YouTube video.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown – Tod House and Tod Hotel

Tod House and Realty Building

Realty Building and the Tod Hotel, from an undated vintage postcard.

I was alive when one of the great hotels of Youngstown, the Tod Hotel, was razed in 1968 for “urban renewal.” I’m sure I saw it on visits to downtown, but unlike the Hotel Pick Ohio, I cannot remember it and never was inside of it. But for nearly a century, first as the Tod House, and later as the Tod Hotel, it was one of the premiere places to stay in the city.

The first Tod House was built on the southeast corner of Central Square in the 1860’s by Henry Tod, son of governor David Tod, and John Stambaugh, Jr. P. Ross Berry, the storied African-American bricklayer and architect, did the bricklaying work for the hotel. It was a four story structure managed by Captain O. Sackett and holding its own with other first class hotels. Howard C. Aley recounts a humorous story in the life of the old Tod House:

“Tod House waiters accustomed to observing gourmets with gargantuan appetites stow away unbelievable quantities of food, were puzzled beyond words when a very small woman entered the dining room, ordered seventeen dishes including seven different kinds of meat and proceeded to consume the entire spread. Witnesses solemnly attested that her input was equivalent to that of two men engaged at hard labor.”

The old Tod House lodged a number of famous individuals including William F. Cody, William Jennings Bryan, the famous liberal democrat, Cleveland industrialist Mark Hanna, as he worked to put one-time Poland resident William McKinley into the White House, and boxer John L. Sullivan. The old Tod House closed with a farewell banquet on June 30, 1915.

The new Tod Hotel opened the following year on the same site, built at a cost of $375,000 and costing $50,000 to furnish. The formal opening was on October 26, 1916, and the first guest to register was John P. Hazlett, who had been a 25 year resident of the Tod House. According to Hotel Monthly, the spacious lobby featured leather furniture and marble wainscoting. A 5,000 square foot dining room could be entered from the lobby. It featured blue carpeting, ivory, blue, gray, and gold finishings, blue and gold window hangings, and a mezzanine gallery partitioned for private dining. The bar and cafe featured leather furniture and a Rip Van Winkle panel over the back bar. The basement level included a billiard parlor, a barber shop, a Turkish bath accommodating 40, and a lunch room with glass topped tables that could serve 1,000 meals a day.

Tod Hotel Lobby

Tod Hotel Lobby, from Hotel Monthly, September 1917.

The sleeping rooms featured “oil cloth in cretonne pattern,” a different color for the rooms on each floor. Of the 180 rooms, 100 had baths and 80 showers. The rooms featured mahogany furniture, monogrammed bedspreads, and combination dresser desks. All of this elegance could be had for $1.50 a day and up.

The Tod was owned at this time by the Tod House Company, whose president was John C. Fitch. Interestingly, the hotel was managed by Mark C. Hannan, who also managed the Tod’s nearby competitor, the Ohio. The resident manager was B. F. Merwin, who came from managing hotels in Toledo and Akron.

The Tod Hotel flourished through the end of World War II. By the 1950’s, movement was to the suburbs and out of town guests often stayed at the newer hotels and motels opening up on the outskirts of the city. It also faced competition from the nearby Voyager Motor Inn, which opened in 1963, but closed in 1974, outlasting the Tod Hotel by only six years.

Recently, a Doubletree by Hilton has opened up in the renovated Stambaugh Building, recalling the days when downtown Youngstown was the home to elegant hotels. On occasion I have stayed in great old hotels that have preserved the elegance of the period when the Tod Hotel was built. The Tod represented the name of a great Youngstown and Ohio family, and a vision of refined hoteliery of an age gone by.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Lake to River Canal

CanalizationMap150

Proposed canal route

One of the most interesting “might have beens” in Youngstown history, is whether Michael Kirwan’s “Big Ditch” would have made a difference to the steel industry in Youngstown. Michael J. Kirwan was the congressman from Youngstown for most of the years I lived there. He was in office from 1937 to 1970, dying in office. James L. Wick, Jr. wrote to him in 1937 about the idea of a canal, and it was one he campaigned for until his dying day and the one initiative that most people who know him associate with his name. His vision was for a canal running south from Ashtabula on Lake Erie, connecting with the Mahoning River and running southeast into Pennsylvania, connecting with the Ohio River at Rochester, Pennsylvania. It would create a water route between the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Perhaps the interest in a canal goes back to the Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal completed in 1839 from New Castle, Pennsylvania to Akron, running through Youngstown, and connecting with the Ohio and Erie Canal, running from Cleveland to the Ohio River. For a period of time in the mid-1800’s, the canal contributed to the rise of the coal and iron industry in the Mahoning Valley, providing transport of both raw materials and finished products to Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The rise of the railroads led to the demise of the canal, which was abandoned in 1872 and officially closed in 1877.

