Mansfield Public Square 1830

This drawing depicts the Mansfield Public Square in 1830.

MANSFIELD -- In the early settlement days of Richland County (which at the time included Loudonville and Perrysville) there was an intense -- and only somewhat friendly -- rivalry between the settlers along the Clear Fork and Black Fork rivers.

According to A.A. Graham, "These two regions were always at enmity, and always getting up fights with each other."

With neighbors few and far between, social parties would occasionally bring everyone together to escape the loneliness of frontier life. These parties generally consisted of cabin raisings, log-rollings, quilting parties, corn huskings, and sporting events such as gymnastics and shooting matches.

The parties often consisted of actual work, with belief in the saying that many hands make light work: log-rollings consisted of settlers from miles around bringing handspikes, oxen and axes to cut and haul together large heaps of logs to be dried and then set on fire. At night, the young settlers would play "goal" and "round-town" by the light of the fire.

Wood-choppings and quiltings consisted of the men cutting enough wood to last the winter while the women sewed quilts and other goods to keep the families warm. There was usually a fiddle or two, and there was always plenty of whiskey.

The highlight, however, was the fighting.

"Every neighborhood had its bully or chief fighter, and these were pitted against each other like game-cocks."

One such fight took place in Mansfield's public square: The Blackforkers were represented by the Prossers, Burrels and Pittengers with Jonathan Prosser as the prized fighter.

The Clearforkers, on the other hand, were lead by the notorious thugs and thieves of the Driskill-Brodie gang, with Stephen Brodie their champion.

The Clearforkers hitched their horses to the North American corner of the square, and soon the Blackforkers rode up. The fight is relayed by Mr. John M. May, the first lawyer in Mansfield:

"Jonathan Prosser jumped off his horse and told Brodie he was going to whip him. I saw there was to be a fight, so I and Sylvenus Day mounted a big stump on the square to see the fun. A crowd gathered and join hands, forming a ring around the champions. Prosser and Brodie stepped into this ring, stripped and prepared for battle. They looked like giants.

"The fight soon commenced, and was going on in due order, according to the rules of the ring, when suddenly Bill Slater (of the Clearforkers), who was outside, made a rush to break through the ring. As he came up, Burrell let go and knocked him down like a beef. I thought he was dead.

"The ring was re-formed, and the fight continued as before. Pretty soon, however, Slater came to and was raising up, caught Burrell by the leg, threw him down, and getting on top of him, began pounding him. This brought on a general fight, and all hands went in with a will. The result was, the Clearforkers came out ahead."

The fights often ended in general melees between whole communities.

More information on the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum can be found at this link.

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