Stories Of Central Square
In any town or village, the central square is the heart of the community, and everything else radeates outware from there, and Youngstown is no exception.
Over the years, there have been many colorful events that have occurred on Central Square, so many in fact that a whole book would have to be written to cover them all. President’s have spoken there, circus parades came and went through the Square, mobs of rioting Communists converged upon it, and for a time a man by the name of Joe Gottlib held forth on the back of a truck orating to all who cared to pass the time listening to him speak.
Colorful political rallies were held on the Square, some of which were so funny that we will include their account in this book.
The Square was the terminus for trolly and bus, and on the weekends it was filled with folks attending first the Grand Opera House, Park Theater, and in time the Palace Theater shows, then on Sunday morning make their way to church at First Baptist, Trinity Methodist, or Westminister Presbyterian church.
Travelers converged upon the hotels on the Square, the Tod Hotel and the Park Hotel, while during the week shoppers called at Ewer’s Department Store, the first department store to feature restraunts inside the store, later known as the Stambaugh Building after Ewer’s closed, and the beautiful building was converted into an office building housing such Youngstown institutions as the corporate offices of Youngstown Sheet and Tube until they moved to Boardman in the 1950’s.
We will never again see the Central Square as our forefathers did, but it’s wonder will forever rest in the hearts of the people who recall the good old days.
The Cannons On Central Square and the Fountain on Central Square
(Youngstown Vindicator, May 17, 1931)
The four cannons in the Central Square today are worn and weather beated. They are leaning posts for loafers and as platforms for agitators. But they were never intended for such a fate. Had it not been for defects they probably would have fired the opening shots in the Civil War, for they were designed in 1860 for Fort Sumter , in Charleston harbor.
The action taken this week by city council to beautify the heart of Youngstown has caused the legends and facts about Central Square to “go the rounds” among old timers, and they tell some surprising yarns.
Joseph N. Higley, of the First National and Dollar Banks, recalls some of the more interesting facts about the early history of the “Diamond” as it was first known.
It was Higley who observed that the cannon in the northwest corner gradually shifted to the right on its base each year. Although it is regularly shoved back into position, the cannon always swings out of line. It is off center today.
Higley attributes the shifting to a poor foundation and the vibrations of the street cars.
The cannons were placed about the soldiers monument in about 1872. her were secured for the city by James A. Garfield, who at that time was in Congress.
The bases for the cannons, Higley says, were cast by Homer Hamilton’s grandson, John Hamilton who now lives at 1753 Kensington Ave.
The soldiers monument stands today as the tribute to the heros of the Western Reserve who gave their lives in the Civil War, but for many years it was under a shadow.
The monument was constructed at the cost of $15,000 which was raised by public subscription. The drive was not a success and James Caldwell, the contractor, refused to allow the granite shaft to be moved from the railroad station. Later, it was erected and Caldwell secured an attachment, and the monument was sold to the highest bidder, which was himself. Caldwell owned the monument for 22 years.
Governor David Tod first proposed the erection of the monument in Youngstown in 1864. The first site selected was an old cemetery where the first courthouse was erected.
The monument was dedicated July 4, 1870 by Governor Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield, both of whom later became United States Presidents.
Higley smiled when the old fountain in the Central Square was mentioned. It was the last of the fixtures to be erected and the first to disappear.
“It was suppose to be a beauty mark,” Higley laughed, “but in reality it was a monstrosity.” Originally it was painted white to represent marble. Later Philip Hagen, an Irish Safety Director had it painted a bright green.
In the days when the Central Square was the terminal for New Castle cars, Higley said, car waiters used to sit on the edge of the fountain. And on Saturday nights it was a common occurrence to see policemen fishing drunks out of the water.
The branch library in the Central Square now rests on the site of the bowl of the fountain.
At one time the village post office was the only building in the “Diamond”. According to legend, a Scotch postmaster built the station there to escape paying rent. For in the pioneer days, the postmaster had to furnish the post office as well as deliver the letters.
Frank Medbury tells of the beginning of “free mail delivery.” His grandfather, Ashel Medbury was postmaster in 1839. At that time Federal St. made up the entire village.
“My aunt Pamela Weaver, who died several years ago, use to say that Grandfather would deliver the mail to those who failed to call during the day, on his way home at night,” Medbury said.
The Vindicator of May 28, 1916 provides us not only with accounts of the olden memorial Days in Youngstown, but a more detailed account of the Man On The Monument.
