Monday, February 9, 2015

52 Ancestors 2015: #6 Robert Mansfield, U.S. Consul for 19 Years

Consul Robert E. Mansfield
Passport photo
I am experiencing a feeling of relief that comes from the giving up of a very strenuous life, of a public career, for the more quiet, less extracting, home life. I am a Hoosier born, and it is gratifying to feel that after nineteen years spent in other countries, that I have returned to my native state, to live among old friends and associations that are more to be desired than are the varied experiences that are a part of a public career. (Robert E. Mansfield, "Resigns Post at Stockholm", The Daily Republican, Rushville, Indiana, 6 Jan 1917, page 1)

Robert Emmet Mansfield was far away from home quite often.  He served for nearly 20 years as a U.S. consul, beginning with his first appointment by President McKinley in 1899 to Zanzibar.  In 1901, he was transferred to Valparaiso, Chile, where he spent five years.  During that time, he wrote a book, Progressive Chile, about his observations and impressions.

From 1906-1913, Robert Mansfield served as consul in three different locations in Switzerland.  His wife Fanny, whom he married in 1906, lived in Switzerland with him for much of this time.  In 1913, he was given a new post in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where he remained until 1916, when he was transferred to Stockholm, Sweden.  Robert finally retired from his consular career in 1917.

Robert's wife, Fanny Gowdy Mansfield
The Indianapolis News 2 Feb 1901, p. 16
Fanny and Robert quickly settled into their new life in Fanny's hometown of Rushville, Indiana.  Before his consular career, Robert had been a newspaper editor for the Muncie Times, the Indianapolis Journal, and the Marion News.  Soon he began writing articles for the Daily Republican (Rushville), including an article about his personal friend, poet James Whitcomb Riley.

Mansfield became very involved in the civic affairs of his community and was in great demand as a public speaker. He also promoted the work of the Red Cross in Rushville during the first world war.  In the spring of 1924, he sponsored a public speaking contest at the Rushville high school, called the Mansfield Declamation Contest.

Robert Mansfield died on September 18, 1925 at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana at the age of 59 after a long illness involving his heart.  Although he had only been a resident of Rushville for eight years, he made a great impact on the small town.  The following is part of a lengthy tribute written by a group of Rush County teachers after his death:

Born with unsual capacities for serving his country and his neighbors...he always accepted honor as duty and brought to such duties his very highest energies and talents, whether serving as foreign representatives of his government or making an inspirational address in a remote community.  Although accustomed to move with natural ease in the ranks of high social standing, Mr. Mansfield never lost the common touch, which enabled him to win the confidence of even the most timid school-child. His broad-mindedness, his constant  and unceasing effort to understand and appreciate the people with whom he associated, in whatever hemisphere of the world, have been often noted. 

An attempt to enumerate the worthy qualities of this good and genial man would, for their very number, be difficult.  His death calls to mind the truth that the characters of the great are, after all, only a composite of the plainest and simplest virtues.  This group of teachers therefore joins with the entire community and also with the host of friends even in distant parts of the world who are saddened by the death of this gentleman and scholar. ("R.E. Mansfield Funeral Sunday," The Daily Republican, Rushville, Indiana, 21 Sept 1925, page 2)

Robert Mansfield's house in Rushville, Indiana.  

No comments:

Post a Comment