As the seat of government for the State of Ohio, Columbus is home to a plethora of monuments and markers to those great men and women who have made an impact in our State’s history. Chief amongst these great Americans who are honored are the eight Presidents of the United States from Ohio, including, of course President James A. Garfield.
If you visit the Ohio Statehouse (www.ohiostatehouse.gov) in Columbus, if you are on the outside… West side (High Street), northwest corner, you will see a statue called “These are my Jewels.” Under the goddess Athena, are statues of notable Ohioans of the Civil War era, including: Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Rutherford B. Hayes, Edwin Stanton, and of course, James A. Garfield. This is one of Ohio’s formal tributes to the Civil War on the Capitol Grounds, and quite possibly near where then-State Senators James A. Garfield and Jacob Dolson Cox practiced military drill on the Statehouse grounds after Senate Session, since the statue is on the Senate side of the Statehouse (www.ohiosenate.gov).
Once inside, if you meander around the first floor of the Statehouse, you will find many of the various Committee hearing rooms are named for Ohio’s eight Presidents, including Room 115 – the Garfield Hearing Room. The Governor’s Ceremonial Office, also known as the Lincoln Room (recently. named this by Governor John Kasich), is the only room in the Statehouse not named for an Ohioan. Of course, as we know, there is a special connection between Lincoln and Garfield, and Garfield was a Member of the Ohio Senate when Lincoln made a campaign stop in Columbus in 1860, and when Lincoln addressed the Legislature as President-Elect in February, 1860.
Prior to the renovation of the Statehouse in the 1990s, the names of the Ohio Presidents were painted along the top of the Rotunda, so President Garfield’s name was emblazoned upon the ceiling. However, when the Statehouse was renovated, the names were removed, as the Rotunda was restored to its original grandeur, but something better was uncovered…
A skylight dating to the early days of the Statehouse was uncovered, bearing the version of the Great Seal of the State of Ohio used during the early years of our State’s history. In that version of the seal, a canal boat is seen on the river in the seal – much the same as the version of the State Seal seen in the top, center panel of the stained glass fireplace screen in the bedroom of Eliza Ballou Garfield.
As you go throughout the Statehouse and other nearby Ohio Government buildings, you not only see references to Garfield, but to other figures in Garfield’s life, where you can start to really piece a puzzle together.
Start with Governor Salmon P. Chase, who Garfield came to admire and befriend when he was a State Senator. Governor Chase would go on to serve as President Lincoln’s Secretary of Treasury (www.treasury.gov), and Garfield would write Chase about General Phillip Rosecrans’ ineptitude as a commander, thus causing Rosecrans to be relieved of command in 1863. Governor Chase’s official gubernatorial portrait can be found in Room 201 of the Statehouse – the Office of the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives (www.ohiohouse.gov), and the education center and museum at the Statehouse is named for Governor Chase. A bronze relief of Chief Justice (of the United States) Salmon P. Chase is located on the Grand Concourse of the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus (www.ohiojudicialcenter.gov).
Governor William Dennison would be the Governor who would commission James A. Garfield as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Union Army in August, 1861, and was the Governor who succeeded Governor Chase. By the commission of Governor Dennison, Lieutenant Colonel Garfield would be placed in command of the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Governor Dennison’s portrait can be found in Room 110 of the Statehouse.
The person whom has become a prime research interest of mine is Governor Jacob Dolson Cox, who, in 1866, was elected Governor of Ohio. In 1860, then-State Senator Cox was the roommate of then-State Senator Garfield, and the two of them were very close friends. As previously mentioned, Cox and Garfield would practice military drill together, and were commissioned, essentially, side-by-side. During his tenure in the Union Army, Governor Cox would also become a Union Army general, and following his time as Governor, would serve for just under two years as the Secretary of the Interior (www.doi.gov) for President Ulysses S. Grant. Governor Cox can be found in Room 110 of the Statehouse.
On the subject of President Grant, he too, has a hearing room named after him, since he was an Ohio-born President. Additionally, the likeness of President Grant can be found in the Grand Concourse of the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center, located on Front Street, where he can be found amongst the Presidents, Speakers of the US House of Representatives, and Chief and Associate Justices of the US Supreme Court from Ohio. Additionally, Grant Street in Columbus is named for President Grant. As we mention on the tours when we are near the Parlor, President Grant came to the Garfield home in Mentor with New York Senator Roscoe Conkling to resolve some political issues amongst them. President Grant is one of two other Presidents to have spent time at the Garfield Home.
Another Ohio Governor tied to James A. Garfield was the governor directly succeeding Governor Cox. Rutherford Birchard Hayes served as Governor from 1868-1872). Governor Hayes would become President in 1877 despite losing the popular vote to New York Governor Samuel Tilden, as a 15-Member Electoral Commission, on which then-Congressman James A. Garfield served, would choose Hayes by a partisan vote of 8-7 (Pictures of the Commission are located outside “The General’s Snuggery,” on the North Wall on the second floor). Hayes would then become the third of eight Presidents from Ohio, and has a hearing room named after him in the Statehouse. Additionally, his likeness can also be found on the Grand Concourse at the Moyer Judicial Center. In President Garfield home, a portrait of President Hayes hangs in the “General’s Snuggery” on the second floor. (NOTE: More on President Hayes can be found at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont (www.rbhayes.org). Hayes Hall at Bowling Green State University is also named for President Hayes.) President Hayes’ portrait is not on display in the Statehouse.
In 1880, a future Ohio Governor and President would come to hear then-Congressman James A. Garfield give one of his famous front porch speeches, and then in 1896, develop his own brand of them. In 1880, William McKinley, would come to Mentor to listen to Congressman Garfield address a crowd of supporters. William McKinley would go on to become Governor from 1892-1896, and President from 1897-1901. Like Garfield, McKinley would get shot by a deranged individual and succumb to his wounds. His official gubernatorial portrait hangs in Room 121 of the Ohio Statehouse, and a bronze relief of President McKinley can be found in the Moyer Judicial Center.
The Chief Justice of the United States who administered the Oath of Office to President Garfield was fellow Ohioan Morrison Waite. Chief Justice Waite’s relief can be seen on the East Wall of the Moyer Judicial Center’s Grand Concourse. In our Visitor Center, Chief Justice Waite can be seen administering the Oath to President Garfield in the main exhibit area.
Edwin M. Stanton served as President Abraham Lincoln’s second Secretary of War, and later as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In addition to being one of the “Jewels” on the statue on the Statehouse grounds, Justice Stanton’s likeness can be seen in Grand Concourse of the Moyer Judicial Center along the East Wall with the other Supreme Court Justices. In the President’s home, Secretary of War Stanton can be found twice on the Second Floor… in his individual portrait to the left of President Lincoln’s on the West Staircase, and also standing sitting, facing President Lincoln in the Emancipation Proclamation lithograph.
Many of these historical figures had significant roles in the life of James A. Garfield. In putting this piece together, one can start to see how close-knit, even amongst those who differed with each other, the political world is.
-Andrew Mizsak, Volunteer