County Seat a Stake in Race
Tod's Horse Wins, but Youngstown Loses Site
January 11, 1931
From both sides of a one mile straightaway track in the
vicinity of Crab Creek on a bright September day in 1840, 10,000 voices
shouted encouragement as two horses got away at the crack of a starter's
gun, and amid a cloud of hoof-tossed turf settled to a race that was to
decide the issue of a generation-old battle for the location of a county seat.
Climax of Political Rally
The race was the climax of a much heralded political rally - an
event that eclipsed for Youngstown all subsequent presidential campaigns in point
of picturesqueness, excitement, partisanship and interest.
It was the year when men sang "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," and when the
log cabin and hard cider were almost canonized by an almost
frenzied Harrison constituency. General William Henry Harrison,
accompanied by Thomas Corwin, the Whig gubernatorial candidate,
and by that remarkable character, John W. Haer[?] of Zanesville, known
as the "Buckeye's Blacksmith," arrived in Youngstown the
Now, after a night of torch-light parades and a day of speeches
and singing there came this horse race, a sporting event of such interest
to the rival communities of Warren and Youngstown as to almost
retire to oblivion, Harrison and his guard of visiting celebrities.
For more than 35 years the people of Warren and Youngstown had voted together
on issues of national important, but every local election had been
contested on the county seat issue. The rivalry between
the contenders was so animated, so bitter and so intense that it
was carried into business, religion, social life and sports.
Every log-rolling or barn raising near the half-way line was a contest between
Youngstown and Warren. Even dog fights and bull fights were interpreted as
having some relationship to the location of the county seat.
With the approach of the rally in honor of Harrison and Corwin,
a number of leading citizens of Warren conceived the idea of humiliating Younstown
by bantering them to run any piece of horse flesh they could dig up against "Dave," the pride
of Trumbull county. To back their judgement a stake of $1,000 was posted.
George Tod, afterwards Judge [Tod], accepted the wager and covered the money. It is
said that Tod spent every night for two weeks in the stable grooming "Fly," owned by Colonel
James Hillman, while for Warren the entry was "Dave," the pride of the community and
victor of many a test of speed and stamina.
At the beginning of the race anxiety raised both sides to
fevered pitch; all for Warren sought the north side of the track, and all for
Youngstown the south side. The lines had been filled at an early
hour, and the passion for betting reigned supreme.
What little cash the partisans had was soon staked on the
result; watches and penknives followed next, and then of course
hats, coats, vests and even shoes, to prove faith and loyalty
in their respective towns and cause.
An expert rider was mounted on each horse, and as the
starter's signalled both animals shot forward exactly even.
This was fortunate, for had one rider got the advantage
of a leap at the start a free-for-all fight would probably
have closed the track.
"Fly" and "Dave" darted on, while the surrounding
forest echoed a continuous roar of cheers, imprecation, supplications,
exhortions and ribald jeers. "Fly" gained a length and the
Youngstown side redoubled the clamor. "Dave's" rider applied
his quip, bringing Warren's favorite again even.
At the half-mile mark the mounts were fighting for an inch gain
while the riders' arms rose and fell and their yelling voices
testified to their eagerness and determination.
At the three-quarter mark "Fly" forged ahead, now leading by one
length, now by four, now by six. "Fly" thundered across the
line; the straight-away track becomes filled with a surging mass
of Youngstown supporters, seeking stake holders and the Warren
Warren's horse lost the race. George Tod collected the $1,000
stake, many a Warren supporter walked home that afternoon in
his bare feet, being reduced to as little as a single pair of pants.
At Colonel Hillman's Tavern that evening, the spoils of war were traded
and bartered about until Warren's Sundry suits finally fitted the
Could Not Collect
As for the pimary stake in the race, which was to have been the
removal of the seat of government of Trumbull County from Warren to
Youngstown, the winners of the horse race could not collect.
This was a matter outside the jurisdiction of the bettors: an affair
to be fought out in a battle of ballots; in a jockeying for position
and power in the state legislature; in a game of gerrymandering, vote
trading, star-chamber sessions, lobbying and log-rolling.
Youngstown finally petitioned for a division of Trumbull County as
it then existed, into two counties. The south portion was
to have Youngstown as the county seat while the
northwest was to retain the name "Trumbull" and the county
seat of Warren.
Canfield further complicated matters by petitioning
for the erection of a new county out of the 10 southern
townships of Trumbull and the five northern townships of
Columbiana. This last proposal received the support of
Warren people, and was finally confirmed by the Legislature
in 1848 [?] the new county being designated "Mahoning."