History of Mansfield by A.J. Baughman

Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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source:  Mansfield News, 21 November 1903


Submitted by Jean and Faye



By A. J. Baughman



 “What a beautiful city!” exclaimed a passenger, as a train on the Erie road approached Mansfield from the east. After taking a second look from the car window at the city upon the hills of the “divide,” the gentleman again turned to his companion and remarked, “I wish I knew something about this place, for its appearance impresses me favorably.”  And it is for the purpose of giving the public information about Mansfield that these lines are written.

The location of Mansfield, both topographically and geographically is an admirable one.  Situated upon the crest of the “divide,” it has an altitude of 700 feet above Lake Erie and of one thousand feet above the sea, with a rolling, hilly surface, conducive to its sanitation, as well as giving the city a picturesque appearance.  And its geographical location caused three trunk lines of railway to pass through the city as they span the continent.  As Tadmor was to the Syrian Desert so is Mansfield to the eastern part of the great valley of the Mississippi—an important station on its line of travel and traffic.  The Isthmian way between the east and west.  The climate of Mansfield, all things considered, is one of the finest in the country.  Its extremes of heat and cold are less than any other place in or near the same latitude, and it is affected but little with extreme wet and dry seasons.  These modifications are due to its high altitude and to its proximity to the lake, being only 51 miles south of Lake Erie.  There are those equable conditions—mediums between extremes, that make each season the more enjoyable of its kind.

The limit of this chapter will not admit of giving the history of Mansfield, for that would fill volumes.  While chronicles are “meat and marrow” to those who have been touched with the historic passion, they are dry and uninteresting to the general reader.  Therefore, while this sketch is historical, it is not a history of Mansfield—only a resume of its past, with brief sketches of its present and its prospects for the future.

Gov. James Hedges surveyed the greater part of Richland county in 1806-8 and his kinsman, Jacob Newman, located on the Rockyfork, three miles southeast of Mansfield, in 1807, where he built a cabin and where the first town in the country was started, which was intended to be the county-seat of the new county then about to be formed.  The locality of this first town site is noted in early history as Beam’s Mills and Beam’s blockhouse.  But he town site was changed from the place first selected to that of Mansfield.

Mansfield was laid out in June, 1808.  It was surveyed and platted by General Mansfield, whose name it bears.  Samuel Martin built the first cabin and became the first resident of Mansfield, remaining, however, but a short time.  Martin was succeeded by Capt. James Cunningham, the writer’s mother’s father.

Mansfield grew slowly at first.  In fact, Mansfield never was so unfortunate as to have a “boom.”  A “boom” usually has a resultant collapse.  Mansfield’s growth has been a steady, a continuous one.  From a little clearing in the wilderness, with a single cabin, it has grown to be a city, with hundreds of acres in its plat, and with a population greater than that of the entire state of Ohio at the time Mansfield was founded.

When Mansfield was laid out, its plat was covered with its native forest, and much labor was required to fell the trees and in clearing the land. Then, too, the stumps had to be taken out of the streets and the public square.  As there was no public fund for the removal of the stumps, an ordinance was passed that men convicted of misdemeanor be sentenced to “dig out a stump.”  That was something like a stone-pile sentence today.  The most frequent offence was intoxication, and sometimes when a pioneer wanted to take a spree, he would first dig up a stump—thus paying in advance.  But, as intoxication was not prevalent, stumps stood in the public square for many a year.  How much more humane was the Mansfield stump ordinance, than the whipping post sentences of some sister towns, for instance those of Mt. Vernon.  William Hedrick was tied –up upon the commons of the town and given 40 lashed with a heavy rawhide whip, upon his naked back, and at Newark, John Cotton received a like punishment of 50 lashes.  The charge in each case was petit larceny, and the sentences were imposed by Judge William Wilson, the first presiding judge of the court of common pleas on the circuit of the central counties.  Judge Wilson was appointed by the legislature in 1816, and served until 1829.  The public square of Mansfield was never reddened with blood by such inhuman punishment.

It has been said that the ear held close to the dead earth in winter, hears the million wheels on which spring is coming.  So with the pioneers.  By faith they heard the wheels on which a new era of civilization was coming—the civilization that has made Mansfield the city it is today.  During the ware of 1812 Mansfield was a small town on the frontier and a number of its citizens were murdered by the Indians.  But the patriotism and heroism of its people never faltered.  Mansfield has always been progressive.  Its progress at times has been slow, but it was always sure.  There were always constant interior activities and constant exterior changes ever keeping step with the march of the age.

The first newspaper published in Mansfield was started in 1818, and was called the Olive. After a few years its publication was suspended for want of paying support, and Mansfield was then without a paper for sometime.  In 1828, the Hon. James Purdy (now deceased) settled in Mansfield to practice law.  Mr. Purdy, knowing that a newspaper was necessary to the success of the town, bought the Olive plant and founded the Gazette.  Ascertaining that the type was insufficient and too much worn to print a readable paper, Mr. Purdy went to Cincinnati on horseback, and purchased new type, which he brought home with him in leather saddle-bags.  Mr. Purdy published the Gazette in connection with his law practice until 1831, when he sold the same to Thomas W. Bartley.

From bound volumes of Mr. Purdy’s Gazette, many historical facts of interest can be gleaned, one of which is that the tax receipts of Richland county for the year of 1824, were $2,649, and that the county expenditures were $1,512.  Quite a contrast with the amount and condition of the county finances of today.

