Youngstown is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Mahoning County. It also extends into Trumbull County. The municipality is on the Mahoning River, approximately southeast of Cleveland and northwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Youngstown has its own metropolitan area, but is often included in commercial and cultural depictions of the Pittsburgh Tri-State area and Greater Cleveland. Youngstown lies west of the Pennsylvania state line, midway between New York City and Chicago via Interstate 80.
The city was named for John Young, an early settler from Whitestown, New York, who established the community's first sawmill and gristmill. Youngstown is in a region of the United States that is often referred to as the Rust Belt. Traditionally known as a center of steel production, Youngstown was forced to redefine itself when the U.S. steel industry fell into decline in the 1970s, leaving communities throughout the region without major industry. Youngstown also falls within the Appalachian Ohio region, among the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The 2010 census showed that Youngstown had a total population of 66,982, making it Ohio's ninth largest city. The city has experienced a decline of over 60% of its population since 1960.
According to the 2010 Census, the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) contains 565,773 people and includes Mahoning and Trumbull counties in Ohio, and Mercer County in Pennsylvania. The Steel Valley area as a whole has 763,207 residents.
Youngstown was named for New York native John Young, who surveyed the area in 1796 and settled there soon after. On February 9, 1797, Young purchased the township of 15,560 acres (63 km²) from the Western Reserve Land Company for $16,085. The 1797 establishment of Youngstown was officially recorded on August 19, 1802.
The area constituting present-day Youngstown was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, a section of the Northwest Territory reserved for settlers from the state of Connecticut. While many of the area's early settlers came from Connecticut, Youngstown attracted a significant number of Scots-Irish settlers from neighboring Pennsylvania. The first European Americans to settle permanently in the area were Pittsburgh native James Hillman and wife Catherine Dougherty. By 1798, Youngstown was the home of several families who were concentrated near the point where Mill Creek meets the Mahoning River. Boardman Township was founded in 1798 by Elijah Boardman who was a member of the Connecticut Land Company. Also founded in 1798 was Austintown by John McCollum who was a settler from New Jersey.
As the Western Reserve's population grew, the need for administrative districts became apparent. In 1800, territorial governor Arthur St. Clair established Trumbull County (named in honor of Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull), and designated the smaller settlement of Warren as its administrative center, or "county seat". In 1813, Trumbull County was divided into townships, with Youngstown Township comprising much of what became Mahoning County. The village of Youngstown was incorporated in 1848, and in 1867 Youngstown was chartered as a city. It became the county seat in 1876, when the administrative center of Mahoning County was moved from neighboring Canfield.
The discovery of coal by the community in the early 19th century paved the way for the Youngstown area's inclusion on the network of the famed Erie Canal. The Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal Company was organized in 1835, and the canal was completed in 1840. Local industrialist David Tod, who was later Ohio governor during the Civil War, persuaded Lake Erie steamboat owners that coal mined in the Mahoning Valley could fuel their vessels if canal transportation were available between Youngstown and Cleveland. The arrival of the railroad in 1856 smoothed the path for further economic growth.
The growth of industry attracted people from within the borders of the United States, and from Latin America. By the late 19th century, African Americans were well represented in Youngstown, and the first local congregation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1871. In the 1880s, local attorney William R. Stewart was the second African American elected to the Ohio House of Representatives. A large influx of African Americans in the early 20th century owed much to developments in the industrial sector. During the national Steel Strike of 1919, local industrialists recruited thousands of workers from the South, many of whom were Black. This move inflamed racist sentiment among local Whites, and for decades, African-American steelworkers experienced discrimination in the workplace. Migration from the South rose dramatically in the 1940s, when the mechanization of southern agriculture brought an end to the exploitative sharecropping system, leading onetime farm laborers to seek industrial jobs.
The city's population became more diverse since the end of World War II, when a seemingly robust steel industry attracted thousands of workers. In the 1950s, the Latino population grew significantly; and by the 1970s, St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church and the First Spanish Baptist Church of Ohio were among the largest religious institutions for Spanish-speaking residents in the Youngstown metropolitan area. While diversity is among the community's enduring characteristics, the industrial economy that drew various groups to the area collapsed in the late 1970s. In response to subsequent challenges, the city has taken well-publicized steps to diversify economically, while building on some traditional strengths.