Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Girard’s Beginnings

I’m sure I’ve driven through Girard, probably up Route 422 toward Warren, following along the course of the Mahoning River. Little did I realize that this road and this river were a significant reason why Girard existed. Girard was originally part of Liberty Township, the five mile by five mile township due west of Hubbard Township. The township was originally owned by four men: Moses Cleaveland (after whom Cleveland was named–they dropped the first “a”), Daniel Lathrop, Christopher Liffinwell, and Sam Huntington, Jr. The township was divided into 25 one mile lots. Lot 10, where Girard is located was in a prime location because the Mahoning River ran through it and State Road, which ran through it connecting Youngstown and Cleveland.

Hieronimus Eckman and his family settled the upper third of Lot 10 in 1802, The next year he petitioned to have an east-west road built between what became Girard and Hubbard. This is now Route 304, Churchill Road. The Eckmans were from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, a heavily German area. Others followed and settled in this area on the north side of Girard, so many that it became known as “Dutchtown.”

The southern third was settled by the Francis Carlton family and established the first school, a log cabin affair, on their land. They were an Irish family from western Pennsylvania. The middle section was owned by a succession of people winding up with Solomon Kline, after whom Kline Street was named

One of the other early families to settle in the area was the Henry Barnhisel family. The family eventually acquired 650 acres just north of Lot 10. The Union Church was the first church in the area and was built on land donated by the Barnhisels. In 1841 Barnhisel’s son built the Classic Revival mansion on State Street seen above.

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Stephen Girard

Up until the 1830’s, the area was dominated by prosperous farms served by Andrew McCartney’s Grist Mill, powered by water from a dam across the river. Then plans developed for the Pennsylvania-Ohio Canal that would run from the Ohio River, up the Beaver and Mahoning Rivers and on to Akron. The reservoir above the dam made an ideal place to load and unload canal boats and this fact led to land speculation in which four men bought 42 acres of Solomon Kline’s land to form the town of Girard, likely named after Philadelphia philanthropist Stephen Girard, the richest man in America at the time of his death in 1831. One of the four was David Tod from Brier Hill, future industrialist and governor of Ohio.

The canal reached Girard in 1839. The dam was modified to a two levee dam with a canal lock at the east end. There was a basin north of the dam for loading and unloading barges and this both brought goods into Girard and enabled shipping of the local farm products. Taverns, a post office, a school and residences on the fifteen blocks of lots followed. By 1860, 500 people lived in Girard.

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Girard Rolling Mills

The next thirty years was a time of industrial expansion. Fredrick Krehl established a tannery in 1860 that grew to eventually turn out 600 hides a week. The major growth was due to the iron and steel industry. All the needed raw materials were nearby. An influx of Welsh settlers engaged in much of the mining. In 1866, David Tod, Joseph Butler, William Richards, and William Ward built a mill that could turn out 20,000 tons a month. Nearby, also on the south side of the Mahoning, Henry, Myron, and John Wick built the Girard Rolling Mill in 1872. The Girard Stove Works were nearby and eventually became part of Youngstown Foundry and Machine, building coal cars and castings.

Lotze building

Lotze Building

All of this brought money and people into Girard. Fredrick Krehl built a mansion at State and West Broadway while Zenas Kline built a mansion on Churchill Road. The Girard Savings Bank and a newspaper sprang up and the Lotze Building on Liberty Street, which housed a number of stores and the Opera House on the second floor. Churches and new school buildings were erected. By 1890, the population surpassed 1,000 and in 1893 Girard was incorporated as a village with a mayor and city council. A descendant of the first settlers, Ambrose Eckman became mayor.

There is much more to tell of Girard’s story. One of the best accounts on which I drew extensively may be found at “Girard History” hosted by the Girard Free Library. The same factors that accounted for Youngstown’s early industrial development were factors with Girard–the Mahoning River, and nearby raw materials for steel making. The Tods, Wicks, and Butlers led the growth of these industries in both areas. Transportation both by canal and land, later augmented by rail brought goods into and out of both. I suspect some of this might have been a surprise to Hieronimus Eckman and Henry Barnhisel. But they had the foresight to recognize those transportation possibilities, good not only for the products of their farms, but far more.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — William R. Stewart

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Photograph of William R. Stewart in the George Washington Williams Room of the Ohio Statehouse, featuring all the African-American legislators in Ohio

He was the son of one of the first African-American families to settle in Youngstown. He was the first African-American legislator from Youngstown. He helped secure the funding to build the first Market Street Bridge and secured taxpayer funding for Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital. After returning from two terms in the state legislature, he worked another six decades as an attorney in Youngstown and at his death in 1958 was called the “dean of the Mahoning County Bar.”

