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Thursday, May 1, 2008

bicentennial letters

A lot of credit goes to Paul Lintern for the Bicentennial letters series published daily in the News Journal. This project and several others including the dinner theater at the Bissman Bldg. must be keeping him very busy. The letters are hypothetical communications from people, institutions, or objects in Mansfield's past. Since they are basically fiction in the first place, I don't want to complain about their inaccuracies, but simply warn readers to take the details with a grain of salt. Yesterday's letter dealt with the Indian village of "Greeneville"...make that Greentown. The letter concerning the Dowie riots seriously glossed over the mean-spirited mob actions of the summer of 1900 when Mansfield's intolerance toward a religious group was a disgrace in the national press.
But fortunately the need to gloss things over is not quite as compelling here in Mansfield as it must be in some other communities especially as it relates to slavery and post-Civil War race relations. Mansfield conducted one hanging (Edward Webb in 1878) when executions were conducted locally around the state. That hanging did become a public spectacle when a mob broke down the enclosure, and Mansfield suffered some bad press as a result. It's undeniably a blot on our past, but pales by comparison to the mob lynchings and riots that occurred in communities around the country through the latter half of the 19th and into the 20th Century. I've often wondered how some communities celebrate their past when horrific stories cast a pall over their local history.