Old rugged cross: Part of Youngstown history

The Old Rugged Cross at Lake Park Cemetery, 1459 E. Midlothian Blvd., Youngstown, was dedicated April 5, 1959, and is marking its 50th anniversary this year. The cross is a tribute to the Rev. George Bennard, born in Youngstown in 1873, who penned the hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross.” Next to the cross is a boulder with a bronze plaque.

Sunrise service: Capts. Patricia and Ivan Musgrove of the Salvation Army Citadel of Youngstown will conduct an Easter sunrise service at 7:15 a.m. Easter Sunday, April 12, at the Old Rugged Cross. A breakfast will follow at the Salvation Army, 1501 Glenwood Ave., Youngstown. Over the years, many sunrise services have been held.

Background: Ted Conner, chairman of the Old Rugged Cross Committee, said timber was donated from the former Veach United Methodist Church, Route 304, east of Hubbard. The church, built in 1829, was unused for nearly a century and timbers came from it. Stambaugh Lumber Co. constructed the cross and Ohio Bell Telephone Co. erected the cross — all for free, Conner said. The program booklet also listed Habuda Coal and Supply, Harris Flower Shop and Terrace Gardens for contributions. WFMJ, WKBN, WBBW and WHOT were recognized publicizing and covering the project. Donations went to prepare the site and for the upkeep.

Site of cross: The cross is on a knoll overlooking a small lake in Lake Park Cemetery and faces East Midlothian Boulevard. The cemetery “was very cooperative” to have it there, Conner said.

Program book: Three excerpts from letters from prominent people were featured in the eight-page program book that included a biography of Rev. Mr. Bennard and lyrics of the hymn.

Norman Vincent Peale, religious leader and columnist, wrote, “‘The Old Rugged Cross’ written by the Rev. George Bennard is to me one of the greatest hymns of my entire spiritual experience.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower, president of the United States, wrote, “It was good to hear of the plans to honor the memory of Reverand George Bennard, author of ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ and a native of your city. This hymn is carried as No. 296 in the Army-Naval hymnal. I know it is widely loved and sung — and it has strengthened the faith of many.”

Billy Graham, evangelist, “Eternity alone can fully reveal the tremendous contribution he made to the kingdom of God through his consecrated talents and especially through this hymn, ‘The Old Rugged Cross.’”

On the Net: A search of “The Old Rugged Cross” leads to a variety of Web sites, where the hymn is called a “sentimental favorite” and “hymn often sung on Good Friday.”

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