Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Youngstown Playhouse

Do your remember going on field trips to the Youngstown Playhouse as a kid? I do. I can’t remember the plays we watched but I remember the Cat Lady who came out to welcome us and talked to us before the plays.

The Youngstown Playhouse has a long history in Youngstown. In the 1920’s, Youngstown was a stopover place for national stars like the Barrymores, Al Jolson, and Walter Hampden. Area residents wanted a more ongoing opportunity for live theatre based in and open for community participation. The Youngstown Playhouse website says “In the early 1920’s, four ladies from Rodef Sholom began reading plays for their own enjoyment.”  In 1927, several drama organizations came together and formed the Youngstown Players.

Originally, they performed in a converted barn at Arlington Street and Lincoln Avenue. People from every walk of life participated. The key ingredient was hard work, which people in Youngstown knew how to do. Talent followed.

In 1942, the Playhouse moved to an abandoned theatre on Market Street. Then, in 1959 they moved to their new (and current) home on 600 Playhouse Lane off Glenwood Avenue.

Over the years, the Playhouse has been the starting point for a number of artists. Two of the better known are actress Elizabeth Hartman, who starred with Sidney Poitier in A Patch of Blue, and John DeMain, a Grammy award winning symphony conductor, who I wrote about recently in a post on the Youngstown Symphony, where he served as acting director during the 1980’s. He currently is the music director for the Madison (Wisconsin) Symphony Orchestra.

The Playhouse is still going strong, offering a season of nine productions in 2019-2020. They offer a Summer Theatre Intensive for aspiring actors under 18 as well, other children’s educational programming, as well as opportunities for community involvement as volunteers, as actors in productions and patrons. The Playhouse receives no taxpayer funding and relies exclusively on revenues from grants, donations, and ticket sales–no small feat. James McClellan is the current operations manager and Johnny Peccano the technical coordinator.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Youngstown Symphony Orchestra

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The Little Symphony Orchestra, Source unknown, via Youngstown Symphony on Facebook

One of the paradoxes of Youngstown is that it is a gritty, industrial, working-class town and a city where the arts have long flourished. It is evident in the spaces that have been set aside, like the Butler and Stambaugh Auditorium, and the performance home of the Youngstown Symphony, the former Warner Theatre, now part of a beautifully restored DeYor performing complex.

For the Youngstown Symphony, it all started when two brothers, Michael and Carmine Ficocelli, recruited twelve young musicians under the age of 16 from the Youngstown Schools, where they taught music. They formed The Little Symphony Orchestra in 1926, broadcasting their first concert on WKBN that year. It wasn’t until 1929 that they gave their first public performance. The Ficocellis continued to lead the orchestra until 1951. John Kruger became the third conductor that year, and shortly after changed the name to the Youngstown Philharmonic Orchestra. Under Kruger, the Philharmonic added a chorus, and a Youngstown Symphony Youth Orchestra, continuing the tradition of young musicians that were the orchestra’s roots.

It was under John Kruger that I first encountered what was then the Youngstown Philharmonic during elementary school. We rode the bus up to Stambaugh Auditorium, dressed up in nice clothes for Youth Concerts, where we heard pieces like Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, that introduced us to the different instruments in the orchestra.

In 1965 Franz Bibo succeeded John Kruger in what was a pivotal period in the orchestra’s history. It was during this time that the name was changed to the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra. Bibo pioneered the staging of locally produced operas. Most of all, it was under his leadership that the Youngstown Symphony and the Symphony Society acquired and renovated the Warner Theatre, restoring its glory as the renamed Edward W. Powers Auditorium. The Youngstown Symphony is one of the few orchestras of its size to have its own performing space. He led the orchestra until 1980. We went to several concerts as college students, most memorably a lavish production of The Nutcracker.

The next 25 years saw a succession of four directors. Peter Leonard came as Music Director in 1980. When he left three years later, Youngstown native John DeMain served as Acting Music Director until 1987. DeMain was born in Youngstown in 1944 to a steelworker father and travel agent mother. He was a piano prodigy at age 6 and sang in Youngstown Playhouse productions in his youth before going to Juilliard. His real career has been in conducting with a Grammy winning performance of Porgy and Bess, and premieres of Leonard Bernstein’s A Quiet Place and John Adams’ Nixon in China. Friends of mine in Madison, Wisconsin rave about his twenty-five year tenure there and all he has done with their orchestra. Youngstown was fortunate to acquire his services when he was in his forties and establishing an international reputation.

