A.J. Baughman's Research on Oldest House in Mansfield

Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Records

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A.J. Baughman's Research on Oldest House in Mansfield

source:  SEMI-WEEKLY NEWS (Mansfield):  18 February 1898, Vol. 14, No. 14


Submitted by Amy


MOST ANCIENT HOUSE In Mansfield is at Northwest Corner Adams and Third


It was built in 1810 by Dr. James, a Methodist Preacher -- Authenticity of Its Antiquity Almost Perfect -- Its Various Occupants and Present Owner -- An Interesting Sketch

After days of sedulity in quest of information in that direction, I am able to answer the question as to which is the oldest house in Mansfield, standing upon its original site.  It is the log house on the northwest corner of Adams and Third Streets owned by Mrs. Lafferty Irwin, and occupied as a dwelling by John Mock.  The house is now weather-boarded on the outside and lathed and plastered within, and a frame addition added on the north side.

While the fact of that being the oldest house in Mansfield is generally conceded, the exact date of its erection can not be obtained.

The house was first occupied by the Rev. Dr. William B. James, and was built either by him or by Josiah Hedges, the grandfather of Dr. J.S. Hedges.  The lot (No. 28) was deeded by James Hedges to William B. James in 1815, perhaps upon the final payment, for the house was built years before that date.

In December, 1895, Gen. R. Brinkerhoff received a letter from Prof. Edward James, now of the University of Chicago, relating to the family history of his grandfather, Dr. William B. James, and after some further correspondence with the general, the professor visited Mansfield during the first week in February, 1896, and in addition talking with several of our old citizens in relation to the early history here of the James family, he called at Mrs. Irwin's, No. 59 North Adams Street, and Mrs. Allen, Mrs. Irwin's daughter, took him to the house on the corner where his grandfather had lived.

Prof. James stated that his grandfather had "built that house 85 years ago last summer" and according to that statement it was built in 1810, 88 years ago.

A statement was made by John Welden in his day that "Dr. James was the first preacher to settle in Mansfield.  He was a Methodist, and built a log house on the corner of Third and Water Streets" but no date is given.  He further stated that Dr. James was succeeded by the Rev. Charles Waddle and he by the Rev. Somerville, and that all three were here before 1816.

Mrs. Grant came to Mansfield on Easter Monday, 1815, and recalls the fact that Dr. James lived on that corner at that time, and the town then contained but 22 houses.  Mrs. Grant is now 89 years old, and lives with her daughter, Mrs. R.R. Smith, on East Fourth Street.

If there was no other evidence bearing upon the matter, the fact that Dr. James came to Mansfield first as a missionary and later organized the Methodist society, became its pastor, and had two successors before 1816, would, of itself, establish the fact that he was here at a very early time.  When a family came to Mansfield then, a cabin had to be put up for them, as there were no "flats", "apartments" or "furnished rooms to let" in those days.

The date (1810) given by Prof. James should be accepted, as it is in harmony with other evidence in the case, and accords with the consensus of opinion that the oldest house in the city of Mansfield id the old-time James residence, no No. 99 East Third Street, still standing upon its original site, and in an excellent state of preservation.

The Rev. F.A. Gould informs us that there is no parish record earlier than 1840, and therefore they have no date of the Rev. James' pastorate.  

Dr. James evidently intended to make Mansfield his permanent home.  He was a physician as well as a preacher, but his useful life was brought to an early close, as he was gored to death by a bull.

The building was not only used by Dr. James as a residence, but religious services were held there regularly until 1816, when a church was built on the east side of Adams Street, between Third and Fourth Streets.  This first church building remodeled and enlarged as a residence, is still standing (No. 54) and is owned by John M. Bell, county treasurer, and is occupied by James Crowner and Mr. Paullin.

Foster, the colored preacher, for whom Foster Street was named, often told in after years of the "good meetings" that had been held in Dr. James' log house, and that when the audience could not be accommodated inside, that the "overflow" sat on the logs and stumps that surrounded the house, and joined in the service.

Vocal music was then a prominent feature in religious services.  At these meetings Foster's voice was heard, clear, sweet and powerful.  In this singing was blended the melody of praise, of thanksgiving and of devotion.  There was a simplicity, a sincerity, a reverential solemnity pervading those meetings that commend them to our remembrance.

The first Methodist church was used by them as a place of public worship from 1816 to 1836 -- twenty years, when they built a new one on the northwest corner of Adams Street and Park Avenue East, the building that is now used, in part, by E.T. Laver, as a grocery store. 

The remembrance of that old first church is still held dear by many Methodists, in it the Hon. Henry C. Hedges was baptized when a babe by the Rev. Russell Bigelow, who remarked to the mother that "Henry Clay is a good name".  

Among the prominent Methodists of that early period were James Price and John Hanley and their wives, the grandparents of Mrs. James Carrothers, the mother of Mrs. Minnie Carrothers McDonald, the sweet singer of whom Mansfield is justly proud.  Mrs. Carrothers has a number of "love-feast" tickets that were her mother's which she keeps as dear relics.

The pioneer preachers worked hard and were not well paid.  Late one cold blustering Saturday night, the late Dr. William Bushnell met the Rev. Russell Bigelow at the corner of Third and East Diamond streets, going through the storm carrying a sack, to get breadstuff to do his family over Sunday and explained to the doctor that he had just returned from a circuit trip, and found the family without bread -- their means being too limited to lay in abundant stores.

This James house was afterwards the home of the Rev. Bigelow and other Methodist ministers.  It was owned for several years by Hiram R. Smith and has been in the possession of the Irwin family ever since July 1, 1854.

All earthly things are given to change, and the firesides of the pioneer period have given place to the furnaces and registers of today.  Still the remembrance of the associations has an attractive charm and a strong hold on our sentiments and affections.  Though the scenes of our memory may be darkened with shadows, yet still it is a sweet indulgence to recall them.  The rose and the thorn grow on the same bush, so the remembrance of our friends who have "crossed over" is mingled with gladness and gloom.

-- A.J. Baughman.

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