Presidents of the United States

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Rutherford B. Hayes

From: Portrait and Biographical record of Rockland and Orange Counties, New York
By: Chapman Publishing Company
Published: 1895


RUTHERFORD B. HAYES, the nineteenth President of the United States, was born in Delaware, Ohio, October 4, 1822, almost three months after the death of his father, Rutherford Hayes. His ancestry on both the paternal and maternal sides was of the most honorable character. It can be traced, it is said, as far back as 1280, when Hayes and Rutherford were two Scottish chieftains, fighting side by side with Baliol, William Wallace and Robert Bruce. Both families belonged to the nobility, owned extensive estates, and had a large following. Misfortune overtaking the family, George Hayes left Scotland in 1680, and settled in Windsor, Conn. His son George was born in Windsor, and remained there during his life. Daniel Hayes, son of the latter, married Sarah Lee, and lived from the time of his marriage until his death in Simsbury, Conn. Ezekiel, son of Daniel, was born in 1724, and was a manufacturer of scythes at Bradford, Conn. Rutherford Hayes, son of Ezekiel and grandfather of President Hayes, was born in New Haven, in August, 1756. He was a farmer, blacksmith and tavern-keeper. He emigrated to Vermont at an unknown date, settling in Brattleboro, where he established a hotel. Here his son, Rutherford Hayes, the father of President Hayes, was born. He was married, in September, 1813, to Sophia Birchard, of Wilmington, Vt., whose ancestors emigrated thither from Connecticut, they having been among the wealthiest and best families of Norwich. Her ancestry on the male side is traced back to 1635, to John Birchard, one of the principal founders of Norwich. Both of her grandfathers were soldiers in the Revolutionary War.

The father of President Hayes was an industrious, frugal, yet open-hearted man. He was of a mechanical turn of mind, and could mend a plow, knit a stocking, or do almost anything else that he chose to undertake. He was a member of the church, active in all the benevolent enterprises of the town, and conducted his business on Christian principles. After the close of the War of 1812, for reasons inexplicable tohis neighbors, he resolved to emigrate to Ohio.

The journey from Vermont to Ohio in that day, when there were rio canals, steamers, or railways, was a very serious affaix. A tour of inspection was first made, occupying four months. Mr. Hayes decided to move to Delaware, where the family arrived in 1817. He died July 22, 1822, a victim of malarial fever, less than three months before the birth of the son of whom we write. Mrs. Hayes, in her sore bereavement, found the support she so much needed in her brother Sardis, who had been a member of the household from the day of its departure from Vermont, and in an orphan girl, whom she had adopted some time before as an act of charity.

Rutherford was seven years old before he went to school. His education, however, was not neglected. He probably learned as much from his mother and sister as he would have done at school. His sports were almost wholly within doors, his playmates being his sister and her associates. These circumstances tended, no doubt, to foster that gentleness of disposition and that delicate consideration for the feelings of others which were marked traits of his character.

His uncle, Sardis Birchard, took the deepest interest in his education; and as the boy's health had improved, and he was making good progress in his studies, he proposed to send him to college. His preparation commenced with a tutor at home; but he was afterwards sent for one year to a professor in the Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. He entered Keriyon College in 1838, at the age of sixteen, and was graduated at the head of his class in 1842.

Immediately after his graduation he began the study of law in the office of Thomas Sparrow, Esq., in Columbus. Finding his opportunities for study in Columbus somewhat limited, he determined to enter the Law School at Cambridge, Mass., where he remained two years.

In 1845, after graduating at the Law School, he was admitted to the Bar at Marietta, Ohio, and shortly afterward went into practice as an attorney-at-law with Ralph P. Buckland, of Fremont. Here he remained three years, acquiring but a limited practice, and apparently unambitious of distinction in his profession.

In 1849 he moved to Cincinnati, where his ambition found a new stimulus. For several years, however, his progress was slow. Two events occurring at this period had a powerful influence upon his subsequent life. One of these was his marriage with Miss Lucy Ware Webb, daughter of Dr. James Webb, of Chillicothe; the other was his introduction to the Cincinnati Literary Club, a body embracing among its members such men as Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, Gen. John Pope, Gov. Edward F. Noyes, and many others hardly less distinguished in after life. The marriage was a fortunate one in every respect, as everybody knows. Not one of all the wives of our Presidents was more universally admired, reverenced and beloved than was Mrs. Hayes, and no one did more than she to reflect honor upon American womanhood. The LiteraryClub brought Mr. Hayes into constant association with young men of high character and noble aims, and lured him to display the qualities so long hidden by his bashfulness and modesty.

In 1856 he was nominated to the office of Judge of the Court of Common Picas, hut he declined to accept the nomination. Two years later, the office of City Solicitor becoming vacant, the City Council elected him for the unexpired term.

In 1861, when the Rebellion broke out, he was at the zenith of his professional life. His rank at the Bar was among tile first. But the news of the attack on Ft. Sumter found him eager to take up arms for the defense of his country.

His military record was bright and illustrious. In October, 1861, he was made Lieutenant-Colonel, and in August, 1862, promoted Colonel of the Seventy-ninth Ohio Regiment, but he refused to leave his old comrades and go among strangers. Subsequently, however, he was made Colonel of his old regiment At the battle of South Mountain he received a wound, and while faint and bleeding displayed courage and fortitude that won admiration from all.

Col. Hayes was detached from his regiment, after his recovery, to act as Brigadier-General, and placed in command of the celebrated Kanawha division, and for gallant and meritorious services in the battles of Winchester, Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek, lie was promoted Brigadier-General. He was also breveted Major-General, "for gallant and distinguished services during the campaigns of 1864, in West Virginia." In the course of his arduous services, four horses were shot from under him, and he was wounded four times.

In 1864, Gen. Hayes was elected to Congress from the Second Ohio District, which had long been Democratic. He was not present during the campaign, and after the election was importuned to resign his commission in the army; but he finally declared, "I shall never come to Washington until I can come by way of Richmond." He was re-elected in 1866.

In 1867, Gen. Hayes was elected Governor of Ohio, over Hon. Allen G. Thurman, a popular Democrat, and in 1869 was re-elected over George H. Pendleton. He was elected Governor for the third term in 1875.

In 1876 he was the standard-bearer of the Republican party in the Presidential contest, and after a hard, long contest was chosen President, and was inaugurated Monday, March 5, 1877. He served his full term, not, however, with satisfaction to his party, but his administration was an average one. The remaining years of his life were passed quietly in his Ohio home, where he passed away January 17, 1893.

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