McKinley worked during vacation

Editor’s note: This is part of a weekly series marking the 120th anniversary of Niles native William McKinley’s U.S. presidency.

As we continue to retrace the steps of President William McKinley in 1897, you may have gathered that September was mostly spent traveling. Although it was referred to as a vacation, McKinley’s work was never done.

The trip took the president to Massachusetts during the last week of September. On Sept. 28, he visited William College, where he was warmly welcomed. The president was joined by several other people, including Mrs. McKinley, and was greeted by the student body of the college. They assembled around the soldier’s monument on campus and saluted McKinley, the last president who was a veteran of the Civil War.

He entered the U.S. Army as a private and achieved the rank of major. This was an accomplishment he was most proud of and often preferred to be referred to as major over any of his other prestigious titles. His visit to the college was capped off by a gymnasium reception where college songs were sung.

McKinley also visited the town of Adams to visit his friends the Plunkett brothers, who established the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company, which manufactured high quality textiles until the mid-20th century.

According to the Adams Historical Society, McKinley’s support of legislation and tariffs that were favorable to the cotton industry helped make Berkshire in Adams one of the largest mills in the U.S.

McKinley also participated in the cornerstone laying ceremony for the Adams Library while in the town, according to the library’s website.

In addition to being a library, the building was designed to be a Civil War Memorial and to hold meetings for the Grand Army of the Republic, which is a Civil War veterans organization. The town honored their connection to McKinley by commissioning a well-known sculptor, Augustus Lukeman, to create a statue of McKinley. Its unveiling on Oct. 10, 1903, was recorded to be one of the largest events in Adams.

It could not have been anticipated then, but in just a few short years McKinley would have an entire memorial that includes the McKinley Memorial Library established and built in his honor.

We recognize our centennial by following the president’s path 100 years ago. He came from a family that valued literacy and education. They read together as a family in Niles when McKinley was a boy. All of the children in McKinley’s family, who were able to, attended a one-room schoolhouse on the grounds where the memorial sits today. McKinley and his siblings walked just one block from his home home on Main Street to school.

Carrie Kibby is manager of the adult reference at the McKinley Memorial Library.