The Closing Scenes
great Exposition, which was to unify the peoples of North and South
America, facilitate trade and commerce, and extend the knowledge
of their products and resources, was in every way fostered and encouraged
by the President, and he at once appointed a “President’s Day,”
which was fixed for September 5, 1901. The day opened bright and
sunny. Buffalo made it a special and general holiday. All the houses
and public buildings were profusely decked with flags and bunting;
thousands poured into the city from every part to see the President,
more even than to view the Exposition. “President’s Day” brought
the largest concourse of the season. Immense crowds gathered in
front of the Milburn house, where the President and Mrs. McKinley
Promptly at ten o’clock, the President
and his wife emerged from the Milburn house accompanied by Mr. Milburn,
President of the Exposition, and Mrs. Hamlin, of the board of women
managers. They were driven to the Exposition grounds, escorted by
mounted police and members of the Signal Corps. On the entrance
of the President, a salute of twenty-one guns was fired, and the
President was escorted to the stand erected in the esplanade, where
an immense crowd which overflowed to the Court of Fountains greeted
him with ringing cheers.
Amidst the most profound quiet, Mr.
Milburn introduced the President.
The great concourse of people gave
a mighty cheer as the President rose to speak and it continued some
minutes before he was able to proceed.
This grand and unique speech, outlining
the policy and platform of his administration, is printed in full
at the close of this sketch. It has been read the world over, and
will continue to be read, not more for the tragic event which followed
than from its great eloquence and statesmanlike provisions. It might
almost seem to have been written with a prescience of the sad event
which should so soon plunge the nation into such profound sorrow.
The story of the dread tragedy has
been told so often and so well that to complete this sketch needs
but a brief narrative of the events of that fateful day, the firing
of the fatal shot, the days of dread expectancy and waiting, of
the calm, Christian fortitude of the martyr President; and when
the end came, the burst of sorrowing sympathy from all over the
country and from the lands beyond the seas.
It was immediately after the organ
recital in the Temple of Music, Friday, September 6th. The President
stood on the dais on which the great organ was placed. At his right
stood John C. Milburn, on his left stood Mr. Cortelyou. He was seemingly
well guarded by Secret Service detectives. The President was in
cheerful mood at the evidence everywhere of the people’s goodwill,
smiling, bowing and with extended hand welcoming the people.
Soon after four o’clock, one of the
line worked his way within two feet of the dais. He was of medium
size, dressed plainly in black. He approached as if in turn he would
greet the President. The man’s right hand was wrapped in a handkerchief,
as if an accident or hurt of some kind had affected it. As the 
President put forth his hand in greeting, suddenly the sharp crack
of a pistol rang out over the tumult of the passing crowd.
For a brief moment the President stood
still; a deathly pallor began to come over his features. For an
instant surprise arrested the action of the crowd. Then came the
reaction. Several men sprang toward the assassin; two of them were
Secret Service detectives, who had been misled by the simple subterfuge
of the handkerchief which had been used to conceal the murderous
weapon. The assassin was quickly hurled to the floor, the revolver
struck from his hand; it was with difficulty that the miscreant
was saved from the surging, 
frenzied crowd, while from the pallid lips of the stricken President
came in faint tones the words “Don’t hurt him.”
Meanwhile the President was helped
to a seat; he made no outcry, but sank back, one hand holding his
abdomen. To Mr. Cortelyou, who leant over him, he said, “Be careful
about my wife. Do not tell her.” An ambulance arrived and the crowd
parted, and the President was removed to the Exposition Hospital.
The distinguished surgeon at the Hospital made the preliminary investigation,
but he was quickly joined by the best medical talent of Buffalo.
The doctors told the distinguished patient that “an immediate operation
was necessary.” In a low tone he replied, “Gentlemen, I want you
to do what you think is necessary.”
When it was decided to move the President
to the Milburn House the sad story was broken to Mrs. McKinley as
gently as possible.
