From the Mansfield Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. 36, No. 6, November 2000
Many years ago John Barrows, a life-long resident of Mansfield, told me he remembered listening to “old-fashioned music” played by the Mansfield Fife & Drum Corps down by the Gristmill. Recently I came across a reference to this drum corps while searching for a few items of Freeman family history.
Jared Gorton Freeman, born in 1820, first aroused my interest because he was also one of the Forty-niners at the time of the gold rush fever in 1849. However, it turned out he did not stay in California for very long and returned to his home here in Mansfield. He owned the house, now the Altnaveigh Inn [now the Spring Hill Inn], from 1867 until his death.
Mr. Freeman, like his ancestors before him was a stanch Democrat and, according to tradition, a man of powerful frame and build. His ancestors had first arrived in Mansfield from Sandwich, Cape Cod in 1737. Jared Freeman died in 1906 at age 86, the last male member of this early Mansfield family.
Interestingly, he was an important member of the widely known Mansfield Fife & Drum Corps. Renown for being one of the best Drum Corps in the state, at one time it consisted of 16 men – 13 drummers and three fifers. Freeman was an expert drummer and it was said of him “he could get as much out of a drum as anyone in the state.”
Nathaniel Perkins, of Mansfield’s Pleasant Valley, was one of the fifers and because of his skill in making music on his instrument he became known as ‘Whistling Perkins”.
For many years the Mansfield Drum Corps was the outstanding group in the state and participated in numerous contests and captured prizes.
On January 23, 1879, William Reynolds recorded in his diary “ball at town hall given by fife and drum corps.”
Picture these drummers and fifers marching about Mansfield to the delight of the residents; probably on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and many other festive occasions — even balls! An interesting bit of Mansfield history which we hope to discover more about.
–Roberta Smith, Town Historian