W. E. Sefton: Reformatory Superintendent and Civil War Veteran

William Edgar Sefton was born in Norwalk, Ohio, February 11th, 1841, to Thomas and Jane (nee Weible) Sefton.

It was only shortly after he was born that his parents moved to Ashland county, where Sefton grew up working on the farm and attending the local schools. When he was eighteen, he began working to become a blacksmith, but this pursuit was never to be. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Civil War, and in 1861 he enlisted with the newly formed company G of the Twenty-Third Ohio Infantry Regiment. The Twenty-Third is a well-known unit for many reasons, the first of which is that two soldiers from this regiment would later become United States presidents and a third would become a United States Senator. In fact, William McKinley specifically served in Company G, the same company as Sefton. The other future president who served in the Twenty-Third was Rutherford B. Hayes.

One of the other reasons Sefton’s company is well-known is because of the number of important battles they served in. Sefton personally fought in the following battles: Carnifex Ferry, West Virginia, September 10, 1861; Princeton, West Virginia, May 15, 1862; South Mountain, September 14, 1862; Antietam, September 17, 1862; Cloyd Mountain, May 9, 1864; New River Bridge, May 10, 1864; and Buffalo Gap, June 6, 1864. Sefton was injured at the Battle of Cloyd Mountain in 1864, but continued to serve as a corporal until his term of service expired June 10th, 1864.

After the war, Sefton took up work with the Etna Manufacturing Company, then became a traveling salesman and agent for the C. Aultman Company of Canton for about thirteen years. From there, he worked in several capacities for the Princess Plow Company, eventually becoming the general manager before leaving the company.

It was at this point that Sefton changed his line of work, and 1896 he was elected as the first assistant superintendent of the newly-opened (though still under construction) Ohio State Reformatory, under the supervision of the first Superintendent W. D. Patterson. Even as Assistant Superintendent, his duties were significant, as was apparent in the first two months of his tenure, during which there were multiple escapees from the Reformatory. In October 1896, William Kelly took advantage of a guard’s negligence to escape through a cellar door while he was supposed to be washing windows. The guard failed to report the escape to Deputy Superintendent Sefton immediately, and after this incident Sefton changed the way in which guards patrolled the border and tightened up security.

Less than six months after being elected, Patterson resigned as the Reformatory Superintendent, and Sefton took over the position. He established a prison library of more than 300 volumes, and continued to manage a staff of more than 30 people with 350 inmates in residence at the Reformatory.

Although Sefton’s tenure as superintendent was longer than Patterson’s, it was only three years after taking the position that Sefton resigned, citing ill health. He returned to his home in Mt. Vernon and returned to the apparently less strenuous work of a salesperson, continuing on in this field until he became ill, and died on December 9th, 1918 from complications of the illness.


  • Baughman, A.J. Centennial Biographical History of Richland County.
  • Roster of Ohio Soldiers, War of the Rebellion, Vol. III
  • Butler Enterprise, 22 October 1896, page 1.
  • Mansfield News,  17 December 1900, page 1.
  • “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch
  • Mansfield News, 10 December 1918, page 4.

Nathan O. Smith: Richland County’s First to Fall in the Civil War

Nathan O. Smith was born on October 23, 1834, in Madison Township, Richland County, Ohio[1] to Elisha D Smith and Mary (Page) Smith.  Nathan’s father died on November 4, 1844,[2] leaving Mary a widow with two sons: Nathan and his older brother, Socrates Seneca Smith.  The 1850 U.S. Census shows them still living in Madison Township where Nathan and Socrates were farmers.[3]  In 1852 Nathan and his brother enrolled in the Norwalk Institute in Norwalk, Ohio.[4]  The school was originally a private, Methodist school called the Norwalk Seminary and it opened in 1838.  In 1846 a Baptist church purchased the building and renamed it the Norwalk Institute. The building was later called Central High School under the Ohio public school system.   The brothers returned to Richland County where Nathan became a school teacher and Socrates continued farming.[5]

On April 15, 1861, just three days after the attack on Fort Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling forth the state militias, to the sum of 75,000 troops, in order to suppress the rebellion. He appealed “to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union.” As days passed, senators noted the tremendous response to the president’s call for troops. “The response of the loyal states to the call of Lincoln was perhaps the most remarkable uprising of a great people in the history of mankind,” wrote Senator John Sherman of Ohio. “Within a few days the road to Washington was opened, but the men who answered the call were not soldiers, but citizens.”[6]

