Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Theodore Roosevelt in Tallmadge, Ohio

The Akron Beacon Journal had an article about Theodore Roosevelt’s surprise visit to farmers in Tallmadge a 100 years ago:Two well-dressed gentlemen made an unexpected visit as Tallmadge farmer Frank Thomas stacked straw on a quiet spring evening.

Thomas was laboring atop a small mountain of grain when he glanced down and noticed a tall stranger peering up.

``Good evening,'' the lanky fellow said. ``Would you like to meet the president of the United States?''

The farmer slid down the stack to investigate. Surely someone was pulling his leg.

There stood a short, stocky man in formal attire -- definitely out of place for cow country. He had a thick mustache, wide grin and pince-nez glasses.

``Delighted,'' President Theodore Roosevelt said as he shook the farmer's hand.

Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks, the tall companion, introduced himself. The men had been enjoying a brisk hike and needed to take a breather.

Their unannounced visit May 29, 1907, was a pleasant surprise in local history. Farmers couldn't believe their eyes 100 years ago as the U.S. leaders strolled down a country lane with a Secret Service agent lagging behind at a respectful distance.

Earlier that afternoon, Roosevelt and Fairbanks had attended the Canton funeral of former first lady Ida Saxton McKinley. Roosevelt (1858-1919), a former vice president, rose to office after President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901.

The article then goes on to tell use about Roosevelt's visit to the Thomas farm:
Roosevelt, 48, stood 5-foot-8 and weighed 200 pounds, but still outpaced Fairbanks, 55, who had longer strides at 6-foot-4.

They were sweating by the time they crossed Brittain Road into southwest Tallmadge. That is when they spotted Frank Thomas on his straw stack.

``I won't forget the visit,'' Thomas told the Akron Press. ``No, sir. Never.''

After shaking off his initial surprise, the farmer offered some country hospitality.

``Don't you want a drink of fresh milk?'' he asked the men.

``Yes, I do,'' Roosevelt replied.

Thomas excused himself and came back with a cool glass from the farmhouse cellar. His family followed him outside to meet the distinguished guests.

``I will never forget the expression made by the president when he finished the milk,'' Thomas said.

``By gosh,'' Roosevelt told him. ``That's good milk!''

The Thomas children tossed a ball around with the president until the hikers bid farewell.

Roosevelt and Fairbanks visited two more farms that day and Roosevelt sent a note to them all from DC:
Roosevelt and Fairbanks boarded the train and it chugged off to Indianapolis. The next day, the president spoke to a crowd of 150,000 people.

In Tallmadge, the excitement of the presidential visit subsided -- until a large flat package arrived at the Wuchter home.

Inside was a White House letter dated June 1, 1907. Enclosed were autographed portraits of Teddy Roosevelt.

``My Dear Mr. Wuchter: I send you three photographs -- one for yourself and the other two I will ask you to give to the two Mr. Thomases (Frank and David) at whose farms I stopt,'' Roosevelt wrote.

``One of them gave me a glass of milk and the other had four such nice sons. Give my regards to your wife and all the Mr. and Mrs. Thomases and the other friends I met. Sincerely yours, Theodore Roosevelt.''

I hope you enjoyed this little local story. I especially liked it because it is so completely typical for Teddy Roosevelt's personality!

1 comment:

M said...

That is a great story. I am sure it got told as family lore for decades. My grandparents had Bob Evans of the Bob Evans chain show up at there house one day claiming he had been born in it. That is about as exciting as my family stories get.