The Deadly Mahoning Valley Interurban Street Car

Mahoning & Shenango Railway and Light car #65 at Warren
Image from the Columbus Library’s Collection

In 1893, streetcars were first introduced to the Mahoning Valley. The Mahoning Valley Railway Company ran interurbans between Youngstown, Girard, Niles, and Warren and also connected to the Shenango Valley Railway that ran from New Castle, Pennsylvania to Youngstown. The line ran until 1939 when it was converted to electric streetcar trolleys and then switched to buses in 1941.

Advertisement for Interurban streetcars that were once constructed at a factory in Niles, Ohio
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Due to all the hazards surrounding streetcars operating along roadways, the Mahoning Valley Railway Company was often defendant in many injury and wrongful death suits. Several settlements were doled out to bereaved families and injured individuals.

On October 30, 1915, Mr. and Mrs. Mawby were hit by a limited car at the intersection of Belmont and Robbins avenues while riding in a rig, resulting in the death of Mr. Charles Mawby. Mrs. Mawby suffered serious injuries. She sued the Mahoning Valley Railway Company for $50,000, but in May of 1916, lost the suit when a jury made a verdict of non-negligence on behalf of the railway company. Emma Williams sued the company for $25,000 after she received injuries while riding a streetcar from Niles to Youngstown in December of 1915. When the car restarted after a stop at Spring Commons, the machine jerked forward so suddenly that she was thrown from her seat and suffered a dislocated spine. She claimed her injuries were permanent. In another suit, N.B. Crofford asked for $15,000 from the company when in early 1916 the streetcar he was riding in hit a moving van and he sustained injuries after falling from his seat. On May 12, 1916, James M. O’Connell received damages of $200 when the jury at Warren’s Court of Common Pleas issued a verdict in his favor against the Mahoning Valley Railway. A year prior, he was injured when his car fell into a hole between the railway track. He had sued for the amount of $1,000.

On August 3, 1918, Della Ray, of 77 Arlington, Youngstown, was hit by a west bound street car on West Federal Street and dragged forty feet. She was treated for non-fatal injuries at Youngstown City Hospital. She suffered a dislocated collarbone, lacerations to her head, shoulders, and hips, and bruises about the body. 

A Treacherous Slope: Bolin Hill at Deforest

Deforest was a former railroad junction near Niles that ran along the paved brick highway between Niles and Warren. Today, the site of the former junction rests near the old steel mills in Warren at Deforest Road between Warren Avenue and State Route 169. The railway track rolled over Bolin Hill, a slope 1,000 feet above sea level that was deemed picturesque for the homes built along its curves, but proved altogether fatal when combined with the track. Due to the steep crest, pedestrians and drivers could not see a streetcar until it was nearly on top of them. It was custom for the motorman to ring the bell along this stretch of road, but that precaution did not always prevent accidents. The Mahoning Valley Railway Company eventually came under fire for streetcars flying down Bolin Hill at a high rate of speed but would not admit to any amount of negligence on their part.

The present-day bird’s eye view of Deforest Junction
Image via Google Maps
The Niles Daily News
Wednesday, July 7th, 1909
Page 8
The Niles Daily News
Tuesday, May 4th, 1909
Page 8

9-Year-Old Harry Hazlett
Deforest Crossing
July 10, 1915

A limited car operated by Motorman McConkey and Conductor Artlip left Niles at 7:36, heading towards Niles. At 7:45 p.m., the car plunged down Bolin Hill and struck a nine-year-old boy riding his bicycle, killing him instantly. The boy was Harry Hazlett of Deforest, a student at Deforest School and a Sunday school member. He and his friend, Sydney Sayers, were riding home from Niles when Harry turned into the path of the limited as it came down the hill. The motorman immediately stopped the streetcar and several passengers exited to crowd around the boy as he lay still on the ground. They found him to be dead, having been struck in the back of the head. The inspector called Holeton & Son’s Ambulance, which arrived at the scene within minutes. Coroner Henshaw ­­­­­made an examination of the body at Holeton Morgue and found the boy to have suffered a fractured skull. At 11 p.m., Harry’s body arrived at the home of his bereaved parents, Harry and Alice (Johnson) Hazlett, on Deforest Road. Funeral services were held at 7 p.m. on July 12th and Harry was buried in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the city of his birth.

