Sixty years of change in Ironton Ohio

Posted by | February 18, 2016

Los Angeles, February 6, 1934
Editor Tribune: Sixty years have passed since the writer answered an advertisement in the columns of The Tribune’s honored predecessor, The Ironton Register, resulting in his employment as a boy in the Register office. That was on February 6, 1874. I remained in the service of the Register twenty-seven years, until moving to Chicago.

What changes have come about in sixty years?

Then, the “Old Brick” school in Ironton was standing, on the Kingsbury site. The high school had one teacher, and afterward two. Part of the time, its principal was also the school superintendent. Superintendents changed frequently. Saul Wood and Jos. Le Sage were successively long time janitors. They suffered more devilment from the kids than did the school heads.

“East Ironton” then had a few scattered houses not many blocks (“squares” we called them) beyond Adams Street. The direction is now known as south because of the confusing diagonal position of Ironton on the map. The Deaconess Hospital was then the W. D. Kelly home, and the grounds included a deer park with a fine herd.

Big Etna Furnace Ironton OH“Kelly’s Graveyard” was the principal cemetery. Processions marched all the way to that hallowed spot on “Decoration” days, headed by the Silver Cornet Band. I remember when beautiful Woodland, where so many now sleep, was laid out. When “Big Etna” furnace was built, it cost more than a million dollars and sold at auction for ten thousand.

Every church now standing in Ironton was built in my time, as well as some that have been razed. So every school building up to the Ironton High School. So probably three-fourths of the business places of every kind. The occasional launchings of steamboats and other large river craft built by Mike Wise above Vernon Street, were gala occasions and beautiful sights.

I remember when Emerson McMillin, then a young school teacher and later one of the eminent and wealthy men of the nation, labored in laying the first gas mains in Ironton and assisted in the installation of the gas works, becoming the company’s secretary. That was in 1867. My father was the town’s first gas fitter.

When palatial river packets like the Fleetwood and Bostona arrived at the Ironton wharf from Cincinnati each morning on schedule time. When a railroad on one side of the river or the other was a far-off dream. When the Scioto Valley railroad came to town following the high pressure exerted by its promoters to secure the franchise through the streets. When the Iron Railroad sold for $500,000.

When the Ironton Plow factory followed by Henry’s mill, was where the Crystal Ice factory is now. When Park Avenue was Olive street and when “Cory’s tunnel” was blasted through the hill.

Marting Hotel Ironton OHI recall the great occasions of county fairs in the fair grounds out by the “iron bridge.” The bridge which I understand is now an antique in the hands of Henry Ford. I vaguely remember when my grandfather, James Amlin, was postmaster at Ironton in wartime. When a big fire below the railroad on Second destroyed the Register office and Wright’s drug store.

I retain distinct impressions of some local incidents of the Civil War, although too young to realize all it meant. I remember the deep sorrow when President Lincoln was assassinated.

In my boyhood, the block bounded by Fifth, Sixth, Washington and Adams was the “Dempsey field,” and circus tents were pitched there. In winter, a pond in the field and extending across Washington Street furnished good skating. Storms creek when firmly frozen and Ebert’s pond were larger centers for the sport.

F. B. Lawton.

Ironton Sunday Tribune
, February 18, 1934, Sunday, Page 8.


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