David Effron followed from 1987 to 1996, during a time when the Symphony Board led a campaign for a $3.5 million endowment. Isaiah Jackson succeeded him in another nine year tenure through 2006. For many rock aficionados, his tenure is remembered for a joint effort with a re-united Glass Harp on October 22, 2000 at Powers Auditorium, “Strings Attached.”

Since then, the orchestra has been led by Randall Craig Fleischer. Under Fleischer, the orchestra has continued its work with young musicians, filling the gap where music education in the schools has ended and taking Young People’s Concerts to the schools. They have inaugurated a Stain Glass Concert series of free informal concerts at various houses of worship around Youngstown, including St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital. They have performed with a variety of popular musicians including country artists Rachel Potter and Patrick Thomas this past Christmas.

In 2016, the Youngstown Symphony celebrated its 90th year. The Vindicator published a special section on September 16, 2016 highlighting its history and current programs. Under Maestro Fleischer, the Youngstown Symphony appears to be a vibrant organization, continuing to inspire young musicians. Who knows who the next John DeMain will be?

More information about the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra including their current concert schedule may be found at their website.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Strock Stone House

Strock Stone House

Strock Stone House, photo courtesy of the Austintown Historical Society.

It is interesting the things you learn on the way to researching something else, in this case, posts on the Austin Log Cabin and Jared Potter Kirtland. I discovered that the Strock Stone House, after the Austin Log Cabin, is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Austintown and both homes are historical sites maintained by the Austintown Historical Society. Like the Kirtland residence in Poland, the Strock Stone House (also known as the Judge William Shaw Anderson house) was probably a stop on the underground railroad. Records of such things were not kept because it was illegal (but moral) to shelter and aid fugitive slaves.

The house was built in 1831 by William McClure and occupied by William Strock and his family. Strock’s parents came to Austintown between 1813 and 1815, living in the Smiths Corners area. The home, located along the original road between Youngstown and Akron (a bit south of Mahoning Avenue, was built of huge blocks of sandstone quarried from a nearby quarry on South Turner Road). The road was originally a dirt road, later a plank road, and finally a brick road. Part of the driveway beside the house consists of the original brick.

In 1851 the Strocks sold the house and 108 acres to Francis Henry. If the house served as a stop on the underground railroad, it would have been under Francis Henry’s ownership. The house was somewhat isolated and fugitive slaves could approach without being seen by prying eyes.

In 1863, Francis Henry sold the house to David Anderson, who had met Jonathan Wick in Philadelphia. The two of them opened a general store in Jackson Township and at one time, Anderson was the wealthiest resident of Austintown, worth nearly $50,000, a tidy sum in 1870. After his wife Hannah died from an accidental fall in 1879, Anderson let the house fall into disrepair, then turned it over to his oldest son, William Shaw Anderson.

William Shaw Anderson was a prominent attorney and judge in Youngstown and lived in the house between 1890 and 1925. Between 1912 and 1918 he made improvements on the existing structure and built a frame addition (the white shingled portion) that included a sun room, dining room, and dinette downstairs, and three bedrooms and a full bath upstairs. President William McKinley was reportedly one of his guests.

In 1925, Anderson died and the house passed to his children. In 1929, they sold the house and land to the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District (MVSD), which was in the process of creating Meander Reservoir, modernizing and improving Youngstown’s water supply. At that time, the road was moved north to the present location of Mahoning Avenue.

Until 1985, the house was occupied by the Chief Engineer for MVSD. Since then the Austintown Historical Society, with help from MVSD has maintained the house, particularly the interior. The house features antiques, furnishings, period clothing, games, equipment, and utensils. One of the distinctive items on display is a slave quilt from South Carolina.

The Austintown Historical Society hosts a Holiday High Tea each November with the house decorated for the holidays. The most recent was on Sunday, November 10, 2019, and attended by 120 people. They have also hosted Spring Teas.