William R . Stewart was born to Lemuel and Mary Stewart on October 29, 1864, in New Castle, Pennsylvania. A year later, the family came via canal boat to Youngstown, where Lemuel Stewart worked as a bricklayer, in partnership with P. Ross Berry, who built 65 structures in the Youngstown area, including a number in downtown Youngstown’s Diamond Block.

While going to school, he joined his father in bricklaying work, and graduated from the Rayen School in 1883. After a short stint with a railroad that soon became defunct, he began reading law in the law office of Woodworth and Wirt. He earned enough in a side business of cutting through red tape to obtain pensions for Civil War veterans, that he was able to enroll in the University of Cincinnati Law School, meeting his wife Consuela, a medical student. They returned to Youngstown where he set up a law practice in the Diamond Block and she practiced medicine as Youngstown’s first female Black physician until passing in 1911.

In 1895, he won election to the Ohio Legislature, running as a Republican. He served two terms there, from 1896 to 1899. In addition to his work on securing funding for the Market Street Bridge and Saint Elizabeth’s, he helped pass an anti-mob violence bill, and one placing justices of the peace on a salary rather than funding them by a fee system. He legislated for police and fire pensions.

He returned to Youngstown, developing an extensive law practice. One of his cases was a landmark railroad case under the new federal liability act. He established the right of his plaintiff to establish his claim based both on state and federal law, a precedent cited in many legal texts. Because of his experience with pensions, he became a trustee for the Youngstown Police Pension Fund. He served on the Youngstown Interracial Committee promoting racial understanding. He was also an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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Screen capture from Google News Archive of Vindicator, April 5, 1958, p. 1 story on the death of William R. Stewart.

After the Diamond Block was demolished, he moved his offices to the Union National Bank building. His pride and joy, though was his Tod Lane home, particularly his rose gardens. He also had a library of over 1,000 volumes. Late in his life, a hip fracture limited his mobility, and he died in his home on April 5, 1958 at the age of 93. He left an estate of a half million dollars, quite sizable for his time.

That caught my attention. He was born during the Civil War and lived until I was nearly four years old. He came to Youngstown when the small village was turning into an iron and coal center. He helped his father and P. Ross Berry build some of its buildings. He served in the state legislature, connected the South Side to downtown and witnessed the transformation of the city into a major industrial center. He was a civic leader respected by the whole city as well as within the black community and sought to foster interracial understanding.

It is surprising to me that his name, as far as I know, appears on no structure or monument in the city. His contributions were numerous, and until I came across his name while looking for something else, I never knew about him. Now I do, and I hope by writing about him, I can contribute to his memory in the city.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — John Struthers

Places names, in and around Youngstown, often bear the names of people connected with those places. Struthers is one such place that bears the name of its founder, John Struthers. That came later, however, and is part of a story of land purchased, lost, and reclaimed by the Struthers family.

The best biography I have found of John Struthers is that written by Ted Heineman in his Riverside Journal and much of what I include in this article is drawn from Ted’s fine work on those buried in Riverside Cemetery, including John Struthers. Struthers was born in Maryland in 1759 and moved to Washington County, Pennsylvania in 1775. John fought in the Revolutionary War and in 1786 married Mary Foster, whose brother William was the father of composer and songwriter Stephen Foster. They acquired land in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, where they had four of their children. John had charge of a troop of Pennsylvania Cavalry, and at one point pursued marauding Native tribal people up the Beaver and Mahoning Rivers to what is now Yellow Creek. Taken with the beauty of the area, he acquired 400 acres along Yellow Creek in Poland Township from Judge Turhand Kirtland in October of 1798. (I mention Turhand Kirtland in an article about his son, Jared Potter Kirtland). Turhan Kirtland recorded the transaction in his diary:

Tuesday, Oct. 9 – Went to Pittsburg [sic] to breakfast and from that across the Monongahela to Cannonsburg, seventeen miles, to John Struthers, to receive money due the company for two lots sold him in No. 1 for Mill place.

Wednesday, Oct. 10 – I was obliged to stay at Struthers waiting for the money to be collected.

Thursday, Oct. 11 – I set out for home.

