History & Tourism

History Says: Be Cautious When Voting For Mayor Of Mansfield

30 Sep , 2019  

As you can read in a current post on 1812Blockhouse, tickets are now available for the upcoming debate between the two candidates for Mayor of Mansfield.

The current campaign centers on typical early 21st century concerns for a mid-sized Ohio city, including efforts to boost the local economy, address social needs, and invest in needed infrastructure. While the same types of concerns may have been on  voters’ minds 140 years ago, the Mansfield Mayoral campaign of 1879 also featured an apparent fraudster.

In a April, 1879 story entitled, “Dixon, The Temperance Lecturer Still Likes His Schnapps” the Richland Shield and Banner revealed the scandalous details of noted lecturer A.C. Dixon of Chicago who had made appearances in Mansfield at the Methodist and Baptist churches. He had come to lobby for the non-drinking cause – and, as the story noted, “…more directly in the interest of the Republicans at the municipal elections.” Voters of the other party who chose to vote for the Republican candidate for Mayor were said to have been “hoodwinked.”

Why? Area media, including the Hayesville Journal, reported that Dixon had been seen whilst in Ohio purchasing two bottles of Hostetter’s Bitters. Two affidavits were published which corroborated this allegation.

For his part, Dixon told a Baptist minister that the purchase was made because “…he supposed them to be an innocent and purely medicinal preparation,” and that he purchased them on the advice of his doctor. A writer to the Shield and Banner responded “Ask the most uneducated man in the county, who claims to be a physician, what Hostetter’s Bitters are. He will tell you that they are simply a poor article of whiskey.”

According to the National Park Service, Hostetter’s “Celebrated” Bitters were a nostrum which first appeared on the market in 1853. The initial formulation was about 47% alcohol, or 94 Proof. Hostetter actually sweetened the alcohol with sugars, aromatic oils, and bitters to give it a medicinal taste.

For its part, the Mansfield Herald published a scathing indictment of the allegations against Dixon and a passionate defense of the lecturer issued by a committee of the people of Hayesville who had reviewed the situation.

So who was right?

Some weeks later, the Ohio Liberal reported that Dixon had been found out, had left his wife, and was “…a fiend of the worst kind.”

James Craighead was the person elected Mayor of Mansfield that spring, by the way — he was a grocer, and served for only one term. The Shield and Banner took the opportunity to remark that Mr. Craighead had been seen to “…go into saloons and taking his drinks.”

Sources: Richland Shield and Banner, National Park Service, Mansfield Herald

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