History

 

Situated in the beautiful Appalachian foothills of North Central Ohio, Richland County is close by several State Parks that attract visitors from all over the state. The southern half of Richland County is literally Ohio’s roof top with several hills topping 1400 feet.

Eight major highways pass through Mansfield/Richland County, making it easy to get to. The city also possesses a large airport which is home to an active Ohio Air National Guard unit whose huge C-130 transport planes fly missions around the world. Mansfield and Richland County blend an array of one-of-a-kind attractions and historic landmarks. These range from one of the state’s finest gardens at Kingwood Center to one of the nation’s premier race tracks at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The city of Mansfield was named after Surveyor General of the U.S. Col. Jarred Mansfield. Richland County was organized March 1, 1813 and named from the character of its soil.

Mansfield was first settled on a ridge close by a large spring that eventually served as a dependable source of water for a brewery. In 1813 Mansfield was suspended on the very edge of the frontier and its settlers subject to Indian attack. In response Mansfield residents built two blockhouses in what is now Central Park. One of those blockhouses stayed in that park for many years and can now be seen in the city’s South Park. During the early part of the War of 1812, Indian attacks were common in the area and several settlers were killed by Indians in the Black Fork Valley east of Mansfield. When the war ended and the frontier moved west, Mansfield slowly grew around Central Park.

The city’s true growth began with the arrival of the first railroads in the 1850’s. During the Civil War, Richland County provided many officers and soldiers to the Union cause. The most famous unit was the Sherman Brigade which fought in many major battles in Kentucky and Tennessee. After the Civil War, Mansfield became an industrial city producing buggies, steel, steam tractors, stoves, pumps and later, major appliances.

The heart of the city was Central Park and the heart of Central Park was the Vasbinder Fountain which was given to Mansfield by a brother and sister who wanted to show their appreciation to the people of a city that had been good to them. At one point the fountain disappeared after Central Park was cut in two by a street extension in the late 1950’s. Today the fountain has been restored and returned to its home in the park.

Richland County is the home of many famous people starting with the Apple Man. John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, lived and traveled in this area for many years, planting apple trees that served the needs of new settlers. Chapman got along equally well with Indians and settlers. Although he died in Indiana, Chapman spent the majority of his life in this area.

Jedediah Smith who lived south of Mansfield as a youth became a noted Mountain Man who led some of the earliest expeditions into California and helped pioneer the Santa Fe Trail.

Senator John Sherman, who came to Mansfield as a youth to study law, was elected to represent Mansfield in Congress in 1854. It was the beginning of a long career in politics. During the next 44 years in Washington, Sherman served in both houses of Congress. He also served as both Secretary of State and Secretary of Treasury. He is the father of the Sherman Anti-trust Act. He was also considered a viable candidate for president in the 1870’s and 1880’s. His brother was General William Tecumseh Sherman, who marched through Georgia.

Some other famous Richland County residents include: John Peter Altgeld, a governor of Illinois; Mathias Day, the founder of Daytona Beach, Florida; General Frank P. Lahm, one of the very first pilots trained by the Wright Brothers.

Charles Follis only lived in Richland County part time, from 1907 to 1910, but his permanent address is the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Follis, who played halfback for the Shelby Blues professional football team in those years was the first black professional football player.

Richland County has produced several writers including historian, Paul Angle and Shelby’s Dawn Powell. The most famous was Louis Bromfield, who won a Pulitzer Prize in the 1920’s. Bromfield’s gift to Richland County was his home at Malabar Farm which is now a unique combination of farm and state park. Bromfield added a touch of glamour to this county since many famous authors and movie stars came to visit at Malabar Farm. His very good friend, Humphrey Bogart, married actress Lauren Bacall at Malabar Farm.

Today downtown Mansfield has been revitalized by its Carrousel District and its Renaissance Theatre. Ontario, once a small village on the Erie Railroad, has become a major regional shopping center.

Last Updated: 08 JAN 2018
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