Thanksgiving at The Vonhof


Much of the same traditional fare we enjoy today is on this menu from The Vonhof Hotel for Thanksgiving, 1894, including turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and, one of the most popular foods at the time, raw oysters.  There is no price listed for the meal, but in 1899 an advertisement in The Mansfield Evening News listed an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner at The Vonhof for 75 cents.  By 1921 the price had doubled to $1.50.


November 29, 1899, The Mansfield Evening News


November 22, 1921, The Mansfield News

According to an article in The Mansfield News shortly before his death, Louis Vonhof was born in Hesse Darmstadt, Germany on October 6, 1816 and came to America in 1840, landing in Baltimore after a 48 day voyage.  Before coming to America, Vonhof was an apprentice in Frankfort in upholstering, carriage trimming and saddlery and toured Europe.  Vonhof arrived in Mansfield on May 6, 1841. It was said his first meal was at the Teegarden House, which would later become The Vonhof Hotel.  It was not Vonhof’s intention to stay in Mansfield.  At the time, he considered himself a traveler, but after taking a job for three months at a local harness maker and saddler, he decided to make Mansfield his permanent home.  In 1845 he married Miss Catherine Cristman.

Vonhof became a “forty-niner” and headed west with eight other Mansfield men to strike it rich in California.  Vonhof didn’t make it rich in the mines, as he felt few would, instead he spent his time preforming more common jobs like sawing wood, working in a kitchen and running water wagons.  While in Sacramento, Vonhof ran into Dr. Teegarden who had opened a new hotel called The Mansfield Ohio House in that city.  Only two of the original 9 men survived the journey, Fred Walter and Mr. Vonhof.  After 18 months, Vonhof returned home, with $3,000, to spend the rest of his life in Mansfield.

The Teegarden house changed names several times.  It became known as The Weldon, when James Weldon became the owner.  The hotel was acquired by Louis Vonhof in the 1860s and renamed The St. James.  In 1890 a fire ripped through the St. James and 90 people narrowly escaped with their lives, including future mayor Huntington Brown.  The hotel was repaired and expanded and renamed to The Vonhof Hotel.


The Vonhof, abt. 1908

Louis Vonhof died April 10, 1904 at the age of 88.  The Hotel remained The Vonhof for a number of years, closing in 1928 when the lease expired.  The hotel was razed in 1930 and, in 1932, the Warner Brothers began building a $75,000 building which was to include a 2,500 seat movie theater, one of the largest in the state. The Warner Brothers were buying or building theaters throughout the country at this time to showcase their “talkies.”  Unfortunately, due to the great depression and the building of the Madison at the Memorial Building, the theater was never completed.   The Warner building, minus the theater, was constructed on the site of The Vonhof and held a number of businesses over the years.  In 1984 the Warner Building was razed and a parking lot now sits at the site on the corner of North Main St. and Dickson Ave.


The Mansfield News, 06 MAY 1903, p 7.
The Mansfield News, 20 JAN 1932, p 1.
The Mansfield News Journal, 08 DEC 1974, p5E.


The Sherman Family: Hoyt Sherman


Earlier we looked at John Sherman’s oldest brother Charles and his impact in Mansfield.  In this post, we will take a closer look at one of his other 10 siblings, Hoyt Sherman.  While not making an impact in Mansfield, Hoyt was another successful member, and lawyer, of the prolific Sherman family.  Hoyt was born November 21, 1827 in Lancaster, Ohio and was the youngest son in the Sherman family.  Up until the age of 18, he focused on school and worked in a printing office.  In 1848 Hoyt made his way to Des Moines, Iowa.  A year later he passed the bar and on June 26, 1849, was appointed postmaster.  With his own funds, he built a frame building on West Second and Vine Streets, which was used exclusively as a post office.[1]  In addition to this, he built the first bank, served on the town council and was involved in local and state politics.  In 1855, Hoyt married Miss Sara Moulton of Ohio and had five children, Frank, Adaline, Charles, Arthur and Helen.  When the Civil War started, President Lincoln appointed Hoyt Army paymaster with the rank of Major and he held that position for three years.  After the War, Major Sherman was a member of the House of the Eleventh General Assembly, was chairman of the committee on railroads, and a member of the committee of ways and means.  Hoyt was in Mansfield at least once in 1885, when he was present at the Sherman Family Reunion held at John Sherman’s residence, along with brother William Tecumseh.  In 1886 he was one of the founders of the Pioneers Lawmakers’ Association and for many years executive officer of the Associated Charities of Des Moines.[2]  In addition to all this, he gave his counsel, time and money to ensure Des Moines had schools, a college, a waterworks and more.[3]  Hoyt Sherman died on January 25, 1904 at the age of 77, the last of the children of Charles Robert and Mary Hoyt Sherman.


