Rutherford Hayes 19th President, 1877-1881

Birthplace, Delaware, Ohio
On October 4, 1822, just six months before Ulysses S. Grant was born, another Ohio boy, destined to succeed him in the White House, was born. The two, however, could hardly have been from more different backgrounds, or become more different men. Rutherford B. Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio. Delaware is located near central Ohio, on the Olentangy River and was incorporated as a city in 1903. A trade center in a fertile farm area, it also has some manufacturing. Ohio Wesleyan Univ. is in Delaware. During the War of 1812, the city served as Gen. William Henry Harrison’s headquarters.

Rutherford Hayes, called “Rud” as a child, was named for his father and grandfather. His American roots traced back to 1680s New England, where five years before Rud’s birth his father fled the poor economy there and resettled in Delaware, Ohio. He secured a farm and built a whiskey distillery, and did well in both enterprises. But in the late summer of 1822 he died, leaving Sophia Hayes, already mourning the recent loss of a daughter, with two children and a third on the way. The future president was born ten weeks after his father’s death, and still another calamity was to come. When Rud was only two, his nine-year-old brother drowned after falling through ice while skating on a lake. Sophia was left with a daughter and a son: Fanny and Rud, a frail and sickly boy.

Home, “Spiegel Grove,” Fremont, Ohio
Spiegal Grove was purchased in 1845 by Rutherford B. Hayes’ uncle, Sardis Birchard. He named it for the reflecting pools of water which collect after a rainfall, “Spiegal” is the German word for mirror. Birchard completed the residence in 1863 and it was first used by the Hayes’ family as a summer retreat. It became the family home three years before Hayes was elected President. Additions from 1878-1889 enlarged the home to its present size. Four generations lived in the residence before it was opened to the public in 1966. President Hayes asked distinguished guests to place their hands on trees that were then named after them. Some trees are now more than 200 years old. White House gates, a gift from the United States in 1928, stand at the six entrances to Spiegal Grove, honoring Presidents and military heroes. The natural footpath on the grounds and around the Sandusky River rapids was part of an Indian trail from the Great Lakes to the Ohio River. Used by early French explorers, missionaries and Daniel Boone, it became General William Henry Harrison’s supply route during the War of 1812. In 1790, the Cherokee Indians bound the captive maiden, Peggy Fleming, to a tree at Spiegal Grove. A Wyandot chief, Tarhe the Crane, rescued her from being burned at the stake.

The Rutherford B. Hayes Home is a thirty-three room mansion and is centerpiece of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio. The home, library and museum, and tomb are located in a twenty-five-acre park called Spiegel Grove. It is surrounded by a wrought iron fence and six original White House gates.

Hayes’ uncle and guardian, Sardis Birchard, constructed the original portion of the home between the years 1859 and 1863 as a summer home he could share with his nephew and young family. Construction of the home took five years because materials and labor were difficult to obtain during the American Civil War. The two story brick home had eight bedrooms and a wraparound verandah. Rutherford B. Hayes particularly loved the verandah. In 1873 he wrote in his diary, “The best part of the present house is the veranda. But I would enlarge it. I want a veranda with a house attached!” Hayes spent the next twenty years planning additions and improvements to his home and estate, much as Thomas Jefferson had with his beloved Monticello.

Hayes moved his family to Spiegel Grove in 1873 for only two years before leaving to serve as Governor of Ohio and then President of the United States. In 1880 President Hayes prepared for his return to Fremont from the White House by building a substantial addition and remodeling the interior. The addition included a library to house his 12,000 books, a large reception room, three bedrooms, and indoor plumbing. The most spectacular improvement was a four-story walnut and butternut staircase leading to a lantern offering a 360-degree view of Spiegel Grove.

In 1889 the Hayes added to their home once again in anticipation of visits from grandchildren and friends. The back wing was demolished and replaced by a larger one with a large dining room, kitchen, servants quarters, and five bedrooms. Unfortunately, Mrs. Hayes died at Spiegel Grove during the construction of this last addition to the home. President Hayes died in January 1893 also at Spiegel Grove.

Library & Museum, “Spiegel Grove,” Fremont, Ohio
The museum of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center was started by the President’s 2nd son, Colonel Webb Cook Hayes, shortly after the turn of the 20th century. In several transactions, Colonel Hayes deeded over to the state of Ohio, Spiegel Grove, the President’s estate and all its holdings. Ground was broken in 1912 for the museum building and Colonel Webb C. Hayes opened the first presidential library/museum in the United States in 1916 with some money from the state of Ohio and the rest provided by himself.

Major additions in 1922 and 1968 brought us to our present configuration of exhibit galleries (two floors), research library (one floor), and storage areas (four floors) comprising 52,640 square feet.

In keeping with our mission, the museum uses its resources, including 13,000 artifacts, 1,785 of them on permanent display, to illustrate the life and times of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States.

As President, Hayes contended with the aftermath of Reconstruction in the South, the problems of our black citizens, and the plight of the American Indian. He fought against inflation, vetoed the unfair Chinese Immigration Exclusion Act, and consistently promoted Civil Service reform. Before his election, President Hayes had espoused a single six year term for presidents and true to his word he retired after four years.

Hayes believed strongly that an ex-president should continue to serve his town, state, and country. As an ex-president, the Squire of Spiegel Grove remained active in local affairs, and on the national level traveled extensively to participate in veterans’ affairs and promote prison reform. He worked to promote education both vocational and scholastic for black and white, rich and poor, North and South.

Gravesite, “Spiegel Grove,” Fremont, Ohio
Rutherford Hayes took good care of himself, walking six miles a day about his Ohio estate and outliving many of his contemporaries. In early summer of 1889, his wife, Lucy, died of a stroke. Hayes’s only daughter Fanny, named after his beloved sister, became the former president’s companion, at home, and on his frequent travels. She remembered her father never traveling without several pictures of Lucy, which he would place about his hotel room or ship cabin. Hayes died of heart disease on January 17, 1893. A long funeral procession wound through the snowy Ohio countryside, led by President Grover Cleveland and then Ohio Governor William McKinley. A monument of granite from the President’s ancestral home in Vermont rests over the graves of Rutherford and Lucy Hayes on their favorite knoll in Spiegal Grove.