Ironically, it was the rising freight rates on the railroads that sparked renewed interest in a lake to river canal. By the early 1900’s, the idea of a new canal was already under discussion, with a route from Ashtabula to Pittsburgh approved by 1912 by the National Waterways Commission. In 1919, the Army Corps of Engineers was authorized to study proposed routes, favoring a route that ran via the Mahoning and Beaver Rivers to the Ohio. The estimated the cost at the time at $120 million, which was deemed impractical and economically unsound. Supporters of the canal, particularly Youngstown Steel interests pressed their case. Routes were surveyed in 1926 and 1931. Against the steel interests were equally powerful rail interests that helped stall the project again and again. Disagreements over the route also caused problems. Pennsylvania interests started arguing a route that passed further east, entirely in Pennsylvania. Yet more funds were appropriated in 1935 for further study.

Another factor that stalled progress on the canal was opposition from rural communities in Ashtabula and northern Trumbull counties. Part of the canal plan included a dam near Farmington that would create a reservoir, the Grand River Reservoir running across Ashtabula County to just south of Ashtabula. Austinburg, Mechanicsville, Rock Creek, Eagleville, Mesopotamia, Windsor, East Trumbull and Farmington would be submerged. Rock Creek would have been under 42 feet of water.

Michael_J._Kirwan_84th_Congress_1955

Michael J. Kirwan

Michael Kirwan campaigned for the canal throughout his tenure. Given his tenure, he was a powerful figure on important committees, but he could never turn the canal into a reality. The railroads continued to resist, arguing the high costs of altering bridges. Further studies were made in 1958 and in 1965, the Army Corp of Engineers recommended construction. The death knell was sounded when Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Schafer, a Republican, refused to grant right-of-way for the canal construction in his state.

Even so, funds were allocated as late as 1988 and 1994 for feasibility studies. From an engineering and navigational point of view, it was judged feasible, but not from an economic point of view. But by then the steel industry had died.

Would the building of the canal have been a game-changer for the Valley’s steel industry? It seems to be a question of whether the enhanced and possibly more economical transportation facilities this would create would offset foreign competition. What might this have meant if it had been built by the 1960’s, enhancing a still strong industrial economy? Seems we’ll never know.

Sources:

1937-1939: Kirwan Pushes for ‘Big Ditch’ ” The Business Journal, January 8, 2008.

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. 216-218.

bkbrennan, “Congressman Kirwan’s Own Story” YSU Archives Weblog, May 22, 2008.

Canalization” Lake Erie and Ohio River Canal.

Judith J. Carroll, “Proposed Lake Erie-Ohio River Canal and Grand River Reservoir Records” Kent State University Libraries, April 2018.

Ed Runyan, “Warren Marker Teaches About Canal That Passed Through the Mahoning Valley” The Vindicator, July 20, 2013

Jeffrey Snedden, “A Missed Opportunity: The Canal That Never Was” The Times, October 10, 2017.

 

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — How Mahoning Became a County

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Map of Mahoning County showing original lots and farms from 1860. Image source: Library of Congress

Have you ever looked at a map of Mahoning County? Have you ever wondered why the five townships that make up the southern part of the county are bigger than the townships in the northern part of the county (six instead of five miles square), destroying what would be a neat rectangle? Have you wondered why the southern county line jogs north, cutting out parts of Green and Goshen Townships? Why is the county fair of Mahoning County in Canfield? And did you know that “Mahoning” is the fourth county designation in our local history?

Originally, the Mahoning Valley was part of a huge Washington County that stretched from the Ohio River to Lake Erie at the time of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787. General Arthur St. Clair set up the county on July 27, 1788. Eventually, the county was subdivided into a smaller northern portion, named Jefferson County. Then with the creation of the Western Reserve, what were the two rows of five townships in the northernmost part of what is now Mahoning County, became the southernmost part of Trumbull County. From 1800 to 1846, Youngstown was one of the villages in Trumbull County, and involved from the beginning in a battle for the honor of being county seat, the honor going to Warren.

