Society wants to name bridge after educator

Renaming the bridge would ‘keep the McGuffey legacy alive,’ a historian says.



YOUNGSTOWN — Noted educator William Holmes McGuffey is going to be honored once again.

The designation of a bridge that spans Crab Creek and connects the city’s North and East sides as the William Holmes McGuffey Memorial Bridge would be a fitting tribute to the 19th century educator whose readers were standard textbooks in American schools for many decades, according to the president of the historical society that bears McGuffey’s name.

“He literally educated millions of illiterate people,” said Richard Scarsella, president of the William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society, whose membership includes 10 McGuffey descendants.

The famous McGuffey elementary school readers, which were first published in 1836 and sold more than 122 million copies, are still in print, Scarsella said.

When they meet at 10 a.m. Thursday in the basement of the Mahoning County Courthouse, the county commissioners will consider a resolution naming the previously unnamed bridge, which carries McGuffey Road over the creek and railroad tracks, for the educator whose boyhood home was in Coitsville Township near the Pennsylvania line.

The bridge project

Several McGuffey descendants are expected to attend that meeting.

In a $4.4 million project funded by the state and federal governments, the A.P. O’Horo Co. of Liberty is rebuilding the four-lane bridge.

Work began this spring and is to be completed next spring, with one lane of traffic maintained in each direction during construction, which is being supervised by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The project includes replacing everything but the bridge’s steel beams, followed by painting of the bridge, said Ken Sympson, director of highway planning for the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

Scarsella said a formal dedication ceremony will be held when the work is completed next year.

“McGuffey is in danger of being forgotten in his home town, so we’re dedicating the bridge to keep the McGuffey legacy alive,” Scarsella said.

The McGuffey legacy

“He was known as America’s schoolmaster,” Scarsella said of McGuffey, who lived from 1800 to 1873.

McGuffey Road was originally a path built by the educator’s father, Alexander McGuffey, from the family’s Coitsville residence to the Rev. William Wick’s parsonage school, where the young McGuffey was educated on what is now Wick Avenue.

In 1998, the society donated McGuffey’s 78-acre boyhood home site, which is a National Historic Landmark, to Mill Creek MetroParks, which maintains it as the McGuffey Wildlife Preserve.

“They were the primary texts in schools until the 1950s,” Scarsella said of the McGuffey Readers, which featured themes such as citizenship, character, conservation, patriotism and religion. Religious references in the readers were used as “excuses” to discontinue use of the readers in public schools, Scarsella said. “Religion was only part of the message,” he concluded.

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