James A. Garfield and First Ladies National Historic Sites, OH

December 13, 2019

12/10/2019 – James A. Garfield National Historic Site, Mentor OH; our 20th President served only 6.5 months in office. He was shot at a DC railroad station by a disgruntled office seeker on July 2, 1881. He died at age 49 on September 19th from infections caused by his doctors! Chester A. Arthur became our 21st President.

Garfield rose from poverty through hard work. He attended the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, now Hiram College, where he met his future wife Lucretia. He was a teacher, minister, OH legislator, U.S. congressman, and President. He was the first presidential contender to “campaign” for office. He ran a “front porch” campaign where thousands came to his home, which the press called Lawnfield, to hear him speak.

After the assassination, Lucretia ran the farm and made many improvements. The public supported the family with substantial contributions. She was responsible for the windmill system that can be seen today.

The former Carriage House now serves as the Visitor Center

This was the “Gasholder” building. A natural gas well provided for heating, lighting and cooking.  No wonder “fracking” is so popular in OH!!!

Garfield was the first and still the only sitting U.S. Congressman to be elected President.

“Lawnfield” became a stop on the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad during the 1880 presidential campaign.

On May 15, 2022, we returned for another visit.

Displays from Visitor Center

Campaign Office has been placed behind the mansion

House tour – Garfield’s bedroom was on the first floor –

Parlor/Sitting Room

Presidential China in Dining Room

Safe in a Vault Room next to the Memorial Library on the second floor

Garfield’s second floor study

Young Boys Bedroom

Garfield Estate

August 12, 2021, visit to Garfield’s birth site. Garfield was born in a log cabin in the wilderness frontier of Ohio’s Western Reserve in 1831.  The site and a replica cabin are administered by the Moreland Hills Historical Society (Cleveland suburb).

A short trail leads to the Birth Cabin Site and descriptive markers

Garfield is buried in an impressive mausoleum in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, see Blog for September 2017 for more photos

A Garfield statue is located on the west side of the Capitol in Washington DC, photo from 2018

12/11/2019 – We started our First Ladies National Historic Site tour at the Visitor Center, which is in the former City National Bank Building in Canton OH.

The Education and Research Center houses over 3,500 books and other material related to “First Ladies.” This historic site examines the various roles of first ladies as well as the influence they had on their husbands. For example, Director of Social Affairs (e.g. Martha Washington), Presidential Liaison (e.g. Abigail Adams), Policy Advocate (e.g. Lou Hoover), Political Reformer (e.g. Eleanor Roosevelt), Keeper of “the People’s House (e.g. Lucy Hayes), and Helpmate and Confidant (e.g. Bess Truman).

The display items on the first floor were well done but limited. No photographs permitted of loaned items.

I liked the thought-provoking questions asked on this ranger flow chart –

Our next stop was the Saxton McKinley House, which is one block away. First pic 2010, second 2019.

Our ranger guide did a nice job describing the history of the home and family

Ida Saxton was the eldest daughter of a prominent Canton banker – James Saxton. This elegant four-story building was the family home

James Saxton’s portrait is on the left. The home was decorated for the Christmas holidays.

There were many portraits/photos of Ida throughout the house

I need to mention William McKinley, after all he was our 25th President, serving from 1897 until 1901 when he was assassinated 6 months into his second term of office. He was shot by an anarchist at the Buffalo NY Pan-American Exposition on September 6, 1901. He was taken to the Milburn House, improved, but then quickly deteriorated and died on September 14th. Teddy Roosevelt (VP) was informed of his death upon returning from a climb of Mt Marcy in the Adirondacks (highpoint of NY). He hurried back to Buffalo and took the oath of office in the Wilcox House that afternoon, becoming the 26th President of the U.S. The Wilcox House is now the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site.

This was McKinley’s office when he lived in the Saxton McKinley House.

The McKinley National Memorial (tomb) is located in Canton OH as well, 2001 photo.

The McKinley Birthplace Memorial is in Niles OH where he was born in 1843, 2010 photos.

The focus of the tour was Ida McKinley, which is what you would expect for a “First Ladies NHS.” William and Ida had two daughters. Katherine was born on Christmas Day 1871. Ida was born in 1873 but died the same year. Katherine died in 1875 of typhoid fever, her portrait is above the fireplace.

Mrs. McKinley descended into a deep depression, her health deteriorated, with William caring for her medical and emotional needs for the remainder of his life.

“Although an invalid the rest of her life, she kept busy with her hobby, crocheting slippers, making gifts of literally thousands of pairs to friends, acquaintances and charities, which would auction pairs for large sums.” (Wikipedia)

Trivia – Seven U.S. Presidents have been born in Ohio, more than any other state, Ulysses Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and Warren G. Harding. An eighth, William Henry Harrison, was born in VA but lived most of his life in OH. As mentioned in this posting, both Garfield and McKinley were assassinated. William Harrison and Warren Harding died while in office. Therefore, of the 8 Presidents that died in office, four were from OH.

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