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Ward-Thomas Museum

Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums

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Ohltown History

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Michael Ohl 1784-1849

Michael Ohl
1784 — 1849


Compiled by Grace Allison and Audrey John

Ohltown 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.

Mrs. Michael Ohl

Eva Meyers Ohl
1786 — 1860

Home of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Ohl

Home of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Ohl
Ohltown, Ohio

Mill at Ohltown

Mill at Ohltown
Built by Charles Ohl,
Son of Michael Ohl

Picture Dated
August 9, 1916

Ohl Family Coat of Arms

Ohl Family Coat of Arms

From the time of the settlement of the Western Reserve Territory, the road from
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 farm.

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 on Ohltown.

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 as directors.

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.

A photograph of the Ohl Homestead

A photograph of the Ohl Homestead. It was built by Michael Ohl and used as an inn before being destroyed by the Meander Dam construction. PO1.1647

The Michael Ohl home from a different angle.

The Michael Ohl home from a different angle.

Graves of Michael Ohl and Eva Ohl

Graves of Michael Ohl and Eva Ohl. PO1.1644

Old Central High School graduating class of 1894. L to R:

Old Central High School graduating class of 1894. L to R:
First row; George Campbell, Grace Orr, Hattie Russell. 2nd row; Florence Mackey, Ethel Gifford Edith Parsons, Nellie Ohl. 3rd row: Edna Pew, Louise Meeker, Bennie West, Dorothy Rogers and Estella Hickey
. PO1.1610

May 30, 1918 - Back row: Mr. and Mrs. William Brown of Beaver Falls, PA. Front row: the boy is Carl Cleveland Ohl, Howard Ohl and Hiram Ohl (the old man).

May 30, 1918 - Back row: Mr. and Mrs. William Brown of Beaver Falls, PA. Front row: the boy is Carl Cleveland Ohl, Howard Ohl and Hiram Ohl (the old man). Standing in front of the statue of McKinley in the rotunda of the McKinley Memorial. PO1.1084

Right: Portrait of George Ohl. PO1.1718

Portrait of George Ohl

A photograph of Edith Logan Ohl as a very young child.

A photograph of Edith Ohl Partridge

A photograph of Edith Ohl Partridge, standing on the front porch of the Ohl house in Weathersfield Township with her dog. PO1.1645


A photograph of Edith Logan Ohl as a very young child. PO1.1811

View of the Herring house.

View of the Herring house.
Home of William and Sue Herring
and related to the Partridge family.

A portrait of Mary Ohl as a young woman

A portrait of Mary Ohl as a young woman.

An advertisement for Wesley Ohl's Boot and Shoe Emporium located in Pennelton, Ohio, which is now called West Austintown.

Center: An advertisement for Wesley Ohl's Boot and Shoe Emporium located in Pennelton, Ohio, which is now called West Austintown. PO2.758

Right: A photo taken of Howard Ohl in his city building office. Writing on the back indicates he was the sanitary police. PO2.638




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