Blanche Unangst
Deforest Crossing
Saturday, May 20, 1916

Blanche Unangst of Orangeville Township, a young 22-year-old teacher at Bolin High School, was killed by an interurban at the Deforest Crossing. Friday had been the last day of the school year and on Saturday, Blanche was enjoying the first day of summer break out on a stroll with one of her pupils, Louise Devinna. At 3:15 that afternoon, Blanche and her fourteen year-old charge walked along the roadway arm-in-arm, making their way to the foot of Bolin Hill. There, the pair proceeded to walk across the railway tracks, unaware that a streetcar was coming straight at them. Louisa managed to escape with her life by dodging the oncoming car by mere inches, but her teacher was struck and killed instantly. Blanche sustained a broken left leg, fractured skull, and internal injuries. Her body was transported to her parent’s home in Orangeville for the funeral services.

The Mahoning Valley Railway Company stated that the streetcar had operated at a normal rate of speed, despite allegations that it was seen “flying” down the hill.

Father and Son: William and Leroy Carnsew
Deforest Crossing
April 13, 1916 & May 1, 1916

Thomas Leroy “Roy” Carnsew of Mecca township was a month shy of his twentieth birthday when his life was cut short. He had worked for three months as a milk peddler for Collins’ Dairy Farm and at the time of his death lived at the residence of his employer, Samuel Collins, in Niles. On Thursday, April 13, 1916, he drove his milk wagon through Deforest after returning from Sam Stillwagon’s farm where he had picked up twenty-five gallons of milk in preparation for the next morning’s deliveries.  When he arrived at the Collins farm a mile from Deforest, he turned into the driveway to cross the street car tracks that ran parallel to the highway. This section of road was at the foot of Bolin’s Hill and the tracks were higher than the road. Roy did not see the Mahoning Valley Streetcar until it was too late. 

The limited which left Warren at 9:00 o’clock was traveling at the usual rate of speed down the steep hill. Whether the young man failed to see the car, whether a warning whistle sounded or not or whether the motorman saw him before his car was close onto the rig could not be ascertained.

-Warren Daily Tribune, April 14, 1916 1:6

The streetcar came down Bolin’s Hill and collided with Roy’s cart, sending wood shards and milk in all directions and slicing one leg off the horse. Roy was thrown to the road and those that came to his aid found him still alive, but doubted he could survive. The streetcar halted completely and someone phoned Holloway’s Ambulance of Niles. The suffering horse was immediately put down at the site of the accident. The force of the crash was so intense that only a single wagon wheel survived intact. Splintered wood and shattered glass were scattered everywhere and Roy lay among the debris, completely helpless. The ambulance arrived at the scene, including Dr. J.D. Knox  who had ridden along, and loaded Roy into the vehicle. When the doctor examined him, he found Roy to have a fracture at the base of his skull along with other severe injuries. They transported him to the Warren City Hospital but were turned away because the facility was in lockdown due to a case of scarlet fever. The ambulance took Roy to the City Hospital in Youngstown. The staff knew he was a hopeless case as soon as they saw him. The collision occurred at 9:25 that evening and despite the desperate measures of the doctors and nurses, Roy died just hours later at 12:36 a.m. Holloway’s picked the deceased up and transported him to their morgue where his father claimed the body. Roy’s remains were taken to the family home in East Mecca where the funeral was held two days later on Sunday at 1 p.m. His employer and employer’s wife, Mr. and Mrs. Collins, attended the service as well as a large gathering of family and friends who deemed Roy a well-liked and hard-working young man. Roy was buried in East Mecca Cemetery

H. Enycart had been the motorman of the street car and said he had followed the normal safety protocol by sounding the whistle regularly from the top of Bolin’s Hill to the time of the accident. He noticed the milk wagon but claimed Carnsew showed no sign of turning until the streetcar was two car lengths away. As soon as he saw Carnsew turn, he attempted to brake the streetcar but the gravity of the downward slope rapidly propelled the vehicle towards the wagon. At 9:25 in the evening, it would have been quite dark besides the streetlights and lights of the streetcar. Paired with the steepness of the hill, visibility would have been much reduced. 

The result was the same, another life lost and property destroyed and attributed to the terrific speed attained by street cars and automobiles in traveling down either side of Bolin’s Hill.

