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This week in history: Valley mourned McKinley’s death

120 years ago, 1901

The front page of the Youngstown Vindicator was edged in black with the portrait of a local leader framed against the headline: “A Mourning Nation Weeps Beside His Bier.” The injuries and death of President William McKinley dominated the paper for more than a week as news of his assassination in Buffalo, New York, spread. News of the shooting first appeared on September 6, 1901, with hope that he might survive the wounds. Unfortunately, that was not the case as an Extra Edition of the Youngstown Vindicator was published on September 14, with the news that President McKinley was dead. The headline read “The Nation’s Chief is Now at Rest. Bidding All a Last Good-Bye and Saying God’s Will be Done, the Resigned Sufferer Fell into Eternal Sleep and Many Millions Mourn.”

President McKinley’s casket made its way from Buffalo to the East Room of the Executive Mansion in Washington, D.C., before moving to the Capitol Rotunda. Locally, mourners paid their last respects as the open casket lay in state at the Stark County Courthouse. Nearly 100,000 people were in Canton as President McKinley was moved to a receiving vault at the West Lawn Cemetery to await the completion of a memorial in his honor.

In Youngstown, memorial services were held at several locations, including The Rayen School. Judge J. R. Johnson was one of the speakers, saying, “I do not come today to pronounce a eulogy upon our dead president, but simply to speak a few words concerning him as a neighbor and friend. He needs no eulogy. The plain story of his life will be his most fitting eulogy and none will be more eloquent than the tears of sincere sorrow that are this day shed over his untimely death. Born in the adjoining county of Trumbull, largely reared and educated in this county, and with his home during the greater portion of his adult life in the adjoining county of Stark, we all knew him, respected him, and loved him as a neighbor and friend, and thus knowing, respecting, and loving him our grief is more keen and our feelings toward the crime which has taken him from our midst more bitter than though the relation existing between us had been different and our lives ore [sic] widely separated.”

The Soldier’s Monument in Youngstown’s Central Square was draped by local firefighters. The column was covered with streamers of black and white with a portrait of the late president attached. The fence surrounding the monument was also draped with streamers, while a bouquet of red carnations, McKinley’s favorite flowers, was gently placed at the monument’s base.

“The interior of Youngstown’s Opera House was draped with black mourning cloths, flowers, and a somber feeling as the crowd paid tribute to the fallen statesman with hymns and a military dirge led by the Youngstown Military Band. Similar services were held at several local churches. Additional tributes included a stopping of all trains controlled by the Pennsylvania Company. For ten minutes, all of the work along their vast expansion of lines was stopped. It was said to be the first time in the history of railroading that such an event occurred. The silent time coincided with the funeral service in Canton.

• Compiled from the archives of The Vindicator by Traci Manning, MVHS curator of education

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