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.

Operating as usual

Mansfield and the 5th Colored Cavalry in the Civil WarThe U.S. census of 1860 shows no African-Americans living in Mansf...
02/18/2021

Mansfield and the 5th Colored Cavalry in the Civil War

The U.S. census of 1860 shows no African-Americans living in Mansfield at the outbreak of the Civil War. But town clerk records show that nine “colored” men enlisted from Mansfield. So who were these men who responded to the call to arms?

During the war the federal government set enlistment quotas for each state. They would have to produce a certain number of volunteers for the war effort. In turn the Commonwealth imposed a quota on every city and town.

Early in the war enthusiasm was high. Willing volunteers were easy to find. But they were harder to come by as the war dragged on. When towns couldn’t meet their enlistment quota they paid a bounty to out-of-towners who were “credited” to that town.

But Mansfield’s nine African-American recruits were never paid a bounty. And their war pay was less than their white counterparts. They likely signed up to help end slavery forever.

There is much we don’t know about these men. They likely came to Massachusetts as it was the first state to form an all-black regiment. But none of them settled in Mansfield after the war so we can’t be sure why they chose to enlist here.

Maybe they had some unknown connection to the town. Maybe it was simply because Mansfield was an early stop on the railroad line. But whatever the reason they enrich our local history with their call to duty. Here is what we know about these honorable servicemen.

George A. Brown was from New York City and stood just 5’2” in height. Yet he surely commanded the attention of his fellow servicemen in his role as a bugler. Henry Downs was a farmer from Maryland who was 44 years of age when he enlisted in Mansfield.

George T. Fisher was born in Washington, D.C. His service records describe him as 39 years old with a black complexion, black eyes and black hair. After the war he lived in New Bedford and was awarded an invalid’s pension in 1893. He died August 10, 1901 and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, New Bedford. His grave is marked by a simple white marble government headstone commemorating his service in the 5th Mass. Cavalry.

Samuel Johnson was an 18-year-old from New York State. He listed Massachusetts on his pension application so he might have moved to the Bay State after the war. George Middleton lived in New York State before and after the war. He died in 1903 leaving behind a wife named Mandana.

Lewis Miller was born in Baltimore, Maryland and was living as a farmer in Dundee, New Jersey when he enlisted in Mansfield at the age of 29. He served for a year before being discharged at a Virginia hospital with a disability. And James Davis, a 20-year-old from Pennsylvania, enlisted for just two weeks when he was rejected for service. We do not know why but surely he was disappointed.

The other two men credited to Mansfield did not report for service at Camp Meigs in Readville. It is unclear what became of them. But for the others it must have been a moment of great pride. All seven of Mansfield’s soldiers enlisted in the Massachusetts 5th Cavalry, the only all African-American cavalry unit.

The Massachusetts 5th Cavalry was among the first to occupy Richmond at the end of the war. The war’s conclusion in April 1865 did not mean rest for these troopers. The 5th was quickly dispatched to protect the Texas border for fear of looming difficulties with Mexico. Finally in October 1865 they were ordered home, landing at Gallup’s Island in Boston Harbor, where they were given their pay and discharged from duty.

Today is National Pizza Day!  In the 1950’s you could go to the Mazzini Cafe on North Main Street, which had “Pizza Ever...
02/10/2021

Today is National Pizza Day! In the 1950’s you could go to the Mazzini Cafe on North Main Street, which had “Pizza Every Night.” Looking just beyond the Mazzini sign we see the Hi-Lo Club, which had “Pizza Nightly.” There were several more in that immediate area and about town to choose from. What was your favorite place for Pizza in Mansfield in years past? Who has the best pie in town today?

“Let  Us Take Care of Our Poor”: The Town Farm, Part 2 The town farm cared for the poor, aged and sick of Mansfield.  Lo...
02/07/2021

“Let Us Take Care of Our Poor”: The Town Farm, Part 2

The town farm cared for the poor, aged and sick of Mansfield. Located at the corner of East and Ware Streets, it was usually run by a married couple. The husband was responsible for the farm. The wife ran the household. Most other towns had a similar setup.

