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Weekly McKinley column winds to an end

History buffs, especially those who read the Tribune Chronicle, know that recent weeks marked the 120th anniversary of the assassination and funeral of President William McKinley, a Mahoning Valley native.

McKinley was gunned down Sept. 6, 1901, by Leon Czolgosz, on the grounds of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y.

He died eight days later on Sept. 14, 1901, and was laid to rest about another week later, as the nation mourned.

McKinley was born in 1843 in Niles, where he had lived until 1852, when his family moved to Poland in Mahoning County. He graduated from Poland Seminary in 1859, and he studied at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., and later at Mount Union College in Alliance.

I learned some details of McKinley’s early life, including his ties to the Mahoning Valley, and the story of his assassination when, my son, who was in third grade, was assigned to do a school report on a “famous Ohioan.” He chose the nation’s 25th president, William McKinley.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I admit, I hadn’t studied much about native Ohio presidents, so I feared I wouldn’t be much help on the report.

So, on a Saturday morning back then, he and I headed for downtown Niles, where we spent a few hours visiting the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum and then touring the McKinley Birthplace Home, a replica of McKinley’s early home built on the very foundation, also in downtown Niles. My son and I both learned a lot about William McKinley, and that’s where I first met Mike Wilson, a well-known William McKinley impersonator and performer.

Wilson, who now serves as director of SCOPE Senior Services in Trumbull County, that day (like many days) was clad in a black period suit, top hat and, of course, he wore McKinley’s signature red carnation. In character as William McKinley, Wilson spent quite some time with me and my son, discussing William McKinley’s youth, his presidency and, of course, the sad drama of his assassination.

Wilson, and several other talented and civic-minded columnists have been relaying that story about McKinley’s presidency on the pages of your Tribune Chronicle for the past four-and-a-half years.

These wonderful members of our community, who are both McKinley enthusiasts and history buffs, have been volunteering their time and sharing duties of detailing in weekly installments the goings-on of William McKinley and his wife during the presidency. The story has wound through details of his inauguration in 1897, through his first four years in office, his re-election and finally, his death and funeral, that were recalled in print most recently.

Last week, the weekly column wound to an end, as these writers shared the details of the transfer of McKinley’s casket to Canton for his state funeral and burial.

I believe I speak for the Tribune Chronicle staff, as well as countless readers, when I issue this very sincere and public show of gratitude for all the amazing work, research and interesting historical accounts by all the columnists who participated in this collaborative endeavor through the last several years.

In addition to Mike Wilson, other rotating contributors included Michelle Alleman, director of the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum; Audra Dull and Carrie Kibby, both from the McKinley Library; Patrick Finan, retired former director of the McKinley Library; Ami LeMaster, director of the McKinley Birthplace Home; and Wendell F. Lauth, a Trumbull County historian.

From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you!

Now, on Monday, we are extremely pleased to begin offering our readers a new local history series in a collaborative effort by area historical societies. We couldn’t be more thrilled to kick off the new series with a story submitted by the Trumbull County Historical Society highlighting the history of our local newspaper industry and the roots of the Tribune Chronicle.

I hope you will enjoy it as much as the weekly McKinley column!

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