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A look at those who set up philanthropic accounts

Photo courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society The Hoffman Home for children, which was operational at least as recently as the 1960s, located on Conewango Ave. in Warren.

So I just learned the county has a multi-million dollar endowment a few weeks ago.

While I wrote about that, I left out who the people were that left funds in their wills to the county because, frankly, that would be more fun here where I’ve got some more space.

The short of it is that these eight individuals are largely people I hadn’t heard of before I learned about the endowment.

MARY AVERILL

This was the hardest one to uncover. There’s a Mary Averill that married an Edward S. Averill buried at Pine Grove Cemetery. The Warren Mail reported their 1901 wedding and listed her as “Minny Martin.” The lady I believe to by Averill is identified as “Mary Frances Martin Averill” on findagrave.com so I think this is the right person.

Photo from the Warren Mail An article announcing the death of Levi Smith, one of eight individuals who has left an endowment fund to be managed by the Warren County Commissioners.

According to her husband’s obituary published in the Chicago Tribune in 1910, he heavily involved in transportation — general superintendent of United States Express and also in his career general manager of Continental Express Co.

They’re both buried here at the Riverview Cemetery outside of Pittsfield.

In her 1931 will, she left $500 to the “Warren Children’s Home” for the “permanent benefit of the home and children.”

That $500 has grown to $13,864.58 effective Dec. 31, according to county records.

WALTER V. HODGES

This may be the most, well, odd of the accounts in the county endowments because of the specific population the funds are required to be used for.

According to the Warren Evening Mirror in a 1916 obituary, it was reported that Hodges spent his entire live in the Russell area.

“He had for many years been identified with the business life of the town and always manifested a practical interest in matters relating to local welfare and progress,” the obituary posited. “In his younger days he taught school and afterwards served the community as Justice of the Peace.

“His detailed knowledge of the township and the property lines within its borders caused him to be much sought after as an advisor. Practically everyone in the township could look upon him as a friend and advisor and rely on his judgment. He was a studious man and a thinker along progressive and independent lines.”

The 1916 will left some property in Pine Grove Township “for a home for old and needy ladies of Warren County, Pa…. And further, if siad real estate and income is not be sufficient to keep and maintain all needy ladies in Warren County, I direct that needy ladies of Pine Grove Twp. have preference over other townships in county.”

County officials told me funds from this were used to replace a roof for a Pine Grove Twp. woman who had need.

The balance on this endowment is in excess of $90,000.

OTIS F. HOFFMAN

Otis Hoffman was born in 1850 in New York State and attended Allegheny College before reading the law and passing the bar.

That kicked off an apparent legal career I didn’t uncover much about. WIndows in the Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church are (or were) in their memory and it appears he lived on Liberty St.

His impact in the community, though, lasted for decades after his death in 1921 via the Hoffman Home for children.

The 1918 will states that once his wife dies, the county gets everything “for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a home for the poor and homeless children of Warren County.”

That fund has a $1.128 million balance as of Dec. 31.

A June 6, 1968 story in the Warren-Times Mirror and Observer reported that there were still 12 children living in the home “and is staffed by three adults which appears to be sufficient.” The assets of the home at that time were valued at just under $500,000.

“No children under school age are taken care of since Hoffman Home is designed primarily for school age youngsters,” the paper reported. Officials were grappling with the home as a placement as compared to foster parenting. Ultimately, foster parenting won out.

LEVI SMITH

The Warren Mail on May 10, 1917 had a bolded headline: “LEVI SMITH DIED SUDDENLY IN INDIA.

“Levi Smith,” the report continued, “the millionaire oil refiner and philanthropist died on a train returning to Warren.

“Levi Smith was born April 12, 1844 in Lehigh County,” the report states. “He broke into the oil business at East Sandy where he helped to build a hotel. In 1865, he was at Pithole, where he helped to put up his first oil rig and drill his first well.”

In the 1880s he was part of a firm that built a “crudely constructed refinery” in Clarendon. It wasn’t initially profitable — his partners bailed — but it’s now the “Levi Smith refinery, and its Tiona oil products are famous throughout the world.”

The will outlines a $5,000 amount left to the county “for the destitute old and poor of the County of Warren…”

That $5,000 has grown to over $60,000 since 1917.

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