In 1799, Struthers built a log cabin above Yellow Creek near what is now Park Way Avenue in Struthers. At the time, he called the settlement Marbletown. He improved a nearby dam on Yellow Creek and built a grist mill. In the next years John and Mary would have four more children. In 1802, James and Daniel (H)Eaton (they dropped the “H”) built the Hopewell Furnace. The Hopewell Furnace was sold in 1807 to Robert Montgomery, who owned another furnace downstream on Yellow Creek. John Struthers was a partner with Montgomery. Hopewell shut down in 1808, and the other furnace in 1812, due to the rapid depletion of wood for charcoal in the area, and the war of 1812, which drew off workers. Struthers also fought in the war, only to find his enterprises in ruins, necessitating selling his land to pay his bills.

These were hard years for John. He lost his son Alexander in the war. After purchasing land in Coitsville Township, his wife Mary died in 1814. Later, in 1827, two of his daughters, Drucilla and Emma died in a boating accident on the Mahoning River. At age 68, with most of his surviving children having moved away, John was left with his daughter Mathilda on the Coitsville farm.

It is at this point that Stephen Foster enters into the story. Mary’s brother William was in steep debt. John invited him and his family, including Stephen, to move into the largely empty farmhouse. Thus the Youngstown area, and Coitsville in particular, became part of the Stephen Foster story. Stephen spent time hunting with his uncle, being regaled with stories of life on the frontier.

Meanwhile, John’s son, Thomas Struthers thrived in legal practice, rail and oil enterprises, eventually becoming a multi-millionaire. During this time, John died and was buried alongside his wife and two daughters, originally next to the Poland Presbyterian Church, in 1845. Later, they were reinterred in a family plot in Riverside Cemetery. After the Civil War, Thomas used some of his wealth to reacquire all the land his father had lost along Yellow Creek, laying out a new town, “Struthers,” named in honor of his father. He also used his resources and ties to bring industry to the area.

In 1902, Struthers was incorporated as a village, then in 1920 with the growth of the steel industry, as a city. In a way, John Struthers not only gave the city its name and location along Yellow Creek, but also its industrial history, through his partnership with Robert Montgomery, and through his successful son.

[You might want to visit this Business Journal article for another account of the beginnings of Struthers and a great picture of Ted Heineman beside the original Struthers gravesite next to Poland Presbyterian Church.]

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Simon Family

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Simon Homestead, photo courtesy of Joanne Simon Tailele.

It’s funny how one thing leads to another. I wrote last week about Elijah Boardman, the Connecticut senator and Western Reserve investor after whom Boardman township was named. I received a comment from an descendant of another early settler in Boardman township, who lived in the township nineteen years before Henry Mason Boardman made his home there. The family owned a farm that extended from Midlothian Boulevard to Indianola Road, and from Southern Boulevard to South Avenue. Lake Park Cemetery was originally their family cemetery, eventually donated to the community. Simon Road is named after them. The family is the Simon family.

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Simon Family in July 1914, image courtesy of Joanne Simon Tailele

Michael Simon, who was born in 1741, moved to Boardman township in 1800, purchasing 640 acres. He was the first to bring wheat into Boardman township and raise a wheat crop. He was married three times and had fifteen children and died in 1839. His fourth son Adam also moved to Boardman in 1800, and is listed as one of the original township trustees. Given the size of this family and multiplied by descendants, I cannot tell the story of the whole family. At an 1882 reunion, 172 blood relations were present as well as 75 others related through marriage. Bernice Simon, who died in 1997, compiled a Simon family history and genealogy, as well as other genealogies and lists of early residents in the Western Reserve. Bernice and her husband Howard donated many of their documents and artifacts to the Detchon House, located in Boardman Park.

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Drawing of Simon Homestead, early Boardman map, and Jesse Simon, Image courtesy of Joanne Simon Tailele.

Michael’s grandson Jesse built the homestead that is still standing on Indianola Road, as are a number of other homes built by Simon family members in the area. Jesse’s grandson Clyde, and his wife Alpharetta Walters Simon, lived down the street. Clyde was an official at Home Savings and Loan, serving as assistant treasurer of the real estate division, contributing significantly to the residential growth of the Youngstown area. Alpharetta, as a young woman, taught in a one room school house, the Heasly School, on South Avenue, where many of the German children in the area learned to speak English.