Electric lights and a new heating system were installed in 1913. The following year there was a bill before the state legislature to create a county poor farm. At town meeting Mansfield voters voiced their opposition to the plan. Most considered it their duty to take care of their own citizens. William G. Davis said, “let us take care of our poor while they live and when they die give them a decent burial.”

In 1914 the town farm had 28 pigs, nine cows and three horses. About seven acres were cultivated with fields of potatoes, corn and garden vegetables presenting “a splendid appearance.” In most years the farm also produced many acres of hay.

In the increasingly modern world of the 1940s, residents began to question the necessity and practicality of the town farm. Town meeting authorized its sale in 1947, but no immediate action was taken. In the early 1950’s the town was leasing the old farmhouse to a private citizen to run as a home for seniors. By 1953 the house was in such poor condition that the town lost its license to operate.

Exposed wiring on the ceilings of the farmhouse was a fire hazard. There were no fire alarms or fire escapes. The hallways were too narrow. The water from the shower head was steaming hot and came out at full force. Cold water came out of the faucets at a trickle. The paint was peeling. There were broken windows and missing screens. The roof leaked and was missing shingles. When one shingle was replaced it caused two more to fall off. It was time to sell the old poor house.

After a year of debate the house and barn were sold to Mr. and Mrs. Louis Troesch of Norton. While the farmhouse still stands at 2 Ware Street, the barn and other buildings just to its right were torn down and replaced by homes.

There were proposals to sell the remaining farmland for a housing development. Town leaders realized the value of such a large tract of land in the center of town. “In my opinion it would be wiser to reserve the area of approximately 20 acres on the south side of East Street,” said Superintendent of Schools Gerald Anderson.

Editors at the Mansfield News agreed. In a 1954 editorial titled “Why Sell Now?” they noted the land’s proximity to Memorial Park, the new high school (now Qualters Middle School) and the town dump (now Mansfield Green recycling center).

“Is it far-fetched to imagine that the general locality — where the town NOW OWNS so much contiguous land — may become the site of a civic center, new town hall, an elementary school, or any other structure which serves the community?“ they asked. “Many projects are the simpler of achievement if there’s plenty of land available.”

That foresight paid off. Ten years later the Everett W. Robinson Elementary school opened on land that was once part of the town farm. In the early 1990s the Jordan-Jackson school was also built on former farm property. For many years the land closer to East and Ware Streets was used as two little league baseball fields. Those have since been replaced by high school softball and baseball fields.

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

“Improvement in the Condition of the Pauper”The Town Farm, Part 1 of 2  From the earliest days local government had the ...
02/01/2021

“Improvement in the Condition of the Pauper”
The Town Farm, Part 1 of 2

From the earliest days local government had the obligation to care for its less fortunate citizens. The town of Mansfield once auctioned off their care to the lowest bidder. Somewhat similar to current-day foster care, the town compensated local families to board and care for the poor, sick and elderly each year.

Change arrived in 1837 when Mansfield began to operate its own “town farm”. In that year the town purchased a large tract of land from the descendants of a family named Copeland. Part of the land was used for the new town farm. It included a farmhouse that still stands on the corner of Ware and East Streets, and the land where the Robinson and Jordan-Jackson elementary schools and the Mansfield Green recycling park now stand.

The town farm was known by many names over the years: the poor farm, the poor house, the almshouse and the infirmary among them. The idea was that able-bodied “inmates” (as they were often called) would work the farm to produce vegetables, milk, fire wood and other goods to sustain the residents and reduce the cost of their upkeep.

Over the years the function of the farm evolved. In addition to being a working farm, it became an infirmary for the sick, a home for the elderly, an overnight stay for “tramps” as they passed through the area, and a “lockup” for criminals or the mentally ill until they they could be handed over to the county or commonwealth.

In 1884, the 47th year of the farm’s operation, a column penned by “Observer” in the Mansfield News assessed its history this way: “The anticipated improvement in the condition of the pauper has been, we believe, more or less realized”.

They said most town farm residents were simply unfortunate, “single and alone, fatherless, motherless, or childless.” Therefore “in such a condition it is easy to see how the gentle whisper of a friend, a soft voice from the heart that cares for them, will make them glad and happy, and cost little to one who is pleased to remember them.”

