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How A Serbian Immigrate Started Barberton Chicken

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 Ethnic Influence in the Barberton Food Scene

Barberton has been influenced by many ethnic groups. The Slovenes settled on the west side and started Sacred Heart Church which today is Prince of Peace. The old Sacred Heart was across from the Sokol building on Hopocan.

The Slovaks settled on the west side and Cyril & Methodist was their church. Many of these west side immigrants worked at PPG. in the 1900-20 time period. One relative would sponsor another relative to America. The industrial boom in America needed labor and Eastern Europe was loaded with unemployed young men.

The Hungarian Church in Barberton was Holy Trinity on Wooster Rd by the old hospital.

Even a small Polish church existed on the west side called St. Mary’s.

St. Nicholas was on First Street in Barberton and in 1965 moved to Robinson Ave in Coventry Twp. St. Nicholas was composed of Rutherians from the Carpathian mountains in present-day, Eastern Slovakia, Western Ukraine, Northern Serbia, and Western Romania. They are Byzantine Greek Catholics who are in commune with the Pope(recognize his authority) but celebrate and have customs of the Russian Orthodox Church. Latin Rite makes up 98.5% of the Catholic Church with the 23 Catholic Eastern Rites the rest.

These groups of people contributed to the Barberton food scene of today. Barberton chicken would not exist except for a Serbian lady who had lost her farm in the depression.  Smiljka and Manojlo Topalsky came from Vojvodina, Serbia circa 1900.

They lost their dairy farm in 1933.

They were able to keep the farmhouse where Mrs. Topalsky opened an eatery making soups and sandwiches. She cooked a classic Serbian dish of fried chicken cooked in pork lard for 20 minutes. A bank teller asked about the dish and Barberton chicken was born.

After several years, the family bought back their 65 acres of land. Over time other workers at Belgrade Gardens left to start their own chicken house. Mary Markinkovich opened Whitehouse Chicken in 1950. The Milich family opened Village Inn in 1955.

Barberton had a similar experience with sausage. Many of the small grocery stores and butcher shops made their own sausage recipes. Momcholov had a meat market by B&W on second St that had a sausage recipe later purchased by Al Prmuka for his store on downtown Tusc. Al’s on Second street sells the stuffed cabbage, sausage, and pierogis like the old country. Leach’s also has outstanding old Eastern European sausage. Go to a Giant Eagle or Acme and see if you can buy great sausage like what is available in Barberton.

An old Barberton cookbook in 1920 did not contain one fried chicken recipe. It took the depression and a Serbian woman to change that.

Hopocan Gardens

2 COMMENTS

  1. You forgot to mention St Augustine Church across from Lake Anna. Most of the Italians went there who came from Italy. My grandparents were among of those Italian immigrants.

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Mike Bodnar
Mike Bodnar
Admin of BarbertonJournal.com Ed: Barberton 1972. Ohio Northern University 1977 BS in Pharmacy. Retired Pharmacist. Grew up on the Northend and Crissman Park. I love Barberton and always will.

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