McKinley’s in-law murdered; president visits World’s Fair

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

President William McKinley and his wife, Ida, were enjoying a pleasant evening at the White House on Oct. 7, 1898, when they received the distressing news that Ida’s brother, George D. Saxton, had been murdered.

Saxton was said to have been making a call at the residence of the widowed Eva B. Althouse when he was shot. Althouse was not at home, leading to suggestions that Saxton had been led to the residence by his attacker, presumably by the sending of a decoy letter.

The person accused of the murder was Anna E. George, who had been in a relationship with Saxton and had been heard to threaten his life.

George had been married at the time she met Saxton and it was rumored he helped her obtain a divorce from her husband.

Sample C. George later sued Saxton for the “alleged alienation of the wife’s affections.” Saxton was eventually made to pay Sample George $1,825 in damages. After the relationship between Saxton and George failed to work out, she claimed “Saxton deceived her and deserted her for another.” This deceit, and the anger that followed, is what lead her to be accused of the murder. Although she made threats against Saxton and was the only suspect, she was later acquitted of the murder.

Prior to the trial, however, was the funeral.

On Oct. 8, 1898, the president traveled with his wife and several other relatives to attend the funeral in Canton. Afterward, Ida McKinley stayed in Canton to be with her family while the president traveled on a special train to the World’s Fair in Omaha, Neb.

This was the first time the president traveled west of Chicago and “the immense crowds at the stations along the Northwestern Road showed the appreciation of the people for the opportunity of greeting their Chief Magistrate. Even at the smallest stations good-sized crowds were in waiting, whose only hope of reward was the possibility of a passing glance at the President as the train swept by,” according to a report in the Oct. 12, 1898, New York Times.

Upon arriving in Omaha, McKinley was greeted by the largest crowd that had ever “lined the streets of the city, and the welcome accorded to the head of the National Government was enthusiastic in the extreme,” the paper reported.

Despite the tragedy he suffered earlier in the week, McKinley gave several speeches at the fair and at several stops during the train journey back to Washington, D.C., which reflected the positivity he felt in the nation.

Kristin Reeves is a librarian at the McKinley Memorial Library in Niles.