There were times when sentiment was not as rosy. Later that decade long-time farm superintendent Albert Leonard had taken over. It seems Mr. Leonard and his wife ran the farm so well that it became a popular overnight stay for “tramps” passing through the area. In a 14-month period beginning in January 1888, a total of 1,122 tramps spent the night at the Mansfield town farm. Residents began to grow weary of their presence.

This was especially true on Park Street, a road used regularly by tramps en route from the train station to the farm. “A Park Street Resident” wrote a letter to the editor in November 1889: “We begin to think the name of Park Street should be changed to Tramp Street, as the park is not here and the tramps are.”

Residents were responding to frequent knocks at the door asking ‘how far to the town farm’? There were often requests for food or hot tea. “If no better way can be found to relieve us of the pest, I would suggest a lamp post in front of each house with a guide board there on, and a lunch to last to the farm, not for a moment overlooking the hot tea.”

Town meeting adopted a policy which required an hour of work for a night’s stay, and an hour more for every meal provided. Mr. Leonard implemented the policy and for a time the population of overnight guests declined. But at the dawn of the 20th century the town farm was about to change.

Pictured: the Mansfield town farm, c. 1910

“Sure I Do!”:  The Polio Vaccine Comes to Mansfield, Part 2About 71% of Mansfield’s first and second graders were vaccin...
01/11/2021

“Sure I Do!”: The Polio Vaccine Comes to Mansfield, Part 2

About 71% of Mansfield’s first and second graders were vaccinated against polio in 1955. One of those who did not receive the shot was young Eddie Randolph, who contracted the dreaded virus later that summer.

Eddie was at his grandparents’ house on Fruit Street in August 1955. In the afternoon he was playing in the yard, but by evening he developed chills and a cold. His grandparents put him to bed and called Dr. Anthony Gasson, who quickly diagnosed polio.

Eddie was transported to Boston where he experienced paralysis of the neck and spine. The polio then spread to his legs. Eddie spent four months in the Boston Floating Hospital followed by a three month stay at a children’s convalescent home in Needham.

By April 1956 Eddie had come home. Dick Yager of the Mansfield News, a highly skilled photojournalist who went on to work in much larger media markets, captured Eddie’s return to Roland Green School. Yager snapped a photo of Eddie approaching on crutches while still carrying his lunchbox. Principal Joseph LaLiberte held the door open for him. When asked if he ‘gets along’ on crutches Eddie replied, “sure I do!” The photo is registered with the Library of Congress under the name “Threshold of Tomorrow.”

The story reminded townspeople about the importance of the polio vaccine. Several clinics were held in 1956 to begin a more widespread dissemination. One clinic scheduled for mid-July illustrates the high demand for the vaccine.

It was to be held at the offices of the Mansfield Visiting Nurses Association on High Street. Attendance was expected to be light as the temperature was hot and many families were away on vacation. The clinic was to begin at 8:30 am.

When Dr. Raymond Ockert arrived he found a line that already extended to the corner of North Main Street. Despite the assistance of VNA nurses, Dr. Ockert couldn’t keep up. The line soon stretched onto the North Main Street sidewalk beyond Lord’s drug store and nearly to West Church Street. The office quickly became so hot that the VNA borrowed a 36-inch floor fan from the nearby Mansfield Press.

A police detail was secured to help direct traffic. As patrolman Walter Johnson worked he saw seven-year-old Eddie Randolph waiting in line standing on his crutches. The burly police officer went straight to little Eddie, picked him up in his arms, and delivered him directly to Dr. Ockert with no further waiting.

As the children departed they were handed a lollipop. Some were crying so hard they didn’t even take one. But nearby drug stores did a booming business as parents bought their youngsters milkshakes and ice cream as a reward for their bravery.

Some of the boys were mischievous as they departed the clinic trying to frighten those still waiting in line. “I’ll tell you one thing that didn’t help,” said one nurse. “Those young boys who came out rubbing their arms and proclaiming that ‘they stick it in your foot and it comes out your ear!’”

