« PreviousContinue »
The journey from Albany was continued over the New York Central Railroad. The special train was rushed across the State, arriving in Buffalo at 1:35 P.M. Instead of alighting at the Union station, where there was sure to be a crowd assembled, Mr. Roosevelt left the train at the Terrace station, where he was met by Mr. Ansley Wilcox and Mr. George Williams, with Mr. Williams' carriage, together with a detachment of the Fourth Signal Corps and a squad of twenty mounted police. With the police and the military moving at a rapid trot in front of the carriage and behind it, Mr. Roosevelt drove swiftly up Delaware avenue to the house No. 641, which has now become one of the historic mansions of the country.
It is a brick house, painted white, with a row of six stately pillars in front of a deep veranda, in the old-fashioned style of a hundred years ago. It is in one of the most beautiful parts of beautiful Delaware avenue, and is surrounded by tall, overbranching trees, which throw a deep shade upon the handsome lawn all the way down to the terrace, five or six feet high, which rises from the sidewalk, and upon which elevation above the street the house stands.
Away back in the early part of last century the house was used by the United States officers in command of the military post at Buffalo, and stood in a large park or square that was a part of the military reservation.
The people who gathered about the house as the cavalcade came clattering up stood by in silence as the Vice-President left the carriage, walked rapidly up the terrace steps and entered the house. The people of Buffalo had stood silent for so many days, as if listening for the heart-beats in that wounded body of the martyred President lying in the Milburn house, that the least word seemed an intrusion on the prayerful silence. There was none spoken now as the man on whose shoulders had suddenly fallen all the burdens of State passed among them. Only the uncovered heads, bowed low, paid tribute to the dignity of his great office.
Vice-President Roosevelt remained in the house but a few moments. His first thought was of the woman whose ever-loving and gentle helpmate had been suddenly taken away, and he started at once to pay his respects to her, and offer what consolation lay in his power. As he returned to the carriage his eye lighted on the
military and police escort still drawn up in the street.
"Send them away,” he said quickly, “I do not like the idea of a guard.”
As he turned to enter the carriage the Vice President saw that his wishes in reference to the escort were being disregarded. The military was lining up behind the carriage.
“Halt,” he said. He spoke low and quietly, but there was a military ring in the voice that commanded obedience. "I will not have a military guard,” he said. “These two policemen may go with us if you think best. No more.' The orders were obeyed this time, and the carriage moved away with no other escort than the two policemen, one riding on either side.
Nearly all the Cabinet ministers were at the Milburn house when Vice-President Roosevelt arrived, but he met them only as a private citizen mourning the loss of a very dear friend. The hour was too full of grief for words and the VicePresident, after a few moments, returned to the Wilcox residence. He was followed soon after by the members of the Cabinet, and at their request took the oath of office which made him President of the United States.
The new President assumed the duties of the first magistrate of the land in the library of the Wilcox home. The room was rather small, but picturesque, with heavy oak trimmings, and massive bookcases lining the walls. Those present when Mr. Roosevelt took the oath were: Elihu Root, Secretary of War; Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Secretary of the Interior; John D. Long, Secretary of the Navy; Charles Emory Smith, Postmaster-General; Judge of the Court of Appeals Haight; Mr. John N. Scatcherd; Mr. and Mrs. Ansley Wilcox; Miss Wilcox; Mr. George P. Sawyer; Doctors Mann, Park and Stockton; Mr. and Mrs. Carleton Sprague; Mr. and Mrs. John G. Milburn; Secretary to the President, Mr. William Loeb, Jr.; Secretary to the deceased President, Mr. George B. Cortelyou; Mr. and Mrs. Chas. Carey; Mr. R.C. Scatcherd; Mr.J.D. Sawyer, and Mr. William Jeffers, official telegrapher, in addition to Judge John R. Hazel, of the United States District Court, who administered the oath.
The scene was a most affecting one. Secretary Root, who, twenty years before, had been present at a similar scene, when Vice-President Arthur took the oath after the death of President Garfield, almost broke down when he requested