Cemetery Walking Tour Discusses Youngstown History

By Victoria Remley

Jambar Contributor

The Mahoning Valley Historical Society walking tour at the Oak Hill Cemetery presents Youngstown’s history, including a past governor of Ohio, on the last Saturday of October each year.

Symbols on the monuments at the cemetery have significant meanings.

“The older ones have symbols on them, like hands pointing up. A motif on the older ones is a weeping willow tree, which is a sign of mourning,” William Lawson, Historical Society staff member, said.

John Slanina, a tour guide, said Gov. David Todd was born in Youngstown in 1905 and is buried in the cemetery.

“He had a stellar statewide and national political career. At the peak of it in 1862, he was the governor of Ohio. He’s the only Youngstown native who’s been governor of Ohio,” Slanina said.

During the tour, the Historical Society staff present photos of the cemetery from the 1800s to see how the cemetery changed.

“When we go to the vantage point we tell people, if you were standing right here in 1889 this is what you would see. Look at how it’s changed,” Lawson said.

Lawson said the walking tour is distinct because the cemetery is a memorial park meant for people to spend time there

He said the Mahoning Valley Historical Society and Oak Hill Cemetery are partners in preserving the history of the cemetery. Associate board members of Oak Hill Cemetery have been members of Mahoning Valley Historical Society and vice versa. The cemetery staff go to the Historical Society with research requests.

Lawson said people should take the tour because it is educational, good exercise and a great place to learn about Youngstown’s history.

“For the city of Youngstown, it’s really a great place to go and see a very concentrated study of history, not only in the landscape around the cemetery, but all the people buried there,” Lawson said.

Paul Kemper, a tour participant, decided to go on the walking tour because he loves history.

“I thought it would be interesting. I’ve never been here, and I’ve lived here all my life. Everything here is the whole history of the city. I’ve driven past here thousands of times, but I’ve never paid much attention to it. 90 percent of the history in Youngstown up to the ’50s and ’60s is buried in this cemetery,” Kemper said.

Jim Reed, a tour participant, decided to do the tour because his family enjoys history and a friend recommended it.

“I thought the tour was very well done and I liked the pictures. The guide was very knowledgeable,” Reed said.

Lori Gifford came because her daughter, Ashley Gifford, asked her to.

“I’ve been intrigued with the place like my daughter is, but I’ve never been in here before. The history of Youngstown is interesting,” Gifford said.

The walking tour has entertained over 150 people.

For Mahoning Valley Historical Society event information call (330) 743-2589 or visit www.mahoninghistory.org or Mahoning Valley Historical Society’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.