The Monday After: McKinley comes home for the holiday

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William McKinley
William McKinley

"PRESIDENT M'KINLEY IN CANTON."

The headline in the Evening Repository on July 3, 1897, reported that the 25th president of the United States, William McKinley, had returned to his home to spend the most patriotic of holidays with family and friends.

"There is no place in this wide world so dear to me as Canton," said President McKinley, who 125 years ago was spending his first Fourth of July in the city since the "Front Porch Campaign" in the summer of 1896 resulted in his election to the highest office in the land.

Circuit Court Judge George Baldwin spoke on behalf of a throng of area residents who turned out to welcome the president home for the holiday. The local reception committee had met the arriving president's train in Alliance. Still, "there was no organized demonstration" there, the Evening Repository noted. It was not until McKinley's train got to Canton that a citizens turned out en masse – amid homes and businesses decorated with flags and bunting – to welcome home their favorite son.

"An Imense Crowd Assembles At the Pennsylvania Depot and Sends Forth a Mighty Volume of Cheers As the Train Approaches," reported one of a series of front-page headlines in the Repository following McKinley's trip back to Ohio from Washington, D.C. "A Large Parade Acts as Escort To the Home of Mother McKinley, Where President and Mrs. McKinley Will Visit Over the Fourth."

In its article about the arrival of the president, the newspaper noted that a souvenir would be available that readers could use to remember McKinley's holiday visit with his mother.

"Sunday's Repository will contain a photogravure souvenir of Mrs. Nancy Allison McKinley, whose place in history is unique and beautiful and charming beyond ordinary measure," the newspaper explained. "She lives at the age of 88 to welcome home for a Fourth of July visit her son, the President of the United States. And in the son her Canton neighbors and the people of the Nation recognize much of the sturdy character, the truly Christian spirit and the warm heart of the mother."

This artwork appeared in the Evening Repository on July 7, 1897, when the newspaper was reporting on President William McKinley's visit to Canton for relaxation and the celebration of the Fourth of July holiday.
This artwork appeared in the Evening Repository on July 7, 1897, when the newspaper was reporting on President William McKinley's visit to Canton for relaxation and the celebration of the Fourth of July holiday.

Goes to mother's house

After arriving at the Canton depot, McKinley and his wife, Ida, got into a carriage for the short ride to the modest home of his mother on Tuscarawas Street West.

"All along the line of march the street was lined with people and the cheering was spontaneous and continuous," the Repository reported. "The enthusiasm was great. Women waved their handkerchiefs, men waved their hats and shouted and President McKinley and his wife were kept busy bowing their greetings to their old friends and neighbors."

At the home of McKinley's mother, after the Grand Army Band had played "Home Sweet Home," Judge Baldwin remarked on the president's humble and friendly relationship with those who knew him before he was elected to the highest office in the land.

"Your old friends and neighbors have assembled today to give you a warm and heartfelt greeting upon your return to their midst after your inauguration as President of the greatest nation upon the face of the earth," the judge told McKinley in front of a crowd that had begun to gather hours before the president arrived.

"They realize what you have accomplished; they realize what you now represent; and they fully realize all the vicissitudes through which you have passed to reach your present exalted position. They understand just as thoroughly that you have the same feeling of regard for your old friends that you had when you dwelt with us in the common walks of life."

Speaking from the veranda at his mother's house, McKinley thanked his "old friend" Judge Baldwin for the kind words he had said during his welcome, and, between choruses of cheers, the president expressed his enthusiasm for being back home.

"I trust that during my brief stay here I shall have the pleasure of seeing very many of you personally," the president said. "And I want you to know that I have looked forward with unalloyed pleasure to my 48 hours here at my old home surrounded by my old friends."

President stops at campaign home

The purpose of McKinley's visit was "twofold," according to information published by the Washington correspondent of the Cleveland Leader, and reprinted in the July 1 edition of the Repository.

"The President desires a short respite from official cares and responsibilities," the Leader correspondent had written, "and he also desires to spend a few days with his venerable mother, whom he has not seen since her departure from Washington, shortly after the inauguration."

Among those accompanying McKinley and his wife were Judge and Mrs. William R. Day, the friend and fellow Cantonian who at the time was serving as the president's assistant secretary of state and who later would serve McKinley as secretary of state and President Theodore Roosevelt as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. The welcome they received was "only surpassed by that extended to the President and Mrs. McKinley," according to the Repository, which reported that the Days "were immediately driven to their home on North Market Street and were soon receiving their numerous friends,"

"Their home is still to them the dearest place on earth and both are delighted to get back."

McKinley made his way during his visit to his house on Market Avenue North, as well. On Saturday, July 3, 1897, he visited the structure that had served as his campaign home during his successful "Front Porch Campaign" in the summer of 1896.

"It is nearly a mile over smoothly paved streets to the McKinley cottage made famous by last year's famous front porch campaign," said the Repository in its edition published on Sunday, July 4, 1897. "Here the President found new fences erected and new grass growing where hundreds of thousands of political pilgrims had trod the old lawn into clay packed as hard as brick.

"It was here that President and Mrs. McKinley began housekeeping, and thousands of memories cluster around the old home."

Other activities undertaken during visit

Next the McKinleys took a drive to Westlawn cemetery, "where mother, son and wife laid flowers on the graves of the two little ones whose deaths twenty years ago brought sorrow to the lives of Major William McKinley and his young wife."

"It was dark when the carriage drove back to the home where the President's mother lives, and where his father died four years ago."

At the home, the president was "approached by scores of old citizens," reported the Repository.

"Many of them called him familiarly 'Major,' and each received cordial greeting," said the newspaper. "He spent much of the evening sitting in a chair on the grassy plat in front of his mother's home."

In anticipation of the president attending church on the Sunday holiday, "scores of people from towns and cities round about have been endeavoring to arrange for seats at the First M.E. Church."

The weather cooperated with this flurry of activity by McKinley, who clearly missed the companionship of his friends and family in Canton.

"From the time the booming cannon at Dueber Heights Saturday morning sounded out the welcome to President McKinley until midnight, the weather was as warm as the warmest days in Washington," the Repository reported. "The thermometer registered up in the 90s all day."

Returned to the White House

All too quickly it was time for the president to return to his elected office and chief executive's home in Washington, D.C.

The Repository reported on McKinley's departure in its issue on Tuesday, July 6, 1897.

"IT IS OVER," the front page headline said, followed by a second headline reporting "The President's Brief Visit In Canton At An End.

"BACK TO WASHINGTON AND DUTY."

The president and his entourage left the Canton railroad station in a private Pullman car attached to passenger train No. 20 at 9:20 p.m. the previous evening, said the newspaper.

"There was no demonstration, and the President stood on the rear platform shaking hands with his old friends and with many persons from out of town who took advantage of the opportunity to greet the President personally," reported the Repository.

McKinley had passed his final day in Canton, Monday, July 5, in a "very quiet and restful manner," according to the newspaper.

"During the morning he received a large number of friends who called to pay their respects. Luncheon was entirely informal, and immediately after the meal was finished, in company with a few friends, Mr. McKinley drove to the bicycle races, to Meyers Lake, and about the surrounding country. Few people in the great crowds were aware that Mr. McKinley was present, and when it was discovered all respected his desire to pass the day as quietly as possible and made but little demonstration."

Reach Gary at gary.brown.rep@gmail.com. On Twitter: @gbrownREP.

This article originally appeared on The Repository: The Monday After: McKinley comes home for the holiday