Hoyt Sherman Place today, from Wikipedia

Unlike John Sherman’s home in Mansfield, Hoyt Sherman’s residence is still standing.  It is known today as Hoyt Sherman Place and includes an art gallery and historic theater, which was completed in 1923.  The home was built in 1877 by Hoyt and sat empty after his death until 1907 when members of The Des Moines Women’s Club began using it.  Guest speakers included individuals like Helen Keller and Amelia Earhart.  Today it is used for concerts, art exhibits, weddings and business affairs.




The Girl Graduate: Plymouth High School 1907

In the Sherman Room archive is a graduation book for Wilda Claire Strong.  These books were the predecessors of yearbooks as we know them today.  The book contains information about the class of 1907 from Plymouth High School, including photographs, class autographs, notes on teachers and class officers and newspaper clippings of items important to a young graduate at the time.


1907 Graduating Class Plymouth High School


1908 Class Plymouth High School


Plymouth High School in May 1906

Wilda was born in Cuyahoga County, Ohio on March 9, 1890.  According to the 1900 census, she was in New Haven, Huron County, Ohio living with her grandparents Elija and Emma Strong, and at school in the Plymouth School System.  1907 was a roller coaster year for Wilda.  In May, Wilda graduated from Plymouth High School and entered library school at Western Reserve University.   A few months later, in September, her mother, Clara Matilda Stoll, died of typhoid fever.  The following year in June of 1908, Wilda graduated from Western Reserve University and began working as an assistant in the Public Library in Cleveland.  By 1912, she had moved to Boston, Massachusetts and was enrolled at Simmons College.  On June 7, 1913, she married Martin W. Peck in Boston.   Her father, a dentist, Dr. Hamilton Frederick Strong, killed himself in 1920. Wilda had a daughter in 1924, Wilda Claire Peck, and by 1930 she is married to Joseph William MacKenzie.   It’s unclear what happened to her first husband.  Joseph died in 1944 and Wilda spent the rest of her life on the east coast, briefly living in Rhode Island and spending the majority of her time in Washington D.C.  Wilda Claire Strong died on October 27, 1971 in Washington D.C. and is buried in Tiverton, Rhode Island.

Below is a selection of items from the graduation Book.


Library Document Station_3

Note from Teacher

Library Document Station_5

Sketch of One of Wilda’s Gowns

Library Document Station_4

Souvenir From a Party


Mansfield Welcomes Sears

With the news of Sears filing bankruptcy this week, we take a look at the history of Sears in Mansfield.  The first store opened on August 17, 1929 at 37 West Third St., next to the library.  This building would later become the home of Richmond Brothers and finally W.H. Oswalt Office Furniture before becoming part of the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library.  Later, it was demolished to make room for additions to the library.

sears ad

Sears, Roebuck and Company was a growing, respected business when it opened in Mansfield in 1929.  It started as a mail-order service in 1886 by Richard Warren Sears and, within a year, Sears met Alvah C. Roebuck and they relocated to Chicago.  In 1889, Sears sold his business for $100,000 (2.74 million today) and moved to Iowa, but returned in 1892 and started a new company with Roebuck and called it Sears, Roebuck and Company.  The first retail store opened in Chicago in 1925 and the number of stores increased to the point that retail sales surpassed mail-order sales by 1931.  Sears flourished for 50 years, especially in the years after the war, until the 1980s when Kmart surpassed them in total sales.  Sales continued to decline and, in 2005, Sears was acquired by Kmart for $12 billion.

sears richards

The respect given to his company is demonstrated in the ads in The Mansfield News for the opening of the store.  Local plumbers, painters and lumber companies bragged about providing their services to the store and Montgomery Ward and The Freundlich Co. even ran ads welcoming them to the city.   The first sales ad showed a variety of merchandise from shoes, linens, paints and wall paper, camping equipment and tires.  The store manager H. W. Richards boasted that this was a store “Mansfield will be proud of,” and that they proposed “to operate the kind of store that the city wants.  The merchandise was selected after a survey into the needs, desires and demands of Mansfield and its surrounding country.”

Sears remained at this location for 18 years until August 21, 1947 when the new Sears-Roebuck store was opened on the square at the site of the former Ohio Suspender Co. and later the Quality Furniture Store, which had burned down on a cold night in February, 1944.  22 years later, Sears had its grand opening at the newly completed Richland Mall on October 22, 1969.


“Sears on the Square”

The News Journal 21 OCT 1969, p 27.
The Mansfield News 16 AUG 1929, p 6-9.