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Mary Roxana Birchard


Sardis Birchard

Mary Birchard from Cindy Joy.JPG

Mary Roxana Birchard

(Passenger & 1st Cousin to President Elect - Rutherford B. Hayes)


Born: Feb. 13, 1827 in Newfan, Windham, Vermont

Died: Dec. 29, 1876 in Ashtabula, OH



Mary Roxana Birchard was the 1st cousin of President Rutherford B. Hayes. She was onboard Train No. 5, the Pacific Express, heading west to receive a $5,000 inheritance from her late uncle Sardis Birchard, a wealthy banker from lower Sandusky, later named Fremont, Ohio. 

"Sardis Birchard was born on January 15, 1801 in Wilmington, Vermont. By the age of 12, both of his parents had died and Sardis lived with his sister Sophia and her husband, Rutherford B. Hayes, Sr. In 1817, Hayes moved the family to Delaware, Ohio. At the age of 21 Sardis took charge of his sister’s family and estate after the death of Rutherford B. Hayes, Sr. in 1822. The children included Fanny ad Rutherford Birchard Hayes who was born after his father’s death. Sardis oversaw Rutherford’s education through his preparatory years, Kenyon College, and Harvard Law School.

Sardis became familiar with Lower Sandusky, Ohio (later renamed Fremont) in 1824 while delivering hogs in cities along the Sandusky River. He eventually established himself in Lower Sandusky and became a well-known merchant and banker. Sardis carried on an extensive trade with the Wyandot, Seneca, and Delaware until the Native American tribes were removed west of the Mississippi River. His store became the largest in Ohio west of Cleveland and north of Columbus. Largely unsettled, Northwest Ohio’s land could be purchased at the government rate of $1.25 per acre. Birchard acquired landholdings in Sandusky, Wood, Lucas, Erie, and other Ohio counties. His wealth continued to grow through real estate sales and several business partnerships.

On July 1, 1851 Sardis and his partner, Judge Lucius B. Otis, opened the first bank in Fremont known as Birchard & Otis. After Judge Otis moved to Chicago, Illinois, the bank became Birchard, Miller & Co. which later merged into the First National Bank of Fremont. The bank was the second national bank organized in the state of Ohio.

On his daily trips to his business, Birchard admired the great trees and deep woods of the property he would later name Spiegel Grove. Its clear standing pools of water reflecting like mirrors reminded him of the German fairy tales of his youth. “Spiegel” is the German word for mirror. He selected the property for the site of a home for his nephew, Rutherford B. Hayes, and his family with whom he planned to spend his final years. Birchard began building the brick home in 1859. Military and political obligations prevented Hayes from residing there until 1873. However, several of the Hayes children, especially Birchard A. Hayes and Webb C. Hayes, spent considerable time living with Sardis in Fremont.

Today Spiegel Grove is the 25-acre estate that includes the Hayes home as well as the Museum and Library building. In 1916 the estate became the first presidential library in the United States."  (The quote here is taken from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums website). Link:

It's also interesting to note that it was Sardis Birchard, who educated his nephew, President Rutherford B. Hayes. 


Unfortunately, Mary died in the disaster and her body was among the burned and unrecognized dead. She was buried at Chestnut Grove Cemetery in the burial plot of the 48 unrecognized dead. Her name appears at the bottom of the tall obelisk marking the grave. It should be noted; Even though the remains of 50 souls, which were placed in 19 coffins, are in this mass grave, only 24 names appear on the grave marker. Click the PDF Icon to see a complete list of the unrecognized dead buried in the Chestnut Grove Cemetery.  


Mary Roxana Birchard

Photo provided by Cindy Joy

Sardis Birchard and Mary Birchard.jpg

Mary R. Birchard & Sardis Birchard

Photo from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library

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