Mansfield Blockhouse and Log Cabin
Mansfield’s South Park is the location of two early 19th century structures: a blockhouse and a log cabin. The blockhouse was constructed by militiamen in the early days of the War of 1812 to defend against Native American attacks. It later served as Richland County’s first courthouse, jail, church, and school. The blockhouse was largely rebuilt for the city’s centennial celebration in 1908 and summarily relocated to South Park, where it was used for a number of different functions. In 2015, the Richland Early American Center for History (REACH) disassembled a circa 1820s log cabin in Mifflin and, over the next several years, rebuilt it in South Park. Today, REACH opens the blockhouse in the summer, hosts special events (including reenactments), and continues to work on restoring the cabin. Their plan is to create a living history village in the park.
Backstory and Context
Mansfield was a tiny frontier community when the War of 1812 erupted. Militiamen in the area soon built blockhouses in the region to defend against Native American raids. Eleven were constructed in the vicinity, but two specifically were built in the courthouse square: one by Captain Williams and his militia and another by Captain Shaffer. After the Battle of the Thames (also known as the Battle of Moraviantown), the blockhouses were abandoned by military forces. From 1813 to 1816, the Richland County Courthouse was located in Captain Williams’s blockhouse. It also served as the first jail, church, and school. Both Williams’s and Shaffer’s blockhouses were auctioned off in 1816; Shaffer’s eventually disappeared, but may have been scavenged for use in the construction of the new courthouse.
Williams’s blockhouse passed between several owners, who used it as an outbuilding and made paltry attempts to preserve it. It was purchased in 1906 by the Mansfield Centennial Commission and largely rebuilt next to the current courthouse for the city centennial celebration two years later. Most of the upper level was removed and replaced with logs from an early cabin constructed by Captain James Cunningham. In 1909, the blockhouse was relocated to South Park. It was used as a storage building here for two decades. Then, it became headquarters for Boy Scouts of America Troop Number 6, which it remained for over half a century. In 2008, as part of the city’s bicentennial, the blockhouse was restored once again. Heat and electricity were also added to the structure.
In 2015, the Richland Early American Center for History (REACH) disassembled a log cabin in Mifflin, Ohio. This cabin dated back to the 1820s or early 1830s, but it had been hidden under layers of interior walls and exterior siding. They spent the spring and summer removing three kinds of siding and taking apart the interior before breaking down the house piece-by-piece in September. The parts were moved to the Richland County Fairgrounds and, over the next several years, REACH rebuilt it in South Park next to the blockhouse. They hope to finish restoring it and convert it into the center of a living history village in the park. Currently, REACH opens the blockhouse regularly during the summer and hosts special events throughout the year.
Dech, Emily. Pre-Civil War house moves from Mifflin to Mansfield, Richland Source. September 4th 2015. Accessed July 21st 2020. https://www.richlandsource.com/news/pre-civil-war-house-moves-from-mifflin-to-mansfield/article_9768405a-5330-11e5-a0c2-6376f13cb787.html.
Dech, Emily. REACH breaks ground for historic log cabin at South Park, Richland Source. October 30th 2016. Accessed July 21st 2020. https://www.richlandsource.com/news/reach-breaks-ground-for-historic-log-cabin-at-south-park/article_26583316-9eac-11e6-95dd-638c4d44d4f5.html.
Dech, Emily. South Park cabin nears completion thanks to carpenters union, Richland Source. July 14th 2018. Accessed July 21st 2020. https://www.richlandsource.com/news/south-park-cabin-nears-completion-thanks-to-carpenters-union/article_0edcd6c6-8783-11e8-a4d0-c3401b6a8245.html.
Historical Destinations: REACH, RichHistory Alliance. Accessed July 21st 2020. https://richhistory.org/.
The Historic Blockhouse, The Sherman Room at MRCPL. August 31st 2019. Accessed July 21st 2020. https://theshermanroom.wordpress.com/2019/08/31/the-historic-blockhouse/.
McKee, Timothy Brian. Legends of the Square 2: Three notable Stumps, Richland Source. June 23rd 2018. Accessed July 21st 2020. https://www.richlandsource.com/area_history/legends-of-the-square-2-three-notable-stumps/article_1add32e2-73e5-11e8-b52c-ef885e26fc7e.html.
McKee, Timothy Brian. Richland's interesting sequence of county courthouses, Richland Source. April 16th 2016. Accessed July 21st 2020. https://www.richlandsource.com/area_history/richlands-interesting-sequence-of-county-courthouses/article_6265633c-0015-11e6-b6a6-9b62e639967e.html.
Mansfield’s Historic Blockhouse Rededicated at Bicentennial Party, Richland County Foundation. Summer 2008. Accessed July 21st 2020. https://www.richlandcountyfoundation.org/upload/images/fact_sheets/Newletter/NLsummer08.pdf.
Schock, Brittany. Living history comes to South Park in Mansfield on Sept. 8, Richland Source. September 5th 2018. Accessed July 21st 2020. https://www.richlandsource.com/life_and_culture/living-history-comes-to-south-park-in-mansfield-on-sept-8/article_a62a5356-abc7-11e8-bd6d-933ea55f651e.html.
Whitmire, Lou. Mifflin cabin being moved to South Park, Mansfield News Journal. March 24th 2015. Accessed July 21st 2020. https://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/story/news/local/2015/03/23/blockhouse-south-park-company/70349952/.
By William Fischer, Jr. on HMdb.org (https://www.hmdb.org/PhotoFullSize.asp?PhotoID=70062)