OF LONG AGO ... How Mansfield Has Grown Within A Half Century

Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Records

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OF LONG AGO ... How Mansfield Has Grown Within A Half Century

Source:  Richland Shield & Banner:  09 January 1892, Vol. LXXIV, No. 33


Submitted by Amy


The SHIELD man seated before a cozy fire in the parlor of the residence of one of the oldest and most interesting residents of this beautiful city, one evening during the past week, while a high wind was playing a sad requiem through the leafless trees, enjoyed listening to several interesting reminiscences of early life in Mansfield.

"There are but few people who know," said the old gentleman, "that the original proprietors had staked out Mansfield in a different part of the county from where it is located.  But such is the case.  Immediately after the war of 1812 the three projectors of the town, John Larwell, Jacob Newman and James Hedges, while hunting for a desirable location to found the future metropolis of Richland County and North Central, Ohio, pitched their tents on the present site of Campbell's mill, 3 miles east of the city, and began to lay out streets and offer corner lots for sale.  Luckily, for the purchasers, before any of the property had been disposed of, the boomers learned that they could secure the land upon which the city now stands, and, as the location was much more desirable, it was selected."

"When I came to this city a mere boy something like 70 years ago," continued the narrator, "Mansfield was not as large as it is now by about nine-tenths.  The town consisted of what is now included from the alley back of Mulberry Street on the west to the alley back of Water street on the east and from First street on the south to the alley just north of the Grand Central hotel.  That alley was known then as 'corporation alley' and still retains its name."

"The business houses were few, but were built closely together.  All, however were frame and not one of the inhabitants of the village, which then contained some four or five hundred people, ever dreamed that a city as large as the present Mansfield would ever exist in this place if someone had spoken then of streets paved with brick, as they are now, the populace would not have been more astonished if you had promised streets paved of gold.  In all probabilities an inquest of lunacy would have been held on the man who would have advocated, at that time, the establishment of any of the great improvements we now enjoy."

"Sixty years ago what is now called the 'flats' had not a single house located on it.  John Pugh, a tanner, lived in a cabin on the present site of the Grand Central hotel and operated a tan-yard where the City Mills now stands.  This was the only building north of the corporation line.  Along in the '30's Baldwin Bentley, of Wooster, came over here, started a general store, where everything could be bought form a paper of pins to crude farm implements, and purchased 160 acres of land in the 'flats'.  He laid out a number of lots and offered them for sale.  A few purchased and erected cheap log cabins, the timber and material used being cut from the lot.  On account of the swampy conditions of the land there that part of the town went by the name of 'Frogtown' and we all used to tw__ Bentley considerable on the prospects of 'Frogtown' becoming a great commercial center.  Bentley always had faith in his addition and its developments within the past 20 years shows that his confidence was not misplaced."

"The first brick house built in this city was a dwelling house erected on the lot occupied by Smith's Opera House, the year being indistinct in my memory.  In 1845 or '46, however, the house was torn down in order that frame additions could be built to some business houses occupying the same lot."

"Park Avenue West, Mansfield's Fifth Avenue, had perhaps half a dozen cabins bordering upon it.  The beautifully paved street, during the winter months was almost impassable on account of mud and along the side of the road, for that was all it was, one had to wade mud, to which there seemed to be no bottom.  Where Mulberry crosses the avenue was a particularly low spot, which was dignified by the term swamp.  In order that pedestrians might appreciate the other mud all the more, a trestle work was constructed over the swamp.  On both sides of Park Avenue West there were a number of fields cultivated and for two seasons Henry Newman, now residing in Williams County at the age of 84, raised a tobacco crop on several of them.  He used three tobacco houses, which were built along the avenue, for storing his product.  During the cultivation of the narcotic everybody in the county who came to town called to see Newman's tobacco crop, as it was considered a great curiosity.  Later tobacco raising became more common."

"The first railroad train that reached Mansfield was a corner", continued the narrator.  "The country round about Mansfield had become deeply interested in a freight railroad, built from Sandusky to Monroeville.  It was made of ties and square pieces of wood nailed on the ties for rails.  Over this the little rickety engines of that day traveled, hauling supplies for the settlers from Sandusky, which was then our principal outlet on the lake.  Finally the road was extended to Mansfield and the information was given out that thereafter it would be a 'passenger road', which meant that it would also accept passengers.  An improvement had been made in laying the track, as strap iron was laid over the wooden rails.  Even then the structure designed as a track would not be enough to bear the weight of one of our present monster locomotives.  The cars were small, dingy and cramped.  We always were in constant fear of one of the pieces of scrap iron becoming loose and piercing the floor of the car, as they often did being called 'snake heads".  The highest rate of speed was from 10 to 12 miles an hour and I remember distinctly when an engineer made the trip from Sandusky, here -- 54 miles -- in three hours and a half, we thought it was a great triumph of science and spread the report accordingly."

The old gentleman concluded his entertaining narrative with:  "Those who have been born and raised in Mansfield as a city do not fully appreciate the many benefits they enjoy as coming from the hard work of us 'old fellows' who blazed the way, for their enjoyment."  All of which is no doubt true.

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