President William McKinley will be honored at 10 a.m. Jan. 29 in Poland Village. A special program has been put together for his 170th birthday.
"Niles and Canton recognize McKinley, so we thought it was time we recognize him here in Poland since this is where he spent his formidable years," said Dave Smith from Towne One Streetscapes.
He said McKinley was born in Niles, and the family moved to Poland Village when William was nine. At the time, the village had less than 80 homes, a half dozen stores, two taverns, two blacksmith shops, two grist mills and two churches. In the story of William's boyhood, his mother, then in her eighties, said the reason the family moved to Poland Village was because of the schools.
The McKinley family's first home in the village was on Main Street. Smith said it was at 101 South Main St. and was believed to be a rental. A second home was built further down the street nearer to the mill on Yellow Creek. The third house William's family lived in was located in the parking lot of the Home Savings and Loan on Main Street.
Ted Heinneman from the Poland Historical Society said it is well known that William attended Poland Seminary School and after graduating he went to Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, but only got to spend a few weeks there before heading off to fight in the Civil War. Those days will be recognized during the Jan. 29 ceremony.
Heinneman also wrote a brief for Tuesday's ceremony on William's life, including his war time experience. He wrote that William joined the Union Army (23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry) with several of his Poland Village buddies, including Ira Mansfield, Charles Kirtland, John Nesbitt, James Botsford, Robert Walker, Robert Wilson and Cook Kirtland. All returned after four years of service except Capt. Wilson, who was killed in the battle of Perryville.
After the war, William went into politics and rose to achieve his ultimate goal as the 25th president of the United States.
Since it is a tradition to place a wreath on the grave of a U.S. president on the date of his birth, Smith and Heinneman thought it appropriate to place a wreath on the fence in the parking lot where his boyhood home was located.
Following the wreath-laying, those in attendance will move to Wittennauer's Cafe for coffee, which will be symbolic of another thing William was known for, but never widely broadcast.
"William McKinley saw to it that coffee and food got to the troops involved in the Battle of Antietam," Heinneman said. "In those days coffee was important."
He said a lot of people died from drinking bad water during the Civil War. Coffee was important as the water had to be boiled to make it, killing off any bacteria or germs.
The Jan. 29 event is just the start of further ideas for recognizing William McKinley. Smith said there is a plan to add to the welcome signs with a similar designed sign stating Poland Village is William's boyhood home. Smith said most of the funds have been raised to provide the signage, which will cost $190 each.
Also being considered is an Ohio Historical marker that will cost roughly $2,400 and will take a lot of red tape and paperwork to secure.
A third awareness idea involves Walgreens. Smith said Walgreens has the large windows that showcase Poland Village history.
"We're looking at having a wooden model of McKinley's home made and placed in the window," Smith said. "We could also give info on the McKinley family and maybe William's biography."
He said it will be up to Walgreens and they would have to go through their corporate ladder to get permission. Smith said it is a perfect location because of the large amount of people who use the drugstore.
While the awareness project will be ongoing, the Jan. 29 program is the start for recognizing President William McKinley, from Poland, Ohio.