Our Towns

Founder of Boardman Hangs with the Greats

BOARDMAN TOWNSHIP, Ohio – In 1789, the American artist Ralph Earl strode into the shop of one of the more prominent dry goods merchants in New Milford, Conn., to paint a portrait. There, he had his smartly dressed subject pose next to an upright desk that doubled as a bookcase and held works by William Shakespeare and Samuel Johnson.

In the portrait Earl completed, one can see an open door to the right of the merchant that shows bolts of fabric in variety of patterns, the bolts indicating that the merchant made his living in the textiles trade.

The merchant was Elijah Boardman, then a young Connecticut man in post-revolutionary America. Six years later, his interests turned to land speculation in the easternmost Connecticut Western Reserve in the Northwest Territory, now northeastern Ohio, and laid claim to the township that bears his name today – Boardman.

That portrait of Boardman is considered one of Earl’s finest paintings, and today hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Boardman, a veteran of the Revolution who saw action during the battle for Long Island, traveled to Ohio on at least two occasions but remained in Connecticut after the war to pursue a life of business and politics.

His interest in politics is demonstrated in a letter he wrote President-elect Thomas Jefferson on March 1, 1801. In his letter, Boardman hails Jefferson as a champion of “real republicanism” and encloses a sermon from a local clergyman, Stanley Griswold, on the subject of religious freedom.

Jefferson thanked Boardman for the sermon, writing he had read it “with great satisfaction” affording Boardman “great salutations and respect.”

Boardman would serve in Connecticut’s House of Representatives and Senate before that senate elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1820. He held that office from 1821 until his death two years later at age 63.

He died Aug. 18, 1823, while visiting his son, Henry, in Boardman.

Pictured: Ralph Earl’s portrait of Elijah Boardman.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.