Mansfield Cemetery gates

Open Source: Was Mansfield Cemetery ever segregated? Yes...but not in the way you think:

Then & Now: Johns Park:

Introducing "Bracing for Impact" a series exploring Knox County's future as the next frontier:


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Today we take a closer look into a question from one of our readers and listeners - Was the Mansfield Cemetery ever segregated? Pam Bautz is a busy woman. Since becoming administrator of the Mansfield Cemetery Association in 2015, she’s buried at least 400 people per year. And after 176 years in existence, Mansfield Cemetery is still quite active. 

In fact, it's the largest cemetery in Richland County — more than 65,000 people are buried here across 100 acres. But the question of where people are buried within Mansfield Cemetery recently struck one of our readers... "Was the Mansfield Cemetery segregated?" 

According to Bautz, the answer is yes...but not in the way you might think. While there are a couple areas in the cemetery that are separated - it was always due to a person's choices, not because of any rule. So going by the simple definition of the word "segregation" - "setting someone or something apart from other people or things." yes - the cemetery was segregated. As for racial segregation, Bautz explained that it never happened within the gates of Mansfield Cemetery. And she says the proof lies in the very ground itself. 

Buried in the middle of the grounds is Frances Ellen Bradford, affectionately known as "Auntie" on her tombstone. Bradford was a Black woman of "remarkable character" that was well-known in Mansfield. Carved into her stone are the words, "The Children's Friend." Bautz says she helped with the Underground Railroad, and she was one of the most sought-after cooks for weddings and parties. Bradford was a mover and shaker for the common good, for freedom for everyone. 

According to Bautz, at the time Bradford was buried in 1887, she would have been interred next to a pond surrounded by weeping willow trees, known to be one of the prettiest areas in Richland County at the time. She is also buried only a few strides away from Revolutionary War soldier Henry Nail, and within sight of Mansfield Hedges Gilkison — the first White male child born in Mansfield, who died only two years before her. 

Bautz explained most commonly, people are separated within the grounds by religion, by money, or simply by preference. She says most people today, they drive through the cemetery and find a place they fall in love with and want to be forever. 

Of course, money separates certain areas of the cemetery when you consider family lots versus single graves. And Bautz explained that typically, lots were purchased in groupings meant for several generations. A few ethnic groups are buried together in the cemetery, including the Albanians, Macedonians and Greeks. There is also a small section for those of the Jewish faith. 

But the largest segregated part of the cemetery is by far the Catholic cemetery — an estimated 20,000 people are buried in just over six acres of Catholic land, stretching the entire length of the cemetery. 

To be buried in the Catholic section of the cemetery, you had to show proof of your baptism. The rules have slackened since then, but many families were separated because of their religion due to this requirement. Bautz said this kind of segregation and separation happens every day in life, too. You choose who your friends are, what neighborhood you live in, what school district your children go to, what church you attend. When planning for death, she said, people do the same thing. 

Yet at the end of the day, Bautz said that everyone buried in Mansfield Cemetery finds themself under equal ground.

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Next, some local history. Did you know that the land that is Johns Park was donated to the city in 1907, though the neighborhood around it — known then as the Johns Addition — had been in place since the 1890s? The park originally had a few rustic picnic pavilions and a graceful fountain, but they were replaced during the Depression by a large brick pavilion funded and built by the US government as a WPA project.

Johns Park was once the home of a vital and active baseball diamond used by city leagues, but that ball field is today a grassy meadow. It also had tennis courts that have since been turned into basketball courts. Head over to for more pictures of the park today and in the early 1900s.

Next, from Knox Pages…Most of Ohio's counties shrunk in population over the last decade. But not in central Ohio. The region boomed, accounting for roughly 90% of the state's overall growth from 2010 to 2020. In fact, ten of its 15 counties gained residents, and five placed in the top six in the state in growth percentage during that time. Knox County specifically grew 3% over the last decade.

And while local and regional officials have varying opinions on what the future may hold for the county – some believe the county could grow 25% by 2050. Others predict more moderate growth. Still, nearly everyone sees it as a part of the next frontier for growth in central Ohio, primed for population expansion.

Knox County Commissioner, Thom Collier, has four decades worth of experience in local real estate and has served in government at the city, county and state levels. He says they already have a housing shortage and high demand, and he thinks that’s just indicative of our time. But he also thinks they’re gonna continue to see growth - and hopefully they can plan ahead.

In the weeks since the 2020 census was released, Knox Pages has spoken with dozens of local and regional officials – working in government, economic development, real estate and other sectors – to better understand where Knox County stands on this "new frontier." The result is our new series, "Bracing for Impact". A new story will be published every week, and will be featured exclusively in Knox Pages' daily email newsletter. We’ll also be highlighting it in our podcast. The first story in the series will take a step back and look at how Knox County grew 3% over the last decade and what growth would mean for Knox County long-term.

Visit to learn more, or use the link in our show notes to sign up for the newsletter.

Finally, we’d like to take a moment to remember Charles Lewis Wade of Mansfield. 

Born in Mansfield in 1935, Charles was a super man and a wonderful husband and father. He was a hard worker and always had to be doing something. He was part of the Laborers Union Local 1216 for 46 years and worked for Mansfield Asphalt from 1975 to 2001. Charles collected model cars and enjoyed mowing the grass so much that it became like a hobby for him. A simple family man at heart, he cherished time spent with his family, especially his kids and grandkids, and enjoyed playing cards with them when they came over to his house every Sunday. He always held a special place in his heart for his best friend and Chihuahua, Cujo. Charles married the love of his life, Delores, in 1957. They shared many wonderful memories together, especially their trips they took to Michigan. Charles and his wife loved to bowl and were in a league.

Charles is survived by his beloved wife, Delores, children, 15 grandchildren, 37 great-grandchildren, good friend and coworker for over 40 years, Stephen, 19 year old dog, Cujo; and two daughters-in-law. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by three brothers, seven sisters and four great-grandchildren. Thank you for taking a moment with us today to remember and celebrate Charles’s life.

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