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Thirty-year-old Sophia Birchard Hayes had experienced great sorrow when, on 4 October 1822, she gave birth to a sickly son, whom she named Rutherford Birchard Hayes. Two and a half months earlier, her thirty-five-year-old husband, Rutherford Hayes, Jr., had died of typhus. A year before, death had snatched Sophia's four-year-old daughter, Sarah. Sophia's maiden years in Vermont had also been filled with grief. When she was thirteen, her father, Roger Birchard, had died of tuberculosis, leaving his wife and children in straitened circumstances. Sophia's mother, Drusilla, remarried four years later, but that marriage failed and she was divorced the next year. Worse yet, in the following year, Sophia's brother Lorenzo and sister Arabella died of typhus, as did her mother in 1813, just before Sophia's twenty-first birthday. An older sister and three younger brothers survived.
At the time of her mother's death, Sophia Birchard had already fallen in love with Rutherford Hayes, Jr., the handsome, redheaded son of a nearby Brattleboro, Vermont, blacksmith, tavern keeper, and farmer. The attractive young woman with rosy red cheeks had earlier been sent to New York City to spend a winter with her uncle Daniel Austin -- to get her away from Hayes. On the streets of New York, she had cried when a meddling woman had pointed at her vibrant face and exclaimed, "Oh, see the paint." "The lass with the roseate cheeks" had already resolved that, if she married anyone, it would be "the lad with the rubicund hair." When a still-determined Sophia returned to Vermont, however, opposition to the match had ceased. On 19 September 1813, six months after her mother's death, Sophia and Hayes were married by the justice of the peace in Wilmington, Vermont, her birthplace.
At the time of his marriage, Hayes had a thriving store in nearby Dummerston. His partner was his brother-in-law John Noyes, who would be elected to the U.S. Congress the next year. Although the Hayeses' first child was stillborn, another child, Lorenzo Birchard, was born on 9 June 1815. Two years later -- with slack trade following the War of 1812 and another baby coming -- Hayes scouted opportunities in Ohio and decided to settle among other Vermonters in the village of Delaware. There he rented a house and, on 21 July, purchased a 125-acre farm located two miles north of the town. When he returned to Vermont for his family, he found that on 10 July a daughter, Sarah Sophia, had been born.
The young family departed for Ohio on 10 September 1817. Accompanying them in "their emigrant wagons" on the forty-nine-day trip were Sardis, Sophia's "wild" sixteen-year-old brother, and her cousin, Arcena Smith, whose family had been wiped out by typhus. Optimistically investing their capital, the Hayeses purchased "wild lands" on the Sandusky Plains near Bucyrus and property in Delaware. They also operated a distillery (with Dr. Reuben Lamb) near a sulphur spring that is now on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University. Another daughter, Fanny Arabella, was born on 25 January 1820, and the Hayeses had begun building a brick home in Delaware when tragedy struck again. First Sarah died, then, on 20 July 1822, her father, leaving Sophia a pregnant widow with two young children.
Sophia was still weak from a "dreadful fever" when her contractions began on the gloomy and chilly evening of 4 October. Arcena was sick and unable to help, but Mrs. Smith, "a most excellent nurse," took her place. Sardis ran for Dr. Lamb, who, between nine and ten o'clock, delivered Sophia's fifth child, a feeble little boy. The fee was $3.50.
For two years -- filled with "hopeless desolation"--Sophia despaired of her son's life, but Rutherford Birchard Hayes survived. As his health improved, Sophia began to rejoice in her children. She reported in 1824 that nine-year-old "Lorenzo splits our wood, gets the cows, goes to school [and] is a good boy" and that four-year-old Fanny "learns very well" in school. Sophia also related that on Saturday, 25 September, Fanny "wanted a pillowcase to sew. I fixed it for her and then I had no peace till I had given Rutherford a needle and thread with a piece of cloth."