In the 1840’s the routing of canals and railroads through Youngstown led to a much more rapid industrial expansion than in Warren. Warren’s old frame courthouse at the time was somewhat unbecoming and too small. Also, the growing population in Youngstown, Canfield, and other southern townships had no voice in the state legislature while those from the northern parts of Trumbull County dominated. Finally with the election of Eben Newton from Canfield in 1842 to the State Senate and representatives in the lower house from Youngstown forces coalesced over the next several years to explore several proposals for a new county. Finally, a proposal creating Mahoning County passed in the state legislature on February 16, 1846.

To keep Warren roughly central in Trumbull County, it was decided to form the new county out of the two southern rows of five townships (Poland, Boardman, Canfield, Ellsworth and Berlin, in the south, and Coitsville, Youngstown, Austintown,  Jackson, and Milton in the north). It was also proposed to make the northern tier of Columbiana County townships part of the new county (Springfield, Beaver, Green, Goshen, and Smith). The Western Reserve townships were surveyed on five mile squares, Columbiana townships on six mile squares. That accounts for the irregular shape of Mahoning County with the southern tier of townships extending further west. Also, the jog in the southern county line of the new Mahoning County kept Salem in Columbiana County.

While the creation of Mahoning County resolved the conflict between Youngstown and Warren, it created a new one between Youngstown and Canfield. If you look at a map of the county, Canfield is geographically central. As it turns out, Canfield officials also were on the ball. Eben Newton, now a judge, donated the land for a courthouse and the people subscribed $10,000 for its construction, beating out Youngstown at the time.

With the creation of the new county with its county seat in Canfield, the new county staged its first county fair in Canfield the following year in 1847, the first of these annual events. Canfield got the county seat and the county fair, but the war for the seat of government in Mahoning County was not over. In 1876, Youngstown finally won the county seat. But that’s a story for another time.

And that is the story of how Mahoning became a county.

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. 67-72.

Joseph G. Butler, History of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley, Ohio. Volume 1 (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1921), pp. 184-191.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Clingan Jackson

Clingan's Chronicles

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.

Youngstown Vindicator Clingan Jackson 09011968

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 — Dr. Timothy Woodbridge

old log cabin

Old Log Cabin, Photo by James D’Angelo, [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

I walked, biked, and drove by here many times. In college, we had picnics and planning retreats here for a student group I was part of. Little did I realize that the Old Log Cabin served as the home and office of Dr. Timothy Woodbridge, the first doctor born in Youngstown, who was recognized for his distinction as a physician by local peers, Governor David Tod, and even President Rutherford B. Hayes.

His father, John E. Woodbridge, a native of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, settled in Youngstown in 1807, just eleven years after John Young surveyed the town. One of John’s grandfathers was the great American preacher and theologian, Jonathan Edwards. John established a tannery on the west end of the small town, near the Mahoning River. Timothy, one of ten children, was born in Youngstown in 1810. When he and his brother John were young, they were swimming in the Mahoning River and got into deep water. Timothy barely survived; John drowned. No one knows but perhaps that was part of what informed his decision to study and practice medicine. As in many professions, he began his training with a local doctor, Dr. Henry Manning, one of the first doctors in Youngstown. Subsequently, he continued his medical training at the Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia, probably the center of medical training in the U.S. at the time, graduating with his M.D. in 1833.

Woodbridge returned to the area, living briefly in North Lima before settling in Youngstown. In 1847, when fellow Youngstown resident David Tod (later governor) was appointed by President James K. Polk as minister to Brazil, Woodbridge was asked to come along as the family’s physician. He returned to his Youngstown practice in 1848. In 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War, he was appointed as a surgeon with the Army and was stationed at Johnson’s Island on Lake Erie, where he served until the end of the war. Johnson Island eventually served as a prisoner of war camp for Confederate soldiers.

He had a second stint with the Army, being appointed in 1879 by fellow Ohioan, President Rutherford B. Hayes, as surgeon at Fort Peck, Montana, where he served for three years. He returned to Youngstown and continued to practice until he suffered a stroke in 1892, dying in the city hospital in 1893, the first area doctor to die in the hospital. He is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

It was during the Civil War, in 1862 that Dr. Woodbridge purchased what we call the Old Log Cabin and moved it to its current location beside Mill Creek near present day Lake Glacier (the lake had not yet been dammed and created). The cabin had been built in 1816 in the Bears Den area and was disassembled and move to its current location by Dr. Woodbridge.