From the same paper it is learned that Daniel Burget began running a stage-line once a week between New Lisbon and Mansfield in February, 1826.  Fare, five cents a mile.  This ante-dates the running of the stage-line from Columbus to the lake via Mansfield.

The general assembly of the state of Ohio on the 24the day of February, 1828 passed an act for the incorporation of the village of Mansfield, but there is no record showing an organized village government until April 9, 1834, six years after the passage of the act authorizing its organization.

In 1857, the population of Mansfield was ascertained to be 5, 121, and Governor Chase, at the request of the council, issued a proclamation declaring Mansfield a city.

Our early history, though so near, is already remote.  Living issues and present conditions so fully occupy the attention of the people, that the history of other years is apt to be abruptly relegated to the shadows of the past.

And turning from the past to the present the Mansfield chamber of commerce recently gave out a little folder in which the claims of the city are so fully and tersely stated, that a recapitulation of the same is given here:

As a city, Mansfield is one of the most beautiful, healthy and healthful in the United States, and is the only city on the main line of three great railroad trunk lines, viz.:  The Pennsylvania, the Baltimore and Ohio and the Erie.  It is also directly connected with the Big Four system by two electric lines.

Mansfield is the center for the electric railways in north central Ohio.  Two lines are now in operation, and three more electric lines projected with rights of way secured.  Has twelve miles of road in operation within the city limits.  The city has 150 manufactories of all kinds, with world-wide trade.  It also has the largest builders of tubular boilers, and the largest manufacturers of over-head electric railway supplies in the world, with world-famed manufacturers of threshing machines and harrows.  Leading manufacturers of stoves, pumps, brass goods, electric lighting, power and railway machinery, wagons, buggies, plumbers supplies, suspenders, cigars, candy, crackers, flour, neckwear, umbrellas, watch cases and watchers, et., etc.  Four express companies, with competing rates.

Mansfield is the smallest city in the United States with postoffice of first-class.  Thirty-six mails in and out of the city every 24 hours.  Over 7,500,000 pieces of mail handled annually.  Eight rural free delivery routes, serving 6,000 people.  The city has best artesian well water in the state.  Ample for fire, factory and domestic purposes.  Best public park system of any town of the size in the state, and has a Casino at West park that seats 800 people.

The Ohio state reformatory, America’s leading penal institution, costing $1,250,000, is located in Mansfield.  The city has complete sewerage system with sewage disposal and garbage crematory plant costing $85,000.  Other cities with many times the population are modeling after it.

Mansfield is the highest city in altitude in the state, being 1,000 feet above sea level.  It is centrally located:  77 miles from Cleveland, 54 from Sandusky, 67 from Columbus, 88 from Toledo; Cincinnati; 184; Pittsburg, 175; Chicago, 283.  It has a complete Emergency hospital, and another hospital will soon be built.  There are 17 cigar factories, with an annual output of from 23,000,000 to 40,000,000 cigars.  There are five national, state and savings banks, with ample capital, and a clearing house ?, with annual clearings of ?.  Four le? and loan associations.  Nineteen churches, and some of the finest church edifices in north central Ohio are located here.  A Y. M. C. A. with a building of it own costing $50,000.  Also, a Y. W. C. A..  A Memorial library and opera house, owned by the city, which cost $75,000.  The opera house seats 1,300 people.  City paid fire departments; three stations; service unexcelled.  Four first-class hotels, boarding and apartment houses, commodious and home-like.  Thirty miles of streets paved with brick and asphalt.  The main residence portion of the city has cement or flag stone walk.  Natural and artificial gas arc and incandescent light.  The high school building cost $100,000.  There are eight ward buildings, all of modern construction and 100 teachers.  No better schools in Ohio.  There are several quarries of superior building stone adjacent to the city.  Shale clay beds; practically inexhaustible.  Ample railroad yards; siding capacity for 2,300 cars.  Insurance rates low.  Home of four mutual fire insurance companies.  Prosperous lodges of all well-known secret and benevolent organizations.  Masonic temple cost $50,000.  Mechanics, artisans and laborers are largely house owners and taxpayers.  Employers’ and employees’ interests mutual and harmonious.  No strikes or walkouts. Jobbing trade very extensive.  Three large wholesale groceries, one notion house, one fruit company, one large cigar house, oils, candles, hardware, drugs, monuments, etc.  Three grain elevators; largest can handle 100 cars a day.  Two daily newspapers, enterprising and up-to-date.  A large printing plant devoted exclusively to the manufacture of duplicating and duplicating order books and store and office supplies.  An artificial ice plant.  Paid and free kindergartens.  City brass band—30 pieces.  Twenty-five miles from Ohio’s largest coal fields via two railroads.  An active chamber of commerce committee on new industries. 

Fifty acres with superior railroad facilities for manufacturing sites, can be had on reasonable terms. 

Turning from Mansfield to the state, it is found that Ohio has more school teachers than another state except one.  She is first in the value of farming lands and in the number of farms of less than 100 acres each.  She is first in the number of sheep and wool production; in the manufacture of farm implements; in the number of brick and tile establishments, and in the value of quarry products.  She is second in dairy interests; in iron and steel, in the mining of bituminous coal, and in slaughtering and meat packing.  In petroleum and natural gas she is in the front.  From her clays are made one-third of the stone and earthenware produced in the United States.

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