100 years later, McKinley stands tall
The Main Street memorial in Niles took about two years to complete and was dedicated in 1917.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NILES -- One hundred years ago, an assassin's bullet ripped into President William McKinley. He died eight days later.
Niles' most famous native was greeting supporters in a receiving line Sept. 6, 1901, at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition in New York.
As it became his turn in the line, Leon F. Czolgosz, an anarchist, fired two shots from a revolver covered with a handkerchief.
One bullet ricocheted off a button on McKinley's coat. The second pierced his stomach and pancreas.
Officers wrestled Czolgosz to the ground and arrested him.
"McKinley said, 'Go easy on him, boys,'" said Patrick Finan, director of the Niles McKinley Memorial Library.
Czolgosz was tried and convicted of murder and executed within 30 days of McKinley's death, Finan said.
The library plans several events this month, commemorating the centennial of McKinley's assassination.
Memorial: The National McKinley Birthplace Memorial Association was created by a 1911 act of Congress to erect a monument in McKinley's hometown. Youngstown businessman Joseph Butler, a friend of McKinley's, was instrumental in making the memorial a reality, Finan said.
Construction started in 1915 and took about two years and more than $500,000 in donations to complete. It was dedicated in 1917.
The marble monument includes a statue of the president sculpted, flanked by a library and museum on either side.
Busts surround the courtyard and first-floor auditorium of McKinley's Cabinet members and business and community leaders of the time who shelled out $5,000 for memorial construction to have their likenesses cast in bronze. The museum's second floor houses artifacts from McKinley's life and presidency.
Finan points to a cloth tablet embroidered with Chinese writing given to the 25th president by the Chinese community of San Francisco as one of his favorite museum pieces. The tablet, enclosed in an intricately carved wooden cover and given to McKinley in May 1901, reads of the growing power of the United States in the world and McKinley's role in it.
A Democratic campaign poster in one of the museum cases skewers McKinley for his imperialist stands, depicting the president as Napoleon and mocking his moniker "Idol of Ohio" as "The Neglected Idol."
The last photograph of McKinley, taken after he delivered a speech in Buffalo; a delegate ribbon from the 1896 Republican National Convention where McKinley was nominated; and a cannon from the 1898 Spanish-American War are included in the museum's displays.
The library director estimated that about 10,000 people visit the monument annually. Some are day-trippers from Ohio and Pennsylvania while others stop on tours of the birthplaces of U.S presidents.
History: McKinley was born Jan. 29, 1843, in a house on Main Street, the seventh of William Sr. and Nancy Allison McKinley's nine children. His parents had moved from Lisbon between 1840 and 1842 to operate an iron forge.
When the future president was 9, the family moved to Poland, looking for better schools, Finan said. McKinley enrolled in Poland Seminary School, which was a private school at the time.
He practiced law after the Civil War, married Ida Saxton and settled in Canton where he launched his political career. The couple had two children -- one died in infancy and the other died in childhood.
McKinley served as Stark County prosecutor, several terms in Congress and was a two-term Ohio governor before being elected president in 1896. He was re-elected in 1900.
Replica: The McKinley Library Board plans a replica of the house where McKinley was born at the former Ole Main and Chowder House site. The board bought the building, built in 1903, for $140,000, and plans to tear it down when asbestos removal is complete.
The rear of the building will house a resource center and library with McKinley materials. A computer lab will be in the basement for public use. Plans also call for a meeting room on the house's second floor.
The front part of the house will be furnished and decorated with pieces from the period including antiques and replicas.
Events also are planned at the McKinley Museum and National Memorial in Canton, where the president is buried.