Mansfield, TX


By: Jan Hart

Revised by: Christopher Ohan and Cindy Gardner

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: March 2, 2022


Mansfield is located in the south-central Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in North Texas, approximately fifteen miles southeast of Fort Worth and twenty-two miles southwest of Dallas. Mansfield’s city limits span three counties. It is located primarily in southeastern Tarrant County with parts in northeastern Johnson County and northwestern Ellis County and is accessible by both U.S. Route 287 and Texas Highway 360, the latter of which terminates in southern Mansfield. The approximate latitude and longitude of the center of Mansfield is 32⁰ 33’ 48” N and 97⁰ 8’ 31” W.

The area that became Mansfield was originally known as Walnut Creek, named for the creek that runs through the town. In 1857 business partners Ralph S. Man, a South Carolinian, and Julian B. Feild from Virginia sold their sawmill and their water-powered gristmill in Fort Worth and relocated to the wheat-producing area in southeastern Tarrant County, where they built the first steam-powered gristmill in North Texas. The settlement that grew up around the Man and Feild Mill was named for the two men; the original spelling of the town name was Mansfeild. Feild, who owned and operated a general merchandise store, became the local postmaster in 1860. During the Civil War, the Man and Feild Mill supplied meal and flour to the Confederate Army and transported it as far away as Shreveport, Louisiana, and Jefferson City, Missouri. After the war the mill received United States government contracts to supply flour and meal to American Indian reservations and federal army outposts in West Texas (including forts Griffin, Concho, and Belknap), New Mexico, and Indian Territory. While Feild sold his interest in the mill and returned to Fort Worth by 1880, Man remained. Man’s home, the oldest surviving structure in the city, was built in stages beginning in 1865. It was restored by the city of Mansfield and opened to the public as the Man House Museum in 2020. Man also gave land which became the Mansfield Cemetery.

In 1883 the town’s first newspaper began reporting local news and happenings in the small community. At one point called the Mansfield Chronicle, it was later renamed the Mansfield News and, eventually, the Mansfield News-Mirror and is the oldest newspaper in Tarrant County still in publication. In 1886, after property owners contributed rights-of-way as an incentive, the Fort Worth and New Orleans Railroad came to the town. Mansfield was a stop on the forty-one-mile route from Fort Worth to Waxahachie. In the 1890–91 volume of the Texas State Gazetteer and Business Directory, Mansfield was described as "prosperous." That year the community had 418 residents, four churches, two schools, two mills, a cotton gin, and numerous retail businesses. The town incorporated on August 23, 1890, and remained a trading hub for the surrounding farming region. By the early 1900s the town had its first bank, Mansfield State Bank.

In 1926 Mildred and Otis Dalton of Mansfield opened a pickle and condiment factory in Fort Worth. Best Maid Pickles, with its pickling facility located in Mansfield, grew to be the largest pickle producer in the state and the third largest in the nation. It also gave rise in 2012 to the World’s Only St. Paddy’s Pickle Parade and Palooza, Mansfield’s largest festival. The city was named the official Pickle Capital of Texas in 2013.

The population fluctuated from 694 in 1900, to 627 in 1910, to 719 in 1920, and to 635 during the Great Depression in 1930. By 1950 the town had grown to 964 residents. Mansfield annexed additional land in 1943 and continued to expand during the coming decades. In the 1960s Mansfield developed two 400-acre industrial parks. The Carnation Company established a Mansfield can manufacturing plant in 1969 that became a major local employer. Manufacturing overtook agriculture in economic importance. Industries in Mansfield include not only manufacturing, but distribution, transportation, contracting, retail, hospitality, and entertainment. The top local employers in 2021 were Mouser Electronics, Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, and Klein Tools.

The first church to organize in the area was the Walnut Creek Congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1854. Ralph Man served as clerk from 1872 to 1881. The congregation gathered in community homes until August 1868 when a building was completed that housed parishioners from the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Church of Christ congregations. The church was renamed the Mansfield Congregation and performed interdenominational services until each congregation established their own churches. The Mansfield Congregation served the White residents of the community while the Bethlehem Baptist Church, established in 1870, served the Black community of the town. Several early churches were still active as of 2022: Bethlehem Baptist Church (1870), Mansfield Methodist Church (1885), New Hope Baptist Church (1886), and St. Jude Catholic Church (1898).

In the late 1860s John Collier, while serving as a Presbyterian minister for the Cumberland Presbyterian churches in Mansfield and Alvarado, was invited to establish a school in Mansfield. Collier requested that the city be platted and registered with the county clerk in Fort Worth first. By 1870 the town plat, drawn by John Peter Smith, was complete, and Collier had opened the Mansfield Male and Female College. The school was incorporated the following year. The school, which taught primary through advanced classes, brought important educational opportunities to Mansfield but ultimately closed in 1887. The college building was used for both public and private schools during the next few years, but burned down in the spring of 1889. In 1890 the land was deeded to the trustees of Mansfield Public Free School, and a two-story building was erected. Public school was held there until 1901 when the Mansfield Academy Association organized and purchased the property. The association replaced the building with a new two-story brick building, as well as additional, smaller buildings. The Mansfield Academy educated White students from primary grades through high school. The academy closed when the Mansfield Independent School District (MISD), created in 1909, purchased the school grounds for use as a public school. Many years later the building was razed, and in 1924 the district built a new brick building on the site to house the Mansfield High School. The MISD administration office later occupied that building.

