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 William McKinley

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William McKinley

  • Birth 29 Jan 1843 Niles, Trumbull County, Ohio, USA
  • Death 14 Sep 1901 Buffalo, Erie County, New York, USA
  • Burial Canton, Stark County, Ohio, USA
  • Memorial ID 699

25th United States President. He served in this capacity from March 4, 1897 until his death on September 14, 1901, and is best remembered during his administration for leading America to victory during the Spanish-American War, maintaining America on the gold standard to counter inflationary proposals, and raising protective tariffs in an effort to promote American industry. He was born William McKinley, Jr. the seventh of eight children, whose father owned a small iron foundry. In 1852 the family moved to Poland, Ohio so that their children could attain a better education there. Graduating in 1859, he enrolled the following year at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. He remained there for only one year, returning home in 1860 after becoming ill and depressed. Although his health recovered, family finances declined and he was unable to return to college, first working as a postal clerk and later taking a job teaching at a school near Poland. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, he enlisted as a private in the Union Army, serving under future US President Rutherford B. Hayes. He saw action in September 1861 when his unit, the 23rd Ohio Volunteers, drove out the Confederate forces at Carnifex Ferry in present-day West Virginia. In April 1862 he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and in September of that year, his unit was called to provide support in the Second Battle of Bull Run but did not make it in time for the battle. They joined up with the Army of the Potomac as it hurried north to cut off Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia as it advanced into Maryland. The 23rd was the first regiment to encounter the Confederates at the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862. After severe losses, they drove back the Confederates and continued to Sharpsburg, Maryland, where they engaged Lee's army at the Battle of Antietam, in one of the bloodiest battles of the war. The 23rd was in the thick of the fighting at Antietam, and he was exposed to heavy fire when bringing rations to the men on the line. The Army of the Potomac was victorious and the Confederates retreated back into Virginia. Later that year he was promoted to second lieutenant for his actions at Antietam and his unit saw little action until May 1864 when they engaged Confederate forces at Cloyd's Mountain and defeated them. His unit moved to the Shenandoah Valley and captured Lexington, Virginia in June 1864. The following month his unit was defeated at Kernstown and retreated into Maryland. He was promoted to captain and transferred to Major General Philip Sheridan's staff and Sheridan's forces pursued the Confederates and won engagements at Berryville, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek. Just before the war's end, he received his final promotion, a brevet commission as major, and was discharged in July 1865 and returned to Ohio. He decided to become a lawyer and began studying in the office of an attorney in Poland, Ohio. The following year, he continued his studies by attending Albany Law School in Albany, New York. After studying there for a year, he returned home and was admitted to the bar in Warren, Ohio, in March 1867. The same year, he moved to Canton, Ohio, the county seat of Stark County, and set up a small law office. In 1869 he ran for the office of prosecuting attorney of Stark County and was elected, but lost when he ran for re-election in 1871. In January of that year he married Ida Saxon and they two daughters were born within the next two years but they both died by 1875. His wife never recovered from their deaths and they would have no more children. In 1876 he was nominated as a Republican for Ohio's 17th congressional district and won. He was a strong advocate of protective tariffs and introduced and supported bills that raised protective tariffs, and opposed those that lowered them or imposed tariffs simply to raise revenue. He won a second term in Congress in 1878 and James Garfield's election as president in 1880 created a vacancy on the House Ways and Means Committee, and he was selected to fill it, placing him on the most powerful committee after only two terms. In 1884 he won back his congressional seat and remained there until the election of 1890, when he was defeated by a mere 300 votes. In 1891 he ran for governor of Ohio as a Republican and won. He was considered as a Republican candidate for the 1892 presidential election and finished third, behind the re-nominated Benjamin Harrison and James Blaine. In 1896 he won the Republican nomination for President and went on to defeat the Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan. During his first term, Cuban rebels were waging a war against Spain for independence and the Spanish military were engaged in