Given its strategic geo- political location on the western edge of the original 13 American colonies, the Mahoning Valley has long prided itself for its rich and deep historical roots.
And few areas within the historic Western Reserve – settled in the 18th century by Connecticut colonists with the blessing of England’s King George II – can boast of such a glorious past as Poland Township and the village within it.
The township’s name itself pays homage to two foremost U.S. Revolutionary War heroes from the nation of Poland – Gens. Casimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciuszko – whose statues grace the village’s Peterson Park.
Poland was the first charted township in the Connecticut Western Reserve, located in its southeastern most portion (Township 1, Range 1).
The township also has strong ties to this nation’s 25th president William McKinley and was the onetime home of Ida Tarbell, one of America’s leading muckraking journalists, suffragists and Progressive Era reformers.
Clearly, there is much to celebrate in the heritage of Poland, Ohio. Fortunately for the people of Poland and all residents of the Western Reserve, a group of civic-minded individuals has been researching, chronicling and preserving the proud legacy of the township and village for four decades now.
As the Poland Historical Society celebrates its 40th anniversary this weekend, we join others in saluting its commitment to ensuring the community’s sterling heritage never fades.
The group got its start in the late 1970s as the community rallied around efforts to save Poland’s Little Red Schoolhouse. A lease agreement between the Historical Society and the Poland Board of Education was arranged for $1 per year for a period of 99 years.
Through the efforts of society members, a federal grant was secured for restoration of the building, which was nurtured by donations of time and money from the community.
It then became the permanent home of the new Poland Historical Society.
Today, that schoolhouse, preserved and expanded by the meticulous efforts of the PHS, stands as the only one-room schoolhouse of any school district in the Buckeye State. It also now features a large room complete with glass cases of artifacts and historical documents.
The society’s newest project symbolizes the group’s growth and stature in the community. The parking lot at the schoolhouse on Center Street is being expanded to better accommodate the expansive audiences for its meetings and programs.
WAREHOUSE OF HISTORY
The impeccably preserved Little Red Schoolhouse, however, is but one of many historical gems in the community. The township boasts a hodgepodge of fascinating historical places. Among them:
The Hopewell Furnace site along Yellow Creek, at which stood the first blast furnace west of the Appalachian Mountains and the first industrial operation in the Connecticut Western Reserve.
The Old Stone Tavern on South Main Street that was built in 1804 by Jonathan Fowler, one of the founders of Poland, when it became the first chartered township in the Connecticut Western Reserve in 1796.
The site of the boyhood home of McKinley. His family moved to Poland to attend its superior schools.
Poland Academy on College Street, which was established in 1830 and which in 1862 became Poland Seminary, was one of the first schools in Northeast Ohio to admit girls on an equal basis with boys. Furthermore, Tarbell, author of the landmark “A History of the Standard Oil Company,” taught there for two years in the 1880s before her journalistic career took off.
With such a bountiful treasure trove of American history, is it any wonder that the society continues to grow in membership and popularity? .
As Jessica Hardin, a Vindicator staff writer, reported in a front-page story earlier this week, that growth has been substantial. When PHS Secretary Dave Smith first attended a meeting in 2012, only four people were present.
Today, the group has 107 members and counting.
We suspect the valuable projects and programs under the auspices of the PHS will continue to drive its growth and admiration in the community for years and decades to come.