Mansfield, MA Historical Society

Mansfield, MA Historical Society This is the official page of the Mansfield Historical Society of Mansfield, Massachusetts. The Mansfield Historical Society was founded in 1951 by a group of local citizens interested in preserving the history of Mansfield, Massachusetts.
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Renowned local historian Jennie Copeland bequeathed her home at 53 Rumford Avenue as a permanent headquarters for the historical society. Today we continue their work by maintaining and recording our local history.

Mission: "...preserving materials and information relative to the history of Mansfield." -- bylaws of The Mansfield Historical Society

Operating as usual

“Send All You’ve Got”:  The Town Hall Fire of December 1970, Part 150 Years Ago “We’re going to lose it,” reported Mansf...
12/08/2020

“Send All You’ve Got”: The Town Hall Fire of December 1970, Part 1
50 Years Ago

“We’re going to lose it,” reported Mansfield patrolman Richard Wade to fellow officer Earl Weeman on the night of December 20, 1970. “The town hall is on fire; send all you’ve got.”

Hailed as a symbol of progress when it opened in 1883, the elegant town hall sat on a tiny lot at the corner of West and Union Streets for 87 years. It was the heart of the community. It held the town offices. In the early years the high school and public library were located there. An open hall on the second floor hosted everything from town meetings and elections to high school basketball games, assemblies, proms, and dances.

The police department had a tiny headquarters in an addition at the rear of the building. By 1970 it was in need of improvement. The police had temporarily vacated the headquarters so work could begin.

On the night of December 20, 1970, Officer Wade was making routine rounds on a quiet Sunday night. The temperature was a chilly 25 degrees but there was no wind. He discovered the town hall blaze at 11:45 p.m.

The fire was already well involved when Wade radioed Officer Weeman to alert the Fire Department. Fellow patrolman Louis Cipriani soon arrived. The heaviest flames were at the rear of the town hall where work on the police headquarters was being performed.

“While we stood in back of the hall waiting for the apparatus, heavy smoke was pouring out of the roof near the chimney,” said Officer Wade. “I could see a red glow on the first floor. All of a sudden the glass door in the rear of the hall blew out.”

When the Fire Department arrived, Chief Cyril Bellavance saw flames belching out the back roof and immediately summonsed help from seven nearby communities for the “biggest assembly of fire apparatus Mansfield has seen in years.”

Crews from Foxborough, Attleboro, Norton, Easton, North Attleboro, and Walpole arrived to lend aid. Plainville’s 100-foot aerial was set up to draw water directly from the Rumford River. High above the blaze was James McLaughlin in the Mansfield aerial, “at times engulfed in dense smoke, guiding a line into the rear of the structure where the fire started.”

News of the blaze spread quickly. Hundreds of spectators looked on from a safe distance. The calm wind assured that nearby historic buildings like the Congregational Church, the Lovell Block and Memorial Hall would remain unharmed.

The sense of loss was instant but the community spirit shone throughout the night. Local store owners Mr. and Mrs. Phillip DiMonte and Mr. and Mrs. Paul Zecher led a group of volunteers who opened the kitchen at the Congregational Church. They cooked over 12 dozen eggs and served hot coffee to the weary firefighters. Plainville Fire Chief Thomas Skinner later recalled “there was nothing more welcome than that church across the street where firemen could go and have a cup of hot coffee and let the body thaw out.”

The flames were largely subdued by 3 a.m. Most of the out-of-town rigs had left the scene by 5:30 a.m. The Mansfield Fire Department stayed on scene to manage the occasional flare-ups. Within a few days officials from the state fire marshal’s office determined that faulty wiring in the police headquarters had likely sparked the blaze.

Insurance was expected to cover $265,000 in structural damage and $50,000 to replace the contents of the building. But in the immediate shock that followed the fire, that was little consolation to the townspeople. They had lost their beloved town hall, possibly the most historic structure in Mansfield. They were now forced to contemplate the fire’s aftermath.

For more “Mansfield Memories” please visit the Mansfield Historical Society website at www.mhsma.org.

The Telephone Comes to MansfieldIn the age of Zoom and FaceTime it’s easy to forget how novel the telephone was just a f...
12/02/2020

The Telephone Comes to Mansfield

In the age of Zoom and FaceTime it’s easy to forget how novel the telephone was just a few generations ago. But there was a time when telephone service was new to Mansfield.

