This past Friday evening, hundreds convened at the corner of Sandusky and William Streets in downtown Delaware for the unveiling of a new statute of the 19th President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes. The statute looks toward the site of his birthplace.
As a native son and as someone who kept connection with the city throughout his life, Hayes is a cultural icon in Delaware. Of course, the high school itself is named after the former President. Fremont is where Hayes chose to live as an adult, and the Hayes’ home, Spiegel Grove, stands to this day.
It is almost certain that Hayes made several visits to Mansfield and Richland County during his life.
The first of those may well have occurred on the evening of August 21, 1868, just three years after the Civil War. At the time, Hayes was serving in his first term as Governor of Ohio.
On that evening, Hayes spoke to a meeting of the “Grant Club,” a gathering of Republican party leaders also known as a “Union Republican Meeting.” Hayes’ speech that night took place in Miller’s Hall, the city’s first large speakers and performance venue. His appearance was something of a surprise; it had been announced just the day before.
The 1882 Atlas of Mansfield shows that Miller’s Hall was in a brick building located on the northeast corner of West Third and Main Street, the current site of the Crowes Shoes Building. Just the year before, the same venue had hosted speaker Victoria Claffin Woodhull, the first American woman to mount a campaign for President.
Governor Hayes’ remarks garnered strong praise in the pages of the Mansfield Herald, saying “The hall was packed to its utmost capacity, and the audience listened with the closest attention to the address… The speech abounded in happy hits and was constantly interrupted by applause and laughter. For two hours the Governor spoke, with no appearance of weariness in the audience.”
An observer remarked, “The meeting broke up with three rousing enthusiastic cheers for Hayes.”
President Hayes was well-acquainted with at least one Mansfielder. It was Hayes who asked John Sherman to become his Secretary of the Treasury in 1877.
In the photo below, Delaware Mayor Carolyn Riggle stands next to the newly unveiled statue of President Rutherford B. Hayes.
Sources: Mansfield Herald, Wikipedia; Photo: 1812Blockhouse