While the wounded President was carefully
borne through a lane of silent, sorrowing spectators, who stood
with uncovered heads, from the Exposition grounds to the Milburn
house, the cowardly assassin was taken by his captors to police
headquarters. So rapidly was the journey made that before the crowds
were aware the prisoner was safely behind the prison bars.
But the crowd, infuriated at having
been robbed of their prey, surged round the jail, crying, “Lynch
him! Lynch him!” but a squad of reserves emerged from the jail and
with solid front drove the mob of angry men back, and shortly dispersed
The incidents of the last sad days
are all but as yesterday—the alternations of hope and sad despair,
the constant bulletins, the guarded and roped-in Milburn house,
now become historic, the crowds of newspaper men in the hospital
tents without, a nation waiting, expectant, hungry for news, but
dreading to hear or to read when hourly the news came.
All that the best medical skill could
do was done, but the fiat had gone forth, and nothing now could
stay the summons—the end was near. The members of the Cabinet, the
Vice-President, and relatives of the President were hastening to
his bedside. The President, fully conscious that the end was near,
asked for his wife. When she entered the room she sank on her knees
and bowed her face on the bed. Sobs shook her for a moment. The
President  roused himself for
a moment sufficiently to recognize her; then he whispered, “Good-bye,
good-bye, all. It is God’s way. His will be done.” He feebly tried
to clasp his wife’s hand, but lapsed into unconsciousness, and the
doctors led Mrs. McKinley tenderly from the room.
At two o’clock on the morning of the
14th Dr. Rixey observed a slight convulsive tremor. The President
had entered the Valley, and the immediate relatives were soon gathered
to take their last look upon the President in life. Silent and motionless
the loving friends stood round the couch. At a quarter past two
Dr. Rixey placed his ear to the heart of the dying President. Then
he raised himself up and said, “The President is dead.” 
No pomp or set ceremony marked the
funeral service but simple and sincere, as befitting the simple,
sincere life of the dead President.
The funeral service was conducted
by Dr. Locke, of the Methodist Church, an old friend of the family.
The choir of the First Presbyterian Church sang the President’s
favorite hymn, “Lead, Kindly Light,” and after the reading by Dr.
Locke from I Cor. XV, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where
is thy victory?” the choir sang “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” The service
closed with a simple benediction.
Four sailors, two infantry sergeants
and two artillery sergeants bore the coffin from the house. The
President and the Cabinet followed. Mrs. McKinley and the members
of the family remained.
The subsequent procession moved through
a vast concourse of weeping women and sorrowing, bowed-down men
to the City Hall, where one hundred thousand men and women swept
past the coffin lying in state, between half past twelve and half
past ten o’clock.
At early dawn of the 16th the body,
escorted by the military, was taken to the funeral train, and accompanied
by relatives, friends and officials, the train started for the capital.
From Buffalo, over the Alleghanies
[sic] down the broad Valley of the Susquehanna, to the marble
city of the Capitol, through a living lane of half a million people
who, with uncovered heads and tear-stained faces, lined the entire
route, the swiftly passing funeral cortege wended its dreary way.
Flags at half-mast lined the way,
bells tolled or chimed the President’s favorite hymn. The stations
were shrouded with the sombre trappings of woe.
The silent mourners, who had lost
a personal friend as well as a loved President, saw nothing but
that black line of crape-draped cars, in which, behind the close-drawn
curtains, was the grief-stricken widow, the relatives of the illustrious
deceased President, and his Cabinet.
But there was one glimpse of light
in all that sombre train. The observation car was open to the light
of day, and through its windows as the train passed swiftly along
could be caught just a glimpse, on an elevated bier, of the coffin
draped in the national colors, guarded by a solitary soldier and
sailor, representing the army and the navy. 
At the railroad depot, the casket
was reverentially borne by four of the artillery and four sailors,
through a double line composed of President Roosevelt and the Cabinet
officers. The clear bugle note sounded out “Taps,” the only sound
that broke the solemn silence.