Historian Jennie Copeland tells us that by 1883, just seven years after the telephone was invented, Foxborough and Walpole had service. At the time Mansfield had a greater population than either of those towns and was “agitating” for the telephone. But the phone company determined there was not enough interest in Mansfield to warrant a line.

In 1891 a company manager came to Mansfield but was unable to find enough subscribers to bring service. In April 1892 the Taunton Gazette reported that Mansfield and Rehoboth were probably the only two towns in the nation that couldn’t be reached by phone. This was clearly an exaggeration. But the business community in Mansfield was “sore” about being unable to reach the outside world. They soon convinced the phone company to make a change.

In October 1892 it was announced that phone service was finally coming to Mansfield. “This town is one of the very few in this state where telephone connections were never made and there has been much annoyance [as a result],” reported the Bristol County Republican.

Later that month the Mansfield News reported that construction of a phone line was underway to connect Mansfield through the exchange in Taunton. “Many of the business places in town will have telephone put in as soon as the connection with the main office is completed.”

Mansfield’s first “pay station” was installed at the jewelry factory operated by Doliver Spaulding at North Main and Pratt Streets. This was soon followed by Cobb’s jewelry factory on Spring Street, Shield’s foundry on Oakland Street, Comey’s straw shop on Park Street and G.E. Hodges’ drug store on the South Common.

The arrival of the telephone helped spread Christmas cheer in 1893 when the congregation of the Methodist Church placed a phone call to Santa Claus. “To the surprise and delight of all, the jolly old fellow responded,” said the Mansfield News. But Santa still preferred to visit in person. “No sooner had the telephone rung ‘good bye’ than the merry tinkle of the sleigh-bell was heard and the round, rosy patron saint strode majestically to the platform and began the distribution of his goodies.”

The next advancement came in June 1895 when a “twenty line wall switchboard” was installed at Hodges’ drug store. By now Mansfield had 30 telephone subscribers.

The company installed a “central exchange” at the Winter Block (now Jimmy’s Pub) in 1902 to serve Mansfield’s 60 customers. At that point a phone company operator had charge of the switchboard. Two years later a second switchboard was installed to handle rapid growth. Phone lines were extended to East Mansfield and Norton to accommodate “more distant subscribers.” By 1906 there were 212 telephone subscriptions in Mansfield; by 1909 there were 315.

In 1910 Norton got its own exchange and rates in both towns began to drop. The following year Mansfield got additional upgrades with the installation of a six-position switchboard to accommodate six operators. In 1911 the phone company invested $20,000 in poles, cables and wires in Mansfield alone.

“It is a certain fact that Mansfield is a growing and prosperous community,” declared The Mansfield News in October 1911, “and the telephone company will continue to help along the development by maintaining its plant and furnishing telephone service in the most approved manner.”

Pictured: Doliver Spaulding; Spaulding’s factory; George Hodges; exterior and interior of Hodges Drug Store

For more “Mansfield Memories” please visit the Mansfield Historical Society website at www.mhsma.org.

A new display was just installed by the DPW at Fulton’s Pond!  It highlight’s the pond’s history. Thanks to Nancy Wall f...
11/19/2020

A new display was just installed by the DPW at Fulton’s Pond! It highlight’s the pond’s history. Thanks to Nancy Wall for championing the project, Kevin McNatt and Andy Todesco for the history, and Lou Andrews for the final design. The project was funded by the Mansfield Non-Profit Gift Fund in conjunction with the Downtown Advisory Committee.

11/19/2020
www.mhsma.org

We would like to thank Historical Society member Liisa Neimi for restoring our doll collection, located at the Fisher-Richardson House. Please check out this link to see her work. Thank you Liisa!

http://www.mhsma.org/Fisher-Richardson-House/Museum-at-the-Fisher-Richardso/Doll-Restoration-Project.pdf

The Governor and the Earl:  How Mansfield Got It’s Name What’s in a name?  In the name “Mansfield” we find connections t...
11/03/2020

The Governor and the Earl: How Mansfield Got It’s Name

What’s in a name? In the name “Mansfield” we find connections to our colonial past and a link to our sister city in England.

First consider Mansfield’s journey to becoming a town. It is widely agreed that before the coming of European settlers, the area that is now Mansfield had little Native American history. The land was a buffer zone between the Wampanoags to the south and the Massachusetts to the north. Natives came to what is now Mansfield to hunt, fish and set up summer camps. But there appears to have been no major native settlements.

