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Source: Complete Life of William McKinley and Story of His Assassination
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “The Sad Journey to Canton” [chapter 37]
Author(s): Everett, Marshall
Edition: Memorial edition
none given
Place of publication: none given
Year of publication:
Pagination: 381-86

Everett, Marshall. “The Sad Journey to Canton” [chapter 37]. Complete Life of William McKinley and Story of His Assassination. Memorial ed. [n.p.]: [n.p.], 1901: pp. 381-86.
full text of chapter; excerpt of book
McKinley funeral train; McKinley funeral train (procession from Washington, DC, to Canton, OH); William McKinley (mourning); William McKinley (death: public response); Canton, OH; William McKinley (posthumous return: Canton, OH).
Named persons
Ida McKinley; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.
From title page: Complete Life of William McKinley and Story of His Assassination: An Authentic and Official Memorial Edition, Containing Every Incident in the Career of the Immortal Statesman, Soldier, Orator and Patriot; Profusely Illustrated with Full-Page Photographs of the Assassination Scene, Portraits of President McKinley, His Cabinet, Famous Men of His Administration and Vivid Life-Like Pictures of Eventful Scenes in His Great and Grand Career.

From title page: By Marshall Everett, the Great Descriptive Writer and Friend of the Martyr President.


The Sad Journey to Canton




     The funeral train bearing the remains of President McKinley crossed the west line of Pennsylvania and entered his home State and his home Congressional District at 10 o’clock a. m., Wednesday, September 18, 1901.
     This is the district he represented for fourteen years in the halls of Congress. Many who had known the President personally, who had shaken his hand and gazed into his genial face, lined the tracks to do honor to all that remained on earth of their neighbor, friend and chief. From the State line to Canton, the President’s home, the line of mourners was almost continuous. Although a stirring depth of feeling had been manifested as the train passed through other States of the Union with its burden, nowhere was poignant grief so evident as it was during the sad journey through the President’s home State.
     It is the second time the State of Ohio has been called upon to pay homage to the ashes of one of its sons, elevated to the Presidency and then stricken by an assassin’s bullet in the prime of his career.
     The mustering of popular sentiment was awe-inspiring, both because of the numerical strength of the mourners and the intensity of feeling shown. In every sense was the trip of the President’s body to its last resting place memorable. Miles upon miles of humanity were passed, thousands upon thousands of heads were bared. Hundreds upon hundreds of crape-tied flags were displayed, while, in the distance, the emblem of the nation was seen at half-mast upon the schoolhouse or other public building.
     Company upon company of State militia presented arms, while peal upon peal of the death knell came from church and courthouse bells. In all there was not a smile seen from the train, and the ears of President Roosevelt and Mrs. McKinley were not jarred by the sound of cheers or unseemly shouts of acclaim. The thousands of school children, lined up near the track, maintained a silence as profound, as sympathetic and as reverent as their elders, who felt more deeply.
     Through Maryland and Pennsylvania, where the outlines of black mountains frowned dimly upon the train as it passed in the night, bonfires were seen where they had been lit to keep the watchers awake in their night vigil. [381][382] The flames lit up the sides of the funeral train and cast flickering shadows against the sides of the great hills. In the towns at night the torches lit up the anxious, sympathetic faces of the mourners, who had lost sleep and braved the chill so as to have a brief look at the train which was hurrying to the President’s burial ground.
     An entire regiment of the State troops was ranked along the tracks at Pittsburg near the station. No stop was made at the big sooty city. Against one of the hills were placed several hundred girls in the form of a flag. The long railroad bridge over the Allegheny was solid with men and boys, whose coats almost touched the train as it passed through.
     From Pittsburg the train followed the Ohio river for miles. Old river steamboats blew sorrowful, long-drawn-out salutes to the passing train. Flags upon them were at half-mast.
     On the shores of West Virginia opposite there were crowds assembled who saw the train speed by in the distance. Many of the towns on the banks of the Ohio consisted of long strings of houses in the gulch. Some of the towns containing only a few thousand inhabitants stretched along for a great distance. All the people were gathered at the track, both from the towns and the country sides for miles around. Doorsteps of every house were filled with watchers, the old folks’ faces were seen gazing through the windows and the roof tops were thronged.
     At a country cross-road, where there was not a house in sight, several score of men, women and children were gathered. The buggies and farm wagons a little distance away showed they had come from a distance. Their horses were munching in their feed bags, unaware of what was the mournful occasion of their day’s journey.
