The Old Richland County Court House

There have been five courthouses in Richland County’s history, starting from the modest blockhouse in the square, they have grown to meet the needs of residents over the decades.  During the War of 1812, two blockhouses were erected in the public square, one of round logs and the other made of hewed logs.  On July 10, 1813, commissioners examined the hewed log blockhouse and determined that it should be “prepared for the reception of court.”  The lower portion was to be used as the jail.  This served the county for three years until the two bock houses were sold at auction on December 3, 1816. The hewed log blockhouse sold for $56.40 to Alexander Curran, while its round log companion sold for $20 to Jacob Snider.  A second wooden courthouse was built and served the community for another ten years.  The commissioners would meet at the courthouse on November 6, 1826 and receive proposals for the building of a new brick courthouse the following season.  

From the Mansfield Gazzette, October 19, 1826.

The third brick courthouse shortly before its demolition in 1873. The fourth courthouse can be seen in the background.

Thomas Watt was hired as the contractor for the new building, which cost around $3,000 to construct.  The location of the new brick courthouse was just to the north of the old one, still located in the public square.  The building was a modest two-story structure with the courtroom below and offices above.  In 1851, changes were made to the courthouse, which Graham states in his History of Richland County, Ohio, added no real value, but did make the building more imposing.  “A third story was added, which was never used, and this third story was extended beyond the original building on the north and south sides, and for the support of this extension, heavy brick columns were erected.”  The commissioners approved $7,000 for the addition, but McCarron & Sheffler, who were awarded the contract, spent between $14,000 and $16,000 on the project adding in extras.  The addition, according to Graham, could not “be called a brilliant success.”  

The fourth courthouse shortly after construction.

The fourth courthouse around 1909, missing its tower.

The newly remodeled fourth courthouse.

On January 22, 1873, a new elegant and what most of us think of as the old courthouse was dedicated.  Cleveland architect H. E. Myer was hired to design the building, which now sat on the corner of, what is today, Park Avenue East and South Diamond.  The brick for the construction of the courthouse was made locally and pressed by Enoch Smith and Harry C. Hedges.  The plastering and stucco work was completed by local resident E. D. Lindsey, one of the best workmen in the country according to the Mansfield Herald.  The five-foot clock was run on a compound pulley system with 59 ½ foot weights weighing 1000 pounds each.  The pendulum weighed 237 pounds and a 100 pound hammer would strike the 3200 pound bell, which could be heard three miles away.  It would be an understatement to say the new elegant structure was an improvement on its modest, yet imposing, predecessor.  The total cost would be $226,700.

The courthouse went through changes over the years, including a new roof and tower around 1909.  It would stand for over 90 years before being demolished in 1969, when a wrecking ball smashed through the roof at 3:00 pm on February 3, two weeks after the new 2-million dollar courthouse we see today was officially turned over to the county commissioners.


Two Jewish Congregations Become One

Little is known about the early Jewish families of Richland County, Ohio.  Most newspaper articles place the start of the movement for a Jewish congregation to 1886 when Mrs. A. J. Heineman led a group of women who were sewing for immigrants.  This group became Sisterhood Emanuel, which led to the formation of Temple Emanuel, but only tidbits are in local newspapers about the Jewish community prior to 1900.  These mostly appear as one or two-sentence briefs about Jewish holidays and how this affected the closing of Jewish-owned businesses.  But Jewish residents were active in Mansfield and Richland County long before Mrs. Heineman’s group met.  Her husband, Abram, arrived in Mansfield in 1866 and followed in the family business by becoming one of the most successful horse dealers in the United States, at one time buying and shipping more than 3,000 draft horses per year.  When A. J. Heineman died in 1903, his remains were sent to Ridgewood, New York to be buried in the Jewish, Union Field Cemetery.[1]

It was the same year as A. J. Heineman’s death that a real push was made to start a Jewish congregation in Mansfield.  On Thanksgiving day 1903, a Jewish service was held in room 25 of the Vonhof Hotel, by Rabbi George Zepin, of Cincinnati.  A reporter from the Mansfield News talked to one of the church’s promoters and Rabbi Zepin and it was made clear that a new religious body was being established.[2]  A few days later on November 29, another meeting was held and officers were elected.  M. L. Miller was elected president, I. Shonfield and Louis Freundlich were elected vice presidents, W. F. Foust was elected secretary, and S. W. Loeb was elected treasurer.[3]  Alfred T. Godshaw, of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, served as the first rabbi when services began on January 10, 1904, in the old Y.M.C.A. hall.[4] Godshaw would make the trip from Cincinnati to Mansfield every two weeks to conduct services.  In October of 1904, Rev. Isador Philo, from Akron, Ohio, took over leading the congregation.[5]  Services would continue like this over the next couple of decades with services being held in various halls in the city by visiting rabbis.