Plymouth Colony was settled in 1620. By 1637 settlers had migrated 25 miles west to what is now Taunton. Taunton was granted town status by Plymouth Colony in 1639. The following year Captain Myles Standish led a survey team into what is now Mansfield. A member of Standish’s team stopped to cobble his shoe near what is now Willow Street in Mansfield. “Cobbler’s Corner” remains a landmark in the woods off Willow Street.

The Town of Taunton originally encompassed what is now Mansfield, Norton, Easton, Raynham, Berkley and Dighton. In time they would peel away and become their own towns. In 1711 Norton gained its independence from Taunton. The new town consisted of what we now know as Norton, Mansfield and Easton.

Easton broke away from Norton in 1725. By that time the people of northern Norton (now Mansfield) were looking for independence too. They had grown weary of the long weekly trips to Norton for church services over crude roads in all types of weather.

Norton’s town meeting was not willing to relinquish its northern area. But after a few failed attempts, the Norton North Precinct was approved in 1731. Many in Norton refused to recognize the vote. They appealed to the authorities in Boston claiming the vote was illegal. It did no good. The Norton North Precinct (now Mansfield) came into existence in 1731.

This allowed the precinct to hire a minister and build a meetinghouse. Residents completed these tasks and the Norton North Precinct remained for 39 years. In 1770, residents petitioned the General Court to become a district. This would give them all the privileges of a town except the right to send a representative to the General Court in Boston.

The General Court approved the district request and sent it to colonial governor Thomas Hutchinson to sign. The petition did not include a district name, so it appears Governor Hutchinson bestowed the name “Mansfield” in honor of William Murray, the First Earl of Mansfield, England, who was Chief Justice of the King’s Bench.

Perhaps Hutchinson admired the Earl. Maybe he hoped to curry favor with him. Either way he selected a distinguished jurist after whom to name the district. Chief Justice was the highest judicial position in the entire British Empire. Lord Mansfield was a reformer who modernized the British court system. His most important case was Somerset vs Stewart, a landmark on the way to banning slavery and the slave trade in the British Empire.

The Town of Mansfield came into existence on August 23, 1775, at the onset of the American Revolution. That day the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts passed a resolution immediately elevating all districts to the status of a town. And so the Town of Mansfield came to be.

In the early 20th century Mansfield, Massachusetts returned to its roots and struck up a lasting friendship with its sister city of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England. The connection lasts to this day. The First Earl of Mansfield would surely be pleased!

For more “Mansfield Memories” please visit the Mansfield Historical Society website at www.mhsma.org.

It’s Election Day! Don’t forget to vote 🇺🇸. Here we see voter Edward Epstein cast his vote while Mansfield officer Walte...
11/03/2020

It’s Election Day! Don’t forget to vote 🇺🇸. Here we see voter Edward Epstein cast his vote while Mansfield officer Walter Johnson smiles for the camera, 1958.

Mike Ahern donated this poster to the historical society...Mansfield vs Coyle, February 4, 1944 at the Town Hall.  Admis...
10/31/2020

Mike Ahern donated this poster to the historical society...Mansfield vs Coyle, February 4, 1944 at the Town Hall. Admission 40 cents and dancing following the game! Thank you Mike!

The Mansfield Select Board has declared today, October 16, 2020, to be “Mansfield Green Hornet Day” in commemoration of ...
10/16/2020

The Mansfield Select Board has declared today, October 16, 2020, to be “Mansfield Green Hornet Day” in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Green Hornet. Happy Birthday!!!

This week marks the 75th birthday of the Green Hornet, chosen by the student body the week of October 19, 1945.  Here is...
10/16/2020

This week marks the 75th birthday of the Green Hornet, chosen by the student body the week of October 19, 1945. Here is a float by the MHS Class of 1946 called “Birth of the Green Hornet.” The Class of ‘46 was in its senior year when the mascot was chosen. This float was part of a parade to commemorate 100 years of graduating classes of Mansfield High in 1978. Who doesn’t love a 70s Cadillac?

This week marks the 75th anniversary of the Mansfield “Green Hornet”.  Here is a look and some more Mansfield and Hornet...
10/15/2020

This week marks the 75th anniversary of the Mansfield “Green Hornet”. Here is a look and some more Mansfield and Hornet paraphernalia from over the years. Feel free to comment below if they bring back happy memories! 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE GREEN HORNET! Mansfield’s “Green Hornet” Turns 75 When you think of Mansfield, you often think of ...
10/13/2020

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE GREEN HORNET!
Mansfield’s “Green Hornet” Turns 75

When you think of Mansfield, you often think of green and white. The iconic colors go back to at least 1906 when they were first donned by the MHS baseball team.

