A modern city like Youngstown reflects the technical skill of the engineer on every hand. So far as the public engineering problems are concerned, those dealing with water, sewerage, the laying out of the streets and other public ground, the one individual who has had more to do with the development of these features of the modern city than any other is Francis M. Lillie, who for nearly thirty years was city engineer. he was designated the official to handle such problems when Youngstown was a comparatively small city, with only about eighteen miles of sewerage system and twelve miles of paved street. Before he resigned his office the street paving alone had extended to fully 160 miles in aggregate and the sewerage system had attained a total length of 180 miles.
Mr. Lillie was born in Geauga County, Ohio, February 15, 1855, son of William A. and Laura A. (Roberts) Lillie. His mother was born in New York State, and died in 1864. William A. Lillie, a native of Connecticut, and of a family established in New England as early as 1640, studied for the law but eventually became a minister of the Church of the Disciples. For about fifteen years he lived on a farm in Mentor Township of Geauga County, and his last years were spent at Willoughby, in Lake County, where he died in 1887.
Francis M. Lillie was educated in district schools in Lake County, and finished his liberal education in Oberlin College in 1880. The following year he moved to Youngstown, where he has been a citizen for over forty years. After a year and a half of employment as assistant to the city engineer he served two years in railroad construction on the Pittsburgh and Western, now a part of the Ohio and Baltimore system, and for four years was in the maintenance of way department of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
On January 1, 1893, Mr. Lillie assumed the office of city engineer, and served in that position continuously until March, 1920, a period over twenty-seven years. Since he left the office of city engineer he has been engaged in general practice as a consulting engineer, being well known as a specialist in all lines of municipal engineering. The city engineer's office increased in importance in proportion to the rapid growth of Youngstown, and of the vast amount of work accomplished during Mr. Lillie's administration only a few outstanding points may be mentioned. One of the improvements on which his attention was first concentrated was making efficient the sewerage system in the North Hill district of the city, an improvement carried through by Mr. Lillie, supported by the State Board of Health, and against considerable opposition. He and several public spirited citizens also developed Wick Park from a site of weeds and bushes into a beauty spot, and he had much to do with planning and carrying out the practical work of acquiring and improving what is known as Lincoln Park.
Another improvement demanded early in his administration was a filter plant to purify the city water supply, which had previously been taken unchanged from the river direct. he prepared the plans which were adopted by the Council and approved by the State Board of Health, the plant being constructed by Thomas Lighbody and Mr. Henderson. The distinctive feature of the filtering plant is that it was designed by local men without payments to the filter manufactures for the use of patents.
One of the most important municipal engineering plants around Youngstown is the Milton dam and reservoir, to provide an adequate supply of water for industrial and manufacturing purposes during the dry season of the year. This dam was planned and constructed under the direction of Mr. Lillie, the cost of the land and the dam altogether being about $1,250,000.
Mr. Lillie served several years as a trustee of the Unitarian Church, is an independent democrat in politics, and is affiliated with the Masonic Order, Youngstown Lodge No. 55, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Loyal Order of Moose and Saint David's Society.
In 1900 he married Miss Mary Whitehead, who was born near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, daughter of William Whitehead. They have three daughters, all at home, Laura, Annabelle and Eleanor.
History of Ohio, The American Historical Society, Inc., 1925, Volume IV