The relief that accompanied Rutherford's improved health was shattered a few months later when Lorenzo drowned while ice-skating. Lorenzo's death, heaped on her other sorrows, made Sophia take refuge in the Presbyterian faith, which she had embraced at Rutherford's christening. She also became extremely protective of her surviving children. Isolating them from other children, she kept Fanny and Rud, as her son was called, at home much of the time. Still, Rud had mishaps. "I fell into the coals on the memorable occasion of putting on my first pair of pants," he later recalled. Using Lorenzo's books, Sophia taught Rud to read, write, and spell. He had become a handsome, large-headed, blue-eyed, auburn-haired boy who enjoyed playing with Fanny's dolls before he was given toy soldiers. Lest he overtax his once-delicate constitution, Sophia refused to let Rud do household chores. He was seven before she allowed him to play with other children and nine before she permitted him to participate in strenuous sports.
Constant playmates, Rud and Fanny shared an exceptionally strong bond. Fanny was "my protector and nurse when I was a sickly, feeble boy, three or four years old," Hayes later remembered. "She would lead me carefully about the garden and barnyard and on short visits to the nearest neighbors." When she was seven and recovering from dysentery, Rud returned the favor. "I daily gave her little rides," he recalled, "upon a small hand-sled which, with great difficulty, I hauled on the grass about the garden." They would also "curl dandelion stems & hang them on their ears, string 'four o'clocks' on long straws of timothy or dig mimic wells & fill them with water"; they would "lie down in the shade of great old cherry trees, with their books." Fanny had read all of Shakespeare's plays by the time she was twelve and, with the help of Rud, dramatized Sir Walter Scott's "The Lady of the Lake," which she knew by heart. Then, repairing to the kitchen, they would admire "the strength & speed with which" Sophia thrust "the long handed iron shovel ... in & out of the glowing oven till every nook was filled with savory pies.'"
Neither Rud nor Fanny seemed adversely affected by their mother's overprotectiveness. They were friendly, outgoing children who impressed adults, got along with their peers, and loved the outdoor life. On Saturday afternoons in autumn, they often tramped noisily through the woods looking for nuts, and on snowy winter mornings they "scampered off to the 'run' to slide until breakfast time." Neighbors found Fanny's tomboyish exploits shocking; she played boys' games and was a superb rifle shot. Rud became expert at "hunting, fishing, rowing, sailing, swimming, skating, riding and the like."
Rud and Fanny shared a tendency to be irreverent in their puns and jokes, which their pious mother tolerated but did not encourage. They also fought with each other when their play got out of hand. Fanny made fun of Rud, who could not match her sharp wit, and between the ages of nine and twelve he often responded with his fists. He later marveled at how hatefully they behaved while loving "each other dearly."
Although his mother and sister were the core of his family, Rud did have the companionship of other adults. Sardis, the youngest brother of Sophia, "became the head and main stay of the family," and Sophia's cousin Arcena Smith remained as a household helper. Fanny was devoted to "Aunt" Arcena, and Rud particularly admired Uncle Sardis. Two lodgers rounded out the household: "Uncle" Sam Rheem, a mason with strong antislavery views, and Thomas Wasson, who owned a tannery and later married Arcena.
Sophia needed the lodgers to make ends meet. The $8,000 that she and her husband had brought to Ohio was invested mostly in land, which had dropped in value following the panic of 1819. Had she yielded to her impulse to return to Vermont after Lorenzo died, Sophia would have had to sell her Ohio lands at a great loss. Even though their house, which was completed in 1828, was as nice as any house in Delaware, Hayes recalled that the family's resources were so limited that furniture was in scanty supply. "A new bureau and stand ... and plain wood-bottomed chairs, a gilt-framed looking-glass, a good carpet, and cheap window curtains furnished the parlor." Nevertheless, Rud and Fanny were content. The only possessions of their peers that they envied were "the picture and story books which Mr. [A. H.] Pettibone, the leading lawyer of the village, gave his children."
Young and attractive, Sophia was "grand company" and talked "a perfect hailstorm, faster and faster, and never was tired." She had suitors who might have eased her burden, but, perhaps remembering her mother's disastrous second marriage, Sophia hesitated. Her income (apart from her lodgers) came from the farm, whose tenants paid her a third of the crops and half of the fruit produced on it."
