Burgham Family–The Beginning


If you don’t know your family’s history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.” — Michael Crichton

clip_image004he Burgham Family Tree is a continuous work in progress. The Burgham Family Blog that you are reading now is a snapshot of the information known at this moment about the Burgham’s originating in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England. The information presented in this blog is gathered by me and my father, Donald Burgham, Sr. with plenty of help from many of the living descendants of Thomas Burgam b.1691 and Sarah Parry. The purpose of this blog is to spark interest and encourage members of the Burgham clan to complete missing and incomplete information. I hope that future articles of the blog will include many more interesting family stories.

Although it has taken many years to research, accumulate, document and verify this information; the work has been a labor of love; and, according to my closest friends, addiction. In creating the Burgham Family blog, I hope to inspire the family to come together, stay together and pass on our heritage to future generations. I dedicate this blog to our mothers and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers, aunts and uncles, bothers and sisters, cousins and; most importantly; to our children, grandchildren and the future generations of the descendants of Thomas Burgam b.1691 and Sarah Parry.

As you read through the sites articles, you will begin to notice that much of the information is incomplete. You may even notice an inaccurate fact. This is where I ask for your help. Any information that you could provide would be greatly appreciated and would help make the Burgham story more complete and comprehensive. Take some time to look through the box of old photos and letters that you have stored away; write to me and share your knowledge and memories. With your help we can continue to share the stories and memories that have made us a family.

I hope that you will enjoy browsing the site; and we hope it will help you discover the interesting history of your ancestors. We truly hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it.

Please contribute to this growing mass of information by adding your stories and photos here.

To see the entire Burgham Family Tree go to our site on Ancestry.com

Emily Evans Ambery (Awbrey)

  • Emily was born in English Bicknor about 1862 to James Evans Awbrey, a Collier in Yorkley; and Sarah Howell.
  • She married William George Wilkins – a farmer in Bridgwater, Sommerset –  on Nov. 13, 1886.
William George Wilkins

William George Wilkins

  • In 1901, at the time of the census, Emily lived with her husband, William G. Wilkins – a collier – in Yorkley Wood, Lydney, Glos. and 7 children (2 were living away from home, and 1 had died at that time).


  • Her children:
    • George Herbert Wilkins, b. 1888 in Bridgewater, Somerset
    • Harold James Wilkins, b. 1889 in Lydney, Glos., England; died Jun 1983 in Northville, South Dakota, USA
    • Frederick Daniel Wilkins, b. 1890 in West Dean
    • Annie Wilkins, b. 1892 in Yorkley, Glos., England; died Nov. 15, 1918
    • Tom wilkins, b. 1893 in Yorkley, Glos., England
    • William Edward Wilkins, b. 1893 in Yorkley; died Sep 12, 1948
    • Gertrude May Wilkins, b. 1895 in Yorkley, Glos., England; died Aug, 1986
    • Florence Adelaide Wilkins, b. Feb. 16, 1899 in Glos. England; died Mar. 21, 1975 in Glos. England
    • Albert Edward Wilkins, b. Sep. 23, 1904 in Coleford, Glos. England; Died jan 9. 1964
    • Alice Lilian Wilkins, b. 1905 in West Dean
    • Frank (Anthony) Wilkins, b. Feb. 1907 in Yorkley; died Sep. 12, 1989 in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England

1911 Wales Census-13

  • Emily died in Aug, 1924 and was buried at Parkend church in the Forest of Dean, Glos. at age 62.

I posted a blog page with information about Emily at

Florence Adelaide Wilkins

  • Born Feb. 16, 1899 (source FreeBM Birth Index)


  • In 1901 at the time of the census she was 2 years old and born in West Dean, Glos., her parents were William G. and Emily Wilkins. They lived on Yorkley St. in West Dean. Her father was a Collier-Fitter. Her mother was a Baker-bread maker working at home.

1911 Wales Census-13

  • In 1911 at the time of the census, she still lived with her parents and family in Yorkley Wood, Lydney, Glos. “Florie” was 12, her mother Emily was 48 and had 10 children with William G. (1 had died).

England & Wales, Death Index 1984-200516

  • According to the England and Death Index, she died Jan, Feb, Mar 1975.
  • The children that I have found for her are:
    • Charles William Wasley, born Feb 3 1897 in Stroud. Died Sept. 28, 1976 in Gloucester, England.

