Lowellville's wild, wicked past chronicled


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By GRAIG GRAZIOSI

ggraziosi@vindy.com

LOWELLVILLE

Bandits besieged the car of three men from Johnston Limestone Quarry in Hillsville, Pa., resulting in a shootout that left one bandit and one young quarry worker dead.

One of the surviving victims fled the scene back to town, where he raised a posse of more than a hundred men and proceeded to hunt down one of the bandits and recover $9,700 of the $17,000 stolen from the quarry workers.

The bandit, Moyek Zorko, was found hiding at the top of a tree and was shot down by the posse before he could draw his gun.

That story ran in the Nov. 16, 1917, edition of The Vindicator, and is one of many tales of wild happenings in and around the village of Lowellville documented in Roslyn I. Torella’s new book, “Lowellville, Ohio: Murders, Mayhem & More.”

Lowellville today is known more for excellent Italian food, car shows and the Baby Doll Dance, but the village at the turn of the 20th century was not lacking in excitement, for better or worse.

Torella, born and raised in Lowellville but now living in Maryland, began working on the book in 2013 as a birthday gift for her father, David Torella.

“He was a life-long Lowellville resident, and always told me stories about what it was like when he was a kid, and he’d tell me all the stories he’d heard growing up as well,” Torella said. “He loved history, and I thought it’d be a perfect gift.”

The book in its current form — available on Amazon and at Ross Market in Lowellville — is an expanded version of the book she made for her father.

Compiled from newspaper stories, historical and genealogical records, the book’s chapters each focuses on a different kind of dramatic incident; one chapter examines “tales of love, and some gone wrong” while another documents “horrific accidents.” Topics range from the calamitous in “murders and tragic incidents” to the light-hearted — and sometimes salacious — “celebrations.”

One of Torella’s favorite stories in the book — aside from the Johnston Quarry shootout — documented the ill-fated 1904 Lowellville Street Fair, during which Lowellville merchants and the general populace banded together to throw a huge festival on Water Street.

The merchants hoped the event would put Lowellville on the map, but instead the celebration generated negative press for its “hoochee-coochee” shows – naked women dancing in tents – prevalence of swindlers running rigged games of skill and gamblers from Youngstown who “fleeced everybody right and left.”

Torella will be in Lowellville today from 5 to 7 p.m. at the car show on Water Street for a book signing.

In case of rain, she’ll sign books on the second floor of City Hall.

One last story: In 1910, a freight crew found a man next to a Baltimore and Ohio rail track holding his legs, which had been severed below the knees. The man asked his rescuers for a cigarette and complained about going so long without a smoke while explaining that he’d fallen off a train while stealing a ride.

He picked up his legs and crawled a quarter mile before he stopped and “prayed for the light.” He didn’t survive the incident.

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