The clinic was scheduled to end at 11:30 a.m. but the doctor and nurses worked an additional two hours to make sure everyone was vaccinated. The Mansfield News reported that Dr. Ockert “may have set some kind of record.” He administered 791 vaccines in five hours. “That works out to over 150 per hour or one shot every 26 seconds!”

Vaccinations for adults would soon follow. Clinics continued locally into the 1960’s and 70’s. The triumph of medical science came in 1979 when the United States was declared polio-free.

Photos: Eddie Randolph and Roland Green principal Joseph LaLiberte; Dr Raymond Ockert; Officer Walter Johnson

Just Put Your Dime In Here”:  The Polio Vaccine Comes to MansfieldPart one of a two-part series Bobby Casey of Pleasant ...
01/05/2021

Just Put Your Dime In Here”: The Polio Vaccine Comes to Mansfield
Part one of a two-part series

Bobby Casey of Pleasant Street was the poster boy for Mansfield’s 1952 March of Dimes campaign to eradicate polio. “Just put your dime in here,” said eight-year-old Bobby to his sister Alice as he placed his coin into a collection bank.

Bobby and two of his sisters were infected by polio in 1949. His sisters recovered well, but Bobby was transferred to a Boston hospital where he remained for four weeks. Upon his return home he had to sleep on an hard board and receive physical therapy for months. It turned out Bobby was more fortunate than some. He made a full recovery. And all those dimes that Bobby and so many others contributed were about to achieve a medical miracle.

Polio was a frightening virus that spread from person to person. About 95% of those who contracted it were asymptomatic. Some developed cough, fever and other symptoms and recovered quickly. But polio invaded the brain and spinal cord of an unfortunate few, causing paralysis that left survivors disabled for life.

The virus terrorized the world for the better part of a century before Dr. Jonas Salk announced that he had successfully tested a polio vaccine in March 1953. In the early 1950’s the virus left about 35,000 Americans paralyzed every year. But by the 1960’s less than 100 Americans were paralyzed by polio over the entire decade. In the 1970’s there were less than ten. In 1979 the United States was declared “polio free”.

After Dr. Salk completed clinical trials the vaccine was ready for distribution. In March 1955 Mansfield was preparing to receive its first round. Distribution was to be coordinated with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. It was decided that Mansfield would begin by vaccinating all of its first and second grade students. 90% of parents signed up their children for the vaccine.

Locally it was the Board of Selectmen, acting in their capacity as the Board of Health, that requested the vaccine from the state. At that time the Town Clerk was also the “public health agent”, and he would be responsible for setting up clinics. The shots would be administered by local doctors in coordination with the Mansfield Visiting Nurses Association at their headquarters on High Street.

Excitement begin to build as local residents envisioned a world that was polio free. But two months of mixed signals and unmet deadlines at the state and federal level held up the vaccine’s arrival in town. When it was clear Mansfield would soon receive its first allotment, first and second grade parents were asked again if they wanted their children vaccinated. This time only 71% agreed.

Town Clerk H. Lincoln Paine sent Mansfield police officer Walter Johnson to the state labs at Forest Hills, Boston. Johnson picked up 133 vials of the Salk vaccine, each of which contained three shots. The first inoculation clinic was held June 1, 1955, at the offices of the Visiting Nurses Association of Mansfield. Shots would be delivered by Dr. Raymond Ockert and Dr. John Kenney, assisted by Mrs. Roberta Tripp of the VNA, school nurse Alice Fullerton, and other VNA nurses. Buses delivered students from the Roland Green, Spaulding, Paine and John Berry schools to High Street.

In total 190 children received the Salk vaccine that day. The Lions Club provided lollipops for the youngsters. There were 32 students absent that day, and 22 more were on a field trip to Boston. They were inoculated the following week. And the effort to distribute the Salk vaccine in Mansfield was underway.

Second photo: Linda Davis and Ronald Vickery collect for the March of Dimes from Fire Chief and Mrs Harry Davison; Deputy Chief and Mrs Lawrence Buck behind them; Firemen’s Ball, 1958.

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02048

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This is an WC Fuller advertisement in the Mansfield News from Friday January 5th, 1945
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