Yorkley, Gloucestershire, England

Yorkley and Yorkley Slade together form one of the larger settlements on the southern edge of the Forest Ring. They are situated on high ground between Pillowell and Oldcroft and their joint population is about 1160. They provide a good range of local services and facilities. The settlement is continuous but can be divided into two distinct areas. Yorkley itself shows the typical original layout of the Forest Ring settlement, generally dating from the mid 19th Century. Yorkley Slade or Slad is now dominated by modern housing estates in a more regular layout. Modern house building has taken place in both parts of the settlement, and this has had a most significant effect on the once spacious and open character of Yorkley/Yorkley Slade.

To the north the village is bounded by forest, and to the south by agricultural land. The settlement is a prominent feature in the landscape due to its position on high ground. Evidence of the former importance of the coal mining industry remains only in the form of industrial artifacts.


Yorkley map

Taken from:

Morris & Co. Commercial Directory & Gazetteer of

West Dean 1876

YORKLEY is a somewhat populous hamlet, 5 miles from Coleford, and 3 from Lydney, the houses of which lie scattered on the side of a hill in very irregular order. The Baptists have a chapel here, which was erected in 1868. The Primitive Methodists have also a small place of worship, and the Bible Christians have a Chapel at Yorkley Slade. The rateable value of this parish is £22,320.

Yorkley, Parkend Road

This view from The Bailey looking towards Mosley Green shows the Nagshead? Slag Heap which can just be made out behind the second lamppost from the left.


Shirley Burgham b. 1927- d.2012

as remembered by Donald Burgham Sr.

Shirley Burgham retouchedShirley Burgham was born June 20, 1927 in Nanticoke Pennsylvania.  Shirley was the daughter of Thomas Burgham b. 1901 and Laura Jones b. 1901. While Shirley was born in the United States, her parents and two of her three siblings were born in England: Marion Burgham b. 1923 in Pillowell (which is near Lydney), Jean Burgham b. 1925 in Pillowell, and Kenneth Burgham b. 1930 in Nanticoke, PA, USA.  Her father,Thomas, was a self taught musician. He lead the choir in the Methodist church in Nanticoke.

Shirley’s parents, Thomas & Laura and her two sisters, Marion and Jean, migrated to the U.S. in 1925.

While in England, Thomas worked in the coal mines owned by his father, William Burgham, until a variety of coal miners strikes shut down the mining business in the area. After several years of strikes and lockouts the family migrated to the U.S. in 1925.  He worked in the coal mines in Nanticoke as he did before he left Oldcroft in Gloucestershire, England.

Thomas Burgham and Family returning to England - 1935

Passenger record

Thomas and Family - sailing to England - 1935 -retouched2In 1935 for unknown reasons, Thomas moved the family back to Gloucester, England. He became the owner of a confectionery store on Alfred Street. His ice cream and candy business thrived during World War II since he was able to get sugar on the black market. All of the profits from this venture had to be hidden in his organ for fear of prosecution. He died in 1985 and the inheritance went to his three daughters. His son Kenneth had died a few years before.

In 1949, Shirley married Arthur Witterick b. 1926 and d. 1972.  Shirley and Arthur  had two sons, Christopher born in 1954 and Richard in 1957.

Following Arthur’s death, she married William Brook b. 1922 (Arthur’s best friend) in 1973.  William was a road engineer for the Government and retired after the country switched to the metric system on highway construction.

Donald Burgham Sr., Shirley’s cousin from Nanticoke, remembers,  “Shirley and her father, Thomas, came for a visit in 1956 in Ohio, U.S. to visit our family.   She was a very beautiful and loving person and I remember that we enjoyed her visit.  In 2005, with my wife, Louise, and son Donald Jr. we sponsored a family reunion at Viney Hill St. Swithions social club.  There were over 80 relatives in attendance including Shirley, her sisters and family.  We corresponded over the years and kept in touch with Shirley and her family.”

Arthur Witterick and Shirley Burgham

Shirley Burgham & William Brook

Shirley Burgham & William Brook

Children of Thomas in 1935

Jean, Shirley, Marion and Kenneth—On there way back “home” to England (c1935)

Youngstown—The End of a Steel Dynasty

The closing of the steel mills has had a profound impact on the city. The number of people living in the city has dwindled to about half its peak in 1930 to less than one hundred thousand today.