-Warren Daily Tribune, April 14, 1916 1:6

Two weeks later on May 1st, Roy’s father William Carnsew traveled to Niles to make arrangements for the retrieval of Leroy’s personal belongings from the Collins’ home. After he left, he was on his way to Warren and at 10:45 a.m. was at the Deforest junction. This is where stories differ. Some say William began walking across the tracks while others say he was standing too close to the tracks while waiting for a car. In any case, a streetcar came at him. He leapt out of the way, but his foot was clipped by the passing train, sending him forcefully to the ground. Unlike his son, his injuries were not fatal, though the two lacerations on his head were quite deep and painful. He also had bruises on his body. Holloway’s ambulance picked him up and took him to Warren City Hospital, now out of quarantine. His injuries were treated and he recovered, though it is safe to say his emotional wounds would never fully heal.

On December 22, 1916, the court of common pleas heard a damages suit from Roy’s mother, Lorena Carnsew. She filed against the Mahoning Valley Railway the wrongful death of her son and sought damages of $25,000, though I could find no record of whether or not she found justice. 

A.D. Bowman, Hit Thrice
Mason Switch, Weathersfield
December 22, 1916

32-year-old A.D. “Dan” Bowman had all the bad luck. He was hit by street cars three times, the third strike being fatal. Dan was a teamster working for F.E. Bryan and in the first incident, his wagon was hit by a streetcar in Mineral Ridge. Dan suffered several broken ribs and a broken arm. During the summer of 1916, his wagon was hit a second time by a streetcar. Dan was thrown to the ground and received injuries as a result.  On Saturday, December 22, Dan left his Warren home to collect his paycheck at Bryan’s feed store and told his wife to meet him later at Callidine’s store at 7 o’clock. When he did not arrive at the arranged time, she returned home after waiting an hour and a half. Just after 10 o’clock, a neighbor knocked on her door and told her Dan had been struck by a streetcar and killed. Mrs. Bowman was beside herself with grief. She had only just buried a child and was left to care for four children all on her own without her husband’s much-needed wages. 

Backpedaling to seven o’clock, when he was supposed to be meeting his wife, Dan had been observed by his brother-in-law near the MV Station in Weathersfield and appeared to be waiting for a street car. He had never picked up his pay from his employer and there was no known reason he should have been at the Mason Switch at that time. He was standing by the tracks when a westbound limited streetcar picked up some passengers and began leaving the station, rapidly increasing in speed. That moment, Dan began crossing in front of the oncoming car and tripped, falling on the tracks. The streetcar could not stop in time and the aftermath proved a gruesome sight for all who witnessed it. Dan’s body became crammed beneath the wheels of the car and a jack was required to lift the car enough to retrieve the body. His head was crushed with the lower maxillary fractured and neck dislocated. Dan was buried in Niles Union Cemetery and how his wife managed life without him is a mystery lost to time. She and their children had depended completely on his paycheck to survive and it does not seem that she received a settlement from the railway company as it was clear Dan walked deliberately in front of a moving car.

The Carnsew Coincidence…or Curse?

Tragedy seemed to plague the Carnsew family of Mecca Township. As mentioned earlier, both father William and son Leroy were hit by interurban cars on separate incidents two weeks apart. 

William Carnsew was born in Wisconsin and married Lorena Hoffman in Ohio in 1894. The couple settled on a farm on Rt. 46 in Mecca and in rapid succession had several children: Thomas Leroy, William Bryan, Lulu Lenore, Weldon Lionel, Clarence Courtland, Carrie Elizabeth, Paul Shirley and Mary Mildred. The second son William died at the age of twelve in Johnston, but no death record or obituary could be found to uncover the circumstances of his death. In 1916, firstborn Leroy was killed in the aforementioned interurban car accident and his father William was injured by one in the same vicinity.

Over the years, William’s son Clarence often made threats to end his own life. He was a bachelor and lived on the family farm, suffering from depression. He surely grieved the losses of his two brothers most profoundly. He had never acted upon his threats until he was thirty-eight years old. On the day of July 6, 1941, he chatted with neighbors at the garage in Mecca Circle and appeared calm and congenial. However, when he came home he notified his parents that he was going to kill himself. Having heard this threat many times before, they did not take him seriously and continued on with their daily activities. 

