East Liverpool Named America 250-Ohio City

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – While not known to everyone, the city is the point from which the formal survey of land known as the Northwest Territory began in 1785, resulting in this riverside city being known as the “Point of Beginning.”

While the actual point is now submerged in the Ohio River, there is a monument on state Route 39 at the entrance to the city near the Pennsylvania-Ohio state line commemorating the beginning point of the U.S. Public Land Survey.

Among those who do know and appreciate this momentous occasion, which resulted in the area around the monument being designated in 1965 as a national historic landmark, are Mayor Bobby Smith and Service-Safety Director Bill Jones, who want others to also recognize its significance to the city, state and nation.

Smith, who took office in January, said he came across a YouTube video some years ago when he worked as a firefighter for the city fire department. 

In the video, British author-journalist Simon Winchester asks the audience, “Who here has been to East Liverpool, Ohio?” When no one raises a hand, he says he is “ashamed of you all.” The city is “hugely, hugely important but totally forgotten” in the scheme of American history, he says.

Winchester talks in the video about the “broken down town” that once used to be the pottery capital of the world. He says every child in America “should be taken there” due to the importance of the Point of Beginning. 

The video caught the attention of Smith, a city native, who began investigating Winchester’s speaking engagement dates.

Finding one listed in Parma, Ohio, Smith donned one of his East Liverpool firefighter shirts and headed to Parma, armed with some additional shirts.

“I got there five minutes late on purpose because I knew everybody would look,” Smith said. He then headed for a seat up front so Winchester would be sure to spot his East Liverpool shirt.

At the end of Winchester’s speech – not related this time to East Liverpool – Smith raised his hand and stood, telling Winchester, “I’ve been looking for you for 10 years.”

“You could have knocked him over with a feather,” Smith recalled, saying Winchester then kept his audience’s attention as he began telling them about the Point of Beginning.

Over the years, the two men have kept in touch, and Smith has kept in mind an idea: The Point of Beginning’s importance needs to be shared.

When Jones, who is retiring as city fire chief to assume the service-safety position, learned in 2022 about plans for the state of Ohio to participate in the nation’s semiquincentennial celebration, he noted city officials at that time had not applied for the city to participate. He said that was one of his goals if he were to be named to the service-safety position when Smith took office. 

The program was announced in March 2022 by Gov. Mike DeWine and allows the state to participate in the United States’ 250th anniversary, culminating July 4, 2026.

The state’s staff is part of a 29-member commission formed in Ohio to make plans for recognizing communities and highlighting Ohioans for their contributions to the state’s history.

Smith contacted Todd Kleismit, executive director of Ohio’s staff, when he learned that, as part of the program, 250 Ohio communities will also be classified as 250-Ohio communities.

Pointing out to Kleismit that East Liverpool has been important not only to Ohio but the nation with its Point of Beginning status, Smith said, “I asked him, ‘Who are the other 249?’”

An application was filed, and the city was notified it has been designated one of the 250-Ohio communities.

“We were a prime candidate. There is so much history in East Liverpool and the area that dates back to the 1700s,” Jones said.

As such, an application will also be filed to seek grant funding up to $50,000 for the city to celebrate its historic significance on July 4, 2026.

“We have two years to plan, two years to clean up the city,” Jones said.

Speakers will be brought in for the event, with plans already being made to bring Winchester in as the keynote speaker.

According to Jones, donations will be sought and fundraisers will be held, including a booth at the popular First on Fifth nights held downtown.

The city is partnering with the East Liverpool Community Partnership for Revitalization on the project.

“We’re pretty excited. We have a lot of good ideas,” Jones said.

City Council passed a resolution at its most recent meeting in support of the Ohio Commission for the U.S. Semiquincentennial, establishing the city’s America 250-Ohio committee.

Pictured at top: This site at the entrance to East Liverpool near the Ohio/Pennsylvania state line designates the Point of Beginning, where the Northwest Territory survey began in 1785.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.