MANSFIELD, indiana

Mansfield, In. (also called Mansfield VillageDicksons MillsDixons MillsDublin or New Dublin) is located in Jackson Township, Parke County, Indiana.

The village was originally named New Dublin by James Kelsey in 1820, and within a couple of years the village was called Dickn’s Mills, and then Strain’s Mills before it became known as Mansfield in the 1930s.

The village of Mansfield prospered and grew because of a roller mill that was built by James Kelsey and Francis Dickson, in 1820. As the milling industry became popular the village grew into a thriving town of more than 300 people. A sash mill and carding mill were added, and the little town grew with the addition of a general store, blacksmith, cooperage, and wagon maker. As the population expanded a church and a school were organized.

The Parke County Covered Bridge Festival is a fall festival which takes place in nine communities in Parke County, Indiana. It celebrates the county’s 31 covered bridges, and is attended by more than 2 million people each year. It begins on the 2nd Friday in October and lasts 10 days. The festival began in 1957, when a group of local women decided to hold a three-day festival to accommodate the many  interested tourists looking for information about the bridges.

Nowadays Mansfield’s population is approximately 20, with no school and even the shop opens by appointment!

The Mansfield Roller Mill or Mansfield Mill was a (gristmill) that was built in 1820 by James Kelsey and Francis Dickson and has always run on water power from Big Racoon Creek. The original mill was a 30-foot (9.1 m) by 30-foot (9.1 m) log building.

Mansfield Roller Mill

According to legend, glacial stones from a nearby farm were used for grinding. In the mid-19th century a sash saw mill and a carding mill were added to the grist mill. The mill is a state historic site still in operation. The Mansfield Roller Mill in Parke county in the City of Mansfield, Indiana now runs by water turbine engines.  (a fabulous building well worth a visit, Steve, Mansfield, England).

The Mansfield Covered Bridge is located in Parke County, Indiana in the village of Mansfield, Indiana and was designed and built by J. J. Daniels in 1867 to cross the Big Raccoon Creek in Parke County, IN. The Bridge is 247 feet long and creates a picturesque environment for artist and photographers alike

The Mansfield Covered Bridge is located at Mansfield Rd. (historic) and Big Raccoon Creek in Mansfield IN 47872, just southeast of Rockville, Indiana.

Mansfield Restoration Covered Bridge Festival is usually held around mid-October in the tiny hamlet with a population of only 20.  It is estimated by festival officials that over two million tourists visit the Covered Bridge Festival each year. That is a truly amazing feat during the ten-day period. Each year visitors come from throughout the world to see the many historic sites and eat and shop at the some 4000 vendors in the county. Mansfield is by far the largest, popular and most visited venue during the Covered Bridge Festival.  2011 sees the 55th year of the Festival.

Mansfield Indiana hosts a working grist mill on Raccoon Creek at Mansfield Indiana just above Brazil IN on Route 59. A very nice place to visit anytime for a Saturday or Sunday drive. Home of many festivals including the Covered Bridge Festival in October and the Mushroom Festival in April.

Our contact there sent this information:

“Lena and Mansfield are the only two villages within this (Jackson) township. The older of these is Mansfield. The log cabin of Mr. Kelsey must have been the beginning of what was then literally and truly a “man’s-field”, although in a very wild state. No finer mill-site was to be found anywhere in the country that at this point.

The bed of the Big Raccoon creek is here a solid rock, affording an indestructible foundation for both a dam and a mill. A mill was constructed here about 1820. Thomas Woolverton, who purchased land in Union township in 1820, helped to raise this mill, and he departed that year for Virginia, where he remained five years, then found the mill in operation upon his return. So few white men were present in the neighborhood that Indians were pressed into assisting in the “raising” of this mill. It was thirty feet square. It was owned by several persons, including Kelsey & Dickson, Judge S. Gookins of Terre Haute, and Gen G. K. Steele, later falling into the hands of Jacob Rohm. It was torn down and another built on the old site in 1880. Mr Gookins laid out the village of Mansfield. A post office was established in 1825, the mail came from Terre Haute. In 1829, G. K. Steele opened a store here, he became owner of the mill property in 1838, continuing in both store and mill until 1846.

In the history of Mansfield, the ladies of the village and county around performed one deed that should live in history. Prior to the war, (Civil War) and during that struggle, Mansfield was harboring (a great deal of) intemperance within her midst. Rising in their majesty, they made open war upon the traffic, and with their own efforts rolled barrels of liquor into the streets and spilled the contents. Mrs Samuel Johnston was one of the leaders in this whisky insurrection. The ladies were victorious and Mansfield drew full inspirations of pure air. Later another saloon was started in a building standing on the bank of the creek. One night some citizens hitched oxen to it and drew it over into the creek, whose waters did the rest!

