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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Rutherford B. Hayes


Rutherford Birchard Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio on October 4, 1822, the son of Rutherford Hayes, Jr. and Sophia Birchard.

Hayes's father, a storekeeper, died ten weeks before Rutherford's birth. Sophia took charge of the family, bringing up Hayes and his sister, Fanny, the only two of their four children to survive to adulthood. She never remarried.

As a young man, Hayes fought lyssophobia, or the fear of going insane.

Hayes attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and then went to Harvard Law School.


After graduating from law school, Hayes became a lawyer. He moved to Cincinnati in 1850, and opened a law office with John W. Herron, a lawyer from Chillicothe. Later, Herron joined a more established firm and Hayes formed a new partnership with William K. Rogers and Richard M. Corwine.

Hayes courted his future wife, Lucretia "Lucy" Webb, during his time in Cincinnati. They became engaged in 1851 and married on December 30, 1852, at the house of Lucy's mother. After the wedding, performed by Dr. L.D. McCabe of Delaware, the couple honeymooned at the home of Hayes' sister and brother-in-law in Columbus, Ohio.

Rutherford and Lucy Hayes on their wedding day

Rutherford B. Hayes quit his law practice and volunteered for service in the American Civil War on the Union side in 1861 at almost 40 years old with no prior military experience.

Hays fought at several major battles and was wounded five times, most seriously at the Battle of South Mountain; he earned a reputation for bravery in combat and was promoted to the rank of major general.

Seven U.S. presidents served in the Civil War, but Rutherford B. Hayes was the only one who was wounded in action.


After the war ended, Hayes was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a part of the Republican Party.

In 1867, Hayes became the governor of Ohio. He was elected to two consecutive terms, from 1868 to 1872, and then to a third term, from 1876 to 1877.

Ulysses S. Grant had been president for two terms since 1869, but had announced that he was not going to run for a third time in 1876. The Republican Party decided to make Hayes their candidate as he had made many successful  changes in Ohio while he was governor there, plus he was thought to have been a hero in the Civil War.

Hayes ran against Samuel Tilden, whom the Democratic Party nominated. The election was close, and Tilden actually got 300,000 more popular votes than Hayes, but Hayes got 185 votes in the Electoral College, while Tilden got 184, so Hayes won the election.  As a result, he was frequently referred to by his opponents as "His Fraudulency," "Rutherfraud B. Hayes," and "the Usurper."

Rutherford B. Hayes was the first U.S. president to complete law school, and his wife was the first first lady to be a college graduate.

While he was president, Hayes ended the Reconstruction period that followed the American Civil War, attempted to reconcile the divisions left over and began the efforts that led to civil service reform.

President Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife Lucretia did not drink alcoholic beverages. She served lemonade and other non-alcoholic drinks at the White House instead, earning herself the nickname "Lemonade Lucy."

Rutherford Hayes held gospel sing-alongs every night in the White House.

Lucretia Hayes owned the first Siamese Cat in the United States.


Hayes refused to seek a second term as president and retired to their Spiegel Grove home, which is located at the corner of Hayes and Buckland Avenues in Fremont, Ohio.

Hayes became an advocate for educational charities during his retirement. He believed that education was the best way to heal the rifts in American society and allow individuals to improve themselves.

He was greatly saddened by Lucy's death in 1889. Hayes wrote that "the soul had left [Spiegel Grove]" when his wife died.

Hayes died of complications of a heart attack at his home on January 17, 1893. His last words were "I know that I'm going where Lucy is."

President-elect Grover Cleveland and Ohio Governor William McKinley led the funeral procession that followed Hayes's body until he was interred in Oakwood Cemetery.

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