Story of the Tragedy of the Death of President
On Friday, September
6, 1901, the country was startled by the awful news that President
William McKinley had been assassinated at the Temple of Music in
the Exposition grounds at Buffalo.
President John G. Milburn of the Exposition
had introduced the President to the great crowd in the temple, and
men, women and children came forward for a personal greeting.
In the line was Leon Czolgosz, whose
right hand was wrapped in a handkerchief. Folded in the handkerchief
was a thirty-two calibre self-acting revolver holding five bullets.
As he stepped up to greet the President, he fired through the bandage
without removing the handkerchief. The first bullet entered too
high for the purpose of the assassin, who fired again as soon as
his finger could move the trigger.
As the President staggered, Secret
Service Detective Geary caught him in his arms and President Milburn
helped to support him. In a moment all was confusion. The assassin
was beset by a hundred hands and would undoubtedly have been killed
had not the President requested that no harm be done to him. The
President was immediately removed to the Milburn mansion, where
an operation was performed.
As the first bullet had struck a button,
it had deflected somewhat, and had not penetrated far. The second
bullet, however, had passed the anterior and posterior walls of
the stomach, going completely through that organ.
Dr. P. M. Rixey, the President’s family
physician, was a constant watcher at the bedside, and, with Secretary
Cortelyou, issued official bulletins, which were primarily most
Mrs. McKinley was permitted to see
her husband daily, but only for a few minutes at a time. She evinced
true bravery, and was most earnest in her endeavor to sustain the
President in his great battle for life, as he had sustained her
but a few weeks previously when she had herself lain critically
ill in San Francisco.
In less than a week, however, a new
and serious complication, heart failure, appeared, and on Saturday,
September 14, 1901, six and a half days after the shot of the anarchist
assassin, President McKinley passed away.
In the latter hours of suspense word
was flashed to Vice-President Roosevelt, who was gunning in the
heart of the Adirondack woods, and as soon as the summons reached
him he started on one of the wildest night rides in history, over
dark, well-nigh impassable roads, hoping against hope to reach the
dying President before the end. Death, however, had claimed the
Chief Executive before his successor was more than half way on his
journey to the bedside of the dying man.
The funeral services of William McKinley,
the man, took place at the Milburn house in Buffalo, Sunday, September
15th. The funeral of William McKinley, the President, commenced
the next afternoon in the official building of the city where he
died. For one day the body lay in state in 
the city hall, and from there it was taken to Washington, just two
weeks from the day when the President had gone forth to lend his
measure of encouragement to that great enterprise, the Pan-American
Exposition at Buffalo.
Upon arriving at Washington, the remains
lay in the East Room of the White House for one night, that spacious
apartment where the President had been so often the central figure
of notable gatherings, and where before him had rested the remains
of Lincoln, Garfield, Secretary of State Gresham and other distinguished
public servants, before their final interment.
At nine o’clock on Tuesday morning,
September 17, 1901, the funeral cortege of William McKinley, twenty-fifth
President of the United States, and third incumbent of the office
to fall by an assassin’s hand, started from the White House toward
President Roosevelt, accompanied by
his wife and sister, arrived half an hour earlier at the executive
mansion and were given seats in the Red Room. Precisely at the hour
appointed, the pall-bearers, enlisted men from the army and navy,
lifted the black casket of him who had been named “Our well-beloved”
and carried it for the last time through the doors and down to the
President Roosevelt, with his wife
and sister, occupied the first carriage. Next in order came the
carriage of ex-President Grover Cleveland, who was accompanied by
General John M. Wilson and Admiral Robley D. Evans. Following directly
came the justices of the Supreme Court in their robes of office,
and army and navy men in full uniform continued the slow-moving
procession. Representatives of foreign governments in all their
trappings of state followed in order. One carriage bore the Hon.
Gerald Lowther, of the British legation, assigned by a cabled order
to personally represent King Edward VII of England.
Rev. Dr. Naylor, presiding elder of
the Washington district, and the venerable Bishop Andrews, of whose
church President McKinley had been a life-long member, conducted
the services, after which the guards took their places about the
casket and the big bronze doors of the Capitol were thrown open
and the crowds admitted to gaze for the last time on the face of
the nation’s lamented chief. So great was the crush that twice the
doors had to be closed, to prevent a panic, which at times seemed
The funeral train bearing the remains
of President McKinley crossed the western border of Pennsylvania
and entered his home state and his home congressional district at
ten o’clock . .
on Wednesday, September 18.
From the state line to Canton the
line of mourners was almost continuous, company on company of state
militia presented arms while peal upon peal of the death knell came
from the church and court house bells.
The funeral train proper, bearing
the body of President McKinley, arrived at twelve o’clock; it was
met by Judge Day, at the head of the local reception committee,
while assembled about the station was the entire militia of the
While the funeral services were being
held over the remains of President McKinley on the Sunday after
his death, every church edifice in the nation was the scene of a
similar service. Without regard to creed, without regard to location,
far and near, high and low, in cathedral and in chapel, preacher
and people united in sorrowful and sympathetic funeral services
and in worship of the God whom William McKinley had worshiped. At
Canton, when word was given for the last public farewell, President
Roosevelt, followed by his cabinet, stepped into the hall; after
these came General Miles, General Otis and General Brooke, with
other officers of the army and navy. From the court house the body
was taken for the last time and laid in the little front parlor
of the home from which the nation had called its chosen chief five
For six days and through hundreds
of miles a sorrowing nation had followed his bier. After the brief
and impressive services in his home church the funeral cortege wended
its way to Westlawn cemetery. From the hill top the President’s
salute of twenty-one guns, fired at intervals of one minute, announced
After the arrival of the casket there
was a moment’s pause, then Bishop Joyce read the burial service
of the Methodist Church. Instantly from the eight buglers rang out
the soldier’s last call, “taps.” The vault gates closed with a hollow
clang, and the soldiers took up their sad round of sentry duty in
the lonely cemetery.
During the services the entire nation
suspended business, and even London became a city of sorrow. In
far away Manila, in the tiniest hamlet heads were bowed in grief,
and the sorrows of the cities bathed all the land in tears.
Under this shadow the new Executive
took up the duties which had been so suddenly thrust upon him. The
nation resumed its work after a pause at the brink of the grave
of a man honored and beloved by thousands, ruthlessly cut down in
his vigor by an assassin’s hand. He left behind him a record of
spotless citizenship, superb ability, and beautiful simplicity and
loyalty in his private life.
Leon Czolgosz, the assassin, was brought
to trial Monday, September 23, at Buffalo, and on Tuesday, September
24, was adjudged guilty. On Thursday, September 26, he was brought
to court to receive the sentence of death. On Tuesday morning, October
29, he paid the penalty of his crime in the electric chair in the
prison at Auburn, N. Y.