By 1812Blockhouse

With our Richland Roots series, we share stories of those from the area who led interesting lives that contributed to a wider community.

Edward Wilkinson was an American naturalist and museum curator born in 1846 in Mansfield.

Wilkinson’s early career was as a sheetmetal worker, but he had a strong interest in natural history from a young age. He fought in the American Civil War, and after returning to his occupation he had the opportunity to visit Mexico and join his brother who was a mining engineer there.

During his two years in Mexico, Wilkinson collected specimens of the indigenous flora and fauna, and sent about 500 reptile specimens to a herpetologist, Edward Drinker Cope. In 1875, he returned to Ohio to take care of his mother, where he collected cultural, historic, military, and scientific objects of interest from early settlements. All told, he sent or brought 12,000 items from Mexico to Ohio.

He also collected specimens and artifacts for the Smithsonian Institute, Carnegie Natural History Museum, and Peabody Field Museum. The Texas lyre snake, a subspecies of the western lyre snake, was named in his honor. His special interest was in taxidermy.

Wilkinson established the Mansfield Memorial Museum in 1891, combining his collection to date with items collected by Dr. J.R. Craig. He served as curator for 14 years before retiring in 1905. 

Wilkinson died in 1918 at his home on West Fifth Street. 

The Mansfield Memorial Museum in Mansfield, still in operation in the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building downtown, is a unique and eclectic museum that has been in operation since 1891.

The museum’s collection spans from prehistoric to modern times, and has many collections from early Native American, African, Asian, military, natural history, and local industry. Visitors are suggested to spend between 1-2 hours at the museum, which is located at 34 Park Avenue West. 

Sources: Mansfield News Journal, Wikipedia, AI

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