Alpharetta Simon at Heasly School 1912

Alpharetta Walters Simon at the Heasly School in 1912, photo courtesy of Joanne Simon Tailele

To this day, there is an area west of Simon Road and north of Indianola still referred to as “New England Lanes.” This was once part of the Simon farmland. In the 1950’s, Clyde and Alpharetta’s son Howard Simon (Bernice’s husband) was a home builder and president of the Youngstown Homebuilders Association. He built many of the homes in this area. After Bernice died in 1997, he moved to Lewis Center, Ohio (near Columbus) to live with his daughter Joanne Simon Tailele, who along with her daughter Candy, provided much of the information and photographs for this story. Howard Simon passed away in 2006.

The Simon family both made Boardman history and preserved it. They brought wheat farming to the area, taught area children, contributed to the residential growth of the area and then painstakingly documented both the family’s history and that of the area. This is one of the many family stories of Youngstown. One of the things I’ve loved about writing on Youngstown is that I keep discovering these stories, often from descendants of the people who made the stories. Through their character and hard work, they gave the Valley its history, and inspire us to continue it.

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Special thanks to Candy Cooper McDowell and Joanne Simon Tailele for the idea for this article, all the images used here, and much of the family history. Thank you for letting me share your story. Any inaccuracies are my responsibility.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Elijah Boardman and Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — William B Pollock and His Company

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William B. Pollock

During my student days in the 1970’s, a student group I was part of met regularly at the Pollock House, often in the living room just inside the front door. At that time, the ROTC program had offices and classrooms upstairs. Years later, when the building had been converted to the Wick-Pollock Inn, we celebrated my parents fiftieth wedding anniversary there. Now, of course, it serves as the president’s residence for Jim and Ellen Tressel.

The house was built in 1897 as the home of Margaret Wick, the widow of Paul Wick and her daughter Mary. When Mary married Porter Pollock, the son of William B. Pollock whose company bore his name, they moved into and expanded the residence. In 1950, the Wick family donated the house to what was then Youngstown College.

But who was William Browning Pollock and what did he contribute to Youngstown history? It might be said that the iron and steel industry was in his blood, and that much of the machinery of iron and steel production was made by him. He was born in Pittsburgh in 1832, the son of a well-known machinist and engineer. At an early age, he began operating blast furnaces in the Shenango and Mahoning Valleys. Before long, he was building blast furnaces, first in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania and as far away as Chicago and St. Louis.

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Cyclopedia of Modern Shop Practice.  Chicago:  American Technical Society, 1907.

In 1863, Pollock recognized that the iron industry of Youngstown needed a plant to fabricate the boilers, furnaces, ovens and other equipment needed for iron production. The company was initially called the Mahoning Boiler Works but quickly adopted the name William B. Pollock Company. A publication of the company on its 75th anniversary in 1939, The William B. Pollock Company presents the seventy-five year history of its contribution to the advancement of the art of iron and steel makingstates that the company had been involved in the manufacture of more than 75 new blast furnaces, and rebuilt 447 blast furnaces, accounting for most of the blast furnaces in the United States at that time. Pollock created ingenious methods of increasing the capacity of blast furnaces, resulting in higher productivity.

Eventually, the company expanded into other products involved in iron and steel making including ladles and the cinder (for slag) and hot metal cars that transported molten iron from one part of a plant to another, allowing processing into steel without re-smelting.

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A “hot metal” train exhibit at the Youngstown Steel Heritage Museum; part of President Rick Rowlands’ and other Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation members’ collection of heavy equipment salvaged during the drastic downturn in Youngstown, Ohio’s steel industry and economy. Photograph in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Porter Pollock work alongside his father for many years in leading the company until his father passed away in 1914. Porter’s diary reflected the work ethic held by him and his father.

“Honest work, honestly represented, honestly sold are the rules followed and tend to a high standard as well as a high rate of efficiency.”

When Porter Pollock passed away in 1931, his son William B. Pollock II took over. The expertise in metal plating allowed them to expand business into manufacturing oil tanker rail cars and even metal caissons for a New York skyscraper.

Over time, they moved from Basin Street to South Market Street to their final location on off Andrews Ave. An article in 1963 celebrated its 100th anniversary as a company, concluding with these words:

“On the strength of its first century’s achievements. you feel that its next 100 years really will be ‘a breeze.’ ”

In 1963, no one saw the demise of the major steel companies in Youngstown. The closure of these plants was followed by the closure of the William B. Pollock Company in 1983. Two specialty steel companies acquired parts of the facility in 1986, operating for a time until it went vacant. In 2011 Brilex Industries acquired the plant, bringing machining, fabricating, and assembly to this site once again.

The William B. Pollock Company didn’t make steel. They made the machinery that made the whole enterprise possible. For 120 years. In Youngstown.

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

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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.