The first park district in Ohio, predating even the state park system, opened south of the Mahoning River in 1893, thanks primarily to the efforts of one man, Volney Rogers.  Rogers was born on a farm in Columbiana County in 1846, taught school and worked as a telegraph operator, and began his legal career in Youngstown in 1871.  He visited Mill Creek gorge often as a refuge from the noise, dust, and smoke of the busy mill town.

Volney Rogers became aware of how the beautiful valley and the land along it were increasingly being used for industrial purposes: the trees were being cut for timber and a stone quarry was proposed for the gorge below Lanterman’s Falls.  Wanting to preserve the unspoiled land by creating a free public park for the benefit of all the citizens of the area, Rogers and some others began acquiring options on the land along the creek.

The Ohio State Legislature approved Rogers’ bill authorizing the creation of Mill Creek Park on February 2, 1891.  Rogers and 2 other park commissioner’s selected 400 acres along Mill Creek running from the Mahoning River to just south of Lanterman’s Mill.  In April 1891 voters endorsed the plan by a 2-to-1 margin.  As the park developed, Rogers’ continued to protect the land and the area’s wildlife until his death in 1919.  With the completion of Lake Glacier in 1906, and later Lake Newport, and the addition of other recreational amenities and more land, Mill Creek Park is now an enduring resource of the Mahoning Valley.

How many parks have you visited?  Were they city, township, state, or national parks?  Make a list of all the different things you can do in a park.  What would it be like to live where there weren’t any parks?  What legacy would you like to leave for people to enjoy a hundred years from now?  Visit www.mahoninghistory.org to see images of more artifacts and documents related to Mill Creek Park. For a better look at these primary documents, go to MVHS@mahoninghistory.org.  Under Education, click on ‘What Do You Know’ for a list of articles.  Then click on the embedded images in an article for a downloadable file.

  

An Ernest Vickers photograph of Volney Rogers in Mill Creek Park.

The contract from the builder to build Volney Rogers’ house, 1883, at a cost of $930.

Receipt to Charles Leedy for the purchase of Volney Rogers’ house in 1916 at a total price of $4500.

343 Falls Avenue (Volney Rogers’ former home) after 1916.

Volney Rogers’ bookplate reflected his love of the outdoors.

Lanterman’s Mill and Falls, October 29, 1909, by J.D. Megown.

The Suspension Bridge near Hiawatha Flats in the 1930s.

Pioneer Pavilion photographed by Ernest Vickers.


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