Presidential sites: McKinley not associated with many locations – Davie County Enterprise Record

By Betty Etchison West

For the company

Unfortunately, William McKinley suffered the same fate as President Abraham Lincoln and President James Garfield. President McKinley was visiting the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, NY, when an anarchist approached him as he shook hands with a row of supporters.

When Mr McKinley tried to shake the killer’s hand, which was covered with a handkerchief, he was shot.

The president was seriously injured, but his greatest concern was for his wife who was nearly disabled. He whispered to his secretary who was traveling with him: “My wife…be careful…how do you tell her…oh be careful!

At that time, President McKinley had served only six months of his second term.

Mrs. McKinley’s reaction is described in Betty Etchison West’s book ‘First Ladies’: “First Lady Ida McKinley reacted bravely when he received the news. She showed unimaginable strength as she sat by her husband’s bedside for eight days hoping for his recovery. Resident William McKinley died of an infection on September 13, 1901.”

There are a number of sites related to certain Presidents of the United States. Not so with William McKinley.

There are only two and both are in Canton, Ohio.

McKinley was born in Niles, Ohio. His birthplace, which was used in many ways after the McKinley family moved, was destroyed by fire. For many years of his life, McKinley lived in hotels – none of which appear to be designated as a McKinley site. Only Canton, Ohio has sites related to President McKinley.

McKinley, who grew up in Ohio, went to school there. He eventually entered Allegheny College but dropped out. He taught for a time before becoming postmaster.

At the start of the Civil War, McKinley did what thousands of young men have done. He joined the Union Army. He rose through the ranks. He was a private when he joined the army, and by the end of the war McKinley was a commissioned major. He was asked to stay in the army, but he didn’t.

He had decided he wanted to be a lawyer. He spent a year working in a law firm before entering Albany Law School in New York State. The following year, 1867, he passed the bar exam and was admitted to the Ohio bar.

William McKinley, born and raised in Ohio, chose an Ohio town, Canton, as the site of his first law firm. He may have chosen this city because his sister taught there.

After moving to Canton, William McKinley met a lively young woman at a picnic and learned that she worked at her father’s bank. The young lawyer found many reasons to visit the bank, not because he had a lot of money, but because he was fascinated by the young teller. This fascination seemed to work both ways and soon the couple realized they were deeply in love. They married in 1871 and were very happy.

Their first child, Katie, whom they loved so dearly, died at the age of 3. They had another daughter, Ida, who died at the age of 5 months. Ida’s mother also died. Ida was so overwhelmed with grief that she was never well after that. In fact, she was almost disabled. This is why President McKinley was so anxious to tell his wife that he had been shot.

The following explains the McKinley connection to the Saxton house. After becoming a lawyer, Mr. McKinley became interested in politics. He was a good speaker and immediately grabbed attention.

He was elected to Congress. When he was not living in Washington, he and his wife lived with his family at their home, Saxton House. Also, at one time, McKinley had his law office in Saxton House, so this structure is closely tied to the 25th President of the United States.

The book, “Cabins, Cottages, and Mansions” by the Benbows, says this about Saxton House. “Today Saxton House is owned by the National Park Service, which leases the building to the Stark County Foundation, a local civic organization and cultural organization that uses part of the building as office space. As befits the ancestral home of a first lady, a first ladies’ library is planned for the building.

The age of the house is unknown, however, speculation is that the house may have been built around or before the marriage of Ina McKinley’s parents in 1846. It is a three story structure, of which the six chimneys have been rebuilt. It features a large wrap-around porch, a black walnut spiral staircase leading from the reception room to the second floor ballroom, and the original mahogany doors, baseboards, and moldings. It has 12 open fireplaces and its basement has beautiful stone and brickwork, heavy wooden lintels and archways.

Today, the magnificent building is the only surviving private residence connected to the assassinated president whose administration ushered America into the 20th century and a new era of American involvement in world affairs as a world power.

The other site related to President McKinley is the massive McKinley Memorial which is actually near the Saxton House. This is where William McKinley, his wife, Ida, and their two young daughters, Katie and Ida, are buried. Information on the site indicates that the memorial was funded by donations. Much of the money was donated by the children of America who donated their pennies. It is a fitting tribute to a man who did so much for his country and who was killed in such a cruel way.

The feeling of the people in this country was probably influenced by the loving way in which Mr. McKinley treated his invalid wife. People had noted his devotion to Ida over the years. While he was governor, every day at 3 p.m. Mr McKinley would come out and wave his handkerchief at the window where his wife sat in the hotel suite where they lived. No matter what the governor did, when the hour of three o’clock came, he performed this ritual.

This attention also manifested itself after the election of William McKinley as President. Although she was not well, the First Lady wanted to attend White House functions such as dinner parties. The president always had his wife seated next to him during White House functions. If Ida started having a seizure, Mr. McKinley would simply cover his face with a large towel. Once the crisis passed, he discovered the face of his wife as if nothing had happened. This behavior of the President was noticed by the American people as well as the policy he initiated.

The enormous McKinley memorial that was built with donated money indicates that the American people, including children, truly honored their fallen leader.

If you plan to visit Sexton House in Canton, Ohio, you should call 330-452-0876 or 330-4455-7043 for more information as the hours of operation are different in winter and summer.