McKinley’s mother remembered as a robust woman
Editor’s note: This is part of a weekly series marking the 120th anniversary of Niles native William McKinley’s U.S. presidency.
Nancy Campbell Allison McKinley, mother of President William McKinley, passed from this life Dec. 12, 1897, at 88. She was indeed a robust woman, having grown up on a farm in Lisbon and later taking an interest in assisting in the community in which she lived.
Joseph Butler, Jr., in his memoir, “Recollections of Men and Events” recalled:
“A word about ‘Mother McKinley,’ as she was always called. Her son, William was elected president of the United States in 1896 and again in 1900. Mother McKinley was the leader in Niles of much that was good. She was always called in when a neighbor was visited by the stork. She was constantly on the alert to do something for the community’s betterment, such as ministering to the sick and afflicted, and in other ways. She had in her house many useful articles not possessed by her neighbors, and these were cheerfully loaned. Among other things was a candle mold capable of producing 12 candles at one time. This was in constant use by her neighbors. This product took the place of candles made by the so-called dipping process.”
“Mother McKinley will be long remembered for her kind acts. She was charitable beyond her means and ever doing something to better the condition of her less fortunate neighbors.”
Many people also recalled that Nancy McKinley, along with her sister, cleaned and ran the Methodist Church in Niles. When the family moved in 1852 to Poland to give the children a chance to attend high school (Niles had none then), she continued to serve the community of Poland.
Her husband maintained his businesses in Niles, and did much traveling because of his business. And so Mother McKinley saw to the daily needs of her children. Mr. McKinley Sr. came to Poland as often as his business would allow. It was Mother McKinley who gave her blessing to William joining the Union Army in May 1861.
According to former U.S. Congressman Charles Henry Grosvenor, Nancy McKinley never felt that she had much to do with influencing her son to become president. He was a good and obedient son, affectionate and fond of his home. He was a bright student who caught on to ideas and concepts easily. William attended the Methodist Church faithfully and even joined the church at a very young age. McKinley’s parents raised him to be honest, hardworking, truthful, and loyal.
When the children were grown, McKinley’s parents, moved to Canton, where their daughter was a teacher, at her request. Mr. McKinley retired and passed away there in November 1892 at 85.
The obituary for Nancy McKinley stated she passed peacefully at her home in Canton, and services were held Dec. 14.
The obituary also stated she was “distinctively a home loving woman, and the two story frame cottage on West Tuscarawas street, in this city, where she died and where she had lived for many years, was dearer to her than any other spot on earth.”
The president and other members of his delegation returned to Washington, D.C., the evening after the funeral. Mother McKinley’s passing cast a shadow on the president’s first Christmas in the White House, with a small, quiet celebration occurring.
Scarmuzzi is curator of collections at the National McKinley Birthplace Museum in Niles.