132 West Second St. (from the Richland County Auditor)

In 1929 the congregation was finally able to afford a space of their own and purchased the Thomas R. Barnes home at 132 West Second Street.  The home was remodeled for religious services and Sunday school and decorated by Rabbi Charles Latz.  The home served Temple Emanuel until 1944 when it was turned into apartments.[6]  The building has a much darker recent history.  It was the home of convicted serial killer, Shawn Grate, between 2014-2016.  It was condemned in 2017 and razed in 2020.  It was in 1927 when an Orthodox Jewish congregation was formed, the B’nai Jacob Congregation.  Like Temple Emanuel, they began meeting in homes, the Eagles Hall, and in the Bowers building before sharing the building at West Second Street.  In 1941, the B’nai Jacob Temple purchased the home at 50 Sturges Ave. from the estate of Mrs. Clemie France and converted it into a chapel.[7]  By 1944 Temple Emanuel was sharing the building at 50 Sturges Ave.

From the Mansfield News-Journal, 08 May 1944

In 1946 Temple Emanuel acquired land at 473 Cook Rd. and on July 28, 1947, the cornerstone was laid for the new Temple Emanuel building: the first Jewish house of worship to be built in Mansfield.  The Temple was dedicated on September 26, 1948 by Rabbi Eugene Lipman and Rabbi Bertram Korn in front of 200 people.    On March 3, 1957, ground was broken for the new temple for B’nai Jacob just down the street from Temple Emanuel at the corner of Cook and Larchwood Roads.  The new building was opened on September 25, 1957 for Rosh Hashanah Services.  In 1977 the building at 50 Sturges was condemned and demolished.[8]  The two congregations again shared a building in 1979 after Temple Emanuel sold the building at 473 Cook Rd. to the Southwood Baptist Church.[9]  The church is today home to the Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  In 1987 Emanuel Jacob was born with the merger of Temple Emanuel and the B’nai Jacob Congregations.  The congregation is still located at 973 Larchwood Rd., at the corner of Cook Rd.


  1. The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 12 October 1903, p. 7.
  2. The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 27 November 1903, p. 6.
  3. The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 30 November 1903, p. 2.
  4. The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 30 December 1903, p. 2.
  5. The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 10 October 1904, p. 5.
  6. The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 28 May 1944.
  7. The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 08 May 1944.
  8. The Mansfield News Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 03 August 1977, p. 3.
  9. The Mansfield News Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 02 June 1979, p. 2.

Central Methodist Church

A new church is usually created out of some major disagreement or a change in religious doctrine in which a portion of the congregation does not agree.  This doesn’t appear to be the case when the Central Methodist Church was created in 1905.  Methodism had been growing so fast that it was necessary for a second church to be erected in Mansfield.  The only hint of unhappiness is mentioned on March 8, 1905, in which a small article in the News Journal mentions a second meeting at the home of Edward S. Nail, being called for the First Methodist Church. “The meeting is said to have been precipitated at this time by the passing of resolutions at a recent meeting of the church trustees to expend a large amount of money in completely remodeling the present church edifice.”[1]

First United Methodist Church Before Renovation

Things moved quickly after this initial meeting at the Nail home.  On March 21, 1905, organizers for the new church attended a school board meeting and arranged for the use of the high school auditorium, for $17.50 a month,[2] to conduct devotional services.[3]  On March 23, the members leaving First Methodist met for the last time at a Thursday evening prayer meeting.  It appears there were no hard feelings. Towards the end of the meeting, the members leaving were asked to stand and L. A. Palmer was called upon to offer a prayer to them. Next, those staying were asked to stand and Mr. C. L. Van Cleve prayed for those individuals.  The meeting came to a close with the two groups singing “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.”[4]

Van Cleve, also superintendent of the Mansfield Public Schools, took charge of the new congregation. At a meeting on May 25, 1905, members decided to purchase the lot in the corner of Park Avenue West and Sycamore Street for $7,420.[5]  The lot was once part of the recently razed John Sherman estate.  In October of 1905, the North Ohio Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church was held in Shelby, Ohio.  The Rev. Stephon K. Mahon, from Massillon, was appointed pastor of the young congregation.[6]  Vernon Redding, local architect, was hired and plans were accepted in February of 1907.[7]  On June 3, 1907, the Cotter Transfer Company began excavation of the site[8] and, on September 22, 1907, the cornerstone was laid.[9]

On April 5, 1908, three years since the church held its first service, enough of the church was completed to move from the high school auditorium to their new home on the corner of Park Avenue West and Sycamore.  Despite not having a proper building in which to worship, the congregation had nearly doubled in size in three years, now having nearly 300 members.[10]  The church was dedicated on August 27, 1911. The total cost of the building, including land, was $55,000 and church membership had grown to 352 persons.  The church is constructed “of Sandusky limestone with trimmings of Bedford white stone, in the old English style of architecture.  The roof is of dark red Spanish tile.”[11]  The church served Mansfield for nearly 100 years until dwindling membership forced the church to disband in the summer of 2003.[12]  Today the church is home to the Bethesda Fellowship Ministry Center.


[1] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 08 March 1905, p. 3.

[2] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 03 May 1905, p. 3.

[3] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 22 March 1905, p. 6.

[4] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 24 March 1905, p. 5.