"The great events of our childhood were connected with this farm," Hayes recalled. Three or four times a year, Sophia, Fanny, and Rud would make a day-long excursion to the farm on the east bank of the Olentangy, or the Whetstone, as the displaced Vermonters called it, after the tributary that flowed into the Connecticut River at Brattleboro. Usually they walked together and used a canoe to cross the river a short distance below the farm. "Sugar-making, cider-making, cherry time, and gathering hickory nuts and walnuts were the occasions of these long looked for and delightful trips.... Fanny and I were always favorites with the tenants," Hayes remembered nostalgically. "They gave us colored eggs filled with sugar at Easter, pet birds, squirrels, rabbits, quail's eggs, turtle's eggs, and similar gifts easily got in the country at that time." In warm weather, when they were older, Rud and Fanny took weekly walks to the farm, pausing to rest in the shade and to bathe their feet in the brook, where they spotted minnows and gathered pebbles.
Within a few years, Sardis gave the family financial security, but not before causing Sophia considerable anxiety. When he had first come to live with her, Sardis had been "a slender, delicate sickly boy, wayward and fond of wild sports and wild company." In Ohio, he worked hard and was usually dependable, but his wild streak was still discernible even after he became the guardian of Sophia's children. When Rud was two, Sardis set off with a friend and a jug of brandy to return a buggy that Sophia had borrowed in Portland (later Sandusky), Ohio. He tarried along the way and got uproariously drunk. Sardis then sailed to Detroit, got sick in Michigan, and finally made it back to Delaware after walking for a week from Portland. But soon after his memorable trip to Detroit, Sardis earned $500 when he and a friend drove five hundred wild hogs from Delaware to Baltimore. Traveling on the National Road, Sardis met Sen. Andrew Jackson, who was on his way to Washington. The hogs impeded the carriage that Jackson was escorting on horseback. (At that moment , Jackson was the leading candidate for the presidency but would soon lose the election in the House of Representatives to John Quincy Adams.) Although he had supported Henry Clay, Sardis was impressed by Jackson, who helped clear the road for the carriage and then graciously paused to discuss "the market for hogs" with the twenty-three-year-old uncle of a future president.
Sardis's heavy work and hard drinking taxed his constitution. In the summer of 1825, he was "housed up sick" with consumption after overexerting himself mowing hay. Discouraged by the Ohio "fevers and agues" that had afflicted her family, Sophia again thought of returning to Vermont. During the long winter, she despaired of Sardis's life, but it was a glorious time for three-year-old Rud, who listened avidly to his uncle's tales of adventure. When, in the spring of 1826, Sardis was able to travel to Vermont for the summer, Rud sorely missed him and complained, "How can we eat breakfast [when] all the folks are gone?"
Sardis disappointed Rud and his family by not returning to their home. After wintering in Georgia, Sardis settled in Lower Sandusky in 1827. There, at the scene of his spectacular binge three years earlier, he began to prosper as a merchant by dint of hard work, fair dealing, and good luck. A year after he moved there, the Seneca Indians -- recognizing Sardis's honesty with his policy of one firm, low price for all -- deposited their annual gold payment from the state of New York with him and drew on it when making purchases. Sardis was also fortunate in his partners, who were able and energetic, and in his land speculations, which were enormously profitable. When the panic of 1837 struck, he was not overextended and emerged from the ensuing depression with large, choice real-estate holdings. To the Seneca Indians, Sardis was "An-Se-Queg, the Man Who Owns Most of the Land."
Wealth brought Sardis prominence in northwestern Ohio. He was a founder of the Whig party in Sandusky County, and his network of friends included Ohio Supreme Court Justice Ebenezer Lane of Norwalk and Morrison R. Waite, an able young lawyer in Maumee. As Sardis rose in political and financial circles, he shared his fortune with his sister and her children. He was their "protector and adviser in every trouble," visiting them frequently, and acting as a father to Fanny and Rud.