harsh brutality against the rebels. As many Americans called for war to liberate Cuba, McKinley favored a peaceful approach, hoping that through negotiation, Spain might be convinced to grant Cuba independence, or at least to allow the Cubans some measure of autonomy. The US and Spain began negotiations on the subject in 1897, but it soon became clear that Spain would never concede Cuban independence, while the rebels (and their American supporters) would never settle for anything less. In January 1898, Spain promised some concessions to the rebels, but when American consul Fitzhugh Lee reported riots in Havana, McKinley agreed to send the battleship USS Maine there to protect American lives and property. On February 15, the Maine exploded and sank with 266 men killed. While public opinion and the newspapers demanded war, McKinley insisted that a court of inquiry first determine whether the explosion was accidental. Negotiations with Spain continued as the court considered the evidence, but on March 20, the court ruled that the Maine was blown up by an underwater mine. As pressure for war mounted in Congress, he continued to negotiate for Cuban independence. Spain refused his proposals, and on April 11, he turned the matter over to Congress. He did not ask for war, but Congress declared war on April 20, with the addition of the Teller Amendment which disavowed any intention of annexing Cuba. The war, known as the Spanish-American War, would last only for 100 days. After an overwhelming naval victory at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines and the defeat of Spanish forces at the Battle of san Juan Hill in Cuba along with the defeat of Spanish naval forces at Santiago, Cuba, Spain agreed to a ceasefire and on December 18, 1898 at the Treaty of Paris, they conceded the islands of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the US and granted Cuba their sovereignty and the US agreed to pay Spain $20 million dollars. The same year, the US claimed Wake Island and the Hawaiian Islands in the Pacific. In 1900, when the Boxer Rebellion broke out in China and Americans and other westerners in Peking were besieged, McKinley sent 5,000 US troops to the city in June of that year to provide liberation. He ran as the Republican nominee for a second presidential term in the fall of 1900 with Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate, and easily defeated the Democratic nominee, William Jennings Bryan. In March 1901 he and his wife undertook a six-week tour of the US, by rail, which was to conclude that the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in June. When his wife became ill in California, he decided to postpone the visit to the fair until September. On September 6, 1901 he attended a public reception at the Temple of Music in Buffalo, New York and while standing in the reception line to greet guests, an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, concealed a revolver in a handkerchief and shot him twice in the abdomen. His gunshot wounds were at first not considered life-threatening, with one grazing him and the other penetrating his abdomen. The doctor chosen at the scene had little experience in abdominal surgery or treating gunshot wounds and the Exposition hospital was not designed for major medical issues. His abdominal wound was cleaned and closed and he was transported to the Milburn House. His condition appeared to improve in the days after the shooting and his doctors allowed him to eat toast and coffee on September 12, but he was unable to digest the food. Unbeknownst to the doctors, gangrene was spreading in the walls of his stomach, slowing poisoning his blood. The following day, his condition took a turn for the worse and in the early morning of September 14, he died. Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as President that afternoon and Czolgosz was tried for murder nine days later, found guilty on September 26, and executed by electric chair on October 29, 1901. McKinley's body first lay in state in the Buffalo City Hall, then transferred to Washington DC for a state funeral and finally returned to Canton, Ohio and temporarily interred in Westlawn Cemetery near his two small children. His wife was emotionally unable to attend the funeral services in Washington DC on in Canton. In the following years, a massive mausoleum was constructed and dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt on September 30, 1907, four months after Ida's death. McKinley and his children were exhumed and reinterred inside the circular interior. The President was placed in a black polished sarcophagi, one of a pair set on marble pedestals with one reserved and when Ida died, she was entombed there. Their children are entombed within the rear wall. He was the last US President to have served in the Civil War.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 699
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for William McKinley (29 Jan 1843–14 Sep 1901), Find A Grave Memorial no. 699, citing McKinley Memorial Park, Canton, Stark County, Ohio, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .