Robin Hood Club No. 1

By the middle of the 19th Century the population of Poland began to enjoy more leisure time due to the industrial revolution. No longer did farming occupy a man’s daily life from morning to night. New time saving inventions also contributed to more free time for both men and women to appreciate the world around them.
In 1865 three Poland men banded together and organized the
Robin Hood Club; a club dedicated to exploring the fishing streams of eastern Ohio. Henry K. Morse, Cook Fitch Kirtland and Ira F. Mansfield (seated below) gathered their fishing rods and headed for the North Fork of the Little Beaver that flows from Darlington to Fredericktown (on Rt. 170). That first day twelve bass ranging from one to three pounds were caught as witnessed by the following photograph.

During the first ten years this club had only one camp attendant who cooked their fish and prepared eggs and coffee by a log fire. At night the members slept by the same log fire, having no tents. In 1880 the club received several new members, first was Cecil D. Hine who never missed an outing for the next 25 years. Then came Major James Botsford who broke several fancy rods landing big bass. With Doctor Eli Mygatt, Henry Bonnell, and Gen. James S. Little came tents, camp chests and more elaborate cooking equipment.
What wonderful war stories must have been told around the campfires at night. Captain Mansfield was in the 105
th Ohio Infantry that fought through Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas, while Major Botsford’s military career in the 23rd Regiment included campaigns at Bull Run, Antietam and in the Shenandoah Valley.
Records kept by Mr. Mansfield show that for 43 years there was always an annual gathering in August with not less than 100 fish on each outing. Finally death carried off all the members of the Robin Hood Club, but not before they all reached the age of three score years and ten; one reaching 87 and another 92. The final ages of the members gave credibility to the club’s motto: “
You must sleep out doors to be well”.

In his book entitled “Reminiscences” Ira Mansfield writes about Indian Summer. “This delicious season always follows the Squaw Winter, of the snow storms in November, and is often called the summer of old men. Large black bass are more easily found, having settled in deep pools. In 1908 with Henry K. Morse, we started to fish at West Point in a snow storm followed by charming warm weather. This proved to be the last fishing trip of the Robin Hood club. The next spring Morse and Donnelly were called to another world”.

Robin Hood Club No.2

Ira Mansfield died on June 7, 1919 and the Beaver Falls (PA) Evening Tribune carried a lengthy obituary listing his many accomplishments. His obituary states, “He kept a very choice collection of mounted specimens of botany, especially ferns and orchids and was the founder of the ‘Robin Hood’ club, taking (female) teachers on annual excursions through the woods of Beaver County at his own expense”.

At the start of the 20th Century the working women in America were beginning to be accepted on a par with men. Their first venture was into the field of education where they easily found employment as teachers in a profession that had once been dominated by only men. Ira Mansfield had a desire to share his curiosity of nature and broaden the thinking of the young students in Beaver County. He reasoned that he must first teach the teachers to appreciate what the world had to offer. So he formed the ladies’ Robin Hood club comprised of school teachers whose purpose was to steal knowledge from the world about them and give this knowledge out later in the classroom. Not all of the club’s time was spent camping in tents, visiting water falls and studying the flowers that grew along Little Beaver River. Mansfield writes that the club visited the Phoenix Glass Works (Monaca, PA) where glass was blown into walking canes and listened to lectures by judges who spoke of the courts and jails.

In 1903 the Club Recorder writes, “It is easy to organize a club of schoolmarms, the conundrum is to keep it together and make the annual encampments. Our experience along all our outing and home socials has been a success. There is no constitution, by-laws, dues or assessments; only required each member must have taught school, or be a professional and never ride when there is an opportunity to walk. In our organization the aim is recreation, getting close to Nature by camping in tents with the magic of the Cannel coal fire each evening. Woodcraft pursuits of every form, with boating, fishing and bathing, are made the ideal exercises. Botanizing, with study of trees, insects and birds, also illustrated postal card experiences required each day to the boy we left behind us. Changes of scenery is also necessary for every one’s being, so our camps or daily outings are changed each day, to flowery swamps, the historic Sandy and Beaver Canal Locks, old mills and dams, or noted Indian camps covering all the three mail branches of the Little Beaver River. No sort of weather is allowed to damp one’s enthusiasm, so each day in the closing month of June, a tramp of some noted resort is made. Of course each member has a book of photographs and at our social gathering these views recall the joys of former camps and their pleasures are lived over again”.

It is not known what became of Robin Hood Club No.2. Ira Mansfield’s book was published in 1916 and is filled with photographs of women standing beside trunks of large trees or sitting under a water falls. We can assume then that the club was still active at that later date. It can also be assumed that the experiences gained by these women were passed down to future generations.