Today Mansfield is a very small rural community whose livelihood is farming and tourism in the form of the many festivals of the area, the largest of which is the “Covered Bridge Festival of Parke County” drawing a respectable crowd of about 300,000 during its two week period.

The present day village of Mansfield began with two men and a mill. In 1820, Francis Dickson and James Kelsey traveled Big Raccoon creek and chose the natural sandstone ford as the location for their mill. The spot not only offered easy crossing of the stream, but also was located on the Indian trail from Fort Harrison to Cornstalk village. Early accounts suggest families were beginning to move into the area, but no permanent buildings were present. Those early families, the Wolverton, Bullington, Kalley, Nelson, and Hubbard’s, along with the Wea Indians still in the area, assisted in erecting the first mill and dam. The first mill was believed to be a log building thirty feet square.

Families began to settle in the area around the village, which Mr. Kelsey first named New Dublin. As more families moved in, they built homes and businesses such as a sawmill and a carding mill close to the gristmill. In 1825, Francis Dickson opened a general store and was named the first postmaster. A blacksmith and wagon maker came to town, as well as

a cooper. George Hansel built flat boats, which took products from the area to New Orleans. All because of the first mill, the village was formed.The name of the village changed to reflect ownership of the mill, first Dickson’s Mills, and later Strain’s Mills. The name Mansfield was given to the village in 1852. Some believe the name came from settlers from Mansfield, Ohio, which has similar sandstone, others believe it was named after Mansfield, England. The town was platted by Samuel Gookins in 1852. The Methodist Church was built in 1858 and is still in use today by an independent Christian congregation. Local hands built the school and the first teacher was Harrison Y. Payne.

Other than the mill, Mansfield is best known for its sandstone. Since man first entered Big Raccoon Valley, the stone found in this area has been used for building. The quarry was opened in 1869 and stone was used for covered bridge foundations and other buildings throughout Parke County. In the 1880’s, the Chicago Brownstone Company owned the quarry, and stone was shipped to the East Coast as well as Chicago for use in brownstone houses. At its peak, the quarry employed seventy-five men and shipped a rail car of stone per day, using a railroad spur built to the quarry. The quarry has reopened recently, and stone is once again being cut.

The stone from Mansfield comes in a variety of colors and is very durable. When first cut, the stone is easily carved, making it useful for decorative work. As it ages, the stone becomes harder. Currently, the stone is used for restoration of buildings from the last century, as well as new structures such as the new Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis.

From humble beginnings, through boom times as well as bust, the mill has defined the town. After Francis Dickson, other mill owners included General G.K. Steele, Samuel Gookins, Stephen John, Peter Bird, Tarlton Toney, and John Murphy. Mr. Murphy’s brother James was in charge of the mill in 1875 when it was sold to Jacob Rohm. It was the Rohm family who made the mill what it is today.

Jacob Rohm came from a Pennsylvania milling family, but had been building and running mills throughout the Midwest. He purchased the Mansfield Mill in 1875 and moved his family to the town, living in the mill until a house could be purchased. In 1880, he built the original section of the present mill and tore down the old one. He made additions to the building to keep up to date with changes in the milling industry. It was the first mill in the area to convert from stone grinding to roller milling for making white flour. Jacob’s sons, George W. and E.H. Calvin purchased the Mansfield Mill and eventually owned five others in Parke County. The business was known as Rohm Brothers and Company.

Near the turn of the last century, other businesses in town included stores owned by the Kemper family, A.H. Smith, and Nimrod Derman. Mr. Hardesty owned the blacksmith shop and one of the workers was Jacob Rohm’s brother, D.F. Rohm. The town boasted three doctors, a school, church and a sawmill. The 1900 census showed the population as 300.

By the mid- 1920’s the milling business went into decline. The Rohm family went into receivership and
in2the mill was sold at sheriff’s auction for back taxes. Len Reeves, whose father had been the deliveryman for Rohm Brothers, purchased it. Len and later his son, Harry operated the mill as a feed mill until 1968, still using waterpower.

The population of Mansfield began to decline after World War II. The quarry closed. Jobs were scarce in the area, and the farms continued to be small family operations. After the mill closed in 1968, the only remaining business was the general store still owned by the Kemper family. It closed in 1979, ending an era of ownership that began in the 1850’s.

A new era of tourism was beginning in the town. Parke County, which is known for its covered bridges, began actively seeking tourists. The Mansfield covered bridge, built by J.J. Daniels in 1867, as well as the mill attracted visitors from all over the world. The natural beauty of the Big Raccoon Valley framed by the 247-foot bridge and the three-story mill proved to be a photographers and artists delight. Today, over a million people pass through the village during the various festivals and the summer months. An amazing fact, considering the currently population is less than 20 people.

We hope you will be able to visit Mansfield, and the Mill, which is now part of the Indiana State Museum system to take in the beauty and history of the area. Thank you for letting us share our story.”