Our sports teams were often referred to as “the Green and White.” Sometimes they were called the “Chocolate Towners,” a nod to one of Mansfield’s biggest employers, the former chocolate factory on Oakland Street. But Mansfield High didn’t have a true mascot.

That changed in October 1945. It was time for an official nickname. The Mansfield Athletic Association offered a prize of two dollars for the student who came up with the winning moniker.

We do not know who put forward the name “Green Hornets”. We do know that the first school wide vote on the new mascot was held on the week of October 12, 1945. The “Green Marauders” tied with the “Green Devils” by a total of 104-104.

It was decided to try again the following week. This time the “Green Hornets” won decisively and it was official: from then on, Mansfield High’s mascot was the Green Hornet. The choice might have derived from a radio show by the same name that was popular at the time.

“In the future you’ll refer to Mansfield High School athletic squads as the Green Hornets,” declared the Mansfield News on October 19, 1945. “Hornets” carry a sting, so the student body agrees, where as Green and White, Chocolate Towners, Green Marauders, and other such terms are colorless.”

The MHS Class of 1946 was in its senior year when the Green Hornet was chosen. They embraced the name immediately and called their yearbook “The Green Hornet,” helping to cement the new mascot in history. Norman Kennedy, a member of the Class of ’46, sketched the first official rendering of the Green Hornet.

The mascot soon became a part of Mansfield lore. Early versions looked as much like an illustration from a science book than a beloved mascot.

That had changed by 1975, when MHS athletic director Vinny Messina re-branded the venerable mascot as “Bucky Hornet.” Bucky was usually depicted with an “M” across his chest, bending on one knee with his fists raised in the air. Bucky was one of several illustrated mascots that debuted in the 1970’s and 80’s.

Three years after Bucky’s arrival, the Green Hornet got a companion when senior Tom Palanza (Class of ’78) painted the MHS Green Machine “Hulk” on the wall of the James Albertini Gymnasium at MHS. The Hulk also became iconic in Mansfield, with many senior class photos snapped beneath the Hulk’s intimidating stride.

In 2014 repairs were needed to the wall where the Hulk had long stood. The Hulk was going to be lost. But senior Harrison Bateman (Class of 2015) repainted the Hulk and the tradition lives on.

The current version of the “Green Hornet” appeared around 2005. The mascot has permeated school culture. The concession stand at Memorial Park has long been called “The Hornet’s Nest.” The student cheering section at MHS sporting events is known as “The Nest.” At Qualters Middle School the various academic teams compete in “Stinger” events throughout the school year as they work their way to becoming Hornets.

The Select Board has declared Friday, October 16, 2020 as “Mansfield Green Hornet Day” to commemorate the birthday. Congratulations to Mansfield High School as it celebrates 75 years of the Green Hornet!

Author’s Note: We would like to thank Bill Breen, MHS Class of ’78, for his numerous contributions to this article, and for helping create a “buzz” around the 75th birthday of the Green Hornet (pun intended). Thanks Bill!