Nathan felt compelled to answer this call and entered the service on April 23, 1861.[7]  Two days later, the company under the command of Moses R. Dickey left for Columbus.  The company was presented with a silk flag in the public square, which was accepted by Capt. Dickey on behalf of the soldiers.  They then proceeded, followed by citizens of “town and country”, to the junction to meet their train and start their journey.[8]  The men soon arrived at Camp Jackson in Columbus.  Here Capt. Dickey was appointed Lt. Col. of the 15th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry and Hiram Miller was promoted to Captain of Company H of the 15th Regiment.  They then made their way to Camp Goddard in Zanesville, where they remained until late May “drilling, disciplining and preparing for the field.”[9]

dickey moses

Capt. Moses R. Dickey

The Regiment then made their way to West Virginia, which was still Virginia at the time, and saw their first action on June 3 at Phillippi, West Virginia.  On June 29, 1861, in a town in Upshur County, West Virginia, a group of secession cavalry entered the town in an attempt to intimidate voters.[10]  The rebels began to flee and Captain Miller and some of his men charged them fearing they would escape.  Nathan O. Smith fired on the rebels and was hit in the head by a return shot.  The bullet hit over the left ear, penetrating the brain and lodging in the right cheek.  He died about a half-hour later and was the first Richland County citizen killed in the war.  Three rebels were also killed, including the man who shot Smith.[11]

nosmith grave

Nathan O. Smith’s grave in Windsor Park Cemetery from findagrave.com

The remains of Smith arrived in Mansfield on July 4, 1861, and he was taken to Windsor, where friends and family lived and buried in Windsor Park Cemetery.[12]  That day Capt. Miller wrote a letter to the editors of the Herald:

Rowlesburg, July 4th, 1861.

The circumstances connected with the fall of N. O. Smith will doubtless reach you through other sources.  It is due to him to say, I never saw a better man or soldier.  He never missed a roll-call; he never took an oath and never made use of a vulgar expression during his connection with Company H.  He was always the first to volunteer for any duty.  He was with us upon all our severe marches, and always had a pleasant smile for those who addressed him.  Every member of the company loved him and feel that they have lost a true friend and brave comrade, who fell while defending the cause of his country.

Yours Respectfully,
H. Miller
Captain Co. H. 15th Reg. O. V. I.[13]

The company arrived home from their three-month engagement on August 2, 1861.  The courthouse bell was rung and citizens hurried to greet the returning soldiers.  They marched up Main Street to the square where their journey had begun.  L. B. Matson greeted them and welcomed them home.  Smith was not forgotten in Matson’s remarks: “We mourn the loss of but one of your number, the brave and noble N. O. Smith, who fell as you men were prepared to do, on the field of battle in defense of our common rights.”[14]

[1] Graham, Albert A., History of Richland County, p. 821.
[2] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/10851224/elisha-d-smith
[3] 1850 U.S. Census
[4] Ancestry.com. U.S., School Catalogs, 1765-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
[5] 1860 U.S. Census
[6] The Civil War: The Senate’s Story, https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/civil_war/LincolnEmergencySession_FeaturedDoc.htm
[7] Ohio. Roster Commission. (18861895). Official roster of the soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, Vol. 1. Akron: Werner Co..
[8] Captain Dickey’s Company. Daily Shield and Banner. 01 MAY 1961, p. 2
[9] Ohio. Roster Commission. (18861895). Official roster of the soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, Vol. 1. Akron: Werner Co..
[10] From Grafton. Daily Intelligencer. 02 JUL 1862, p. 2.
[11] Death of N. O. Smith – Correction. Mansfield Semi-Weekly Herald. 10 JUL 1861, p. 4
[12] Arrival of the Body of N. O. Smith. Mansfield Semi-Weekly Herald. 06 JUL 1861, p. 4
[13] Death of N. O. Smith – Correction. Mansfield Semi-Weekly Herald. 10 JUL 1861, p. 4
[14] Return of Capt. Miller’s Company. Mansfield Semi-Weekly Herald. 03 AUG 1861, p. 4

The Sherman Room Digital Archive

There is a new digital archives website available from The Sherman Room at the Mansfield Richland County Public Library.  There are postcard images, photographs, school newspapers, Civil War Letters and, for the first time, digital copies of school yearbooks.  This is just the beginning.  In the future, we will be adding many more materials from our collection to the archive.  There is also a feature where you can contribute your own items to the “Digital Community Scrapbook” and share items through many social media platforms.

OSR Postcard021

Vintage Postcard Collection

Along with coin and stamp collecting, Deltiology, or postcard collecting, is one of the largest collectible hobbies in the world. Postcards are popular because of the wide range of subjects, from historical buildings, famous people, art, holidays and more. These images can be used to help trace the history of a place and show what buildings and people were important to a community at that time. This collection shows various scenes from Mansfield and Richland County, Ohio, the dates ranging primarily from 1890-1920.  There are currently almost 300 images, with more to come.


North Main Street, 1913 flood–near intersection with 5th Street. Second Hand store, (left) was located at 178 N. Main.

Photo Collection

This collection of Mansfield and Richland County images represents photographs dating back to the late nineteenth century. Included are historic views of Mansfield, including downtown and industrial areas.  This collection is small and still growing and there are more images available on our page on the Cleveland Memory Project.  These, along with many others, will be on the new site in the future.

Yearbook Collections

This collection currently contains yearbooks for Mansfield Senior High School up to the year 1961.  Thanks to the Mansfield local schools, we have been given permission to digitize up to the year 2000 and will also include digital versions of Malabar High School.  St. Peter’s High School has also agreed to allow digital versions of their yearbooks to be available.

