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Friday, March 20, 2009

The Mahoning River

“Where does the Mahoning River begin?” “How high are the falls along the East and West branches of the Mahoning River in Newton Falls?” Two individuals, one from Michigan and one locally, had questions for the Newton Falls Public Library staff pertaining not to our covered bridge, but to the river beneath its span.

The History of Newton Falls compiled by Ella Woodward [p.1] has an interesting story about the origin of the Mahoning River. Near Sebring, Ohio, a small stream became greatly swollen overnight. When the local farmer went to investigate, he found water welling up in immense volume from a mammoth artesian well and underground river. A deep ravine formed for the waterway. A less romantic answer, according to the website The Mahoning River Watershed
[], “the Mahoning River begins near Winona in Columbiana County, a few miles southeast of Alliance.”

The second question concerned the height of each of the falls along the East and West Branches of the Mahoning River in Newton Falls. According to the information in The History of Newton Falls [p.100], “east branch . . . consisted of a dam 150 feet long with 12 foot head . . . West branch dam reconstructed to be 60 feet long and 18 foot head.” The library staff also contacted the Army Corps of Engineers. What local individuals refer to as the West Branch of the Mahoning River, the Corps considers a tributary of the river, and the East Branch is identified as the Mahoning River. In 2003, their calculation for the dam on the Mahoning River [East Branch] is 11.2 foot high.

These questions got the staff wondering about other things. Where does the name Mahoning originate? Mahoning is an Indian word meaning ‘salt licks.’ This information was found at Ohio History Central, an online encyclopedia from the Ohio Historical Society []. Where does the river end? It travels approximately 113 miles from its origin to join the Shenango River to form the Beaver River in Pennsylvania.

Interesting information and reading about the river, Newton Falls, and the Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal which ran in part along the river can also be found in Our Living History, Lyman’s Histories and Stories of Newton Falls by Lima Lyman, History of Trumbull and Mahoning Counties, and Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal: 160 years, 1840-2000 by Marilyn R. Lown.

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