Poland community celebrates President McKinley’s 175th birthday
By Billy Ludt
Paul McQueen, a resident and former minister, donned a presidential outfit, pinned a carnation to his lapel and delivered a speech President William McKinley once gave to a crowd of about 300 Poland residents.
“Thank you, Poland,” he said to close out the speech. “Thank you for being here today.”
Monday was McKinley’s 175th birthday, and much like the late president, McQueen also gave the speech to a crowd of Poland residents.
The Poland Historical Society celebrated McKinley’s birthday – with singing and cake included – at Poland Village Town Hall. Residents packed the building, and listened while members of local government and the historical society made presentations.
This was the second time McQueen posed as the president and gave the speech, the first at a ceremony commemorating a plaque where McKinley’s boyhood home once stood.
As he’s prepared for these events, McQueen said his interest in the president has grown. One discovery he’s made is a parallel between the lives of McKinley and Abraham Lincoln.
Both were somber men, whose families were riddled with tragedies and whose lives were ended by assassination.
“He had a lot of depth,” McQueen said.
Although he was born in Niles, McKinley moved to Poland at age 9. Speakers gave highlights of McKinley’s life: growing up in Poland, hiking three miles every day to teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Boardman, serving in the Civil War and his presidency.
“Just remember that’s one of the interesting historical facts from Poland,” said David Smith, secretary of the historical society. “That a president of the United States came from Poland.”
McKinley also was noted as a very religious man. In a diary entry, McKinley wrote, he described himself as a “soldier of Jesus.”
“That was evidence of his religious devotion,” said Larry Baughman, president of the historical society.
McKinley was known to wear red carnations on his lapel. He was assassinated by anarchist Leon Czolgosz on Sept. 6, 1901, and in his memory, Ohio named its state flower the carnation.