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Influence of Harvey Kistler.
Harvey Kistler was born in Lordstown in 1885
to a family with a long history of dedicated service to its country.
The first Kistler in America, John George Kistler, of
German and Swiss ancestry, arrived in the New World in 1737. He
fought in the French and Indian War, and each of his five sons
fought in the American Revolution.
Harvey Kistler also had a grandfather six generations
back who, as a delegate from Pennsylvania, voted in 1859 to seat
Abraham Lincoln as the presidential candidate for the Republican
At the turn of the century, Harvey Kistler and
his wife moved to Niles, where they lived at 596 West Park Avenue.
By the time he had reached his late thirties, Kistler had gained
the respect of many community leaders. As a result, he became
a candidate for Mayor of Niles and defeated Charles Crow
in November of 1923 by 450 votes. Aside from the Ku Klux Klan
riot, Kistler served without blemish as Niles’ chief executive
for two terms.
Although Kistler left office with little fanfare,
it must be stated that he had accomplished some outstanding feats
before he stepped down as mayor: his administration had obtained
the options for the land on which Meander Reservoir is located;
Kistler had also helped to arrange for Niles to link up with Youngstown
to form the present Mahoning Valley Sanitary District which manages
Meander Reservoir; the present city building in which the mayor’s
office is located was constructed largely with funds obtained
from the fines Kistler had imposed in his court; finally, part
of the initial groundwork for construction of the viaduct (completed
in 1933) which spans the Mahoning River on Main Street was laid
during Kistler’s years in office.
leaving office, Kistler went back to his old night-position on
the railroad as a telegrapher. He also purchased the Taylor Insurance
Company and sold insurance during the day.
Kistler left the railroad and went into the construction
business with E.F. Cline in 1932. During the Depression
years, he and Cline built the old Lordstown High School and the
building in which Reisman’s Furniture Store was located
on Main and State Streets.
After leaving politics, Kistler became even more
active in civic affairs and remained so for the rest of his life.
Before he died at the age of 64 in 1950, Kistler had served on
a committee which had attempted to build a hospital in Niles.
He had also been active in bringing the YMCA to Niles and he had
played an active role in establishing the Chamber of Commerce
in the city
Soldiers guarding the Harvey Kistler home.
controversial handling of the Ku Klux Klan situation in 1924 therefore,
was far outweighed by his later performance as Mayor and by the
outstanding contribution he had made of himself as a civic leader
in Niles during the remaining years of his life.
In 1924 there were confrontations between the Italian/Irish community,
organized as the Knights of the Flaming Circle, and the KKK.
Harvey Kistler believed that the KKK had the
legal right to receive a permit to march in a Niles’ parade.
The Irish–Italian community attacked the parade in May and
June. A truce was brokered with concessions from both sides, however
this truce was short–lived.
The 1924 Riot refers to the November 1, 1924 melee that took place
throughout several key areas in Niles that day.
The largest confrontation occurred at the intersection
of North Main Street and West Federal Avenue when the Italian-Irish
group prevented the KKK from crossing the Erie Railroad tracks
and marching into downtown Niles. A limited Civil Martial Law
was put in place when the Ohio National Guard arrived and dispersed
both sides. Steve Papalas excerpts Harvey Kistler
Interview Chapter Four
In communities with larger immigrant populations,
like Niles, which had high numbers of people of Italian and Irish
descent, there was resistance to the KKK. Differences between
the two sets of immigrants were set aside in united opposition
to the growing strength and open antagonism of the KKK.
There were a series of increasingly violent clashes
in 1923 and early in 1924. While there were a number of attempts
by the Klan to have rallies and marches go through the center
of Niles, they failed each time.
Plans were made for a KKK parade November 1,
1924, that had about 25,000 people scheduled to attend. In the
days leading to the event, opponents of the KKK and former Trumbull
County Sheriff John “Brickey” Thomas tried to
convince the Niles Mayor, Democrat Harvey C. Kistler, whom the
KKK supported in his 1923 election victory, to rescind the permit
for the parade to avoid a violent confrontation.( Ed. note: Sheriff
John Thomas lost his re-election bid on the following Tuesday
being strongly opposed by the KKK voters).
But Kistler, who expressed sympathy to the KKK’s argument
of free speech, refused. Yet the parade never happened.
Each time members of the KKK tried to make their
way through the city, they were met by violent protests by members
of the anti–KKK group, Knights of the Flaming Circle, and
residents. Some Klan members were described to have been turned
away by a hail of machine gun fire. Others who arrived near the
city’s border were pulled from their cars, beaten and sent
on their way.
The Ohio National Guard was eventually summoned
to calm the situation. Afterward, the KKK’s power diminished
in Niles and in northeast Ohio as the Irish-Italian community
began to elect officials friendlier to their cause. Warren
Tribune Chronicle: August 17, 2017
more about the Harvey Kistler story click here.