Man On The Monument 1910
EARLY MEMORIAL DAYS IN YOUNGSTOWN
Building The Soldiers’ Monument
Meeting on May 30, 1869 To Plan For Laying The Cornerstone
Most of the Money For the Monument Was Earned By Patriotic Ladies of the Town
[Youngstown Vindicator, May 28, 1916]
The first Decoration Day fell on Saturday, May 30, 1868. A few weeks previous, Gen. John A. Logan, then commander of the G.A.R. announced this was the day “for strewing with flowers the graves of the comrades who fell in the war;” but otherwise the occasion received very little notice in advance. Even a week later the Mahoning Register - Youngstown had only weeklies then - carried only five or six lines to the effect that the day was “very generally observed throughout the country” and the statement that in it’s next issue would print in full the address delivered by Gen. Garfield at the National Cemetery at Arlington.
Perhaps it was merely coincidence, more likely the prominent men of Youngstown arranged purposely to hold a meeting of a public character here on the evening of May 30, 1868. Certainly the day could not have been more appropriate. The Soldiers’ monument had been ordered and the town was now looking forward to the laying of the cornerstone. In Arm’s Hall, therefore, at the southeast corner of Federal and Philips Streets, on that Saturday evening in 1868, a public gathering was called to plan for suitable exercises which it was proposed to hold on the Fourth of July. The Fourth was then our one patriotic day; two or three years later the 30th of May would have seemed a more proper time for an observance in honor of the men who fought and died in the Civil War - so quickly did this new holiday establish itself in our patriotic calendar.
THE MEETING IN 1868
Thomas H. Wills called the meeting to order, later relinquishing the chair in favor of Rev. L.B. Wilson who presided. Asa W. Jones was secretary. Evidently the plans had been talked over in private, for ex-Governor David Tod brought in a report that Gen. Hayes would be present and deliver an address; it may be remarked by the way that Gen. Hayes kept his word and part of the address is preserved in the life of him that came out a year ago at this time. Someone else reported progress on the monument which was to “commerate the sacrifice of those who had laid down their lives in the service of their country,” and suggested that the Fourth of July be the suitable time for the cornerstone ceremonies. A motion was made by H. B. Case that this date be chosen and adopted. Old residents will be interested in reading the names of the committee that was appointed to take charge of the event. It included Gen. Thomas W. Sanderson, chairman, A.G. Bentley, D.V. Tildon, Paul Wick, C.D. Arms, Richard Brown, John Stambaugh, Jr., Col. Samuel Mc Clelland, Freeman D. Arms, Capt. H.H. Case, Edwin Bell, Robert McCurdy, Robert Montgomery, Wm. G. Moore, Maj. L.D. Woodworth, Sidney Strong, A.J. Packard, Homer Hamilton, Rev. L.B. Wilson, and William Bonnell. David Tod was appointed to make arrangements with the railroads to run special trains into Youngstown with the crowds that would wish to hear Gov. Hayes.
How The Monument Was Paid For
No one who was in Youngstown on the Fourth of July in 1867 will ever forget it. Mrs. Susanna A. Filton, Mrs. Henry Tod and Miss Nancy Van Fleet recalled some of the circumstances yesterday at the Vindicator’s request. To raise money for the monument, as well as to provider for the crowds that were expected, the ladies of the town organized by wards: there were only four or five wards here then, and a friendly, though spirited rivalry existed as to which should raise the most money. Mrs. Felton recalled that on the morning of the Fourth the ladies of the Fourth ward which then took in the streets south of Federal and west of Market, met at the home of their chairman, Mrs. Breaden, the mother of Miss Nancy M. Breaden of Madison avenue. For several days previous they had been busy, cooking and baking, and they had scoured the country fo miles around for milk and cream and eggs. Dawn on the morning of the Fourth found them hard at work freezing ice cream and attending to the thousands of details that had been left until the last.
They had a long table on the Diamond. It was in the form of an L, and extended from Federal street around to Market. Their supplies were in the old Disciple church. Even though every girl and woman of Youngstown helped in one way or another, with the preparation and serving, the crowds that came from every part of the state were needed. The ladies of the Fourth Ward served all day long; besides a big dinner at noon, they served luncheons and ice cream and cake until late in the evening. They worked so hard, indeed, that some of them fainted from the strain, and it was midnight before they returned home. But they were happy after their long task, for they had led the other wards in the amount of money raised and turned over $400 as their contribution toward the expense of the monument.
Youngstown was neither large nor wealthy in those days and before the monument was entirely paid for it was necessary for a committee to canvass the town and secure subscriptions from nearly every man and woman in it. But most of the money was raised by the patriotic ladies.
The speaking that day was in the grove on Wick avenue between Wood street and Rayen ave., opposite Rayen School; for at that time the growth of the city had hardly begun to extend far up on the hill. Not only was Gov. Hayes here, but Leut. Governor Lee as well, and after the address out of doors, there was a meeting again in one of the buildings on the Diamond, probably Diamond Hall, at night. On the Fourth of July a year or two later, the monument was dedicated with ceremonies equally imposing. As the ladies of Youngstown were awakened early that morning by the ringing of the church bells, they thought of the Fourth in 1868 and their work that had made the monument possible.
