[Youngstown's] Pioneer Days

There aren't many alive today who have the fortune to recall those days of yore, and none who remember the earliest days of our city's history, so whatever information that we are able to get is from research, and the only reliable sources are the newspapers that were published back then, and then, unfortunately, the very first paper to be published here didn't begin publication until 1843, which means that we have 47 years to account for.

To it's everlasting credit, The Vindicator has published good, historical information that helps fill in the gaps, and allows us to see things about Youngstown that no other source provides.

Throughout the years, there were several writers who wrote articles for the paper, one being Charles Carr, and the reader of this anthology will note that we've included many of his articles.

In other instences, we can put together a genral picture of life here working on the simplest of clues.

Imagine if you will, a town no larger than the present downtown area. This was, for many years the totality of the city. To the north were coal mines, and to the south, were farms and more coal mines, for up to the Civil War, this city was primarily a mining town with most of the mines being owned by the Andrews family. There were iron works, but most weresmall and turned out specialized products that could easily be transported, for we are talking about the days before the coming of the Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal or the railroads, and Youngstown's products had to be moved to market using horse and wagon.

To the east and west were the fledgling iron works that would develop into the great steel mills. A map produced in 1810 shows that Youngstown even then was not much of a village, and accounts tell us that folks had to travel to Lowellville and Poland for goods that weren't available at the one or two general stores that were here, but the Civil War would change all that.

The Canal

Even up to the 1940's, Youngstown wasn't much of a town, but then the same can be said for att the communities that surrounded it, Boardman, Poland, Canfield, Struthers, Lowellville, Austintown and East Youngstown (Campbell), but it was growing, and no small amount of credit can go to the construction of the canal., and thanks to the coal mines and small iron works, we see the beginning of the building of family fortunes.

An interesting story is told about the Youngstown of pre-canal days that will help the readers gain some idea of daily life here, the source being the Youngstown Vindictor - Semi-Weekly edition for March 12, 1914.


Very early view of Federal Street

It is hard to imagine a time when there were only about a dozen families in Youngstown. Yet that time was not so very long ago.Between 1805 and 1810 there were only sixteen families here, their names preserved in a letter written by Roswell M. Grant, an uncle of President Grant, and published in Wiggins E. McKillop's directory for 1875-76.

Mr. Grant's father moved to Youngstown fromDeerfield in 1805 and conducted a tannery here. Two of the children, Susan and Jesse, the father of the General and President, lived with Judge Tod, and two others, Margaret and Roswell, with Col. James Hillman. At the time, Mr. Grant recalled the complete list of citizens in Youngstown was as follows: “First, above Col. Rayen was J. E. Woodbridge; 2nd., John F. Townsend, hatter; 3rd., Col. William Rayen, farmer; 4th., William Sherman, hatter; 5th., opposite, George Tod; 6th., Mr. Abram, chair maker; 7th., Samuel Stuart, tavern, (Col. Hillman bought Stewart out); 8th., opposite, Dr. Dutton; 9th., Esquire Baldwin, farmer; 10th., Kilpatrick, blacksmith; 11th., Henry Wick, merchant; 12th., Hugh Bryson, merchant; 13th., Lawyer Hine; 14th., Mr. Bissell, 15th., Mr. Bruce, shoemaker; 16th., Rev. Mr. Duncan.

I will remember,” Mr. Grant said,”the Indians coming down the river in canoes and camping in Col. Hillmman's sugar camp, at the lower end of the farm, and upon the river bank. They would stay some days. Also the old chief would come to see Col. Hillman to settle some dispute between them. They would bring from thirty to fifty warriers. They would stay at the plumb orchard at the upper end of the farm. These visits were often. I had forgotten to mention the name of Mr. Hogue, a tailor, and Mose Crawford who lived below Judge Tod's bank of the river. Crawford tended Col. Hillman's mill. Bears, wolves, deer and wild turkey were plenty. I went to school in the log school house eight years, to Master Neyes, five years of the time. David Tod,Franklin Thone and myself were leaders of the mischief so said Master Neyes.”

In the War of 1812, the whole county was drafted and rendezvoused in Youngstown. After they left, Capt. Applegate, Lieut. Bushnell and Ensign Rivers enlisted one hundred men for one year. During the enlistment, Capt. Dillon's son, with an elder fife and myself with a drum furnished the music. Col. William Rayen commanded the regiment. Judge Tod had a Colonel's commission in the regular army. Col. Hillman voluneered, and after ariving at Sanduskey, Gen. Harrison appointed him Wagon Master General of the U.S. Army. John Woodbige was Paymaster.” (1)


From my earliest recollection, James Hillman was surveyor for the Mahoning Valley. After he returned from the War of 1812, he sold the tavern to a Mr. Comstock; bought the Crab Creek farm; built a frame house; sold the farm; bought the Bissell house with six acres of land on the north side of the street, also twenty-one acres on the south side of the street joining Tod's twenty-five acres. Tod's ran to Crab Creek, and both tracts were on the river. In 1814, James Hillman was elected to the Legislature. In 1820 he joined the Methodist Church. I was present at the time.

I was in Youngstown a few days in July, 1824 - the last time I was ever there; fifty-one years ago. I must give you some of the old pioneer sport.


General Wadsworth and Mr. Mygatt, fo Canfield; Simon Perkins and Calvin Pease of Warren; Dr. Tylor of Tylorstown, as it was then called; Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Clendennen of Coitsville; Captain H. of Poland; George Tod, William Rayen, John E. Woodbridge and James Hillman of Youngstown. When the Mahoning would freeze solid they would pack for a dinner at Warren. They would start in their two-horse sleighs on the ice at Youngstown, all abreast. The six hindmost upon the arrival at Warren, had to foot the bill, which was a set price, twenty-four dollars. About the year 1809 they were each to take a hog or pig and keep it two years. The owner of the six little littlest hogs had to foot the bill. James Hillman's hogs weighed over five hundred pounds. I don't recallect the weights of any of the balance, but Dr. Taylor's. It weighed over seven hundred pounds. They were weighed on James Hillman's balance scales. After Dr. Taylor's hog was weighed, Wm. Rayen bet the next dinner that he and Mrs. Rayen could get on the other side and tie up the hog. The bet was taken. They had to put fourteen pounds on Dr. Taylor's hog to balance the scales. I could relate a great many incidents that David Tod and myself have seen.”


The dinners were mostly at William Rayen's or James Hillman. We were always present to see the sport.

It would be a proud day for me if I could be with you, and I fully intended to have done so, but I could not get back in time to attend to business on the 13th, as I wrote you.” (2)


(1) Youngstown Vindicator - March 12, 1914

(2) Extracted from the larger article.