Rutherford Birchard Hayes
(19th President of the United States)
Born: Oct. 4, 1822 in Delaware, OH
Died: Jan. 17, 1893 at his estate Spiegel Grove in Fremont, OH
Rutherford B. Hayes's 1st cousin, Mary Roxana Birchard, was riding the Pacific Express on her way to collect a $5,000 dollar inheritance from her late uncle Sardis, a wealthy banker from Fremont, Ohio. However, she never made it. The train crashed when the Ashtabula Bridge collapsed during a raging blizzard on Dec. 29, 1876. She was burned beyond recognition and burred in the grave of the unknown dead at Chestnut Grove Cemetery in Ashtabula, OH.
At the time, Rutherford B. Hayes was the governor of Ohio and President-elect of the United States in an extremely difficult and highly contested election. While still sitting in the governor’s seat awaiting a determination to his election, Hayes received the news about the death of his cousin. He wrote these words in his diary. "Our cousin Mary Birchard, of Fayetteville, Vermont, was lost in the fearful railroad accident at Ashtabula, Friday evening. We have learned none of the particulars as to her fate beyond the general facts of the catastrophe. The accident was the most dreadful that has ever occurred on any railroad in Ohio, and has rarely been equaled in the number of victims and other circumstances of horror anywhere. Poor dear Mary! She was a kind-hearted, lovable woman."
Being as outraged over this train disaster as the public, Hayes ordered the Ohio Legislature to form a committee to investigate the accident and determine the cause.
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