Monday, July 3, 2017

Seeing Steubenville, c. 1880, through City Council Proceedings

Have I mentioned how much I love reading/searching through the Steubenville City Council Proceedings on FamilySearch?  I perused the Council Proceedings, Jan. 4, 1876 to March 31, 1882, beginning around 1879 through March 21, 1882.  It was like stepping back 135 years into a Steubenville that I can only imagine.  These records gave me a flavor of what it might have been like to live in the city at that time.

Below are a select few excerpts of interest that may have impacted the lives of my Steubenville and Jefferson County ancestors during the late 1870s and early 1880s:  petitions read, ordinances adopted, improvements, etc.  Dates are council meeting dates; numbers in parentheses are image numbers of the record at FamilySearch.

February 11
  • A petition was read regarding the appointing of a board of health and a city physician to furnish medicines and medical attendance to the worthy poor of the City.  (229)
  • The establishment and building of a workhouse was proposed.  The Finance Committee was instructed to "consider and report the best measures to be adopted to secure the speedy erection and use of such work house in the City, and also to ascertain and report where and at what price suitable land can be purchased for and the probable cost of erecting such work house." (229-230)
February 25
  • The city engineer was to be instructed to make a plat of all water drains belonging to the city.  (233)
 February 27
  • The city engineer was directed to remove the Market House.
May 13 
  • Pay for the person who lit public lamps was to be $25.00/month.  (250)
  • Removal of the hay scales in Market Square was a topic of discussion.  (250)
  • Regulating the price of gas and rent of meters was discussed.  (250)
  • The janitor was to provide ice water for members of city council.  (256)

May 2
  • Oil lamps were to be replaced with gas lamps at the cost of $15.00/post.
August 3
  • The street commissioner was charged with notifying residents to "pluck up and remove all grass and weeds that may be growing upon the sidewalks or in the gutters in front of their respective properties."  Refusal was to result in the city doing it and charging the cost of it to the property owner on his tax bill.  (348-349)
  • The Market Committee was to make arrangements to have coal weighed at the upper end of town.  (357)
  • It was proposed that "stone crossings be laid on Logan Street across the alleys between 5th and 6th Streets both sides of the street, and two on Ross Street, one between 4th and 5th Sts. and one between 5th and 6th Sts."  (357)
November 9
  • "An ordinance to prevent smoking and other disorderly conduct in public halls passed a first reading."  (367)
  • A Telephone Exchange was about to be established in the City and it was moved that the line be run to the Mayor's office.  Poles for the line were referred to the Street Committee and Engineer.  (368)
  • The cost of slagging Market street 18" deep and 20' wide was discussed.  (369)
  • An example of "patent asphalt pavement" was presented to city council.  (371)

March 1
  • Telegraph poles were to be erected.  (386)
  • A telephone line was to go into City Council Member Brashear's to be used for fire alarm purposes (387)
April 12
  • These are the city offices mentioned in this entry:  Weighmaster, Wharfmaster, Fire Wardens (for the wards of the city), Water Works Trustees, Police, Building Commission, Board of Measures, Civil Engineers.  (393)  (Steubenville's location on the Ohio River necessitated the Wharfmaster.  In other entries there were references to ferry licenses, wharf fees , and the waiving of wharf fees.)
April 26
  • Committees included Finance, Claims, Markets, Ordinances, Lights, Police, Fire Department, and Street.  (397)
  • The "filthy conditions" of the city prison were brought up with the note that it was not a fit place to confine human beings.  (393)
May 10
  • More about the city jail:  Iron gratings were to be installed in cells for better ventilation.  The City Marshall was to have it white-washed every 15 days and disinfected with sulfur twice a week.  (400)
  • An ordinance was suggested to prevent people taking flowers and vines from public areas and from dogs running loose without collars, names, and owners' names on them.  (401)
  • There was discussion about bonds in the amount of $50,000 to build a market house and city hall.  This discussion recurred several times over the next meetings.  (402)
November 25
  • The salary of the telephone operator was discussed.  (446)
December 18
  • At a special meeting a communication from the mayor announced:  "Smallpox is now in our midst."  A "fresh house" was suggested.  All cases were to be reported to the mayor.  A card with "small pox" and a yellow flag was to be placed on houses where smallpox was known to exist.  The City Physician was to vaccinate all who requested it at the expense of the city and report their names to the City Council.  That was changed to include vaccinations for all persons in the city.  (450-451)

January 31
  • Frank Markle asked that the small-pox wagon be removed to some other place.  It was to be removed to the river side park; motion that it be fastened to one of the posts to prevent it from being thrown into the river.  (458)
February 28
  • A sewer pipe was to be run from the Court House through jail alley, along Washington Street, to the river.  (461)
  • The City Clerk was to advertise in the daily newspapers of the city for the sale of bonds to the amount of $50,000, the proceeds to the cred of the fund for a building for a "Market House City Hall and such other purposes as City Council determine."  City Solicitor was to have printed bonds to the amount of $50,000 by the day of the sale.  (462)
March 14
  • The City Clerk was to advertise for 10 days in one of the daily newspapers for the sale of $50,000 bonds, proceeds to credit of the fund for the "Market House City Hall."  (464)
March 28
  • An ordinance passed to provide for letting a contract for the city building.  (466)
  • The bid of Spitzer Wiedman & Co. of Toledo for $50,000 for City hall and Market was read and passed.  Details about the transaction of papers and was recorded.  (467)

Notes and Comments

The late 1870s and early 1880s were a time of growth for the City of Steubenville.  I omitted many entries on the ongoing improvements to streets included slagging, grading, and/or curbing various streets; the cost of brick for streets, culverts, curbs, and gutters is recorded; laying stone crossings at intersections;  "improved boulder pavement;" and at one point, the investigation of "improved macadamized pavement 20' wide" is mentioned.  Boardwalks and sidewalks were built.   Public lamps and installing sewer drains were discussed, as well as their specific locations.  Sidewalk improvement was also a consideration.  Clearly, a city map would add to the benefit of this research.

I also omitted references to the cases brought against the city as the result of people falling into open holes, pits, and trenches.  In addition to my g-g-grandfather Abel Armitage's claim there were at least four or five others during the years 1879-1882. 

I've written about these records before:  twice to report the results of my great-great-grandfather's suit against the city and once to introduce city council proceedings as a resource for family historians.  I know much of the information in these records was published in the local newspapers but one practically has to read the newspapers to find it.  In these council proceedings everything the city leaders were discussing and doing to improve the city is contained on the pages of these journals.

If you want to discover more about the environment in which an ancestor lived, I highly recommend a search for similar records in the city where your ancestors lived.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.

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