American Boys' Life of William McKinley/Chapter 30
Tribute of a Nation—The Funeral and Final Resting-place
Never was a President more sincerely mourned than was William McKinley, The news of his death, circulated in the hours of the early morning, aroused a whole Nation almost to tears. Up to the last, people had hoped against hope that he would recover, and prayers had been offered in thousands of churches throughout our broad land and in many foreign places. But it was truly "God's way," and his soul marched on, to the eternal victory it had so well earned.
Upon the death of the President, Theodore Roosevelt became the next chief magistrate, and was sworn into office immediately. Then preparations were made for the funeral ceremonies, which were to be held, first at Buffalo, next at Washington, and finally at Canton, Ohio. In the meantime many expressed their desire that the cowardly assassin be hung at once, but to the credit of the American people be it said that Czolgosz was given a fair trial. He could make no defence, and being found guilty of murder in the first degree, was duly sentenced to be electrocuted, according to the laws of the state in which his dastardly crime was committed.
The funeral of the President began in Buffalo, on Sunday morning, September 15, and ended in Canton, Thursday afternoon following. His body lay in state both in Buffalo and at Washington, and was there viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, while along the lines of railroad over which his funeral train passed countless multitudes gathered to honor his remains, in solemn silence and with bared heads, while at some points bands played "Nearer, My God, to Thee," and school children and others literally covered the railroad tracks with flowers.
At Buffalo, one of the most impressive sights was that of the members of the Indian Congress coming from the Exposition grounds to view the remains at the City Hall They had left their reservations under promise that they would see the Great White Father, and they had seen him just once in life and now they were at hand to do him honor in his death. They brought with them many flowers, and as they passed the bier, each murmured something in his native tongue and placed a flowery token of respect upon the coffin.
In the procession at Washington were representatives from nearly every nation on the earth,—from Europe and the British Isles, from Central and South America, from Japan and China. The President was there, and also the only living ex-President, Grover Cleveland, with national and state dignitaries of all ranks and political creeds. For the time being, all political differences and sectional feelings were blotted out, as the great masses came forward to do honor not alone to a man who had been their President, but to a man whom all loved and whom all looked up to as an older brother. From across the ocean, from countries which are scarcely known to many of us, came cablegrams full of sympathy, messages that told what a mighty monument for honor and justice William McKinley had built for himself throughout both the civilized and the uncivilized world.
And then they carried him home—to Canton, which had known him so well from the days when he had hung out his sign as a struggling young lawyer—to Ohio, which had honored him as its representative in Congress, as governor, and which had wished him so well as President. As the funeral train entered the borders of the state, all labor was suspended, church bells tolled, and even the smallest hamlet poured forth its citizens to watch that last sad journey with clasped hands and bowed heads. Thus were his mortal remains received by those who knew him best of all, those among whom he had lived and worked since his birth.
And now that saddest hour in which every funeral, be it of high born or of low, must have its ending. The Nation had given up her son that last night to the widow who so loved him and who had so suddenly been deprived of his tender, loving support. Now was come the day when the remains were to be consigned to their last resting-place, and again the streets were thronged with people and again the bells tolled solemnly, while the bands played their funeral dirges.
On went the procession, with thousands in line and a great multitude following, through streets heavily draped in black, and under arches of mourning, one erected by the school children who knew and loved him so well, on and on, out of the town and to the beautiful Westlawn Cemetery, where all was calm and peaceful and where his two little children had gone long years before.As they placed him in that last resting-spot, a whole Nation stood still in silent prayer and in tears. For five minutes hardly a train in all these United States moved, no telegraphic wire was alive with messages, no street car jangled its bell, no ferry-boat ploughed its way across a busy river. In village and city, on the farm and in the busy thoroughfare, seventy-five millions of people stood as they had never stood before,—stood as if the blue dome of the sky covered one vast church, and they were all at service listening to that hymn which shall never die, "Nearer, My
McKinley's home at Canton, O.: The Milburn House;
Tomb at West Lawn Cemetery.
As they placed his remains within the receiving vault, a battery located on a distant hill sent forth a salute of twenty-one guns. Three volleys for a faithful soldier followed, and then thirteen bugles mournfully blew taps, the last dying note lingering lovingly amid the trees which sobbed in the murmuring breeze. And so they left him, a faithful servant gone to his eternal reward.