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
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 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.
Ernest Vickers photograph of Volney Rogers in Mill Creek Park.
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.
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.
Suspension Bridge near Hiawatha Flats in the 1930s.
Pioneer Pavilion photographed by Ernest Vickers.