Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ida Saxton McKinley

                    Ida Saxton was born June 8, 1846, in Canton, Ohio, the eldest of three children born to her parents.  Her father was James Asbury Saxton (May 1, 1816, Canton, Ohio - March 16, 1887), a prominent Canton banker, and her mother was Katherine DeWalt Saxton (August 18, 1827, Canton, Ohio - March 14, 1873, Canton, Ohio).  Ida's paternal grandfather, John Saxton, founded the Ohio Repository, the city's first newspaper, in 1815.  James and Katherine were married in 1846 in Canton, Ohio.

After Ida's mother passed away, her father married Hettie B. Medell in 1882.  Ida's siblings were Mary "Pina" Saxton Barber (1848-1917) and George Saxton (1849-1898).  While Ida was serving as First Lady, George was murdered in Canton, Ohio, on October 7, 1898.  He was walking from the present-day Saxton House where he lived with his sister Mary and her family and approaching the home of his lover, the widowed Eva Althouse, when he was shot by his former love, Anna George.

                    Ida's ancestors were German, Scottish, and English.  All of her maternal great-grandparents emigrated from Germany.  Her two maternal grandfathers were Philip DeWalt (1761-1844) and Michael Harter (1774-1847).  Paternal great-grandparents, Jacob Laird (1755-1791) and his wife Jane Johnston (1746-?) emigrated from Scotland.  Paternal ancestor, James Harlan, was born in England in 1625 and immigrated to Delaware.  The origin of her Saxton line is unknown.

                     As a youth Ida was "remarkably independent".  She received her education at Miss Sanford's School in Cleveland, Ohio, and Brooke Hall Female Seminary, a finishing school founded in 1856 in Media, Pennsylvania.  Following her education, petite, blue-eyed, and auburn-haired Ida was "refined, charming, and strikingly attractive."  She taught Sunday School in the Presbyterian Church that her father and grandfather helped to build.  She and her sister Mary took an eight-month-long, chaperoned tour of Europe in 1869.  Ida's letters home indicate that she was "an acutely intelligent" young lady who was interested in current events as well as art and architecture and had "a budding sensitivity to the plight of working women."

Before her marriage, Ida worked as a clerk in her father's bank, the Stark County Bank, even though it was a position usually reserved for men.  She showed "a great skill in managing money and accounting" and was promoted to cashier.  Some sources claim that her father left her in charge of the bank when he was out of Canton.

                    William "Bill" McKinley (1843-1901), a lawyer and Civil War veteran, met Ida at a picnic in 1867, but they did not begin "courting" until after she returned from her European tour.  Bill was 27 years old and Ida was 23 years old when they were married on January 25, 1871, in the First Presbyterian Church in Canton, Ohio - which was still being built.  The ceremony was jointly performed by her Presbyterian minister and his Methodist minister (Reverend E. Buckingham and Reverend Dr. Endsley), and their wedding celebration continued with a reception at the home of the bride's parents.  The newlyweds honeymooned in New York and then set up housekeeping in a home in Canton given to them as a wedding present by the bride's father.  Some time after their marriage, Ida joined her husband's Methodist faith.

                    Bill and Ida became parents of two daughters, both of which died at young ages.  Katherine McKinley was born December 25, 1871, and died June 25, 1875, of typhoid fever.  Ida McKinley was born April 1, 1873, and died August 22, 1873.  Ida's mother passed away March 14, 1873. 

Ida possessed a "fragile, nervous temperament" and broke down under the loss of her mother and two baby daughters within such a short period of time.  She developed epilepsy and became totally dependent upon Bill.  Some of her epileptic seizures occurred publicly, one of which happened at McKinley's inaugural ball as governor.  Bill was good to Ida and whenever he saw a seizure coming on for her, he tenderly placed a napkin or handkerchief over her face to hide her contorted features.  After the seizure passed, he would removed the napkin or handkerchief and resume whatever it was he was doing previous to the seizure - as if nothing had even happened.

When Bill was elected President of the United States, he continued to treat Ida tenderly and to accommodate her condition.  He broke with tradition when he insisted that she be seated beside him at state dinners rather than at the other end of the table.  She usually remained seated while in receiving lines.  Many of the social responsibilities usually performed by the First Lady were assumed by Jennie Tuttle Hobart, wife of Vice President Garret Hobart.  

The "patient devotion and loving attention" that President McKinley bestowed upon his wife was the talk of Washington.  Mark Hanna remarked, "President McKinley has made it pretty hard for the rest of us husbands here in Washington."

Though an invalid for the rest of her life, Ida stayed busy with her hobby; she crocheted literally thousands of pairs of slippers and gifted them to friends and acquaintances.  The First Lady often traveled with her husband.  In May 1901 she traveled with the President to California but became so ill in San Francisco that their planned tour of the Northwest was cancelled.  She traveled to Buffalo, New York, with the President on the fateful trip of September 1901 but was not present when he was shot by Leon Czolgosz.

Ida endured well the days between the shooting on September 6 and the President's death on September 12, but she could not bear to attend his funeral.  With the death of her husband, Ida lost much of her will to live and withdrew to the privacy and safety of her home in Canton where she lived with her memories under the care of her sister Mary.

President McKinley was interred at the Werts Receiving Vault at West Law Cemetery until his memorial was built, and Ida visited daily until her own death.  Ida lived less than six years after the death of her husband, passing away on May 26, 1907.  She was buried next to her beloved husband and their two daughters in Canton's McKinley Memorial Mausoleum.

Saxton House on Market Avenue in Canton, Ohio, has been preserved and restored to its Victorian splendor.  It became part of the First Ladies National Historic Site when it was dedicated in 1998.  Saxton House was not only Ida's childhood home, but it was also where she lived with her husband from 1878-1891, the period that McKinley served as one of Ohio's Congressional Representatives. 
               Facts and quotes for this essay came from here and here.

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