Steel Mills in Youngstown circa 1900-1905

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Neighborhoods that once were alive with people are now nearly empty. See: Ethics of a Plant Shutdown in Youngstown.

An economic report compiled by the Pace Associates of Chicago, dated June 1951, gave several reasons why the “high cost of producing steel in the Youngstown area makes the district a marginal producer”. Youngstown is landlocked. Iron ore being shipped from Michigan had to be off-loaded at Ashtubula and sent by rail, while the facilities at Gary, Indiana and Buffalo, New York received their shipments by barge. Another problem was the lack of cooling water. Re-circulation of the cooling water raised its temperature to one hundred thirty degrees, making it more difficult to cool the steel. It cost an additional three to five dollars per ton to produce in Youngstown. At ten million tons per year, this cost was a significant thirty to fifty million dollars annually. In the 1950’s, the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company invested $100 million in the expansion of their mills in the Indiana Harbor while other producers increased capacity in areas other than Youngstown. Capacity in Pittsburgh increased from 22,385,461 to 26,145,000 tons between 1951 and 1953 while capacity in Youngstown went from 10,065,800 to 10,205,800 tons in the same period.

In January of 1975 the Northern Ohio Urban System (NOUS), an urban planning firm from Cleveland, produced a document entitled A Look At Youngstown’s Future. In the summary of that report the authors noted that in 1969 “nearly 37,000 persons of a manufacturing labor force of 81,000 in the Mahoning and Trumbull Counties worked in blast furnaces, rolling mills, and closely aligned metal industries.” The fate of Youngstown in the year 2000 was dependent to a large degree on what was done to revitalize the steel industry in the valley.

The report quoted another study of industry analysis in Ohio, noting that at least 44 percent of plants and equipment in Ohio were obsolete. It further noted that “the landlocked firms in Youngstown were being allowed to deteriorate. The decision to close them down permanently or completely modernize them must be made by 1975.” Youngstown and Warren had the highest rate of obsolescence. Eighty percent of their plants and equipment were over 10 years old. Predicting the future, the report sounded a sharp warning that “if existing commitments to modernize the facilities are not carried out and if additional commitments are not forthcoming, Youngstown will find it difficult to maintain its position as a major industrial center.”

This analysis led NOUS to the conclusion that even if the investments that were necessary to maintain the level of employment in the steel industry were met, Youngstown would not create any additional employment in the future. Furthermore, the outlook for expansion of the steel industry was not expected to keep up with the rest of the economy’s growth. Thirdly, firms involved with supplying the steel industry were not going to expand even if the necessary investments were made in the steel industry. The study said that if everything went right for Youngstown the most that was to be expected was a no growth economy.

Without investments forthcoming, vultures were soon circling the city. In 1969, Lykes, a ship building and real estate firm out of New Orleans, leveraged a buy out of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company. Not only did Lykes not make the necessary investments, they took the profits from the company and invested them in their non-steel subsidiaries. In 1977, Lykes lost control. Losses piled up; the nation was in a recession; the alternative was to shut down the Campbell Works. Approximately 4,100 workers were told they were out of work overnight.

The closing sent shock waves through the community. For whatever reason, Lykes gave no warning to the community. On Monday September 19,1977, the announcement was made and by the end of the week the gates were closed. There were no programs in place to ease the burden of unemployment. Health and human service agencies were not permitted access to the company records or even the names of the laid off workers. Furthermore, any communication by company officials with outside agencies would be punished by “blacklisting”. The officials that were making the decisions were not in the community and there was no communication of their intentions Terry Buss explains:

The effect of this policy by the Lykes Corporation is that a company, which had dominated the area economy for 77 years, closed its largest facility in a matter of weeks. It left behind unemployed workers, empty buildings, and rust coated, antiquated, useless facilities (Buss, 22).

After the closing, Lykes remained in financial trouble and sought to merge with LTV which owned Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation. On June 21, 1978, Attorney General Griffin Bell approved the merger over the objections of his staff. As soon as the merger was approved LTV closed down the Briar Hill works putting an additional 1,400 out of work.

The closings continued. Youngstown was devastated by a wave of plant closing that wiped out three-quarters of its steel jobs and slashed manufacturing employment from 93,000 to below 50,000 (Buss, 3). Unemployment reached a staggering 30 percent. The carcass of the steel industry had been picked clean.

