1784 — 1849
| Compiled by
Grace Allison and Audrey John
was founded by Michael Ohl in 1815, and it existed over
100 years before its residents were forced to relocate. It was
a quiet little village located in the southwestern part of Weathersfield
Township about a mile and a half west of Mineral Ridge, Ohio.
By 1805 German settlers were immigrating into
Ohio in large numbers. Henry and Abolona Leach Ohl
and their nine children came from Allentown, Pennsylvania. to
Canfield Township in what was then Trumbull County. Henry bought
a farm north of the village of Canfield where he built a home
for his family. He later built a blacksmith shop there. A prosperous
man with a sincere interest in the welfare of his fellow men,
Henry was involved in such community interests as the building
and supporting of the church and cemetery.
When the Ohl family came to Ohio, their eldest
son, Michael, was 21 years old. On September 18, 1806,
Michael married Eva Meyers (Meiers). They settled
in the southwestern comer of Austintown Township where they lived
for 12 years and the first five of their 13 children were born.
A dam had to be built to impound the waters of
Meander Creek and then he dug a channel
for a mill race, which would later flow between a sawmill and
a gristmill. The sawmill was the first building erected and put
into operation to mill the dense growth of oak and other timber
on his land. This timber would be used to build a permanent home
for his family, dwellings for his employees and a gristmill. The
sawmill and gristmill were in operation for over 100 years. Ohltown,
named for Michael, was laid out on land owned by him. He also
owned the first general store in town and was the first postmaster
in Ohltown's post office, which was located in his home.
Eva Meyers Ohl
1786 — 1860
Home of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Ohl
Mill at Ohltown
Built by Charles Ohl,
Son of Michael Ohl
August 9, 1916
Ohl Family Coat of Arms
the time of the settlement of the Western Reserve Territory, the
Wellsville to Cleveland via Canfield and Warren was practically
the only highway for the transportation of people and merchandise.
A plank styled road ran through Ohl's property and he maintained
an inn at his home. Stagecoaches made regular stops at the inn
so passengers could dine, freshen up or sleep. Naturally alternating
freezes and thaws in the winter months made the dirt road impassable.
The road was eventually double-tracked with oak planks and toll
gates were established at intervals inorder to maintain the road.
By 1859, Ohltown had been in existence for 44
years and was a thriving little village with
many residences. On the comer stood the general store, housed
in a two-story building and occupied by various merchants as time
moved along. There was also a grocery store, post office, shoemaker,
cabinet maker, and a blacksmith. There was a neat school building
with an ample playground and two houses of worship, one having
been erected by the German Reform people and the second by the
Methodist Episcopal Society. There was also a cemetery.
Michael Ohl was a cooper by trade. Although he
practiced his trade to some extent, his interest and responsibilities
became so diversified he did not have much time for his trade.
As the father of 15 children, he needed an income from a thriving
The first coal was mined in 1835 on Coal Run,
just south of the village, on Michael Ohl's farm. That first mining
proved to be bastard cannel coal, or blackstone, but other parts
of the seams produced a rich vein of coal. In fact, when Michael
sold the land, he reserved the mineral rights and his heirs received
royalties for years.
Michael died in 1849, but his sons kept a deep
interest in the home their father had made for
them. However, the plank road that ran through the village was
lost when the Ohio Canal came into being and prospered. And when
the railroad replaced the canal as a means of commercial and personal
transportation, no rails were laid through or near Ohltown.
By 1882, Ohltown had become a quiet village with
only 30 homes, two small stores, operated by T.J. Moore
and J.A. Ramsey, a blacksmith and the gristmill, which
was run by the Flick brothers. When the streetcar became
the fashionable mode of travel and interurban lines were built
between towns, Ohltown was again by passed.
By the early years of the 20th century, nothing
was left of Michael Ohl's beloved town but a
few buildings and homes, a church and a cemetery. The village's
few residents either farmed or worked in nearby towns. Within
two decades, Niles and Youngstown were to have a profound influence
By 1917, the Mahoning River, the source for Niles
water supply, was becoming highly polluted with sewage and industrial
waste. The Niles fathers became deeply concerned as to the purity
and volume of the city's water supply. On May 20, 1925, a headline
in the Niles Daily Times announced, "City officials survey
proposed new water site. Location at Ohltown favored in preliminary
survey." The story read: "The site, which is expected
to be selected will place the dam (to form a lake) at Ohltown,
with the lake extending between five and six miles up Meander
Creek. The proposed lake will be a mile wide at one point. The
site will be about four miles from Niles."
During the spring of 1928, Niles and Youngstown
established the Mahoning Valley
Sanitary District with Niles industrialist Jacob D. Waddell
and Youngstown Chamber of Commerce secretary Fred A. LaBelle
In 1927, official plans were adopted for the
construction of Meander Reservoir with a complete water filtration,
softening and pumping plant at the dam site. Property within the
lake site was purchased from various owners. Some residents reluctantly
left their homes and relocated. Others refused to accept the financial
payment offered them and were still in their homes when crews
began removing trees. Other residents made arrangements and moved
their homes on lots along Webb, Ohltown and North Turner roads.
Each home was lifted from its foundation, placed on rollers and
moved by ropes wound around a windlass which was turned by a horse.
The construction of the Ohltown Viaduct, which
crosses the reservoir over the spot where Michael Ohl's little
village once stood, was started in October 1928 and completed
during June 1930. Its concrete and steel structure consists of
nine spans, each about 100-feet long.
The earthen dam near Evansville is approximately
a half-mile long and 60-feet high at the concrete spillway, backing
up a billion gallons of water in a lake seven miles long. At the
time it was built, the reservoir was the largest manmade water
supply dam in the country. Construction of the reservoir and water
treatment plant was completed and the MVSD began furnishing water
to Niles and Youngstown on July 9, 1932.
Today, Meander Reservoir still hides the site
of the little village of Ohltown, but two links to
Ohltown are still in our midst -the Methodist Church and the community
cemetery on the east side of Ohltown-Mineral Ridge Road.
Many of our readers were unaware of the problems
people faced having safe water in the 1900's. With private wells
being infected, and river water filled with industrial waste and
sewage, safe fresh water was desperately needed. At a cost of
$9,150,000 and years of negotiating, Niles today can turn on the
spigot and receive safe water.
Today, we think little about the cost in time
and money it has taken to give us a drink of fresh safe water.
The residents today owe a debt of gratitude to the officials and
citizens who had the fortitude to persevere against opposition
to a successful conclusion.