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

From Church to Tavern: The Old First Presbyterian Church

When the new First Presbyterian Church was built in 1893 on North Mulberry Street, the old church remained a city landmark for another 45 years.  It was initially used for a variety of small shops including a second-hand store run by W. Frank McGuire, a harness shop run by John Ervin[1], and a tin and repair shop owned by Al Andrews.  Oftentimes vagrants would be caught sleeping in the basement of the building.  This didn’t appear to be an issue until items from the shops disappeared.[2]  In April of 1900, the Salvation Army moved their headquarters into the building[3], but their time in the old church would last only a year.  The Presbyterian Church sold the building to William Arnold and George Wagner, owners of the Arnold & Wagner Saloon at 23 South Main St, for $8,000[4].

Old First Presbyterian Church on the corner of South Park and South Diamond.

Wagner had big plans for the building when interviewed by the Mansfield News on July 25, 1901.  The church was to be remodeled into a vaudeville theater with seating for 600 to 700 persons.  The price of tickets would be 10 and 20 cents, depending on the seat, and a saloon would be located in the basement.  When Wagner was asked about the Salvation Army remaining in the building he replied, “No, they wouldn’t pay enough.”  A month earlier, the church board and members appeared to be under the impression that the property would not be used for a saloon.  A letter signed by Arnold and Wagner, which was read to church members, stated, “the undersigned say for themselves that at the time the contract was made with the board of trustees they had no intention of using this property for saloon purposes and that they have no intention at this date (June 12) of using the property as such purposes.” 

The church around 1897, before it was sold by the First Presbyterian Church.

On August 31, 1901, Arnold & Wagner’s Saloon had its grand opening in the former Sunday school room of the Presbyterian church.  The old church had been renovated with the removal of the steeple and “the marble slab near the front of the church [had] been boarded over and [contained] the words ‘Union Home.’  The cornerstone laid Sept. 17, 1858, [had] been turned upside down and at the corner of the building [was] a lager beer sign.” Another beer sign stood at the former entrance to the Sunday school room on South Diamond, now the entrance to the saloon.[5]  The saloon also reportably featured a wine room that catered to female patrons. The saloon would often have as many women as men in the establishment[6].

The celebration was short-lived. By October 24, 1901, George Wagner was suing William Arnold and the Presbyterian Church.  A few days later, the building was sold to George W. Bricker[7], but Wagner continued to rent the basement for his saloon.  William Arnold would open Arnold & Co. at 151 North Main. Wagner was no stranger to the law. He sold meals to the jail for prisoners, but also frequently violated the law by selling to underage patrons and opening before 6 AM, which defied the city ordinance.

In this image of the May Building from 1907, part of the old church building, minus the steeple, is visable just past the Orphium Theatre.

Local religious leaders began using the transformation of the old church building as an analogy for the human body.  Dr. F. A. Gould presented a sermon titled “From Church to Saloon; a study of Spiritual Degradation.”   Gould commented that many men, like the church building, had been “wrecked and ruined by strong drink,” but that it was possible to reclaim the body, just as a fine church in Chicago was given new life when worship returned.  Wagner stayed at the old church building until about 1905 when he opened Wagner & Noutz at 21 East Fourth St. with his son-in-law, Frank Noultz.

The 1,300 seat Park Theater opened on September 15, 1938 (Photo from the Mansfield News-Journal, 15 Sep 1938, p. 8)

Later, Charles E. Martin & Bros., copper and iron workers, moved into the building and, in the 1920’s, it was home the The Quality Motor Sales Co. Finally it was the location of the Park Garage and Service Station before being torn down. The old church stood on the corner of South Park and South Diamond until 1938 when the Park Theater was constructed.  The theater was designed by local architect Charles Conklin and noted theater architect Victor A. Rigaumont.   The building was remodeled into the Park Office Building in 1964 and still stands today.


  1. 1899 Mansfield City Directory. P. 54.
  2. Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 18 OCT 1900, p. 6.
  3. Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 08 April 1900, p. 4.
  4. Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 07 Jun 1901, p. 6.
  5. Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 03 September 1907, p. 8.
  6. Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 18 May 1903, p. 3.
  7. Mansfield News (Mansfield, Ohio). 28 October 1901, p. 2.
  8. Featured image from

First United Methodist Church

Methodism has been a part of Richland County since the county’s inception.  One of the earliest preachers in Methodism to live in the area was Rev. James Copus, who arrived in 1809 with his family, and settled along the Black Fork River in Mifflin Township.  Three years later, Copus and three soldiers would be killed by Native Americans when they felt they had been double-crossed by Copus after their home, Greentown, was burned to the ground.  From Copus and other traveling ministers, the seed of Methodism was planted in Richland County and many congregations would grow out of the movement.

One of the first preachers of any denomination to live in Mansfield was Rev. Dr. William B. James.  James came to Mansfield in 1814 when the town consisted of only two block-houses and 22 cabins.  One of these cabins was constructed by James at the northwest corner of East Third and Water (today North Adams) streets.  James’ cabin stood for nearly one hundred years, being one of the last of the original cabins to survive.  Many early services were held in James’ cabin.  In 1816 James would lay out the town on Petersburg, today Mifflin, in Ashland County and later, after he remarried after the death of his first wife, move to Vermillion County, Indiana.  James would die in 1826 of cholera while on a trip to New Orleans.

In 1818 construction began on the first church, located on lot 56, on what is today North Adams St.  Matthias Day was hired as master carpenter and, since there was little cash, was paid in wheat, corn, flour, whisky, and even shoe-making.  The congregation quickly outgrew this church and, in 1834, money was raised for the erection of a new church on lot 118, at the corner of what is today Park Ave East and North Adams Street.  The church was completed and dedicated in the fall of 1836 and the previous church was sold to the German Reformed Church in 1840.

First United Methodist Church before renovation.

The congregation again outgrew their 45 by 60 feet, one-story church and it purchased a lot on the east side of Central Park in 1867.  The work of collecting the $33,000 for the new two-story gothic structure began and the new church was dedicated on July 3, 1870.  The structure was brick with a spire stretching 170 feet into the sky.  The structure was 108 feet in length and 50 feet in width.  Much of the finishing and plastering work done inside the church was completed by Mansfield citizen E. D. Lindsey.  This church served the congregation until 1906 when the entire building was renovated.  The old spire in the center of the church was removed and a tower was constructed on the southwest corner.  The red brick was encased in Sandusky limestone and the structure was enlarged to 136 by 60 feet.  The church was almost lost to fire on December 20, 1930. Firemen were able to contain the blaze and save the structure, but almost $16,000 of damage was done to the interior.  The building was again renovated to repair the damage.

Original Plat Map of Mansfield. 1) Site of Rev. Dr. William B. James cabin. 2) Site of first church. 3) Site of second church. 4) Site of current church.

On July 1, 1956, the cornerstone was laid for a four-story education building containing a chapel, offices, classrooms, parlor, and kitchenette on the east side of the building.  The new addition cost $144,000 and was made of Indiana limestone to match the present church.  In 1973 a three-floor elevator tower was added and complete re-decoration of the Sanctuary was done at a cost of $186,000.  In 1977 new stained glass windows were installed on the east side of the education building and, in 1980, Heritage Room was established to display some early church records.


  1. One Hundred Fifty Years of Methodism in Mansfield and Richland County. (1964)
  2. First United Methodist Church – 170 years. (1984)
  3. Mansfield Herald (Mansfield, Ohio). 7 July 1870
  4. The Mansfield News Journal (Mansfield, Ohio). 01 October 1967, p. 5D