Canfield, in 1798, became Township No. 1 in range No. 3 by the purchase from the Connecticut Land Company. This 16,324 acre tract was located on the southeastern border of the Connecticut Western Reserve Territory. It was purchased by six gentlemen; most of the land was owned by Judson Canfield. The Township was originally called Campfield; on April 15, 1800 it was voted to be called Canfield, in honor of Judson Canfield.
Canfield's first settlers arrived shortly after surveying was initiated in 1798. Most of them came from Connecticut. Later, major immigrations were by the Germans in 1805, and in 1852 by the Irish Catholics. Goods were transported initially by horse and wagon from Pittsburgh. Later, trade was accomplished by horse and wagon to the Beaver Canal, the waterway which served the area and opened trade possibilities. Still later in the 1800's stagecoach service was established for mail and travelers.
Canfield was part of Trumbull County until 1846, when the counties in the area were redefined and Mahoning County emerged as a new county. Canfield made plans to be the county seat, and because of it being the geographical center it was made such in 1846, while Youngstown grumbled that it should have had that honor. Thus a fierce issue was raised and it began a debate that would last three decades-that being which community would be the new county seat-Canfield or Youngstown. The bill for removal of the county seat from Canfield to Youngstown was voted upon by the legislature in Columbus in 1874. The House Speaker had to cast the deciding vote. Canfield challenged those proceedings on the basis of legality. The case was tried in Canfield and appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, where the decision to make Youngstown the county seat was upheld. This took place in 1875. It should be noted that Canfield experienced a lot of growth during its tenure. Interestingly, Canfield was represented by General James A. Garfield who later became President of the United States.
The primary architectural style in Canfield, continuing today, is Classic Revival, a style that came to maturity in the Western Reserve region. This style became popular during Thomas Jefferson's presidency and was brought to this area by early settlers. Canfield's architectural style continues to be one of its greatest assets, still attracting new residents to the community.
By the 1820s, several denominations had organized churches in the area. German Lutherans built a log church in 1810. The Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians and Congregationalists followed. In 1828, many Baptists began to follow a new movement called the Campbellites Evangelistic Movement. This group believed all creeds were unnecessary and the word of the Bible alone was enough. They established a church in Canfield in 1830 which later became the Christian Church. Another stalwart church, established in the early 1800's and still active in the community, is the First Presbyterian Church. Jehovah's Witnesses have a Kingdom Hall and The Jubilee Christian Fellowship recently established their church in the township.
The Old Turner School was built in 1826. It was located on the east side of Turner Road, slightly north of Gibson Road. All school supplies, except paper, were homemade and supplied by students. The teacher was equipped with his books and a knife to sharpen pen quills. Discipline was rigid and punishment was inflicted which ranged from switchings to holding weights with arms extended. The Mahoning Academy was established in 1856, as a secondary school, by David Hine. It accepted students from the surrounding area, many of whom had to board with Canfield residents. The Academy was the literary, social and philosophical center of Canfield. It promoted lectures, discussions and forums for the citizens. The Academy's Adelphic Union recorded its essays and poems, The Academy disbanded in the 1860's term of the Civil War; there weren't enough male students, and the remaining female students could not support keeping it open. The Northeastern Ohio Normal School was organized in 1881 in Canfield to meet the need for teacher training in the area. The school graduated many distinguished citizens. It closed in 1910 due to lack of funding. The Union School, Canfield's first graded school, was built in 1872.
Much of the historical information was garnered from the following books:
Richard Ulrich, Early History of Canfield (1776-1876) (Canfield, Ohio: The Canfield Historical Society, 1980)
General Thomas W. Sanderson, 20th Century History of Mahoning County, Ohio and Representative Citizens (Chicago, Illinois: Biographical Publishing Co., 1907)
Howard C. Aley, A Heritage to Share (A Bi-Centennial History of Youngstown and Mahoning County) (Youngstown, Ohio: The Bi-Centennial Commission of Youngstown and Mahoning County, 1975)