     East Palestine, the first Ohio station passed by the train, appeared to be a little village nestled in between two great hills. There were enough people scattered at the tracks, however, to warrant the presumption that it was a city of considerable importance.
     From early dawn, when the first rays of the sun came shimmering through the Allegheny mists, the country through which the McKinley funeral train passed seemed alive with waiting people. As the train was later than its schedule the probabilities were that many thousands lined up along the track had been waiting for almost an hour for the fleeting glimpse of the cars accompanying the murdered President’s body to its last resting place.
     Steel workers, with their dinner pails in their hands, ran the risk of being late at the mills in order to pay their last homage to the dead. It was at the [382][383] steel towns, just east of Pittsburg, that the largest early crowds lined the tracks.
     Between and east of the mill towns was the open mountain country interspersed with an occasional cluster of houses near coal mines or oil wells. Even in the open country as early as 6 a. m. there were people gathered at the cross-roads or leaning against farm fences.
     Faces were seen peering through, up and down windows of houses situated near the tracks. In railroad yards hundreds were crowded on top of cars so as to obtain a view as the sections of the Presidential train picked their way through the maze of tracks. Women and girls as well as men and boys were eager to see the cars go by.
     In the railroad cars in Pitcairn, a few miles east of Pittsburg, hundreds of factory girls were lined up. It was 8:35 a. m. when the train passed through Pitcairn, so most of the girls with lunch boxes under their arms must have been quite late to work, all for the sake of the few seconds’ look at the train which brought so close to them the victim of the anarchist’s bullet and his successor, President Roosevelt.
     Young women who were not shop girls were there, too, evidently having come from the most exclusive residence districts of the little city, trudging through the rough tracks to obtain a brief look.
     Away from the crowds at the towns solitary watchers were passed. Engineers and firemen of passing trains leaned far out of their cab windows when the train approached. Boys and girls, perched high on rocky crags, remained in their points of vantage to see the train fly past.
     As the train neared Pittsburg it passed between a continuous line of men and women, boys and girls, miles long.
     There was hardly a space of a dozen feet that was not filled. On the sides and tops of the near-by foothills colored specks told of the bright dresses of women and girls, who were watching the entrance of the long tunnel in Pittsburg, which was like a human archway, so many persons of all ages and sexes were crowded around and above the black opening.
     One enterprising lad was high on a church steeple and waved his hat. The viaducts were simply jammed with thousands of human beings. The high tops of the iron girders were covered with boys, while the vertical steel pillars supported venturesome climbers. Windows of mills and factories, where employees were busy a moment before, were crowded with eager faces as the train drew near.
     From beyond Braddock, which is twelve miles from Pittsburg, the con- [383][384] tinuous and mournful ovation began and continued almost in a solid line until the train was miles out of the Smoky City.
     On top of a carload of stone in Pittsburg were about a hundred girls, and they presented a most picturesque appearance. Although the crowds were far greater than ever greeted any President of the United States alive, not a smile was seen, not a cheer was heard. The train passed between the walls of solemn-visaged humanity miles long.
     The sun burst through the smoky pall at intervals and lit up the bright colors of the women’s dresses with an indescribable effect. Although the dresses were bright, the faces were not. They were evidently filled with sympathy for the dead President and Mrs. McKinley, and with execration of the assassin whose foul deed was the cause of the present sad demonstration.
     Thousands upon thousands of bared heads of the men as seen from the train windows bore evidence of their reverence for the ashes of their President, while the grim set of their countenances bespoke little of the quality of mercy for the murderous anarchist.
     Grassy terraces covered with a bright green carpet were dotted with the pink, red and blue dresses of the women and girls, presenting in the bright sunshine a wonderful effect. The crowds thickened as the depot was approached until every street was jammed and every available space filled hundreds deep.
     As the train sped through the Ohio hills the country smiled with glowing golden rod as if to remind those on the train that the simple blossom was a favorite with the late President. The mowed fields were as green as if the summer were young instead of at its close.
     Gorgeous red of the sumac and the russet brown of the ivy were the only colors to relieve the green of the woods. The aspect of the land was pleasant as if the honored son of Ohio were being welcomed to his last home-coming by the earth which was to receive him so soon. A sprinkling of clouds tempered the rays of the sun and relieved its glare, making it an ideal day for rejoicing, rather than gloom.
