Page images

to him, on behalf of the miners, the memorial adopted at the meeting. January 8, the committee called upon the governor, and made a statement relative to the condition of the miners, and the need of prompt relief. The governor listened courteously, and suggested that the men return to Nelsonville and request the mayor to call a meeting of the citizens to consider the question of relief. When apprised of the result. of such a meeting, he promised to take immediate action looking toward the carrying out of their wishes. The meeting of citizens was called, as the governor had suggested, and the matter discussed. The sense of the gathering was that relief must be immediate and must come from the state. Consequently, a telegram was sent to the governor, which he received at 11:45 p. m., January 9, saying, “Immediate relief needed.” This was enough for the governor. He at once sent messengers to the proprietor of wholesale groceries, a dealer in vegetables, flour, etc., a transfer company, and the officials of the Hocking Valley railroad company, to meet him immediately at his rooms. The subject of the meeting was the purchase of a carload of provisions and its shipment early in the morning. The supplies were purchased and loaded in the cars before 5 o'clock the next morning. As a result of the diligence, within nine hours after the receipt of the message, the carload of provisions was in Nelsonville ready to be distributed to the hungry.

Governor McKinley not only purchased the supplies, but also assumed payment for them. He did not intend to ask the state to pay for this carload of provisions, the cost of which was nearly $1,000, but some of his friends learned that he had assumed the obligation, and they at once took the matter in hand, and secured from state officers and heads of departments the larger proportion of the amount, which they turned over to him; and this sum, added to his own subscription, liquidated the obligation assumed by him.

This, of course, did not suffice to permanently relieve the distress existing, and at various times thereafter, during January and February, the governor was called upon for assistance. He met each appeal promptly, and at various times appointed committees to visit the distressed sections, and report as to the real situation. February 19, he addressed a communication to the boards of trade and chamber of commerce in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo, requesting the appointment of committees to visit the mining districts and investigate and report on the conditions there existing

The relief work was prosecuted systematically, and even when the governor was rut of the city, his orders were to see that every appeal for help was fully met. These instructions were followed, and the chairman of the general relief committee reported at the close of the

[graphic][merged small]

work that the promptness with which Governor McKinley acted, and the liberal contributions made, prevented hunger and suffering on the part of the miners.

The final report of the chairman of the general relief committee, made February 17, showed 2,723 miners out of employment, representing a population of 10,000. It was further declared that the families of these miners had been made comfortable, during a period of several weeks, by the efforts of the relief committee, the cost being $32,796.95.

One other feature of the reign of Governor McKinley needs to be mentioned, because it shows how strongly he felt that the supremacy of the law should be maintained at all times. At Buffalo, when he saw that attack made upon the assassin, he said: “See that no harm comes to him.” He anticipated that an outraged populace might take summary vengeance upon the miscreant, and such action did not meet his views. In October, 1894, at the request of the authorities of Fayette county, he ordered the militia to Washington Court House. A heinous crime had been committed there, the criminal had been apprehended and, with proper regard for his rights, had been given a fair trial. The verdict was guilty and the culprit was sentenced to the limit of punishment fixed by law. This did not satisfy some of the boisterous spirits in the community, and an attempt was made to lynch the prisoner. The mob was held back for some time by the militia, under command of Colonel Coit. The soldiers were stationed in the courthouse. When the excitement was at its height, an attack was made upon the courthouse, and the guardsmen fired upon the mob, killing three people. A great uproar resulted, many declaring the soldiers should not have fired. A military court was instituted to inquire into the conduct of Colonel Coit, and he was absolved from all blame. Governor McKinley, true to his convictions, sustained the brave officer. He said:

“The law was upheld, as it should have been, and, as I believe it always will be in Ohio—but in this case at fearful cost. Much as the destruction of life which took place is deplored by all good citizens, and much as we sympathize with those who suffered in this most unfortunate affair, surely no friend of law and order can justly condemn the national guard, under command of Colonel Coit, for having performed its duty fearlessly and faithfully, and in the face of great danger, for the peace and dignity of the state.

“Lynching cannot be tolerated in Ohio. The law of the state must be supreme over all, and the agents of the law, acting within the law, must be sustained.

“The proceedings and findings of the court of inquiry have been carefully considered by me. I hereby announce my approval of the conclusions of said court, which find that Colonel Coit and his officers and enlisted men of Fourteenth Infantry, 0. N. G., acted with prudence and judgment, and within the law, supporting the civil authority of Fayette county, and in the aid of it, and acting in pursuance of lawful orders, and that they performed their duty with singular fidelity, and that through them the majesty of the law, and government by law, was vindicated and sustained.”

One year later another attempt at lynching was made at Tiffin, Seneca county. The sheriff and his deputies resisted the mob and called upon the governor for aid. With amazing celerity he started four companies from as many different cities, to the scene of the trouble, and their prompt arrival prevented the threatened disgrace.

« PreviousContinue »