Mother McKinley passes away

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

On Dec. 4, 1897, President William McKinley arrived in Canton at 8:45 a.m. after traveling overnight by train to spend the weekend at the bedside of his dying mother.

Nearly 89 years old, Mother McKinley had fallen ill a couple of days beforehand. Sadly, McKinley had to leave the next day to return to the capital so he could open the regular session of Congress.

McKinley was back in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 6, and because there was a special session of Congress that closed in July, the House had already been organized and committee assignments were made, which made the opening of the regular session a bit more tranquil than usual.

In this column, we’ve discussed the Cuban crisis, the annexation of Hawaii and the Klondike Gold Rush — and all of these issues were addressed in the president’s message.

With a recent change in Spanish government, and seeing all American prisoners in Cuba released, McKinley requested Congress to allow Spain more time to settle the Cuban insurrection. McKinley also urged for the annexation of Hawaii, however, he faced opposition by Democrats and populists, as well as a few Republicans.

The Klondike Gold Rush saw a large influx of population to the territory of Alaska, and McKinley discussed the needs of the area, including a more structured government, a military post to protect people and property and relief to the starving population.

Reports were also made regarding Pacific Railway Sales, the need to protect fur seals and improvements in the Civil Service.

McKinley also appointed a special commissioner to secure adequate space at the Paris Exhibition of 1900 that was “intended to be the most important and comprehensive of the long series of international exhibitions … “

He also reported on the prevention of epidemics of yellow fever, which was prevalent in several cities and towns in the South. He recommended amendments to quarantine laws, and he created a commission consisting of four expert bacteriologists to investigate the exact cause of the disease.

McKinley reported on work done by the Bimetallic Commission, trying to reach an agreement with European countries on a fixed and relative value between gold and silver. He also reported on work of the Nicaragua Canal Commission, which he had appointed in July to recommend a route for the canal.

He urgently requested Congress to increase funding for the U.S. Navy, which was comprised of 4 first-class battleships, 2 second class battleships and 48 other vessels. Some of the money he sought would be used to armor battleships that were being built and for more facilities, including docks on both coasts.

The day after reading his message to Congress, the President and Mrs. McKinley returned to Canton to sit by Mother McKinley’s bedside. She passed away Dec. 12.

Michelle Alleman is library director at the McKinley Memorial Library in Niles.