Howard C. Aley, citing John C. Melnick, M.D.’s A History of Medicine in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley notes that Woodbridge had his own eccentricities when it came to business practices. In his day books, he would often list patients as “the fat woman in Brier Hill,” the “man on Coitsville Road,” or “the old man at Crab Creek.” When patients came to settle fees, he often told them that 75% or even 50% would settle their accounts (in a day when an office visit cost 25 cents and a house call 50 cents). He preferred a mule to a horse, and a rig to a buggy, often binding loose tires to the rims with strands of wire.

He and a group of Mahoning County physicians organized the Mahoning County Medical Society in 1872 and he served as its first president for seven years. Governor David Tod, and other physicians around the state had high regard for his skills. Tod recognized his efforts with a gift of beautiful surgical instruments which soon showed the signs of extensive use. In the 1880’s, he tested the water of the sulphur spring and recommended it to his patients for rheumatism as “spa water.”

He was know for his study of medicine throughout his life and tireless efforts, going on four to six hours of sleep most nights. The History of Trumbull and Mahoning Counties, published during his life in 1882, paid this tribute to him:

“He is eminent, both as a physician and a surgeon. He is noted not only for his professional skill but for his kindness and benevolence, never refusing to attend a professional call on account of the poverty of the patient, and many a poor sufferer on a bed of sickness has had occasion to be grateful to him for other than professional aid.”

He represented what is noblest in the medical profession and set high standards for his peers in the area. The Old Log Cabin is an enduring tribute to his contribution to the health of Youngstown area residents during the early years of the city’s history.

Sources:

Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share. Youngstown: The Bicentennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County, pp. 39-40.

Online Sources:

Medicine in a Log Cabin,” Blog of the Melnick Medical (History) Museum.

Old Log Cabin,” Ohio Memory Collection, Ohio History Connection.

History of Trumbull and Mahoning Counties, pp. 406-407, via Google Digital Archives.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Chauncey H. Andrews

Chauncey H. Andrews

Chauncey H. Andrews

He was the first millionaire in Youngstown. He developed vertically integrated business concerns in the connected industries of coal mining, iron making, and rail transport. He played a critical role in moving the county seat of Mahoning County from Canfield to Youngstown. His estate at 750 Wick Avenue is now the home of Ursuline High School.

Chauncey H. (either Humason or Hunn, depending on the account) Andrews was born in Vienna, Ohio on December 2, 1823 to Norman and Julia (Humason) Andrews. Norman moved in 1818 from Hartford, Connecticut to Vienna. His father, who had been in the mercantile business, opened a hotel, the Mansion House on West Federal Street in 1842. He worked at his father’s hotel, and for a time after his father’s death, went into the mercantile business, which appears to be his only failure, going bankrupt in 1853. For a time he returned to manage the Mansion House.

The year 1857 marked the beginning of his ascent in life and business. In that year, he married Louisa Baldwin. He opened up the Thorn Hill coal bank on the northeast side near Hubbard Township (a portion of the mine runs under present day Lansdowne Airport) and located on the Baldwin family farm. Over the next nine years the mine produced a half million tons of coal. In 1858, he formed a partnership, Andrews & Hitchcock, with William J. Hitchcock. They opened mines throughout the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys, including the Oak Hill and Coal Run mines in Mercer County. He purchased a large interest in the Westerman Iron Company in Sharon, which included a blast furnace, rolling mill, and interests in the Brookfield Coal Company. Andrews and his brothers W.C. and Lawrence formed the Andrews Bros. Co. and purchased more coal mines and built two blast furnaces known as the Haselton furnaces.

These ventures reflected the expansion of railroads into the east side of Youngstown and were located near the terminus of the Lawrence Railroad where it joined the C & M Railroad. He became involved in expanding rail connections between Niles and Lisbon, and then opened up new coal fields in southern Columbiana County along the rail lines. He also invested in subsidiary lines of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroads and was on the Board of Directors of the Hocking Valley Railroad. He became president of William A. Wood Mower and Reaper Manufacturing Co. in 1880 and the Malleable Iron Works. During all this time, he continued to expand his coal holdings, as well as rebuilding and expanding the Haselton furnaces after an explosion in 1871. He also was involved in several banking concerns in Youngstown, as president of the Commercial National Bank, vice president of the Second National Bank, and a director of the Savings Bank, which eventually became the Mahoning National Bank.