In a town like our own, there is little respect for the past, it is well to know about such events as these. Knowing something of the history of Youngstown, of the efforts and courage and sacrifices of the men and women who made it what it is, we are less likely to tear down what they have built up. Proposals are constantly made to destroy the Diamond by building waiting stations or laying unnecessary tracks. Yet the Diamond is our breathing space down town; it is one place that gives dignity to the central part of the city and recalls the best of traditions of the past. As such, it should always be preserved.
The Observance of 1869
The first Memorial Day in Youngstown was therefore probably as important, historically as any that have succeeded it. By 1869 the custom of decorating the graves of fallen soldiers had become so established in men’s minds, that a big procession was arranged and the observance held with substantially the same rites and ceremonies that have distinguished it ever since.
Heading the procession were a band and draped colors. The G.A.R. followed then came the decorating committee composed of young ladies, followed by a guard from the G.A.R. After these came soldiers not of the G.A.R., religious and civic societies, such as the Tod Fire Company, the Knights Templer, the Odd Fellows and Hibernians, with citizens bringing up the rear.
The names of the young ladies will also interest old residents, as well as newer ones who like to know what families were here at the time. There were a great many in 1869; they marched in twos, and the list included the Misses Carrie Arms, Allie Wick, Kizzie Chase, Kitty Coman, Emma Shaffer, Mary Pane, Lilla Brownlee, Ella Powers, Mary Harbor, Clara Goodwin, Mary Smith, Mary Kilty, Annie Shehy, Florence Rayen, Emma Jacobs, Addie Gerlick, Sadie Ford, Belle Crawford, Grace Tod, Hattie Reno, Cassie Theobold, H. Hollingsworth, Emma Wilson, Mella Myers, Maria Brown, Ada Murray, Lute Van Fleet, Carrie McClure, Emma Powers, Maria Wells, Althea Predmore, Carrie Cooms, F. Pollock, Emma Wick, Ada Stafford, Margaret Canfield, Lydia Garwig, Flore Jacobs, Sadie Jones, Mary Borts, Jennie Sutton, Susan Lee, Lucy Thorn, Bella Wallace, Anna E. Hemmed, E. Redfield, Mary Jones, Mary Roberts, Mary J. Raney, Julia Darrow, Lizzie Shehy, Kate Kennedy, Kate McGuigan, Lizzie McKale, Grace Mullen, Emma Silliman, Tiny Hubler, A. J. Campbell, Lucy Woods, Allie M. Whitsler, and Rebecca McGeehon.
This committee decorated the graves at Oak Hill and Calvery cemetaries. Such a threatening storm came up toward the close of the afternoon that only the G.A.R. and the Fenians were brave enough to accompany the ladies to Calvery cemetery after the exercises at Oak Hill. There were many Fanians here at that time.
About Memorial Day a year later, Youngstown papers - the Register and Courier - carried news items to the effect that a large crowd assembled at the depot to witness the departure of a number of them on the Hubbard train. Their destination was not published but was presumed to be the Northwest, where an attack on Canada was expected.
A copy of the Mahoning Courier in the posession of Miss Breaden contains the proclamation for Memorial Day in 1870, together with the names of the committee. Unfortunately during the course of the years a corner of the paper has been torn off and some of the names are missing, nor is there any file in the collection of the Mahoning Historical Society to supply them.
History & Legends of Central Square
By Herald Igo
(Youngstown Vindicator, August 17, 1924)
The story of Youngstown’s Central Square is as interesting as a chronology of Hendrik Van Loon. It begins far back in the days when the first white man parted the branches of the bushes and got his first glimpse of the beautiful Mahoning, and even beyond that day, for the Indians had their traditions of the Square. John Young, the city’s founder, writing to a relitive, tells of an Indian legend which a great Council Rock stood where the Civil War statue now stands, and where Algonquin and Shawnee held their pow wows. By some medicine man’s divination this particular spot was blessed and strangly enough in later years was to become the heart of a big city.
Legend tells that there was a mound at Central Square which receded on the death of a Shawnee chiefton leaving nothing but a swamp. Whatever truth there is in the tradition, it is a fact that in the earliest days of Youngstown’s history the Central Square was little more than a bog. Old-timers testify to hearing frogs piping their dismal music in the evenings around Central Square. “My father use to tell me of the frog pond and I, myself, have faint recollections of it,” relates J. N. Higley of the Dollar Bank. “We used to walk across the narrow plank over this swamp in going to the post office.”
“I remember when the Civil War monument was erected on the Square,” said W. H. Hall of the Reality Trust Co. “We thought it was a fine piece of sculpture in those days.”
