If furnishings could talk, this piece would share stories dating back seven decades, tales that would include both politics and land development, and most especially, a family history of continuing appreciation for when things were made to last.
It was in the late 1940's that Ohio State House Representative Member Bill Saxbe proposed that each house member receive a new chair, and that they be given the authority to keep their old one.
According to information provided by Jennifer Neff, in 1950, her father, the late Robert H. Neff, purchased Marshall's Gift and Office Supply store in Columbus, and the chain of events that would follow were because many of those very house members hadn't taken advantage of the opportunity to hold onto their old chair.
Photo by Kathleen Palumbo, Town Crier correspondent
Canfield Historical Society Curator, Laura Zeh is pictured with a recent donation, one of the original chairs used in the Ohio House of Representatives, ca. 1861. Changing possession over the years from the Honorable Judge John J. Lynch, to Robert Neff, and finally to Neff’s grandson George Fiffick, the chair has found a permanent place at Canfield Historical Society’s historical Bond House. The Bond House serves as home to the Canfield Historical Society’s ongoing lecture series, which will next offer “Butterflies Galore” featuring guest speaker Robert Coggeshall of Mill Creek MetroParks at 7 p.m. April 12.
It was through his friendship with Saxbe, an Ohio State College friend, that Robert Neff acquired the chair of the Honorable Judge John J. Lynch. A former Mahoning County Ohio House Representative, Lynch served for Mahoning County for the 98th through 102nd sessions between the years of 1949 through 1958.
According to information provided by Canfield Historical Society Curator, Laura Zeh, the chair went on to serve Neff as his personal office chair for many years. It was seated on its sturdy walnut foundation that he planned and developed many quality home sites, streets, and 1,904 acres of land in Ohio and Florida, where he later made his home. It was at that time that he gave the chair to his grandson, George Fiffick, who has donated it to the Canfield Historical Society in honor of his grandfather.
Upon donation of the chair, George Fiffick said that amongst his grandfather's Canfield land developments was Sleepy Hollow Drive, where his family lived for many years.
Reflecting on the impressive addition to the society's collection, Zeh said there's just no telling what areas of Canfield were developed from the historical chair. Although originating elsewhere, Zeh said she likes to think of the chair as Neff's, adding, "I respect him as a person who loved history here in the community."
Sharing that when an item comes to the Canfield Historical Society, it has the assurance of perpetuity; Zeh said the society is always accepting donated items. And so it can be said that one of the original chairs used in the Ohio House of Representatives, ca. 1861, has found a sense of permanence within the walls of one of the communities most recognized historical properties, the Bond House Museum.
With both the Bond House and the Mahoning Dispatch owned and sustained by the Canfield Historical Society, the privilege brings with it great property and structural maintenance expenses, in addition to the extensive cost of archival materials.
With the intent to raise $30,000 and increase membership by 10%, the CHS members recently launched a 2012 capital funds campaign, regarding which, Zeh was happy to report four new members to date.
Donations to the Canfield Historical Society are tax deductible, and contributions of $100 or more made through the Youngstown Foundation will result in an additional 5 percent contribution.
Additional information on the Canfield Historical Society can be found at www.canfieldhistory.org,, and inquiries into making a donation can be made to the society at 330-533-3458.