In 1955, following a lawsuit brought by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), MISD became the first school district in Texas ordered to desegregate its schools by a federal court. Following demonstrations by White protesters and members of the Ku Klux Klan and the deployment of Texas Rangers to uphold segregation at the start of the 1956–57 school year, integration in Mansfield was delayed until 1965 (see MANSFIELD SCHOOL DESEGREGATION INCIDENT). During the 2021–22 school year, MISD boasted an enrollment of 35,524 students studying in twenty-five elementary schools, eight intermediate schools (including a STEM academy), seven middle schools, five traditional high schools, and four alternative schools. More than 100 languages are spoken other than English. In 2013 the district began sponsoring an annual Multicultural Festival to bring awareness to the many cultures represented in the student body of MISD.

In 1917 Milton May Farr established the city’s first electric plant, first water supply system, and first movie theater, Best Farr Theater (later renamed Farr Best Theater). The theater was purchased by the city of Mansfield in 2017 for use as a center for community entertainment. In 1959 William H. “Bill” Hogg opened the only year-round rodeo in the United States—the Kow Bell Indoor Rodeo. The facility operated until 2004 when the property was sold to MISD where the district’s fourth high school, fittingly named Legacy High School with a bronco as the school’s mascot, was built.

Mansfield’s form of government is council-manager. The city council consists of a mayor and six council members, all representing the city as a whole, each with an equal vote. As of 2022 the city manager oversaw a city staff of more than 500. Mansfield city services include the Mansfield Public Library, established in 1929 as part of the Tarrant County Free Library System; Parks and Recreation; Public Works; and Environmental Services. The Mansfield Police Department was formally organized in 1954.

The Mansfield Volunteer Fire Department was established in 1901 with fifteen volunteers and just 250 feet of hose. In 1947 a fire nearly destroyed the west side of the town and demonstrated the need for a more prepared fire department. The department reorganized and purchased additional water trucks. In 1948 it received its first factory-built fire truck, a 1942 open cab pumper truck. The first paid firefighter was hired in 1977, and the fire department transitioned to a fully professional organization in the early 2000s. As of 2022 the department employed more than ninety firefighters and paramedics and had five fire stations. The most significant event in the history of the fire department occurred on July 31, 1968, when the Mansfield Volunteer Fire Department responded to neighboring Kennedale’s call for assistance in extinguishing a gasoline fire at the Red Ball Gas House, located four miles outside of Mansfield city limits. Two Mansfield firefighters and one local reporter died from injuries sustained in the Red Ball Gas House explosion.

As the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex grew, Mansfield became more of a modern suburb while still retaining indicators of its roots as a small town with the preservation of the old downtown corridor. The population of Mansfield increased from 1,375 in 1960 to 3,658 by 1970. By 1980 Mansfield was home to 8,102 residents. The population grew to 15,607 in 1990, and the city limits extended into Ellis County.

Mansfield maintains several city parks, including Elmer W. Oliver Nature Park, a dog park, dozens of athletic fields, and the Walnut Creek Linear Trail, a planned walkway spanning the length of Mansfield and connecting numerous parks. The first section of the trail was completed and opened in 2007. In addition to the many municipal parks, opportunities for entertainment and enrichment include the Mansfield Activities Center and public-private joint ventures such as Hawaiian Falls, Big League Dreams, the Mansfield National Golf Course, Fieldhouse USA, and StarCenter.

Mansfield’s history is preserved in two museums: the Mann House and the Mansfield Historical Museum and Heritage Center. The latter is housed in the W.B. McKnight Building and showcases the city’s early history as well as topical special exhibitions. The city council has appointed two public bodies created for the purpose of preserving the history of Mansfield. The Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) was organized to recommend sites for historical preservation and to help facilitate the preservation of historic homes and commercial buildings in Mansfield. To assist owners of historic homes, the HLC created the Historic Mansfield Preservation Grant Program in 2018 to help fund restoration costs of these homes. In 2019 the Historic Preservation Advisory Board was formed to oversee the Mansfield Heritage Museum and to advise the city on matters pertaining to the preservation of Mansfield’s history, particularly those involving the city’s historical museums and the historic downtown area. The population of Mansfield grew to 28,031 by 2000. In 2010 that figure doubled to 56,368 and increased to 72,602 by 2020.

Robyn Duff Ladino, Desegregating Texas Schools: Eisenhower, Shivers, and the Crisis at Mansfield High (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996). Mansfield Economic Development (https://www.mansfield-texas.com/), accessed February 25, 2022. Mansfield Independent School District (https://www.mansfieldisd.org/), accessed February 25, 2022. Mansfield Historical Society, The History of Mansfield, Texas: Mid 1800–1965 (Hurst: Curtis Media, 1996). Mansfield, Texas (https://www.mansfieldtexas.gov/), accessed February 25, 2022. Diane E. Williams, “Historic and Architectural Resources of Mansfield, Texas,” November 2000, National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service (https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/5a9e19b5-1f15-4244-8768-76f937a5b467), accessed February 25, 2022.

Places:
  • Communities
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Jan Hart Revised by Christopher Ohan and Cindy Gardner, “Mansfield, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/mansfield-tx.

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1952
March 2, 2022

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects:


Place
Mansfield
Currently Exists
Yes
Place Type
Town
USGS ID
2411023
Town Fields
  • Has post office: Yes
  • Is Incorporated: Yes
Belongs to
  • Tarrant County
  • Johnson County
  • Ellis County
Coordinates
  • Latitude: 32.56913020°
  • Longitude: -97.12079300°
Population Counts
People Year
418 1890
694 1900
627 1910
719 1920
635 1930
774 1940
964 1950
1,375 1960
3,658 1970
8,092 1980
15,615 1990
28,031 2000
56,368 2010
69,909 2019