Mansfield History

The town site was purchased in 1881 by F.M. Mansfield, a Hartville attorney and George H. Nettleton, a Kansas City railroad surveyor. The first board of trustees for the town included S.W. McNaul, G.W. Freeman, N.N. Nichols, and E.B. Young. G.J. Roote was clerk and Henry Coday treasurer.


The railroad was built through the county in 1882 and Mansfield became the mail and freight distribution point for towns north to Grovespring and south to the Arkansas line. A Post Office was also established this year and three merchants started general stores.


In 1883, the first school was built and the first church, the Presbyterian in 1884. By 1884, a survey of the town was completed and in August, 1886, Mansfield was officially incorporated as a village. Later that same year, city council authorized the building of wood side walks, council was headed by the town's first mayor, G.J. Roote, a mining engineer. Shortly afterward, the first city jail was constructed at a cost of $65.50. William Day, first city marshal, was the chief calaboose keeper.


Because of the establishment of mining companies in the mid-80's , Mansfield became the fastest growing city in the county in the 1890's. In 1900 telephone service became city wide and the city was incorporated as a fourth class city. By 1914, the Mansfield Power and Light Co., was organized and the city came out of the dark. By 1920, Mansfield had gained to a population of 757.


According to the "Mansfield Mirror", the local newspaper, the mining boom was coming to an end in March of 1920. The Mirror reported the Mansfield Mining and Development Company which purchased several hundred acres of land for mining two years ago, is disposing of a part of same in 40 acre tracts for farming purposes. The local dairy industry became an important part of the economy and remains so today.


In the period 1930-40 Mansfield saw little improvement due to depression conditions but did gain in population to 922. The City water mains were relocated and lowered in the latter part of 1933, with Gus Rushing, then city councilman, acting as construction boss. The city built its city hall and firehouse and remodeled the bandstand in the park in May, 1943.


Mansfield's population was 957 as the fifties arrived. A tradition was started in 1953 when Mansfield held its first "Butter Day" in celebration of the dairy industry, this tradition remains today. 1955 brought the towns first major industry when Tobin-Hamilton Shoe Company from St. Louis moved into Mansfield. 1957 was the year Mansfield received the dial phone system but also saw the death of one of its most famous citizens, Laura Ingalls Wilder.


After a disastrous fire on the square in 1960, the citizens voted to approve a $45,000 bond issue for a new fire truck, fire station and city hall. A new fire truck replaced the old 1938 pumper in 1961, and the city hall and fire station building located on North Phelps was completed.


The city began operating its own electric system in 1963 when the system was purchased from Se-Ma-No for $115,000. The steel plant was put into operation in 1970 and the city showed a slight increase with the 1970 census of 1,056. Mansfield's first public housing project was built in 1973 and the 300,000 gallon water storage tank in the industrial park was built. The new 3,000 foot paved and lighted airport runway was completed in 1974. That was also the year Mansfield held its first Wilder festival.


In the year 1977, Mansfield saw the addition of a radio station, KTRI and 20 more units of public housing. The fire department also added a rural fire truck that year. In 1979, the city approved a 7/8 cent city sales tax and the fire department added a new truck, the small 4-wheel drive "quick attack" pumper.


The 1980 census showed 1423 people residing in Mansfield and 1990 census figures showed 1429. The city still operates on a mayor-council type of local government. Our current Mayor is Blake Miller with Sheila Matlock as the City Clerk and Suzanne Miller as Utility Clerk. Aldermen are Mike Roberts, Luke Lawson, Teresa Fry-Green and Eugene Loge. Our fire department has now grown to 14 volunteer fire fighters with 5 full time policemen. The steel plant, Hutchens Industries, is now the largest employer with approximately 350 employees.


Tourism has increased in Mansfield as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum just east of town recorded approximately 40,000 visitors in their 2007 season. The annual Wilder Days Festival is held each year in September. This is an old-fashioned festival in remembrance of the author of the "Little House" book series, who made Mansfield her home. There are a variety of events on the square including craft booths, concessions, contests, games, a parade and lots more entertainment. Residents are also proud to boast the presence of a theater group "Ozark Mountain Players" who perform delightful outdoor musicals "Little House Memories" based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.


The most recent addition for the city is the new city hall and five bay fire station completed in September1998. The complex was constructed on the Business Route 60 north on the old hospital site next to the Library.


A town's future is always shaped by it's history, and in Mansfield we are keeping our history alive as we look forward to the future.