A Brief History of the Mansfield Historical Society
During the 1970’s an informal group began meeting but never formally organized and later disbanded. In 1980, Beryl Steele Gibson reorganized and the group began meeting at different locations. In 1984, the group moved into the historic McKnight building that was built in 1895. The Mansfield Historical Society was incorporated as a nonprofit organization on September 14, 1985.
Three rooms on the mezzanine floor, that were the offices of Dr. William McKnight, now serve as the offices of the society. The rooms were remodeled in 1990 and now contain an archive of family, business, church, fraternal, and school histories, along with maps, photographs, cemetery records, The News Mirror newspapers, and high school yearbooks for five high schools.
In 1986, James McKnight, son of Dr. McKnight, willed his building to the City of Mansfield with a stipulation that the Mansfield Historical Society have a 99-year lease on the mezzanine level of the building for the society’s office.
It was from a generous donation from Best Maid Products in 1997 that the Historical Society was able to purchase the building from the city and start restoration for the museum. Pickles and mayonnaise were made in Mansfield in 1924 by Mildred Dalton. Mildred’s son, Gary Dalton, has been the mayor of Mansfield twice. The Dalton family still owns and operates the business at their Fort Worth office, and pickle vats are operated in Mansfield.
In May 2002, the first floor of the new museum opened with a comprehensive history and photos of the founding of Mansfield and the businesses in the McKnight building. In April 2006, the second floor was restored and opened as “Early Living in Mansfield”. One area was set aside for the railroad that was built in 1885. Another area was set aside for an early dry goods store. The Salt Creek Massacre story was researched and told with a wagon built similar to the one Julian Feild and Ralph Man used to haul grain and flour from the gristmill. Shipments went to San Antonio, Louisiana, the forts west of Fort Worth, and to the Confederate Army during the war. Military uniforms donated by local men and women are also on display. MISD second graders toured the museum every year. Special exhibits were held such as the quilt show, tool show, military artifacts, and the Red Ball Explosion.
In 2018, without the support of the Hotel/Motel Tax funds, the museum was turned back to the City of Mansfield. However, the Historical Society continues to operate with a large membership, active board, and advisory directors. The mission continues to be the collection and preservation of local history for future generations and public research.
The Mansfield Historical Society wishes to thank a few of our most dedicated members who volunteered countless hours of their time: Grace Nichols, Fran Nifong, Raymond Meeks, Atty., Kathryn and Jessie Howard, Doris Maxwell, Marty Thomas, and Edna Phillips.