In the mean time, the downtown was in the midst of an urban renewal project known as “the Central Business District Urban Renewal Area No. 1, Project Ohio R-81”. It had the best of intentions. Its aim was to “eliminate structurally substandard commercial and industrial uses . . . Construct and reconstruct streets . . . to enhance the area as the focal point of the Youngstown Central Business District . . . Provide an adequate supply of off street parking facilities . . . and provide Architectural and financial advice to property owners and tenants” (Project R-81).

Most of the Central Business District on the East End was demolished in the Urban renewal project. The renewal did result in a new office structure and a new parking facility. Federal Plaza was created as a pedestrian walk way. To accomplish this, the major east-west traffic axis was eliminated and the north-south axis allowed the only flow of traffic through the central square. Given what was happening to the industrial base of the community a quarter of a mile away, investment potential dried up and the central business district was left with an abundance of vacant land. Much of the development that has occurred is more suburban in character due to the changes in zoning laws that respond to the need for on-site vehicular parking.

The problems of the downtown grew in the 1950’s when the movement of people from the inner-cities to the suburbs began. Movement in Youngstown was even more dramatic than many other cities of its size. In 1960, for example, retail sales in the Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area increased 16.6 percent while the sales in the Central Business District fell by 27.1 percent. Cities of similar size were off by 14.9 percent.

The largest mall developer in the country, Edward J. DeBartolo, is headquartered in Boardman. The Boardman plaza, one of the DeBartolo Corporation’s early developments, was built in the 1950’s. The company took advantage of the demographic shifts that were occurring. The problems associated with living in a city that was environmentally polluted from the emissions of the mills precipitated a shift to the suburbs even before it occurred in other cities. This shift was eased by the automobile that became the dominant and the preferred mode of transportation.

Youngstown’s population peaked in the 1930 census with 170,002 residents, while the county population stood at 236,142. From that point on a trend of steady decline in the city population continued while the county population grew. By 1980 the city population was 115,436, while the county stood at 304,545. The 1990 census reported 95,732 city residents and 264,806 within the county. Between 1970 and 1990 the population of Youngstown and the county lost 40,000 residents.

The decision of the steel companies not to modernize their operations here was, in the final analysis, the reason for the collapse of the steel industry. Reliance on outdated technology, e.g. open hearth furnaces, meant that it was only a matter of time before the operations would become obsolete. The transportation of raw materials remained a problem. However, if the mills had installed the Basic Oxygen Process (BOP), a process that reduced the time to “cook” the molten metal from nine hours to less than one hour, they could have remained competitive.

Even more advanced than the BOP is that of the Electric Furnace. This technology does not rely on the costly transportation of raw materials. The basic steel making ingredient is scrap steel, which is in abundant supply in the region. Decisions made in the board rooms miles away from the affected people determined what happened in towns like Youngstown.

North Star Steel, which operates in the old Briar Hill plant, uses the Electric Furnace. The steel pipe that is produced here is made from scrap metal that was once a part of the steel buildings, where thousands were employed. North Star employs 250 people.

Today the city is digging its way out of the ashes. As many as 10,000 new jobs have been created since 1983. New industrial parks in the Salts Spring area and on the LTV property east of the downtown are home to new smokeless industries and distribution centers. Youngstown must build its future not on what has passed but on what is ahead. The aim of this study is to discover the assets of the city and to build a future out of these assets.


Buss, T. & Redburn, F. (1983). Shutdown at Youngstown: Public policy for mass unemployment. Albany: State University of New York Press.

History of Burghams in Youngstown, Ohio

Greeting from Youngstown postcard

The Burgham’s were a family of coal miners from the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, England. In all of my research of the Burgham family back to the late 1600’s, the only occupation that I find for my Burgham ancestors is collier and coal miner.  In all of the generations that I have studied back to the these early years, the Burgham’s have lived within the same 50 miles in the Forest.  So, what would have brought them to the United States—and in particular—Youngstown, Ohio?

Immigration from England to USA

The first recording of a Burgham in Youngstown was in 1921 when George Burgham and his brother-in-law, Harold Wilkins arrived in New York by passenger ship. In the passenger manifest, they listed Mr. George Dyer, a friend living at 1529 Hiram St. in Youngstown, Ohio, as the person they were going to stay with. Home to the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company and the Republic Steel empire, Youngstown was a great industrial steel manufacturing city in desperate need for low-income blue-collar workers. The First World War dramatically increased the demand for steel production, thereby increasing the need for additional employees. It was estimated that an additional 2,000 housing units were needed in the city in 1920 to accommodate the population increase.