To Sophia, Sardis -- whom she had mothered since he was orphaned -- was both a son and a brother. If he needed her, she was willing to leave her children in the care of others to be with him. In the fall of 1830, she departed "in a great hurry" for Lower Sandusky -- which, she was convinced, was "as sickly as New Orleans"--to nurse Sardis, who had a severe attack of "bilious fever." Upon seeing him, she "lost all hopes of his recovery," but a month of her nursing restored Sardis to "his normal state" of "very poor" health.
Rud and Fanny missed their mother dreadfully during her absence. They stayed with Arcena, who had recently married Thomas Wasson. "We had never before known," Hayes recalled, "how much we loved her, nor how necessary she was to our happiness." During that time, their "old family puss," who had been with them as long as they could remember, wandered off to die. Upon finding her body under a neighbor's apple tree, Rud and Fanny imagined that she had been stoned to death and "were inconsolable [for] several days."
Most trying, however, for these sensitive children was the opening of a public-supported district school for pupils ranging in size from eight-year-old Rud to grown young men. Rud thought that the schoolmaster Daniel Granger, who "flogged great strapping fellows," was "a demon of ferocity." When he threw a large jackknife into the wall just beyond the head of a boy who was whispering near Rud, the children feared for their lives and tearfully begged Wasson to take them out of school. But he refused, insisting that Granger was "a kind-hearted little man." Their only hope for escape from Granger's schoolroom was their mother's return, and they longed for it passionately. When they heard that she had arrived on a "dismal rainy" November morning after a five-day journey on horseback, Rud and Fanny flew home "with a joy rarely experienced even in childhood." Later, ignoring his frightening, shortlived experience with Granger, Rud called Joan Hills Murray, who ran a private grade school he attended in Delaware, his "first school-teacher."
As he grew older, Rud displayed remarkable self-assurance, whether as a student, a lawyer, a soldier, or a politician. His confidence in himself was almost certainly the result of the secure atmosphere that Sophia had created, with significant help from Sardis and Arcena. Once he had carefully made up his mind, Rud did not waver or have second thoughts. Nurturing his self-confidence may have had a negative effect, however, as far as Sophia was concerned, for her son never experienced a religious conversion. Convinced of his worthiness, he never felt the need to be born again in Christ and did not join a church, although he attended services regularly and liberally supported organized religion.
Rud never rejected, however, the moral principles instilled in him by Sophia and reinforced by the Presbyterian church they attended in Delaware. He obeyed the spirit as well as the letter of the Ten Commandments and seldom failed to treat others as he wanted to be treated. He learned to value the gentlemanly virtues of honesty, fairness, kindness, generosity, and decency -- all of which were relatively easy to embrace, because Uncle Sardis had made the Hayes family economically secure. Growing up in a household of women also pushed Rud into a leadership role that augmented his self-assurance. As he grew into adolescence, Rud began to act as the head of the house, and his relationship with Sophia changed. She still scolded him for a variety of offenses (he was "too loud," and his manners were bad), but she also deferred to him in ways that gave him new responsibilities and maturity.
Rud became intensely patriotic. He gloried in the history of the young republic of which he was a citizen, and he loved the even younger state in which he resided. George Washington was his hero, and while playing with his toy soldiers, Rud dreamed that he too would become a hero on the battlefield and a leader of his country. Encouraged by Fanny, he memorized parts of patriotic speeches by Patrick Henry, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay, and at the slightest provocation he would deliver them at the top of his lungs. His favorite was Webster's "Reply to Robert Y. Hayne," with its stirring peroration: "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable." Rud appreciated his New England heritage and New Englanders like Webster, but he was a westerner through and through and was especially proud to be a "Buckeye."
Rud was also ambitious. Thanks to the prodding of Sophia, Sardis, and Fanny, his friendliness was not allowed to slip into complacency. With Sophia often reminding him of the virtues of the father and brother he never knew, Rud felt challenged to emulate them. Lorenzo, he learned, was "kind and good-natured, prompt, energetic and courageous," in short, an ideal boy. Rud tried hard to be like Lorenzo and to deserve the kind of praise heaped on his dead brother. He was also aware of his larger-than-life father, remembered by family, friends, and neighbors. This father was strong, hardworking, good-humored, tolerant, and generous: He had refused to join an abortive attempt to lynch a local physician for lewd behavior; he had listened to a variety of preachers interpret the scriptures and had contributed to several Delaware churches. His most memorable offering with the most tangible results had been seventeen gallons of whiskey to cheer the laborers who raised the Methodist church steeple.