Andrews’ success in business translated into civic influence as well. He served on city council. In 1874, the Ohio legislature approved the move of the county seat to Youngstown, subject to the approval of county voters, and the provision of land and a new court house. Andrews played a crucial role on the latter part of this, raising the money necessary for building the first court house building, county jail, and sheriff’s residence. He personally signed the contracts underwriting the expenses of the construction and assuming responsibility for these obligations.

He had two daughters, Edith and Julia. Edith married John A. Logan, Jr (a “merger” reflected in a similar merge of Andrews and Logan Avenues!). Julia married L.C. Bruce of New York.

Andrews’ talent was managing widespread business interests profitably, something not always achieved by some of the other early coal and iron interests. He was also a significant philanthropist. The Ohio Mining Journal includes this account of his personal generosity:

He gave largely to charity and none deserving were ever turned away empty handed. At one time he said to an employe there are a number of poor families in this city who are poor and have not the means to buy coal. I want a list of them. In a few days the list was furnished. Looking them over he said : ” Send a half car load of coal to each family, but if you let them know that I sent it or give any information where it came from, I’ll discharge you at once.”

Chauncey Andrews died on December 25, 1893. William McKinley, then governor of Ohio, was one of his honorary pall-bearers. He was survived by Louisa who continued to reside in the family mansion at 750 Wick Avenue. In 1919 the Ursuline Academy, which had outgrown its nearby Rayen Avenue convent building, purchased the estate. In 1924, they broke ground on a school that would accommodate 400 students.

Chauncey H. Andrews was one of the builders of Youngstown who stands side by side in importance with David Tod, Joseph Butler, the Wicks, and Henry Stambaugh. Somehow, it seems we hear less of him, and yet he was one of the most successful. Sooner or later, the county seat probably would have moved to Youngstown. He made it happen at once, as he did in bringing or launching many businesses into the Valley.

Sources:

Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share. Youngstown: The Bicentennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County.

Clayton J. Ruminski, Iron Valley: The Transformation of the Iron Industry in Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, 1802-1913.

Online sources:

Biography of Chauncey H. Andrews.”

Ohio Mining Journal, no. 23, Necrological

Andrews, Chauncey Hunn,” Viennapedia.

Chauncey H. Andrews,” (obituary), Iron Age, no. 53. p. 65.

Andrews, Chauncey Hunn,” The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, pp. 191-192.

Historic Lansdowne Airport/Youngstown’s Hidden Secret,” MahoningValley.Info.

Ursuline High School (Youngstown, Ohio),” Wikipedia.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — McKelvey Lake

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Portion of  topographical map from the US Geological Survey showing McKelvey Lake

I’ve always been curious about McKelvey Lake. But truth be told, as a West-sider, I have to admit that this is one place around Youngstown that I have never seen. Pictures I’ve seen online show a scenic lake surrounded by trees, another natural oasis within the city limits of Youngstown.

Part of my curiosity relates to the name. Having worked at McKelvey’s in high school and college, I wondered if it was related to the McKelvey family who owned the department store. It turns out that Lucius B. McKelvey served as a director of the Mahoning Water Company that administered the water supply from the lake and later served as its president. I cannot find any account of the naming, so I’m guessing that it was connected with McKelvey’s tenure. He was a community leader who also was president of the Youngstown Automobile Club, was involved in a variety of community efforts, and in 1941, received an award for China relief, as well as serving as president of the G.M. McKelvey Company until his death in 1944.

McKelvey Lake was created by the damming of Dry Run, which flows into the Mahoning River at Lincoln Park. The current dam was built in 1926, creating a 125 acre lake three miles east of downtown, that is perhaps the most prominent feature on a map of the East side of Youngstown. The lake is surrounded by woodlands.

The Mahoning Water Company was later acquired by the Ohio Water Service Company which operated it for many years, followed by a series of mergers and acquisitions. It is currently owned by Aqua America. McKelvey Lake served as a reservoir for the Struthers area during the steel era, until the 1980’s. Since then, it has served as a back up water source, with Evans Lake as primary source to the service area.

The lake has something of a sinister history that belies its scenic appearance. The legend is that this is where organized crime figures “dumped the bodies.” A Vindicator article from 2012 describes a dive training exercise with the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department that recovered knives, guns (including one traced to a homicide), vehicles, jewelry, and a mixing console. A 2013 story recounts the recovery of a couple vehicles. I suspect if the lake could talk it could tell some stories. The Jacobs Road bridge across the lake lends itself to dumping items (and at least one suicide attempt) and this is where divers have found a number of the items mentioned.