Anyone can visit the Strock Stone House on the first Sunday of each month from 1 to 4 pm. No appointment is needed and no admission is charged. Donations, however are welcomed and there is a place to leave donations. The house is located at 7171 Mahoning Avenue, just east of Meander Reservoir. More information about the Austintown Historical Society and events at the Strock Stone House may be found at their Facebook page.

We drove out Mahoning Avenue by Meander many times before I-76 was built, but I never noticed the house (although at that time it was still occupied by the Chief Engineer. It is one more place I’ve added to my “bucket list” of places to visit around Youngstown.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Paisley House

Paisley House

The Paisley House, photo courtesy of The Paisley House

I walked past here a hundred times or more. In high school and college, I worked at McKelvey’s while going to Youngstown State. In good weather, I often walked to work to save bus fare. On Mahoning Avenue, just before the Mahoning Avenue bridge was this stately old brick home on the left or north side of the street, just across from the McKinley Avenue entrance to Fellows Gardens. I often wondered, “who lives there?” It was a time when there were still “homes for unwed mothers” and I wondered if it was something like that.

In a conversation with Jill Cox, the Executive Director of Paisley House, she shared that this apparently was a common question. Now Paisley House includes with its name the description “Assisted Living.” The other question people may wonder about is “what is it like in there?” The facility has all the comforts of home including a kitchen where meals are prepared, a dining room with hardwood floors, a grand carpeted staircase, library, sunroom, and comfortable resident bedrooms or suites.

Paisley House traces its history back to 1909. In 1908 a board was formed, consisting of Mary Paisley (chair), Louise Anderson, and C. H. Ruhlman, to establish a facility for “aged” women. On March 1, 1909 The Home for Aged Women of Mahoning County was established. According to Howard C. Aley, the board acquired the old homestead of Jacob Powers and came up with a unique fund-raiser with a goal of raising $15,000. Two men rolled a giant inflatable rubber ball on downtown streets with a woman on each side collecting donations. Appropriately, the campaign theme was “Keep the Ball Rolling.” Subsequently, Sallie Tod left a bequest of $110,000 for the home which over the years has been supplemented by charities, and other donations, making it possible to charge residents less than the full cost of their care. To this day, Paisley House functions as a non-profit organization with a volunteer Board of Directors.

I always knew the house as Paisley House. Ms. Cox could not tell me when the name change occurred from “The Home for Aged Women” to Paisley House, named after founding board chair, Mary Paisley. On October 12, 2002, the name was formally changed to Paisley House, Home for the Aged, recognizing the opening up of their care to both men and women. Today, because the term “aged” is no longer acceptable, they highlight their purpose as a facility providing assisted living services.

The tagline that has been used to describe Paisley House was “no extra for the extras.” Ms. Cox mentioned some of the services that exemplify this tagline. They have a beauty shop in which all the women residents have their hair washed and set weekly by a registered beautician. The laundress provides “impeccable” service in washing, removing stains, ironing and repairing clothes. Meals are home-cooked onsite in the kitchen. The home has a staff of nurses and aides, a house physician, and podiatrist. Regular outings for shopping, movies, and live performances are offered.

Paisley House has room for 24 residents and there are usually a few openings. The website indicates: “At Paisley House, meals, and virtually all of life’s other necessities, are included in a single, affordable monthly fee. There is no up-front investment or long-term commitment.” Because charges change, interested families or individuals should contact the Executive Director to discuss current fees.

For 110 years, Paisley House has been serving the needs of the elderly in the Youngstown area. It was assuring on a recent visit to the West side where so much has changed to see the Paisley House, looking just as I remembered it in the early 1970’s. In my conversation with Jill Cox, the Executive Director, I received the impression of a dedicated team who love what they do and take great pride in continuing the tradition of compassionate care for seniors that was vision of Mary Paisley and that first board that “got the ball rolling.”

You may contact the Paisley House at:

Paisley House
1408 Mahoning Avenue
Youngstown, Ohio 44509

Phone: 330 799-9431
E-mail: living@paisleyhouse.com

Learn more about the Paisley House at:

Website: http://www.paisleyhouse.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paisleyhouseyoungstown/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thepaisleyhouse
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/paisleyhouse8041/

Sources:

Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share. Youngstown: The Bicentennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County, Ohio, 1975, pp. 183-184.

Interview with Jill Cox, Executive Director, Paisley House, 9/27/2019.

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

mahoning country

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.