To the inspiration of Rud's father and brother were added the expectations of Sardis and Fanny. Both uncle and sister lived vicariously through Rud. An undereducated, self-made man, Sardis never married and thought of Rud as his own boy, for whom he wanted an excellent education and a distinguished career, preferably in law and public service. Rud did his best to fulfill his uncle's dreams. For him, Sardis was a surrogate father on whom he modeled his mannerisms and much of his behavior. For her part, Fanny was a brilliant student in Delaware and at the Female Seminary at Putnam, Ohio. Realizing that a leadership career was closed to her, even in egalitarian Ohio, she resolved to taste success through her beloved brother. Like it or not, and at times he did not, Rud Hayes was being groomed for an extraordinary life.
At about four o'clock on the morning of 4 June 1834, Rud and his family "huddled ... into the crowded stage" and left Delaware for a five-month visit to New England relatives in the Connecticut River Valley. Rud's account of this journey marked his first attempt at what later became a lifelong habit of keeping a journal. The trip not only introduced him to the technological innovations that were revolutionizing transportation but also acquainted him with his Hayes grandparents and numerous uncles, aunts, and cousins. Before this trip, Rud had met only one cousin and had never traveled outside of Delaware, Ohio. That summer spent in the bosom of his extensive family, in the valley of his ancestors, was the beginning of his great interest in his kinfolk and forebears. "You know," he confessed to an uncle in 1874, "I am given to antiquarian and genealogical pursuits. An old family letter is a delight to my eyes. I can prowl in the old trunks of letters by the day with undiminished zeal."
The trip was an adventure for eleven-year-old Rud. The first leg of the journey -- on which Sardis was with them -- was an arduous sixteen-hour stagecoach ride from Delaware to Lower Sandusky, where they stayed for a few days. Then on Sunday, 8 June, they went down the Sandusky River to Portland, where on Monday evening, Rud, Fanny, and Sophia boarded the steamboat Henry Clay and "had a pleasant passage down Lake Erie to Buffalo." Taking an Erie Canal boat, they disembarked five days later at Schenectady and rode a short distance on the recently completed railroad to Saratoga, New York. At Saratoga the little family visited the grave of Rud's maternal grandfather, Roger Birchard, and the springs whose waters had failed to cure the tuberculosis that had brought him there twenty-nine years earlier. Although the family liked to think of Roger Birchard as a man "of uncommon business capacity," his death at age forty-seven had exposed his improvidence, which left his wife and children poor.
Continuing by stagecoach, Rud and his family stopped at Wilmington, the town where Sophia had been born on 15 April 1792. Moving on to the "pleasant village" of West Brattleboro, they spent a week with Rud and Fanny's grandparents. Their grandfather, Rutherford Hayes, Sr., a Connecticut native, had migrated as a young man up the Connecticut River to Vermont, where he worked as a blacksmith and later kept a tavern and farmed. When Rud and Fanny first saw him, he was nearly seventy-eight and content with his possessions and his life. He was short and lively and was fastidious about his appearance, brushing his coat, collar, and vest, adjusting his new wig, and often washing his "remarkably white" hands. He had "less intellect, ambition and industry" than their grandmother, Chloe Smith Hayes, and the contrast between them helped inspire Rud's later belief that Hayes women were superior to Hayes men. While Grandfather Hayes washed away the evidence of his earlier manual labor, his wife continued to work hard and was bothered by her husband's aversion to getting his hands dirty. When Rud and his family visited, his grandmother was seventy-one, and although her husband would die in two years, she would live to be eighty-four, and Rud would see and admire her on subsequent visits.