There is some hope for a better future. There have long been plans, according to The Business Journalfor turning this into a recreation area. In 2005, Youngstown received a $265,000 Clean Ohio grant to purchase 200 acres of woodland between the dam and Lincoln park to be preserved in its natural state in perpetuity.  A Vindicator article in 2017, which recounted this purchase, also reported support by Mahoning County commissioners for another Clean Ohio grant for the Natural Areas Land Conservancy (NALC) to purchase the lake and the surrounding woodlands from Aqua Ohio. The article reports that the intended use was “ ‘as an open and inviting community green space and passive recreational area suitable for activities, ranging from hiking and picnicking to kayaking and cross-country skiing, within an urban neighborhood that urgently needs an outdoor recreational amenity of this sort.’ ” A follow up article in June of 2017 indicated that NALC had received the grant and the hope was that the property would transfer in the next year. There is no more recent news about this effort and the lake is still listed as one of Aqua America’s Ohio water sources.

It is to be hoped that lake could be re-purposed as a recreation area, transferring it from private to public use. The increased public presence might curtail its use as a dumping ground while preserving its natural beauty. The June 2017 article indicates there has been severe dam deterioration that was supposed to have been addressed by October 26, 2018 by Aqua Ohio. I find no reports that this has been accomplished or about transfer of the property. Hopefully, this will be accomplished soon, if it has not been already, and that this beautiful resource will not be allowed to deteriorate.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Great Flood of 1913

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Flooding of Republic Steel Mills along the Mahoning River, Photo from Mahoning Valley Historical Society Archive

The Great Flood of 1913 is an event probably no one reading this remembers. But my grandparents, and those of their generation, talked about it. It rained for four days and nights between March 23 and March 26, 1913. Similar to the Thanksgiving snowstorm of 1950, three different weather systems came together and stalled over the Ohio Valley, blocked by a high pressure system to the east. Flooding occurred throughout Ohio with some of the worst flooding in southwest Ohio and in Columbus. But Youngstown suffered severely as well.

Estimates range between 4.26 inches and 7 to 9 inches of rainfall over the four day period in the Mahoning Valley. Back then there were no reservoirs or flood control measures and so all the water from the tributaries to the Mahoning River caused it to crest at 26.5 feet, 10 feet above the flood stage of 16.5 feet, and 7 feet higher than any previous storm. The peak discharge of the Mahoning River was estimated at 44,400 cubic feet per second.

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Youngstown Daily Vindicator map of flooded areas, March 27, 1913

Youngstown is a hilly city, through which the Mahoning River runs. Therefore many areas of the city were spared flooding, but not the low lying areas along the Mahoning River and Crab Creek. Unfortunately, Youngstown’s steel mills were built in the flood plain as well as the railroads that served them. Parts of downtown adjacent to the river were also flooded, including The Vindicator. Flooding destroyed the West Avenue and Division Street bridges, took out the water pumping station and the power station on North Avenue. Ironically, Youngstown was without drinking water in the middle of a flood!

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Flooding at the B & O Station, Photo from Mahoning Valley Historical Society Archive

Damage estimates at the time were estimated at $2.5 million in the Youngstown area and over $100 million statewide. Governor Cox mobilized National Guard troops to provide disaster assistance and prevent looting. Youngstown Fire Department personnel played a key role in helping pump water out of the North Avenue power station, enabling power to be restored, and out of the press pit of The Vindicator, allowing the newspaper to resume regular publication. All told, about 25,000 people were temporarily out of work.

Flooding had been a regular occurrence along the Mahoning River. Joseph G. Butler, in his history of Youngstown describes floods as a yearly event, though none as bad as this. Sarah Gartland, of the Mahoning Valley Planning Commission states that there were six major floods between 1880 and 1913. This flood led to major changes. The flooding of the water pumping station ultimately led to moving Youngstown’s water supply to Meander Reservoir. Bridges were designed with higher spans so debris wouldn’t build up and then sweep the bridge away.