Clarence went to the barn and grabbed a sturdy length of rope. From there he walked rearward deeper into the property, passing an oat field he had helped his father plant. He was followed by his nephew, Mildred’s son William Larson, who was staying for the summer. William presumed his uncle was off to retrieve the cows from the back pasture and went along to help, but a quarter mile later, Clarence told the boy to return to the house. William, an introspective boy, recognized something odd in Clarence’s behavior and therefore refused. Clarence then brandished a stick at his nephew until he “did as he was told”. 

William, fearful of his uncle’s mysterious actions, raced to the house and told his grandparents that Clarence was acting strangely. The elder William and Lorena decided that Clarence was alas making good on his threat and gathered a retinue of neighbors that headed to the back of the property. They arrived too late. Clarence had executed his motive rapidly and with precision. He hung from a tree, the rope tied around his neck and his feet seven feet above the ground.

A powerfully-built man, he apparently had clambered almost to the top of the 40-foot tree to attach the rope, had climbed down part way, then jumped, falling about 15 feet before the rope tightened.  

Warren Daily Tribune, July 7, 1941 1:4

The neighbors called Gail Banning, the local Justice of the Peace, and she in turn called the sheriff. Deputies W.H. Stone, Edward James and Dick Jones arrived at the Carnsew farm and cut the body down from the tree. They found .22 caliber shells in Clarence’s pocket, but no gun. Love’s Ambulance of Cortland drove back through the field to pick up the deceased. Clarence’s funeral was held at the Love Funeral Home in Cortland at 2 p.m. the following Wednesday.

Pallbeareres Shubert Armstrong, Andy Kuchembo, Marvin Garber, Lawrence Simpson, Ray Johnson, and Chet Tomlinson carried Clarence’s coffin from the hearse to his place of rest in East Mecca Cemetery. There, he was buried next to the brothers lost long before him in a service conducted by Rev. George Wingerden.

Clarence’s stone at East Mecca Cemetery
Photo by Ashley Armstrong

I can only imagine the indescribable grief Clarence’s parents must have felt in losing another child, not only so young but having inflicted his own death. William’s wife Lorena died three years after Clarence and his daughter Lulu died one year later. She was also unmarried. William died at the old age of 89, having buried his wife and too many children before their time. William Carnsew and his family are buried in East Mecca Cemetery in Mecca Township.


  • History of Mahoning & Shenango Railway: Columbus Metropolitan Library Collections
  • Deforest & Bolin Hill: History of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, Pg 297
  • Harry Hazlett Death Certificate: “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, Boy of Nine Years Is Killed By Niles-Warren Lim. Car: The Niles Daily News, July 12, 1915, Pg 1
  • FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), 1915 > 40541-43300 > image 843 of 3171.
  • Asks Damages: Niles Daily News, March 3, 1916, Pg 5
  • Awards Damages to Niles Man: May 13, 1916, Pg 4
  • Renders Verdict For Defendant: Niles Daily News, May 18, 1916, Pg 4
  • Local Man Asks Damages: Niles Daily News, May 25, 1916, Pg 5
  • Didn’t See Car: Warren Daily Tribune, May 22 1916 1:2
  • Leroy Carnsew killed: “The Times Democrat” Lima, OH, Saturday, April 13, 1916
  • Limited Car Strikes Milk Wagon; Driver Is Killed: The Niles Daily News, Pg 1, Apr14, 1916
  • Fast Going Car Kills Young Man At Foot Of Bolin Hill: Warren Daily Tribune, April 14, 1916 1:6
  • Leroy Carnsew Death Certificate: “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), 1916 > 25781-28620 > image 1132 of 3306.
  • Met Same Fate At His Son: Dayton Daily News, 1 May 1916, Mon. Pg 1
  • Man Hit By Limited, Father of Boy Killed In Same Way: Warren Daily Tribune, May 1, 1916
  • A.D. Bowman Death Certificate: “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), 1917 > 78941-81948 > image 2193 of 3118.
  • Third Time Is Fatal: The Niles Daily News, Monday, December 24th, 1917, Pg 1
  • Killed Instantly: Warren Daily Tribune, Dec 24 1917 1:2
  • 2 Killed, 7 Hurt In Accident Wave: Youngstown Telegram, August 5, 1918, Pg 13
  • Mecca Farmer Hangs Himself: Warren Daily Tribune, July 7, 1941 1:4 & 2:4
  • Clarence Carnsew Funeral: Warren Daily Tribune July 10, 1941 7:3

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