Mansfield Cemetery

Colonial Dames representatives Sharon Hendershot, past state president of Colonial Dames XVII Society, and Kathy Foust, chapter president of John Mackintosh Chapter of Colonial Dames XVII Society, unveil a plaque at the Mansfield Cemetery.

MANSFIELD – After 172 years, the Mansfield Cemetery received its first historical recognition on Sunday, Sept. 17.

At 1 p.m., Iona Shawyer and other representatives of the John Mackintosh Chapter of the National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century presented the cemetery at 389 Altamont Ave, with a bronze plaque. It commemorates the establishment of a true meridian – or pair of stone markers used in surveying.

“The day Iona walked into the office and asked if we would be willing to receive the (plaque), I was so giddy. I knew immediately what a significant act this would be for our cemetery,” said assistant administrator of Mansfield Cemetery Association Pam Bautz.

There are efforts being made at the Mansfield Cemetery Association to become a historic landmark, and Bautz believes this acknowledgement could be a “feather in its hat.”

“Being we are 172 years old and still privately owned and operated, having this (recognition) will help in our endeavor to become registered on the National Historic Register. That could open opportunities up to historic grants in the future to help preserve and restore many old markers across the 300 plus-acre grounds we have.”

True meridian markers were essentially the grandfathers to GPS systems. They were used to plot out rectangular land areas, while accounting for the curvature of the earth.

The marker consists of two stones – the meridian and the sister stone – but in many places, the second stone can’t be found presently. At the Mansfield Cemetery, the sister stone was only recently located.

The stones were installed at the cemetery on Dec. 5, 1866 by local surveyor John Newman, using the surveying methods of Jarod Mansfield. The city is named after Jarod Mansfield, although he never stepped foot in the city.

When Mansfield served as the surveyor general of the northwest territory, he made surveying more consistent and accurate. This technique was used in western Ohio and states even further west.

In February 1866, the General Assembly of Ohio passed a law which authorized the establishment of “lines of true meridian” in several Ohio counties.  According to the Sept. 13, 1866 secretarial notes of the Mansfield Cemetery Association, the Richland County Commissioners approached the Cemetery Board of Trustees for permission to establish the county’s true meridian within the cemetery’s boundaries.

The cemetery paid $175 for this, which Shawyer notes was a significant sum for that time.

On Sunday afternoon, the meridian marker dedication ceremony took place with an invocation by Paul Lintern. The event also featured guest speaker Brian Besecker, a demonstration of surveying in 1866 and a question-and-answer session.

Scott Schaut, of the Mansfield Memorial Museum, was also present. He brought with him a historical display of surveyor tools and a tomahawk, which was given to a militia captain who guarded the surveyors.

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