Most important was the development of flood control measures along the tributaries to the Mahoning River. In 1973, a flood protection project was completed on Crab Creek. Eventually five dams were built creating reservoirs that helped control the flow of water into the Mahoning–the Milton Dam in 1917, Berlin Reservoir (1941-43), Mosquito Reservoir (1943-1944), Shenango Reservoir (1963-1967), and West Branch (Kirwan) Reservoir (1963-1966). A map showing the locations of these reservoirs can be found in an article by Stan Boney, showing how Youngstown is better prepared to withstand rainfall totals like those experienced in the 1913 flood. The Milton and Berlin Reservoirs work together and reduce flooding on the Mahoning River 3-5 feet.

So when you boat on Milton or one of the other reservoirs, thank the Great Flood of 1913  and hope those engineers are taking good care of those dams. The flood of 1959 (I’ll write about that someday, perhaps) is a once in 43 year event, the flood of 1913 a once in 200 year event. Given some of the extreme weather of recent years, a major rain event is only a matter of time.

While there are no longer the same industries along the Mahoning there once were, anything close to the river, in its flood plain is at risk. Given that the 1913 flood was ten feet over flood stage, and the dams may halve that, it does appear flooding could still occur. The master plan for the Youngstown Riverfront Park and Amphitheater indicates that much of the site is within the 100- and 500-year flood plains of the Mahoning River (the Covelli Center is just outside the 500-year boundaries). Let’s hope planners are taking that into account.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm of 1950

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My father-in-law after the Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm of 1950. 

The Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm of 1950 is one I don’t remember. I was not yet on the scene. The storm I remember was the Blizzard of 1978, probably because I was stranded in a dorm in Bowling Green for five days. I remember my parents talking about the 1950 storm and my wife shared this picture of her father in the aftermath of that snowfall.

The snowstorm was the biggest in Ohio history, and one of the most unusual weather events to ever occur in the United States. It snowed in the Youngstown area from late on Thanksgiving evening, November 23 through the 27th, dropping a total of 29 inches of snow on the Youngstown area. The 24 hour snowfall record in Youngstown of 20.7 inches was set over November 24-25 during that storm. Some areas got it worse. Steubenville received a total of 44 inches, the record snowfall for Ohio.

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Snowfall totals through the Ohio Valley, National Centers for Environmental Information

Two low pressure systems, one from the Great Lakes and one from the south concentrated just west of the Appalachians over western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, where the heaviest snowfalls occurred. For this reason it is also known as the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950. There were some weird occurrences. For example, at 2:30 pm on November 25, Pittsburgh had blizzard conditions and temperatures of 9º F while in Buffalo 150 miles north it was 54ºF with the hurricane force winds that prevailed over the east coast and New England. Perhaps weirdest was that this low pressure system slowly tracked west over the next several days before dissipating, blocked by an intense high pressure system over New England. That contributed to the massive accumulations.

According to Howard C. Aley, in A Heritage to Share, Thanksgiving afternoon and evening was almost spring-like. Weather forecasts for Friday were for “snow flurries.” Snow began overnight but wasn’t overly heavy Friday morning. It snowed steadily all day and by Saturday morning the Valley was buried in blizzard conditions. A state of emergency was declared in the city. The National Guard was called in and it was a priority to rescue those whose homes were facing roof collapses, and pregnant women due to deliver. All businesses were closed and estimated losses from lost wages, production, and snow removal totaled over $20 million. Regionally, over one million people lost power, 22 states were affected, and 353 people lost their lives.

Not everything ground to a halt. In Columbus, the annual rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan was played at Ohio Stadium in what became known as the “Blizzard Bowl.” I found this video clip of game highlights. Michigan won 9-3, gaining only 27 yards and not getting a single first down. Temperatures Saturday morning were 5ºF with 40 mile per hour winds. I don’t know how they played that game!

Bulldozers were used to clear the roads. Ohio’s governor declared Monday a legal holiday. Schools remained closed on Tuesday and many remained closed on Wednesday. The Vindicator did not publish for three days, getting a paper out on Tuesday. By Tuesday the 28th some of the main streets of Youngstown were dug out. As you can see from the picture above of my father-in-law, in residential neighborhoods often all they could do was clear a narrow path, just enough to allow emergency services in, or to get key personnel like doctors out.

All over Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, there are people who remember that storm. Youngstown was just about in the epicenter where the two lows merged. It was a Category Five storm on the Regional Snowfall Index, the highest category (the Blizzard of ’78 was also a Category Five, the only one with a higher max RSI, though less snow). I kind of hope these two storms remain exceptional, having lived through the latter and from all I’ve read of the former.

If you remember the Great Thanksgiving Snowstorm of 1950, I would love it if you could share your memories!