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Published: Sunday, 8/10/2008

Descendants celebrate legacy of 19th president at Fremont's Hayes Center

BY GABE NELSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Stephen Hayes, left, and Scott T. Hayes are great-great-grandsons of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Stephen Hayes, left, and Scott T. Hayes are great-great-grandsons of President Rutherford B. Hayes.
JEREMY WADSWORTH / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

FREMONT - About 20 descendants and relatives of Fremont's most famous resident, former U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, gathered yesterday at the Hayes Presidential Center to celebrate the legacy and family history of America's 19th president.

Hundreds of people attended the day's festivities, which included tours of the house where President Hayes lived until his death, a talk on the president's genealogy, and a concert by a brass quintet from the U.S. Marine Band.

Stephen Hayes, the president's great-great-grandson and the president of the center's board of trustees, helped to organize the reunion. He lived in President Hayes' home until 1965, when Mr. Hayes' father decided to give the property, called Spiegel Grove, to the state as a museum.

"President Hayes loved Fremont, and he loved his family," Mr. Hayes told the crowd of about 250 people gathered for the concert on the house's shady front lawn.

The crowd at the festivities seemed to indicate that Fremont loves President Hayes too. The onetime U.S. congressman and Ohio governor who lived much of his life in Fremont made a mark on the city that continues to this day.

Mr. Hayes walked to the side of the house as the brass ensemble started its set of American tunes and marches. There, he met Mary Sachs, a lifelong resident of Ballville Township, south of Fremont, who approached Mr. Hayes to share her own story about the president's legacy.

Mrs. Sachs, 83, said her grandmother admired President Hayes and honored him by naming her son - Mrs. Sachs' father - after the president. He was born in 1892, a year before President Hayes died at Spiegel Grove.

Mrs. Sachs' father took pride in his moniker throughout his life, she said, always signing his

Kathy Hayes, left, Kellie Hayes, 17, Scott T. Hayes, Stephen Hayes, and Theo Hayes were among
about 20 relatives of President Rutherford B. Hayes who gathered at the Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont to celebrate their ancestral link to the nation s 19th president. Kathy Hayes, left, Kellie Hayes, 17, Scott T. Hayes, Stephen Hayes, and Theo Hayes were among about 20 relatives of President Rutherford B. Hayes who gathered at the Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont to celebrate their ancestral link to the nation s 19th president.
JEREMY WADSWORTH / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

name as "Rutherford B. Hayes Michaels."

Mr. Hayes said the reunion brought together many previously unacquainted descendants, tied together by their relation to one of the United States' more obscure presidents.

It's easy for others to forget about President Hayes, best known for his controversial 1876 election and largely uneventful term in office. In the annals of American history, President Hayes has garnered neither the notoriety of his predecessor, Ulysses S. Grant, nor the near-universal praise of the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.

"He's a man that's not studied a lot," Ross McCormick, a retired Fremont schoolteacher who works as a tour guide at President Hayes' home, said yesterday after guiding about 20 people through the 31-room mansion.

Mr. McCormick, 67, said he knew little about President Hayes when he took the job, even though his favorite subject as a teacher was fifth-grade American history.

Perhaps the most notable element of President Hayes' term in the White House was the way he got there, Mr. McCormick said. After Democratic opponent Samuel Tilden fell one electoral vote shy of the necessary total, a Republican-leaning congressional commission awarded Rutherford B. Hayes, then-governor of Ohio, the electoral votes he needed to win the presidency.

For the rest of his term, some furious Democrats called President Hayes "Rutherfraud." Many Americans, though, were won over, Mr. McCormick said.

"He was a man of integrity and dignity," Mr. McCormick said. "He started under a cloud, and by the end of his term, he was held in fairly high esteem."

That's especially true, yesterday's festivities suggested, in Fremont.

Contact Gabe Nelson at:

gnelson@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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