In later years, George brought other members of his Burgham family to the United States.  George can be credited for bringing the Burghams to Youngstown; including his brother Maurice Albert and Thomas Sydney.

To understand why George and his miner buddy Harold would break their long-standing ties to the Forrest, we have to look at what was happening to the miners in 1921 England.

Take a video tour of Youngstown/Warren area (from the Regional Chamber of Commerce)
Wikipedia of Youngstown

Wikipedia has a nice summary of the conditions that lead to the miner strikes in the 1920s:

  • The First World War: The heavy domestic use of coal in the war meant that rich seams were depleted. Britain exported less coal in the war than it would have done in peacetime, allowing other countries to fill the gap. The United States, Poland and Germany and their strong coal industries benefited in particular.[1]
  • Coal production,  was at its lowest ebb. Output per man had fallen to just 199 tonnes in 1920–4, from 247 tonnes in the four years before the war, and a peak of 310 tons in the early 1880s.[2] Total coal output had been falling since 1914.[3]
  • The fall in coal prices resulting from the 1925 Dawes Plan that, among other things, allowed Germany to re-enter the international coal market by exporting “free coal” to France and Italy as part of their reparations for the First World War.
  • The reintroduction of the gold standard in 1925 by Winston Churchill: this made the British pound too strong for effective exporting to take place from Britain, and also (because of the economic processes involved in maintaining a strong currency) raised interest rates, hurting all businesses.
  • Mine owners wanted to normalise profits even during times of economic instability — which often took the form of wage reductions for miners in their employ. Coupled with the prospect of longer working hours, the industry was thrown into disarray.


subdivisions of Connecticut Western Reserve
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is portrait_of_john_young_youngstown_ohio.png

A drawn portrait of the founder of Youngstown, Ohio, John Young

Barnum Hitchcock (of Hitchcock Bros.) (Life time: 1786-1845) – Original publication: (Butler, Joseph G., History of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, Ohio, American Historical Society, 1921, p. 93) Immediate source: archive.org/details/historyyoungsto00butlgoog/page/n93

In 1797 John Young purchased 15,560 acres in the Mahoning Valley for $16,085 from the Connecticut Land Company. He and a survey team laid out the Youngstown township along the Mahoning River, seven miles west of the Pennsylvania line. The plan of downtown Youngstown today remains essentially the same as the plan for the original town that was laid out by John Young. This was the beginning of settlement in the Mahoning Valley.

Iron Making

The introduction of iron making occurred early. In 1802, Daniel and James Heaton Youngstown’s first industrialists, contracted for the rights to dig coal and make charcoal along the banks of the Yellow Creek in Poland Township. “Hopewell” became the first blast furnace in the area using the air flow from the Yellow Creek to create the blast.

Mahoning is derived from the Indian word mohonik, meaning “at the lick” or “at the salt lick”. Native Americans and colonial settlers came to the area for the salt. In the following century, European immigrants were drawn to the area by the promise of work in the steel mills that stretched for twenty-five miles from Lowellville to Warren. The history of Youngstown is tied to the history of these mills.

The opening of the Pennsylvania-Ohio Canal provided inexpensive transportation between Lake Erie and the Ohio River bringing trade and growth to the new town. It provided cheap transportation for pig iron and iron ore, the primary freight on the canal. Passenger traffic on packets (passenger boats) was very popular. One way passage cost $3.50 from Cleveland to Youngstown, including meals.

Activity created by the canal increased the population threefold between 1840 and 1860 to 5,300. The demand for metal during the Civil War also contributed to the boom. (Railroads transported the passengers, then the freight.) In 1872 the last barge floated down the canal.

Strategically located between Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, and New York and Chicago, Youngstown became a railroad center served by four different rail companies; the Baltimore and Ohio; the Erie Lackawana; the New York Central; and the Pennsylvania. More rail cars passed under the Center Street Bridge per day than any other location in the country.

The burgeoning metal industry brought prosperity. Wick Avenue became the address of the well-to-do. Mansions were built on the north side of the city for the industrialist and bankers. Tod, Wick, Butler, Powers, Stambaugh; these names are imprinted on the buildings and the streets of Youngstown.

