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The Ohio government authorized the creation of Mahoning County on February 16, 1846. Residents named the county after the Mahoning River. “Mahoning” is an Indian word meaning “salt licks.”
Mahoning County is located in the northeastern portion of Ohio, and it is in the heart of Appalachia. Its eastern border helps form Ohio’s boundary with Pennsylvania. With only seven percent of the county’s 415 square miles deemed to be urban, most residents live in rural areas. The county averages 621 people per square mile. The county’s largest community and county seat is Youngstown, which had just over eighty-two thousand residents in 2000. Mahoning County has experienced a declining population in recent years, primarily due to the loss of employment opportunities in the county. In 2000, 257,555 people resided in the county, a decrease of almost three percent since 1990.
Service industries, such as health care, communications, and tourism, and retail positions are the two largest employers in Mahoning County. Farming is a distant sixth behind manufacturing, government, and financial positions. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, coal mining and iron ore excavation were major employers in the county. In 1803, Daniel and James Heaton established the first iron blast furnace in Ohio. Today, Youngstown State University employs many residents. In 1999, the per capita income for Mahoning County residents was just over twenty-four thousand dollars. More than fourteen percent of the county’s residents lived in poverty.
Most voters in Mahoning County claim to be independents, yet in recent years, they have overwhelmingly supported Democratic Party candidates at the national level.
Among Mahoning County’s more prominent residents were Ohio Governor David Tod, President of the United States William McKinley, and songwriter Stephen Foster.