American Boys' Life of William McKinley/Chapter 15

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McKinley as Prosecuting Attorney—His First and Only Love—Mrs. McKinley and their Two Little Children—The Home in Canton

Considering what was to come to him in after years, the office of prosecuting attorney was a small one to William McKinley, but in those days it appeared highly important, and he anxiously awaited the returns, on election day night. His political career had started. Would it come to an inglorious finish before the first goal was reached?

Slowly the returns came in, showing that his opponent was ahead. Then came in other reports more encouraging, and at last came the final and deciding votes.

"Hurrah, McKinley, you are elected!" shouted a friend, rushing up and wringing his hand.

"Don't be too sure," was the cautious answer. "Are all the districts accounted for?"

"All but two."

"The two are coming in from another supporter. He read off the figures. "You are safe. You have a margin of at least a hundred and fifty votes."

The news that McKinley was elected was true, and soon a host of friends surrounded him. He had run ahead of his ticket, and of this he was rightly proud. He was called on to make a speech and did so. Among other things he said:—

"I shall not forget that in this election I have been supported by many Democrats. I shall try to administer the office of prosecuting attorney with justice to all."

And administer it with justice to all he did, as the records of the county show. Never was there a fairer prosecuting attorney than William McKinley. Every criminal prosecuted by him received what the law intended he should have, no less and no more.

The young prosecuting attorney had been elected for two years, and these years were filled with work from one week's end to the other. Many criminal cases came up, including that of a number of young fellows accused of stealing ironware from some factories. The young fellows, who were little more than boys, were four in number, and their parents begged hard that they be allowed to go.

"I will have a talk with them," said McKinley, and went to each separately, delivering a lecture that none of the young men ever forgot, telling them of the wickedness of stealing, and of how such a course could lead but to one place, the state's prison. Then he told of how their mothers had passed sleepless nights thinking over what was to become of them. At this one of the young men burst out crying, and catching McKinley's arm begged to be let go, promising that he would surely turn over a new leaf. The others promised the same, and in the end the indictment against the young men was pigeon-holed, and they were released. They did turn over a new leaf, and in after life blessed McKinley for his kindness toward them.

Although the young prosecuting attorney attended successfully to the duties of his position, his thoughts were not altogether on his work. Years before, while paying a visit to the sister who was teaching school at Canton, he had met a schoolgirl named Ida Saxton, the daughter of James A. Saxton, a rich banker of the town. The two had become friends, and when the young lawyer started to carve his way to fortune, this friendship continued until the two were quite intimate.

Miss Saxton had been educated at a seminary in Media, Pennsylvania, and after this she went to Europe for a number of months. But a correspondence was kept up between the pair, so it is said, and when she returned, McKinley was often seen escorting her to church or Sunday School. At that time she taught in a Presbyterian Sunday School, while he was connected with a Methodist Sunday School.

On returning from abroad, Miss Saxton had entered her father's banking house as cashier, for her parents believed in teaching her how to support herself. She was a beautiful young woman, and many remember her as a belle of that period. The family was cultured as well as rich, her grandfather having been for years the editor of the Repository, a paper still
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published in Canton, and which was founded by John Saxton in 1815.

The wedding of William McKinley and Miss Ida Saxton occurred on January 25, 1871. At that time the Presbyterians of Canton were hard at work on a new church, built largely by money furnished by Miss Saxton's grandmother. The building was hurried along as much as possible, and the wedding was the first to be celebrated in the quaint old edifice.

Having been married, the couple made a tour east, including a visit to Washington, and then settled down in a pretty cottage surrounded by fine shade trees, a place that was to be their home for many years to come, although it has been altered and improved several times. This house in Canton has now become famous, for there McKinley was notified of his nomination for Congress, for governor, and twice for the Presidential chair.

But those were still the days of small things, and although his wife was rich, McKinley determined to continue carving out his own fortune. He was a devoted husband, and although a busy man, spent all the time he possibly could with his wife in their cosey little home.

In those days two children came to bless their union,—Kate, born on Christmas Day, 1871, and Ida, born April 1, 1873. The latter lived but four months and twenty-two days, while the former lived three years and six months. Both are buried in the McKinley plot, at Westlawn Cemetery, Canton.

The loss of these dear little ones was a great shock to both parents, and Mrs. McKinley received an additional blow in the loss of her mother. These sorrows told upon the wife, and from that hour she was more or less of an invalid. Yet she bore up bravely, and whenever she was able, was her husband's companion, to brighten his labors and make his home life of the happiest. In return he poured out his affection upon her and kept this up to the day of his untimely end. It is said by those who knew them best that they were "a pair of old-fashioned lovers from first to last." Nothing nobler than this can be said, especially when it is remembered that their married life covered a period of thirty years.

The home in Canton, as it stands to-day, is not a very large or pretentious affair. It is somewhat of the Swiss cottage architecture, with many gables. It stands well back from the street, and a broad stone walk leads up from the gate to the piazza, which was enlarged but a few years ago. The hall is in the centre, and on one side is a double parlor, while on the other is a room which used to be used as a governor's office and also a library. To the rear is a dining room. In the hall is a broad staircase leading to a number of sleeping apartments above.

Probably the most interesting room in the house is that which McKinley used when he was governor of the state of Ohio. Here on the walls hang pictures of Grant and other military celebrities, as well as photographs of Lincoln, and of a number of prominent public officials. There is also a spirited war scene, and the mantel is loaded with pictures and with bric-à-brac, all equally interesting. The bookshelves teem with books relating to the public service, and there are also some telling of McKinley's war experiences.

In his home life William McKinley was always of a cheery disposition. He loved young folks, and having none living of his own, used often to have relatives and friends pay his wife and himself a visit. He liked music, and would often join in a song, and though not particularly a story-teller, he could still interest the boys and girls when they made the demand upon him. He often read the newspaper aloud to his wife, sitting either in the cosey home, when the weather was cool, or else in his favorite corner on the piazza. He was an early riser, and was frequently at work by seven o'clock in the morning, and it was often midnight ere he retired. His health was of the best and suffered little from the strain to which he subjected himself until, when he was President, he was attacked with the grippe, which left him with a somewhat weak heart. Although inclined to be stout, he was well proportioned, with broad shoulders and a chest which gave him good lung power and that clear, full voice which is so essential to every public speaker.