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‘Steel’ needing help

Info, pix of families who worked at Steubenville and Mingo Junction steel plants sought for written history project

November 24, 2013
By JANICE R. KIASKI - Herald-Star community editor , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - With the fast-approaching holiday season spanning Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve, local historian Sandy Day will be "thankful" for "gifts" that will help spur a preservation project on to fruition in the new year to come.

But she needs the public's help, given a Dec. 31 deadline looms for information and photos for the book "Steel Industry in Jefferson County, Ohio, 157 Years, 1856-2013."

Given that, Day asks, "Do you have photographs from when you or a family member worked in the steel mills of Steubenville and Mingo Junction?

Article Photos

Local historian Sandy Day of the Schiappa branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County is collecting information and photos on families who worked in the steel mills of Steubenville and Mingo Junction as part of a written history project entitled “Steel Industry in Jefferson County, Ohio: 157 Years, 1856-2013.”
-- Janice R. Kiaski

"If so, don't throw them away, because the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County is using them to preserve the history of our community into a book," said Day, the local historian and genealogist at the Schiappa branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.

As part of the library's "Steel Industry In Jefferson County" project that consists of professionally taken photographs now on display at the main library, the book is in the works.

Photographs as well as news clippings, dating from 1856 to 2013, are being collected by the local history department at the Schiappa branch.

"I became interested in compiling a written history of the steel mills in our county because of the fact that the mills are closed or closing," Day said.

"This is sad since the Ohio Valley and Steubenville in particular has been making steel in some capacity for more than 150 years. I decided I had enough resources on hand that I could compile a written history on the Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel mills - the Steubenville plant and Mingo Junction plant," she said.

"I am hoping that the public will contact me if they have info on their families who worked in the two mills. If anyone has photos of their families that show them working in one of these mills, I would love to be able to borrow them and add them to the book," she said.

Day said she already has collected material to fill more than 500 pages. "One local resident let the library make copies of photos she had of her relative who once worked at LaBelle Iron Works," she said.

The first iron works in Steubenville was the Jefferson Iron Works that was founded in 1856, according to Day. It was bought out by LaBelle Iron Works in 1859. The steel industry in Steubenville has had many names, said Day, who explained that another person shared his steel-related news clippings he had collected for more than a decade.

Day said she would like to have photographs of the Steubenville or Mingo Junction plants of Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corp. or photos that show people working in those mills. The library will make copies and return them.

"A sample of what we already have includes a photo of Riverside Iron Furnace that was in Steubenville as early as 1872," she said. "We have a news clipping dated 1885 that tells about the Jefferson Iron Works Company. One local resident let us make copies of photos she had of her relative who once worked at LaBelle Iron works. These items make wonderful additions to the collection that will soon become a history of the steel mills that were once the lifeblood of the Ohio Valley," Day added.

"Recently, people have brought in books entitled 'Annual Service Recognition Banquet.' The ones we have cover the first one in 1978 and the ones in 1979 and 1980. These small books contain photos of the steel mills that I have never seen before," Day said.

"The books were loaned to us for copying purposes only. This is only a small sampling of the more than 500 pages already compiled covering 1856-2013. The steel mills here went by several different names, and this is mentioned in the timeline in this book.

The library system obtained a grant from a PNC Charitable Trust Grant through the Esther Simmons Trust. The grant has enabled the library to hire a professional photographer to take photos of the steel mills in Steubenville and Mingo Junction.

"This project came about as a way to honor and remember the steel industry in the Ohio Valley and how important it once was. The mills are not as vibrant as they used to be, but their history must be maintained and recorded," Day said.

Day said the Schiappa branch is rapidly becoming a steel museum of sorts.

There are 10 different framed photos of the mills on display at the branch with the local history room showcasing three large aerial views of the Steubenville plant dating 1950s to 1970s.

"The 1955 and 1962 aerial photos were colorized by local artists at that time," Day said. "Wintersville resident Judy Lucas was a teenager in the 1960s, and she painted the 1962 aerial view. She visited the library one day recently and recognized the work she had painted. These aerial views were the product of George Grantonic of Mingo Junction. George was the photographer in the airplane, and John Buchmelter of Mingo Junction was the pilot," Day said.

The book is being compiled with good reason, according to Day.

"The written word is always a great way to promote and perpetuate the history on any topic," Day said.

"We feel that it is a task that the library should take on to have for future reference. We will have several circulating copies for patrons to check out. There will be a reference copy that will not circulate but can be viewed in the local history room at the Schiappa library."

The deadline to contribute photographs is Dec. 31. To submit photographs, contact the local history department at the Schiappa branch by stopping in or calling (740) 264-6166.

The book is anticipated to be available for viewing by the public by mid- to late 2014.

(Kiaski can be contacted a

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