“The building which we now occupy was owned by a Mr. Wilson, who is still living in Cleveland. On the site of the present Stambaugh building was a two-story wooden hostelry run by Owen Evans, who was also town Marshall. This particular corner seemed to be a favorite one for inn keepers, so several hotels have stood there in the past. There was the Youngstown House in the sixties and later the Park Hotel, of which George Schwartz, a famous character was proprietor.
“Across the street where the new Reality Trust building is being erected was the largest building in Youngstown before the Civil War, the three story structure owned by M. T. Jewell, a druggist. This place was a famous rendezvous for all the village wits and many a warm argument was heard there. The Tod House was built by John Stambaugh, Henry Tod, and Nelson Crandall, who formed the Tod House company and leased the hotel to a man by the name of Beckett. Later it was run for a number of years by a man named Matthew Hinkle. Hinkle bought the property, traded it to a William Henry Harrison Dye of Troy, Ohio, for a flour mill. Dye leased it in turn to George Baker, a Buffalo hotel keeper, and the present To company acquired it from him.”
“All the noted characters of the last generation, John L. Sullivan, Buffalo Bill, Mark Hanna, Blind Tom, Biondin, Barnum stopped at the Tod House when they visited Youngstown. The old Tod House was razed not more than a dozen years ago.”
“Woodman’s grocery store stood on this site now occupied by the Mahoning National Bank, the first Mahoning bank was a substantial building of four stories and a ‘skyscraper’ of those days. Chauncey Andrews, one of Youngstown’s best loved citizens, had his offices on the first floor. The old Opera House which stood next to the bank was made famous by the appearance of such noted dramatists as Booth, Barrett, Thomas, Keene, Modjeska, William Florence and Joe Jefferson.
“The Commercial Bank and later the Second National Bank was on the corner where the Central Bank is now located. (Actually the Second National Bank was located on the North East corner of Central Square where the Palace Theater was later located. - Ed.)
“Several saloons were on the Square. There was no patrol wagon in the old days,” related an old-timer, “and when there was a big fight, which was generally every Saturday night, the town Marshall had to convey the miscreants to the lockup in his wheel barrow. The Marshall, of necessity, had to be a kind of combination pugilist and diplomat, for when his diplomacy failed to make a peaceful arrest, he was forced to stretch his man out with a telling blow, that he could wheel him off to jail. Many a fight I have witnessed at Central Square, especially at election time.”
“John Owen, father of Perry Owen, owned the building which stood on the site of the present Dollar Bank.”
“This building was used as the post office for a number of years. When the Dollar Bank was started and the steel girders were in place a hurricane hit the city one night and left the structure leaning like the Tower of Pisa. If you have a good mathematical eye you can see that this building is lop-sided today. The elevator shaft is said to be four inches out of line.”
“I wonder how many Youngstowners’s remember Governor Tod’s war address on the Square? Charley Barkley told me about it just before he died. ‘I was a country boy,’ said Charley, ‘and had ridden to town on a sack of grain when I saw a tall, well built man standing on a soap box reading a paper. It was Lincoln’s call for volunteers. The crowd was quiet until the governor was through and then they gave a rousing cheer for “Abe” and later one for Governor Tod. The speech set this town on fire and dozens enlisted at once.”
“The old-timers tell of the band concerts which used to be a feature on the square. The merchants band was one of the favorite organizations which furnished the music on Wednesday evenings.”
“There are stories told, too, of ‘Moxies,’ a noted character who ran from an oyster parlor where the First National Bank is now located. ‘Moxie’ was something of a gastronomic champion and once ate a quart of his own oysters at a sitting.”
“Jim Hiney, later of the firm of Wert & Hiney ran a book store near ‘Moxie’s place and was such a great reader that he often forgot altogether that he was keeping a shop and resented being disturbed from an exciting tale by the demands of a customer.”
“Where the First National Bank and the Dollar banks join was McNab’s livery. Many a racing bet was wagered there, and the place was the hangout for all the village sports.”
“There was a hitching post on every corner of the Square in the early days and they were often used for trysting places. Country swains would ride into town and leave notes hidden in the holes reserved for bridles. The ’Cupid’s post office became so popular for a time the marshal had to put a stop to it for fear that some maiden might be trampled under foot by a fractious horse in her eagerness to see if John had written her a “Bullet doux”.
Another legend told of the Square long before the sixties was that a stagecoach robber his for nearly a year at the home of his Youngstown sweetheart, and when afraid that officers of the law were upon his trail went in the dead of night to a spot where the monument now stands and buried his booty, which included the silver buckles of a wealthy English merchant and his wife who were ‘seeing America’ when this backwoods ‘Dick Turpin’ held up the stage coach. Perhaps the booty now reposes on the square and it might be profitable for Mayor Scheible to go treasure hunting in the hope of paying off the city’s debt.”