At the White House the casket was
placed in the East Room, two marines, a soldier and sailor stood
guard, one at each corner of the bier, while two members of the
Loyal Legion and of the Grand Army sat on either side. These were
relieved every second hour throughout the night.
On the 17th the last funeral obsequies
were begun. The body was borne in solemn state to the rotunda of
the Capitol, where round the casket were gathered the most noted
men of the Republic—President Roosevelt and his Cabinet—and just
across the narrow aisle sat Grover Cleveland, the only living ex-President,
and who now visited Washington for the first time since he had resigned
his high office to William McKinley.
After the simple and impressive services—impressive
from their simplicity—Bishop Andrews of the Methodist Episcopal
Church delivered the funeral eulogy, which concluded with this noble
“Lost to us, but not to his God. Lost
from earth, but entered Heaven. Lost from these labors and toils
and perils, but entered into the everlasting peace and ever-advancing
progress. Blessed be God who gives us this hope in this hour of
calamity and enables us to triumph through Him who hath redeemed
“If there is a personal immortality
before him, let us also rejoice that there is an immortality and
memory in the hearts of a large and ever-growing people who, through
the ages to come, the generations that are yet to be, will look
back upon this life, upon its nobility and purity and service to
humanity, and thank God for it.
“The years draw on when his name shall
be counted among the illustrious of the earth. William of Orange
is not dead. Cromwell is not dead. Washington lives in the hearts
and lives of his countrymen. Lincoln, with his infinite sorrow,
lives to teach us and lead us on. And McKinley shall summon all
statesmen and all his countrymen to purer living, nobler aims, sweeter
faith and immortal blessedness.” 
Tuesday evening, the 17th, the body
was removed to Canton, his old home, where it arrived shortly before
noon. All along the route, the scene was most impressive. Hardy
mountaineers, with their axes on their shoulders, came down the
mountain-slopes; miners, with their lamps, from the tunnels; the
workers from the steel mills along the Conemaugh River; men, women
and children crowded to the line as the train passed, and with bared
heads paid their last sad homage to the dead President.
In Canton the train slackened speed
and moved with the solemnity of the “Dead March in Saul.” Church
bells tolled, the humblest cottage was draped in mourning, and nearly
the whole of Canton with bowed heads and bursting hearts awaited
that last homecoming.
At the lying in state the line of
people extended several blocks. Thursday came. All through the night
and early morning loaded trains came in. At the noon hour the funeral
procession reached the Methodist Church, in which the services were
held. Mrs. McKinley desired to attend, to be with her beloved to
the last, but had been prevailed on by her physicians to remain
The services were as simple as possible,
just two male and two female voices, without even an organ accompaniment.
Dr. Manchester, the pastor and friend of the late President, delivered
a most touching and beautiful eulogy, a tribute to the personal
worth and public services of the deceased.
From the church, the remains, escorted
by the troops between two lines of sorrowing neighbors, were carried
to the West Lawn Cemetery, where, at last, after that long journey
they were reverently laid to rest “in full and certain hope of a
The funeral day was observed through
the whole of the United States and our distant possessions, all
business was suspended and even the telegraph wires were hushed
for five minutes at half past two, the time set for lowering the
body into the vault. One hundred thousand telegraphers thus joined
in the last funeral obsequies.
And all over the world all peoples
mourned the life so simple and yet so noble. The tragedy of the
“taking off” of the President caused universal sympathy and especially
in the British Empire. In London King Edward ordered 
special Court mourning, notable services were held in St. Paul’s
and Westminster, the exchanges were closed throughout the country,
the flags were at half-mast. Memorial services held in cathedrals
and churches everywhere told of the unfeigned sympathy of “our kin
beyond the sea.”
In Canada, where the Duke of Cornwall,
the heir apparent, had just landed, and all the country had met
to welcome him, they marked the day by entire cessation from all
business and pleasure. For that day at least Canada and 
the United States had joined hearts and hands in fraternal embrace
and loving sympathy.
The inscrutable Providence of that
sad death none can explain; all that can be said is in the last
words of the President, “I G ; .”