Rud and his family also visited his uncle Austin Birchard for two weeks in Fayetteville (now Newfane). There, on the Fourth of July, while Rud and his cousin Charley Birchard were firing a small cannon on the square, an old man cut his own throat. Hurrying to the scene, they were horrified by his "heaving and groaning," and Rud thought that he would "never again desire to witness the glories of a battlefield." When the dying man was out of sight, however, Rud, with a bravado laugh, tried to mask the tenderness that was the core of his being. Playing with Charley was fun, but associating with his mother's brother Austin -- who had risen above the adversity of deafness to become a successful merchant and local political leader -- was inspirational. "If Uncle could accomplish so much with so little encouragement, and held back by his infirmity," Rud reflected, "what ought I not to accomplish with so great assistance and motive as I have always had?" Rud was less impressed by his uncle Roger Birchard, who was a successful though eccentric merchant.
Sophia also took her children to Putney to visit their paternal aunt Polly and her husband, John Noyes, who had been a member of Congress and Rud's father's partner in the Dummerston store. Ever since John Noyes had left Vermont a sober man and returned from Washington a drunkard, Sophia had regarded politics as a degrading profession, and whatever ambitions Sardis and Fanny harbored in their hearts for Rud, Sophia did not want him to have a political career. About that visit, though, Rud chiefly remembered that he "had lots of fun ... breaking up bumblebees' nests" with his cousin George W. Noyes. Rud did not meet George's oldest brother, John Humphrey Noyes, who had recently been expelled from Yale for announcing that his heart had attained a state of pure, sinless perfection. But his cousin's rejection of the Calvinistic doctrine of human depravity had neither disturbed the family nor as yet ruffled the calm of the village.
Rud and his family also traveled to Chesterfield, New Hampshire, to visit his cousin Mary Jane, the eldest sister of John Humphrey Noyes, and her lawyer husband, Larkin Goldsmith Mead. The Mead family was both unusually good company and unusually talented. At the time of Rud's visit, Mary and Larkin Mead had begun their family of nine children, among whom would be a sculptor who bore his father's name; industrialist Charles Levi Mead; architect William Rutherford Mead; and artist Elinor Mead, who married novelist William Dean Howells.
Although the Hayeses visited relatives and went sightseeing in New Hampshire and western Massachusetts, they concentrated on Vermont. Rud saw Dummerston, where his parents had lived and worked before migrating to Ohio. On the south side of the common was the little store in which Rud's father had started his business, and adjacent to it was the house where Rud's parents had settled after their marriage.
Toward the end of his New England visit, Rud met his nineteen-year-old cousin Horatio Noyes, a student at Yale College, who took him under his wing. On Sunday morning, 28 September 1834, Rud and Horatio were in West Brattleboro and had a particularly enjoyable day. Fanny, who at fourteen and a half was no longer a child, generally associated with her female cousins rather than Rud, but on this Sunday afternoon she accompanied him and Horatio down to the river. Despite, or perhaps because of, the Yale man's presence, she waded in with her old tomboyish enthusiasm. "We sent Fanny in after sticks," Rud reported; then they put a board across Whetstone Brook and climbed up the rocks. They "went down to where the river [ran] in a very narrow place and [was] so swift" that boats were reeled up by turning a large log to which a towrope had been tied. Having inspected the ingenious reel, they stopped at the local iron furnace and "saw all the moulds for making stoves, kettles, boilers, and every kind [of] iron ware." They finished their adventure by watching a steam-powered sawmill in operation.
After a tea on Wednesday, 1 October, that was attended by nearby relatives, Sophia and her children prepared to return to Ohio. She had planned to go back with Sardis, but when he did not come, she feared that he was "sick at Sandusky" and hastened her departure. On Rud's twelfth birthday, Saturday, 4 October 1834, Grandfather Hayes and cousin John Pease took the departing trio to Wilmington. They remained there until Monday morning, when they met the westbound stagecoach. As they were about to board it, Sophia received a letter from Sardis, who had arrived in Brattleboro. They got on the stagecoach anyway, and Sophia later offered to wait for Sardis until 15 October in Auburn, New York, where they would visit other relatives. But Rud had apparently tired of keeping a journal and did not say whether Sardis joined them on the way home.