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Mansfield, MA
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HORNBINE SCHOOL MUSEUM OPEN THIS SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 27, 2020 The Hornbine School Museum is a one room school house (1846 – 1937) LOCATED at 144 Hornbine Road in Rehoboth. Children are always facinated with our outhouse. Fall is here and this will be our last openhouse for the pubic until next year. Don't forget to use your masks. We will be open between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. this Sunday. FOLLOW us on Facebook at "Hornbine School Museum". You and your family will have limited access to the building. We ask: 1. Please do not visit if you have symptoms of Covid 19. 2. Wear a mask and maintain a distance of 6 feet. 3. Groups of 4 or less will have restricted access to the Museum.
HORNBINE SCHOOL MUSEUM OPEN SEPTEMBER 27, 2020 The Hornbine School Museum is a one room school house (1846 – 1937) LOCATED at 144 Hornbine Road in Rehoboth. We will be open for the last time this season between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. this Sunday. FOLLOW us on Facebook at "Hornbine School Museum". You and your family will have limited access to the building. We ask: 1. Please do not visit if you have symptoms of Covid 19. 2. Wear a mask and maintain a distance of 6 feet. 3. Groups of 4 or less will have restricted access to the Museum.
The Hornbine School Museum will be open to the public this Sunday, September 13, 2020 from 2 - 4 P.M. The Museum is located at 144 Hornbine Road in Rehoboth, MA We ask: Please do not visit if you have symptoms of Covid 19. Wear a mask and maintain a distance of 6 feet. Groups of 4 or less will have restricted access to the Museum. FOLLOW us on Facebook at "Hornbine School Museum"
HORNBINE SCHOOL MUSEUM OPEN AUGUST 23rd The Hornbine School Museum is LOCATED at 144 Hornbine Road in Rehoboth. We are open between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Frances Megan, a past Hornbine School student, will be in attendance when possible. Visitors always find her to be very interesting and informative. Go to our page at “Hornbine School Museum” to FOLLOW us. You and your family will have limited access to the building. We ask: 1. Please do not visit if you have symptoms of Covid 19. 2. Wear a mask and maintain a distance of 6 feet. 3. Groups of 4 or less will have restricted access to the Museum.
HORNBINE SCHOOL MUSEUM IN REHOBOTH We plan to open the school for Sunday Open House, August 9th from 2 – 4 p.m. We are located at 144 Hornbine Road in Rehoboth, MA. Please wear masks. There will be limited access. Visitors will have a chance to use a slate pencil. It's a unique experience. SHARE this with your friends if you think they may have an interest in history. FOLLOW this if you want more postings. In the nineteenth century, school children in Rehoboth used slates to practice handwriting and arithmetic without wasting precious paper. The board was made from a piece of quarry slate set in a wooden frame. They were personal-sized blackboards. Often, students wiped away their work, using the cuff of their sleeve, after it was checked by the teacher. This process is the origin of the phrase 'to wipe the slate clean', which we still use to mean to make a new start, or to forget the things that have gone before. A slate pencil (not chalk) was used to form the letters. Slate pencils were made of soapstone or softer pieces of slate rock, sometimes wrapped in paper. Many Palmer River students remember the sound of the slate pencil, "...like nails on a chalkboard..." when they visited the Hornbine School for a day. Many 19th century children would sharpen their slate pencils on the school wall. These slate pencils are wrapped in paper decorated like the American flag and stored in a cardboard box with an American flag design. In the United States, slate pencils were manufactured at least as early as 1844 and at least as late as the 1910s. A Vermont company produced up to 100,000 pencils a day, which were shipped throughout the world in the mid19th century. By the end of the Civil War, slate pencil manufacturing began to wane as wood and graphite pencils took over the marketplace.
HORNBINE SCHOOL MUSEUM OPEN FOR AUGUST & SEPTEMBER The Hornbine School Museum is a one room school house LOCATED (40 min. ride) at 144 Hornbine Road in Rehoboth. (That’s in the south east corner of Rehoboth across from the Historic Hornbine Church.) We are very happy to announce that the Museum will be open between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month (August & September). Cathy Potter, Brenda Saben, Jan McMurry and Dave Downs unpacked the school materials this Friday (July 24, 2020) in preparation for Sunday Open Houses. Frances Megan, a past Hornbine School student, will be in attendance when possible. Visitors always find her to be very interesting and informative. We will follow Rehoboth Health Dept. guidelines. You and your family will have limited access to the building. We ask that visitors wear face masks. Please SHARE this post with any friends that you feel may have an interest. (If there is no SHARE button on this post, just go to our page and you can share it from there.) FOLLOW our page at “Hornbine School Museum.”
The historical society now has a website www.mhsma.org. Let us know what you think and if you find anything wrong. Thanks
Do you collect cardboard pictures from early 20th century or late 1800's? I inherited some from my grandparents but our family doesnt know anyone. We dont want to toss them. Any suggestions? Thank you .
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I would like to invite people to a new group, Historical Homes, Mansfield and the surrounding area. https://www.facebook.com/groups/2572684112859852/members/
This is the 1962-1963 Mansfield Hornets boys varsity basketball team photo in the Mansfield News from Thursday February 14th, 1963
This is an article in the Mansfield News from Thursday February 11th, 1960 and it is initial plans for a proposed shopping center with a supermarket and six stores on Route 106 in Mansfield between Art's Atlantic Station and Gloria Colombo hall on Chauncy Street was presented to the Mansfield Board of Selectmen