The city’s prosperity drew many including a large variety of European immigrants. First the Irish and Germans; later the Poles, Czechs, Armenians, Ukrainians, Russians, Italians, Slovacs, and Hungarians. Lebanese came from the Middle East. With them they brought their religions and their churches. The wealth of ecclesiastical architecture reflects the ethnicity of those who came to work in the steel mills.

By 1880 the city had grown to a population of 15,435, nearly double the population of 1870. Federal Street was the main commercial thoroughfare and remained so for one hundred years. Incandescent lighting was introduced in 1888 when the G.M. McKelvey Company installed a private light plant. Later, the North Avenue power plant provided electricity for Youngstown, Sharon, Wheatland, Mill Creek Park and Falls Street Car Line. A new power plant was later built in Lowellville increasing the electrical output to 60,000 watts. The telephone was introduced in 1880 and by 1915 automatic dialing was introduced. Within two years there were 75 subscribers.

The first hospital was started with a contribution of two and one half acres of land on Oak Hill Avenue and $10,000 by John Stambaugh. The South Side Unit of the Youngstown Hospital Association is at that same location on Oak Hill. St. Elizabeths Hospital had its beginnings when two houses on Belmont Avenue were joined and the first patient was admitted on December 8, 1911.

The Market Street Viaduct was opened in 1899 transforming a country road into a thriving commercial street. Other bridges crossed the river on South Avenue and Mahoning Avenue. McGuffey Street bridge spanned Crab Creek. Eventually, bridges opened the entire city in every direction, overcoming the natural barrier of the winding Mahoning River.

The turn of the century brought the automobile to the country and to Youngstown. By 1904 Youngstown had 22 cars including Henry Wick’s $20,000 Blue Goose, a six-passenger custom-built automobile. Charles T. Gathier, a local engineer, built the Fredonia, a fast automobile that traveled 36 miles in 35 minutes.

As prosperity spread, the workers in the mills demanded higher wages. In 1916 workers went out on strike seeking an increase in their nineteen and a half cent hourly wage. Marching workers confronted mill guards at the main gate of the Campbell Works. Shots were fired and three workers were killed while twenty-seven were injured in the incident. As the workers fled, anger grew and a riot took place. The crowd converged on the village of East Youngstown, now known as Campbell, and set fire to the business district causing an estimated $1,500,000 in damage.

The First World War dramatically increased the demand for steel production, thereby increasing the need for housing for the additional employees. It was estimated that an additional 2,000 housing units were needed in the city to accommodate the population increase.

Labor unrest continued. In 1919-20 strikes in the steel industry of the valley idled 39,500 men. The demands of the workers were an eight-hour day, a six-day week and the elimination of the twenty four-hour shift. Other demands included double time pay for overtime and an end to company unions. Again the labor unrest led to rioting.

Steel was “the industry” and Youngstown boasted as being the third largest steel-producer in the country behind Pittsburgh and Chicago. Though the mills were producing at record output, problems began to surface. Inexpensive transportation was by water and Youngstown had become landlocked since the closing of the Ohio-Pennsylvania canal.

The Lake to River Canal was proposed as early as 1787. It became a passion in the 1920’s. Surveys were done and many routes discussed but the cost was too enormous to undertake. Congressman Mike Kirwan spent his entire career in the Congress trying to build the canal that would go from Lake Erie to the Ohio River and on to Pittsburgh. It became known as the “Big Ditch.” A model of the proposed canal is displayed in the lobby of the Maag Library on the YSU campus.


Another problem was a lack of cooling water. The Mahoning River did not have the volume of water necessary for the needs of the growing industry. The city of Youngstown built the dam that created Lake Milton at a cost of $1,000,000 in 1921. The lake provided enough water to supply The Youngstown Sheet and Tube and the Republic Steel Corporation. In later years even this supply would not be enough.

By 1921 Youngstown was the second City of Steel behind Pittsburgh. Youngstown’s payroll exceeded $100,000,000; its bank deposits exceeded $75,000,000; and the steel mills alone represented capital investments of $360,000,000.

Growth of the city was unstoppable. Predicting a population of 500,000 by 1971, the city reached 132,358 in the 1920 Census. It ranked fiftieth in the nation and was among the fastest growing cities in the country. There were fifty-nine miles of trolley car tracks inside the city and the inter-urban lines extended to the principal cities of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. The fire department was the second in the nation to be completely motorized. The Chamber of Commerce boasted that “Youngstown offers unlimited opportunity to all”(Aley, 233).