[5] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 25 May 1905, p. 12.

[6] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 16 October 1905, p. 2.

[7] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 07 February 1907, p. 7.

[8] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 03 June 1907, p. 10.

[9] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 23 September 1907, p. 3.

[10] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 06 April 1908, p. 7.

[11] The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 28 August 1911, p. 5.

[12] The Mansfield News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 27 September 2003, p. 1C

When the Mansfield All-Collegians Welcomed Heidelberg

Football was still in its infancy in Mansfield 120 years ago when a group of college alumni set forth to host a game for the enjoyment of local residents.  Mansfield High had only had a team for three years by this time and the local YMCA played games when given the opportunity over the previous ten years.  On the national stage, it had only been 25 years since the original rules for American football were written. The sport was still four years away from President Teddy Roosevelt’s efforts to “minimalize the danger” of the game after the 1905 college season, which resulted in 19 player deaths and 137 serious injuries.[1]  Many may have been hoping for more of a spectacle than an enjoyable day at the game.

From the Shelby News, 13 December 1894

1897 Football Team, The Ohio State University, from the 1898 Makio.

Wellington Leonard spearheaded the effort to get a team to Mansfield for a Thanksgiving Day match-up.  Leonard, along with fellow gridder Charles Benedict, had the distinction of playing on the worst Ohio State team ever. The 1897 team went 1-7-1.[2]  Leonard first attempted to get Mt. Union’s eleven to Mansfield for a contest.  The Mt. Union team demanded a $50 guarantee and paid expenses to come to Mansfield.[3] The guarantee proved to be too much and Leonard contacted Heidelberg College who would accept the offer and make the trip to Mansfield.[4]  This was not the first time a Mansfield eleven squared off against Heidelberg. In 1892 a team from the Mansfield YMCA sent their best to Tiffin to play Heidelberg in the college’s first season.  Many in Mansfield expected the local boys to be slaughtered,[5] but Mansfield prevailed winning 10-6.[6]  Heidelberg would get revenge in 1893, beating Mansfield 36-10.[7]

Wellington Leonard and Charles Benedict

The weather was nearly perfect for the game and a “foot ball parade around town” proceed the contest.  The players and fans rode carriages, the wailing of tin horns was heard, and the colors of both teams were on display, red for Mansfield.  At 2:30 nearly 1000 fans assembled at baseball grounds after paying their admission, .50 for men and .25 for women and children, and watched one the best exhibitions of the sport Mansfield had seen to date.  Prior to the game,0 Heidelberg was 2-to-1 favorites and it was understood that a considerable amount of money changed hands.[8]

The starting eleven for the Mansfield All-Collegians was University of Wisconsin Alum, F. W. Oleson at left end; Thomas Hall, a Cornell man, at left tackle; George Hall at left guard, it’s unclear if the two were related; University of Pennsylvania alum, James H. Waganhurst at center; Frank Voegele at right guard; Elmer Fitch, who played on the Oberlin and Cornell teams, at right tackle; another Oberlin man and possibly the best athlete on the field, Howard Twitchell at right end; captain, Walter Floyd at quarterback; Charles Benedict started at left halfback next to his brother, Dr. LeRoy Benedict, at right halfback; and finally, Wellington Leonard filled in at fullback.[9]

Elmer Fitch at Oberlin College

The first twenty-minute half was hard fought.  Dr. Benedict ran hard, carrying the ball down to Heidelberg’s 25-yard line on one play. On the following play, Mansfield fumbled and Heidelberg picked the ball up and “ran like the wind for the Mansfield goal.”  The fleet-footed Twitchell gave chase and made a spectacular tackle, saving a touchdown.  Mansfield made another push for Heidelberg’s goal line but fumbled again.  When the first half finished tied at 0-0, “Dr. Benedict had suffered several knockouts and one or two other men were slightly cut in the face and bruised.” Benedict, “pluckily decided to remain in the game.”

Before the second half started, the better-conditioned Heidelberg team tried to get the Mansfield men to play a thirty-minute half instead of twenty.  Mansfield declined and the game resumed.  Mansfield took a different approach in the second half. Instead of running around the end, they utilized their size advantage and drove the ball right up the middle.  The Mansfield News reported that it appeared the Mansfield men were playing as if they were back in college.  Dr. Benedict was again injured and had to be carried off the field. Oleson took his place in the backfield and Vivian Abernathy, the Mansfield High football coach in 1901, took Oleson’s spot.  Just as time expired, Mansfield pushed the ball over the Heidelberg goal line, earning them 5 points and the game,[10] but there may have been some disagreement as the official Heidelberg records list the result as a 0-0 tie.[11]  When the game ended, Dr. Benedict recovered enough to be able to walk to the street cars and Mansfield fans celebrated one of the finest games they had ever seen.


  3. 25OCT1901p3
  4. 16NOV191p2
  5. 04DEC1892p8MDS_YmcaVHeidelberg
  6. 08DEC1892p5_1MDS
  8. The Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 29 November 1901.
  9. ibid.
  10. ibid.