     Smiling as were the elements, however, their gladsome joy was not reflected in the countenances of the fellow-citizens of the departed Ohioan. Had the sky been somber as night and the earth as desolate as the desert the countenances of those thousands of human beings assembled along the route could not have been gloomier.
     One noticeable feature of the crowds was that so many people were attired in their Sunday best. These had arrayed themselves as for a funeral, [384][385] the same as if some member of their own family was to be buried, and all for the sake of the mere glimpse of the presidential train and for the privilege of paying a momentary mute homage to the memory of the illustrious dead.
     In other days Canton has been clothed in a gay garb of color, bands have played stirringly, richly attired women have smiled and men have shouted for William McKinley. But those were happier days than this, the occasion of the home-coming of a guide, friend and neighbor who, having climbed the ladder of fame, fell before the assassin’s bullet and died in the arms of his country.
     In all the little city which the dead President loved there was hardly a structure that bore no badge of sorrow. In Tuscarawas street, from one end to the other, business houses were hung heavy with crape and at intervals huge arches, draped and festooned in mourning colors, spanned the route of the procession from the train to the county courthouse.
     One of the arches was in front of the Canton high school, half a block from McKinley avenue. The school was draped, and in every window was a black-bordered portrait of the late President. In this thoroughfare, too, are two large churches, one of which was regularly attended by Major McKinley, the First Methodist Episcopal, at Cleveland avenue, a block from the courthouse. At each corner of the edifice and above the big cathedral windows were broad draperies deftly looped, each bearing a large white rosette. The other church, the First Presbyterian, was similarly adorned.
     The courthouse, the scene of the lying in state, was a mass of sable hue. At the entrance, between the two big doors, was a tablet wrought in crape and upon the cloth shield was emblazoned in white the utterance of the President when told that he must die:
     “It is God’s way. His will, not ours, be done.”
     In front of the courthouse was another massive arch.
     Canton was astir with break of day, such residents as had not displayed badges and draperies of mourning performing the task that morning. At Nemicella Park the soldiers of Troop A of Cleveland and the militia of various parts of the State were busy preparing to escort the distinguished dead up Tuscarawas street.
     On every corner in the downtown districts boys and men were shouting out “Official badges here” and selling pictures of the dead President.
     Before 8 o’clock the rotunda of the courthouse had been prepared for the reception of the body. With the exception of dainty white streamers from the chandeliers there was no trace of white in the large apartment [385][386] wherein the public should have a last look upon the face of the departed executive. The walls and ceilings were covered with black cloth looped here and there from the ornamental pillars with streamers and rosettes of the same color. From each chandelier was suspended a small American flag, a larger one fluttering just above the catafalque.
     Three hours before the funeral train was scheduled to arrive more than a thousand men and women had gathered at Courthouse square and hundreds of others had congregated in the vicinity of the railway depot, each anxious to be as near the casket as possible when it was taken from the car Pacific.
     At the McKinley home itself, almost the only residence in Canton that bore no trace of mourning, was another throng, and there was not a door or window that had not been peered at most assiduously by curious visitors and equally curious residents of the city.
     Every train brought crowds of visitors, come to witness and take a sorrowful share in the last rites. Every hotel was full to overflowing, four or five persons occupying a room scarcely large enough for two, and halls and parlors had been filled with cots. Even these brought prices as high as would procure one of the best rooms in a metropolitan hotel.
     Complete plans could not be made until after the arrival of the funeral train. It had been the intention to have the body lie in state until evening and then remove it to the McKinley home in North Market street, but Mrs. McKinley objected, asserting that she could not endure the thought of having her husband’s body disturbed.
     Above the high steps and over the main entrance to the courthouse hung a painting of Maj. McKinley twenty feet square. It had a white border and made a very effective piece against the broad expanse of black that obscured all the first part of the second story of the structure. The most effective arch in the city was that in front of the high school. This was erected by the pupils of the public schools. It was square on top and bore on either side a picture of the dead President. On the left of each picture was the legend “We loved him,” and on the right “He loved us.”
     On either support was a large card bearing this: “Canton Public Schools.”



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