Far from the population of 500,000 predicated by 1971, the city reached its maximum population in 1930 at 170,002. Future population growth took place in the county outside the city. The suburbs made an attractive alternative to the smoke filled city. The Great Depression hit the city hard and Youngstown suffered extraordinarily because of its single industry economy. The unemployment rate in Youngstown was three times the national average. Thousands were unemployed. Many businesses displayed signs reading “No Help Wanted.” Suicide was not uncommon and many were homeless. Eating watermelon was considered a luxury.

Innovation in the steel industry continued. Cold rolled steel was developed in an automobile repair shop on Logan Avenue. The Steckel mill was a revolutionary process. It allowed rolls of steel to be reduced to a thickness of one one thousandth of an inch while the metal retained most of its physical properties without annealing. This high quality steel was used in transformers, motors and other electrical equipment.

In 1930 Republic Steel was formed out of the Corrigan, McKinney, and Truscon Steel Corporations, becoming the third largest in the industry with a capacity of 6,000,000 tons. The industry was hoping for a 20 percent increase in the coming year. Twenty-three open hearths were in production.

The Steel Workers Organizing Committee was formed in 1936 and by 1937 most of the largest steel producers were under contract agreement. The exceptions were known as the “Little Steel Companies” The group consisted of Youngstown Sheet and Tube, Republic Steel, Bethlehem and Inland Steel.

With the help and encouragement of such labor notables as Phillip Murray and David J. MacDonald, the workers of the “Little Steel” companies called a strike on March 26, 1937. Gus Hall of the Communist Party USA was the head of the local organizing committee. He was eventually arrested and later acquitted of charges that he interfered with rail shipments into the mill.

The “Little Steel” strike, while not a complete success, did lead to the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, better known as the CIO. In 1941 the CIO was powerful enough to force the heads of the “Little Steel” companies to sign on with the unions, something that the presidents of those companies said would never happen.

During the Second World War, the Mahoning valley was an important area for its production of steel in the war effort. The Youngstown Sheet and Tube developed a special steel used in the production of machine gun belts. These belts held fifty caliber shells which were fired at an impressive rate of eight hundred rounds per minute. Other specialty products included portable landing strips made of dense steel grating that aided in the rapid construction of airfields on the islands of the South Pacific and in Europe after the Normandy invasion.

The post war period brought prosperity and growth to the valley. Automobile production increased and consequently the demand for steel as well. However, Youngstown would continue to be effected by the business cycles as its mills became less productive.

In 1932 Michael Ficocelli and his brother Carmine, sons of recent immigrants, began the Little Symphony Orchestra. This “Little” orchestra soon became the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra and brought many nationally known classical musicians and vocalists to perform with the orchestra. Today the orchestra performs at Powers Auditorium, formerly known as the Warner Theater.

The Youngstown Diocese was established in 1943. Bishop McFadden headed the diocese that included the counties of Mahoning, Stark, Columbiana, Portage, Ashtabula, and Trumbull counties.

How did the Burgham’s of the Forest of Dean end up in Youngstown, Ohio?

The first Burgham known to live in Youngstown was Maurice Albert Burgham b. 1904 (Albert). Albert was born December 16th, 1904 in Yorkley, Gloucestershire, England.

Morris “Albert” was born to a family of coal miners.  He was the 9th child of William Burgham and Minnie (Birt) Burgham.

In 1921, his oldest brother, George, decided to migrate to America with brother-in-law Harold James Wilkins and Harold’s brother William Wilkins. On the passenger list, they listed Mr. George Dyer, a friend living at 1529 Hiram St. in Youngstown, Ohio, as the person they were going to stay with.

Maurice Albert Burgham - June 6 1925 pg 1

Maurice Albert Burgham - June 6 1925 pg 2

Morris “Albert” and his younger brother, Thomas Sydney, followed their brother George to America in 1925. In 1939 Albert moved with his wife and three sons to Youngstown, Ohio to get out of the coal mines fearing black lung and mine accidents common to miners. He worked at various jobs in Youngstown in the steel and diary industries until 1961 when his health failed due to black lung and the development of TB.  He died February 7, 1983.

