Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mary "Pina" Saxton Barber

Our guessing game from the end of last week was Mary "Pina" Saxton Barber, who was the sister of Ida Saxton McKinley. I know her for several reasons.

Pina, not Ida, actually owned the Saxton House that is part of the National First Ladies' Library. She inherited it from her parents, George and Katherine Saxton. What is known as the "Saxton" House was actually built by Katherine Saxton's parents (Dewalt) and then inherited by Katherine and then passed to Pina. Ida and William McKinley spent considerable time in the Saxton House because during his years in Congress and as Governor of Ohio, they didn't keep a permanent residence in Canton and stayed with Mary whenever they came "home."

Pina (she was nicknamed this by Ida) and Ida were only about a year and half apart and so were close growing up. They went on a Grand Tour of Europe together after they finished their education. Pina married Marshall Barber soon after Ida married William McKinley. Pina and Marsh had seven children (Ida and William had two, both of who died in childhood).

The reason I brought up Pina this week is that the National First Ladies Library does a Mother's Day Tea (for more pictures) and I played Pina this year (see below). In one of the scenes, Pina and Ida discuss their Grand Tour of Europe. The script for this section is based on the published account that comes from their letters home to their parents. I thought I'd post a few excerpts. You can always come see it next year!

Pina's comments on the Blarney Stone pulled from a letter home: The Blarney Stone that is for the convenience of visitors was the first thing we saw. We all kissed it 3 times. I was the first to do it. The real stone is hung by two iron bars from the very top of the Castle and who ever wants to kiss that must hang by the feet with his head down, none of our party kissed that stone, they all considered their necks too precious to risk any thing like that.

Ida was enthralled with the throne in the House of Lords as this excerpt from her letters tell us: We entered the House of Lords, which is 90 feet long, 45 in breadth and 45 feet high, it is a magnificent room. The carving, the painting, the stained glass, the gilding everywhere to
be seen, and last but not least the Throne, glowing with gold and high colors is a sight we do not often see. The Queen Victoria’s chair is of course in the center of the Throne and on either side is one for the Prince of Wales and the other was for the late Prince Consort (Prince Albert). They are very handsome. Gilt and velvet, there is a very rich canopy over the throne and gilt around it.

Ida and Pina even met Pope Pius IX while in Italy. Ida wrote that, "We all bowed before him and kissed his hand not because he is Pope but such a nice old man."

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