School Newspapers

Currently St. Peter’s High School’s newspaper, The Key, from 1963-1970 is available online.  This covers the years when the school did not produce a yearbook.  Later newspapers from John Simpson, Johnny Appleseed, Malabar High School and Mansfield Senior High will be added.

Civil War Letters

This collection contains the Civil War Letters of the Cummins Brothers.  George and Abraham Cummins were no different than the hundreds of thousands of other young men who answered the call of the President to restore the Union that had been torn apart by the American Civil War. Both brothers were members of Co. I of the 15th Ohio Volunteer Infantry–a group organized by their father, William, and made up primarily of young men from the Shelby area. Happily, both men survived the war and returned to Richland County to continue their lives.

Digital Community Scrapbook

Finally, we have recently added a feature were you are able to submit your own images.   After they are approved by our administrator, the images will be available for anyone to see through the website.  Not only can images be submitted, you can also share a story or memory you have of Mansfield from the past.  Help us share the story of our community.

The site is searchable:

In order to search the yearbooks, select Advanced Search by selecting the three dots next to the search bar at the top right of the page.  Enter the name of the person you are searching in the Search for Keywords field and select Mansfield High School Annual – 1907-1923 or The Manhigan 1924-present under Search by Collection.  This will display a list of annuals that person appears in.  After you click on the desired yearbook you can search again, at the top right of the screen, to find the exact page where they are listed.  As of today on up to 1942 is searchable, but the other volumes will be added shortly.

In order to search the St. Peter’s Newspapers, select Advanced Search by selecting the three dots next to the search bar at the top right of the page.  Enter the name of the person you are searching in the Search for Keywords field and select The Key News – St. Peter’s High School under Search by Collection. This will display a list of issues that person appears in. After you click on the desired issue you can view the entire issue by clicking on the image of the front page.

I hope you enjoy this new resource.

The Early Life of H. L. Reed

Horace Lafayette Reed was born in Rootstown, Portage County, Ohio on November 13, 1840.  He attended school in the area, became a teacher, and was to begin teaching in the fall of 1862 when he decided to answer President Lincoln’s second call for troops in June of 1862.  Reed enlisted on August 1, 1862 as a private in company I of the 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  The regiment, comprised of soldiers from Stark, Columbia, Summit and Portage counties, was organized at Camp Massillon and was mustered into service on August 30, 1862.

P-25 Horace reed portrait

H. L. Reed in 1896

On September 1st the regiment left for Cincinnati and assisted in defending the city when they crossed the Ohio River into Covington, KY.  It was here they saw their first action resulting in one soldier being killed and five others wounded.  These were the only casualties of the conflict.  On September 12th the regiment marched in pursuit of the Confederate Army towards Lexington.  They reached Lexington on October 15th shortly after the Confederates had evacuated.  The regiment stayed there until December 6th when they marched to Richmond, KY, then to Danville, Harrodsburg and back to Danville where they expected to engage the enemy, but found little resistance.

The regiment stayed in this area of Kentucky, during which time Horace Reed was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, until they made their way to Knoxville, TN in early September of 1863.  The regiment joined General Burnside’s army in East Tennessee and saw little action until the Siege of Knoxville in late November 1863, where a number of men were lost and wounded.  They stayed in this portion of Tennessee until April of 1864 when they were ordered to Cleveland, TN to prepare for the Atlanta Campaign.  The first major conflict of the Atlanta Campaign for the 104th was the Battle of Utoy Creek.  Twenty-six men were either killed or wounded, in a desperate assault made on the 6th of August.  It was shortly after this that Reed was made 1st Lieutenant on August 19, 1864.


Battle of Franklin, by Kurz and Allison (1891).

The regiment marched through Georgia, Alabama and back to Tennessee tearing up railroads and guarding communication lines.  The 104th made its way to Franklin, TN and participated in the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, where the Union Army lost 2,326 men (189 Killed) and the Confederates lost 6,252 men (1,750 killed).   Of these, 60 were killed or wounded from the 104th OVI, including Captain David D. Bard of Company I.  After the battle, the regiment marched to Nashville, TN, reaching the city on December 1st.  They participated in a small skirmish on the 15th and 16th of December pursuing the enemy to Clifton, TN where they remained until January 16th.


1865 Map of Fort Anderson, NC

On February 16, 1865, the 104th crossed the Cape Fear River and landed in Smithville, NC.  On February 18th, Reed led troops toward Fort Anderson and had a skirmish with the Confederate Army.  Two men were killed and 20 other wounded.  One of those 20 was 1st Lieutenant Horace L. Reed who was shot through both his legs below the knees.  Reed was discharged May 15, 1865 for wounds received at Fort Anderson.  The regiment participated in one more conflict at Town Creek, NC on February 20, 1865 before being mustered out on June 17, 1865.

Reed made his way to Mansfield shortly after the war and went into business with his brother J. H. Reed, eventually becoming one of the most successful and respected merchants in the city.


Baughman, A. J. (1908) History of Richland County, Vol. 2.
Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, Vol. 7.
Pinney, N. A. (1886). History of the 104th regiment Ohio volunteer infantry from 1862 to 1865.
Reid, Whitelaw. (1868) Ohio in the War, Vol. 2.