Maurice Albert Burgham b. 1904

Morris Albert Burgham 1934

Morris “Albert” was born to a family of coal miners. He was the 9th child of William Burgham and Minnie (Birt) Burgham. When he was 4 years old his mother died giving birth to James “Arthur.” Albert was raised by his older sisters, primarily, Gertrude. In 1918, at the age of 14, he went to work with his two brothers, Will and George in the family coal mine. Brother Will died about 1920 from what some remember to be Syphilis. Father William also died in 1920.

In 1921, his oldest brother, George, decided to migrate to America with brother-in-law Harold James Wilkins and Harold’s brother William Wilkins. On the passenger list, they listed Mr. George Dyer, a friend living at 1529 Hiram St. in Youngstown, Ohio, as the person they were going to stay with.

Moris Albert Burgham and Thomas Sydney Burgham - 1968

Morris Albert Burgham and Thomas Sydney Burgham – c1968

Morris “Albert” and his younger brother, Thomas Sydney, followed their brother George to America in 1925. Harold J. Wilkins at 920 North Ave. in Youngstown, Ohio was their final destination. Somehow, Morris, Thomas and George moved to Nanticoke, Pennsylvania where they worked as coal miners. They lived close to each other. Every Christmas he would send one dollar to each of his five sisters he left behind in England. It is reported by his nieces that the sisters were thrilled and looked forward to receiving the gift.

Morris Albert Burgham and Doris Webb

Morris Albert Burgham and Doris Webb

In July of 1927, at the age of 22 and after saving up enough money for a round-trip passenger ticket, Albert traveled back to the Forest of Dean to visit family and friends. He returned to Nanticoke in September, 1927. The passenger list reports him as returning to live with his brother Tom at 252 Noble St. in Nanticoke, PA.

While in Nanticoke, he worked with another Forester, James Webb. They became friends and lived at the same boarding house. Since Albert knew his way back and forth from New York, James Webb asked if he would accompany him by train to meet and pick up his wife and 5 daughters that arrived in New York from Wales on February 1, 1928. On August 15, 1929 Morris married one of the Webb daughters, Doris “Doll” Webb. Doll often recounts the fact that she married the first man she met in America.

In 1939 Albert moved with his wife and three sons to Youngstown, Ohio to get out of the coal mines fearing black lung and mine accidents common to miners. He worked at various jobs in Youngstown in the steel and diary industries until 1961 when his health failed due to black lung and the development of TB. He died February 7, 1983. Doll died July 15, 1973.

Nanticoke Cricket Team

Photo of the Month – March, 2004

Morris Burgham and James Webb - cricket - cropped

Nanticoke Cricket team. This photo was taken about 1930 in Nanticoke, PA. We know the name of three of these men:

Standing third from the left is Freddy Jones (brother of Lora (Jones) Burgham)

Kneeling third from the left is Morris Albert Burgham

Sitting in the middle between the two cricket bats is James Webb

If you can identify any other people in this picture, please contact me at donburg@gmail.com

The History of the Freeminers

Thanks to Ron Watkins for the following information about the Freeminers of the Forest of Dean.  You can visit Ron’s website at ron-watkins.co.uk.

Mining has always been important in the Forest of Dean. The history of these mines go back many centuries, (time beyond memory) is what they say. The men of the forest had been mining iron ore long before the Romans came to England. 

j0336844Historians over the years have come up with many theories of this right to mine minerals in the Forest. It has always been under stood that it was a Royal Charter from the time of King Edward. One theory goes like this: In the13th century, Edward I granted free mining rights because the miners of the time helped him besiege Berwick castle by tunneling successfully under the fortifications. The only conditions to be a Freeminer is that they are born within ‘The Hundreds of St. Briavels’ and ‘worked underground for a Year and a Day’.

These Freeminers had their own court to settle their arguments and also to enforce their laws (more). This court was held originally at St. Briavels Castle under the Kings officer, and it was comprised of other Freeminers. It was later moved to The Speech House which is situated in the centre of the Forest of Dean.

The Mines usually go into the side of the hill or down a slight incline following the seam of coal. As there is no gas in the Forest mines the miners in the past used naked lights. The coal seams are not very thick so every thing is dug out with a pick and shovel, a Freeminer has very little mechanical aids.

Several attempts by different Government departments to get this Charter removed have failed (more). There are only a few Freeminers actually operating today, but there are still a couple hundred men living today who have that right.

Books written on the Freeminers of the Royal Forest of Dean.

  • “Free Miners” by  Cyril Hart
  • “The Laws of The Dean Forest” by  James G Wood

Coal-Mining Links