The New England journey was enormously important for Rud. He learned about the world beyond Delaware, Ohio, and met relatives whom he cherished. His grandparents, his uncle Austin Birchard, and the Mead family particularly impressed him, and close contact with college student Horatio Noyes inspired him. Years later, Rud recalled Uncle Austin Birchard watching Fanny (and presumably Rud as well) "with his bright face and eyes beaming with love and delight." After being isolated from most of their relatives all their lives, Rud and Fanny found themselves part of an elaborate network of beckoning hearthstones in the Connecticut Valley. Rud had also had fun playing with and confiding in his cousins Charley Birchard, George Noyes, and John Pease, and he would see a great deal of Pease in the future.
During the trip, Rud experienced the technology of the age. He inspected a paper mill, a sawmill, and an ironworks; he watched Erie Canal locks open and close; and he rode on a steamboat and behind a steam locomotive less than six years after work had begun on the first American passenger railroad. Rud and Fanny had become such experienced travelers that Sophia let them go by stagecoach from Delaware to Lower Sandusky to visit Sardis for three weeks in the spring of 1835. They traveled with Gen. Otto Hinton of Delaware, "the great stage man," and the innkeepers along the route knew Sardis and looked out for "his little folks." Nevertheless, the trip, which included overnight stops at Marion and Tiffin, reinforced twelve-year-old Rud's self-confidence.
Rud was a good student. His account of his New England journey was an essay of which any twelve-year-old could be proud. Studying Lorenzo's books, associating with his precocious sister, and the training he received in Joan Hills Murray's school in Delaware equipped Rud with a good basic education. He was a champion speller, and when he completed his studies with Murray, she chose him as her outstanding boy scholar, an honor that included an award. To Sardis's amusement and to Sophia and Fanny's disgust, Rud chose as his prize a Jew's harp rather than a book. He was thirteen, and despite their efforts, he had no burning desire to attend college. Was not Uncle Sardis a self-made man?
Realizing his own limitations, however, Sardis was determined that his nephew would become a scholar and a gentleman. And Sophia, also regretting "that our education was totally neglected after the death of our Father," was determined that her children should "have no such cause of complaint." But as yet, there were no good preparatory schools in Delaware, and she could not think of being separated from both her children. Plans for her to accompany Rud and Fanny to Granville, Ohio, where the schools were "very good," fell through because of sickness there. Although both children were disappointed, Sophia was more concerned about Rud. "You know," she reminded Sardis, "that when boys are interrupted in their studies at his age they are apt to lose their ambition -- and think it is not very important that they should improve their time." In a quandary, she asked Sardis for his advice.
Sardis suggested that thirteen-year-old Rud should attend the Norwalk Seminary run by Rev. Jonathan E. Chaplin in Norwalk, Ohio. Sardis chose this Methodist preparatory school because it was only thirty miles from his home in Lower Sandusky, was next door to the home of his good friend Judge Ebenezer Lane, and was the school that Lane's son William attended. Sardis admired Judge Lane, a cultivated and humane man, and felt that in educating Rud they could do no better than to follow the course Lane had chosen for his own son. Shortly after Sophia's request for advice, Rud began attending the Norwalk Seminary. "I do not think I shall have to go home because I am homesick," he wrote with some pride to Sardis on 21 June 1836. "I like staying here better than any other school in Ohio." Rud wrote Sophia "a very good long letter" in which he assured her that he studied from "five in the morning till five at night." Despite his brave talk of no homesickness, he was as eager to visit home between terms as Sophia and Fanny were to see him.
Sophia managed her resources carefully, but she also knew that she could depend on Sardis, particularly when it came to meeting the needs connected with her children's education. When Rud completed the term -- which stretched almost through the summer -- he went home for a visit. There he "was attacked with the fever," Sophia reported, "but we succeeded in throwing his off by medicine." By 11 September, he was feeling fine and was eager to get back to school. When he returned to Norwalk on 18 September, Chaplin demanded the tuition before the term began. To Sophia's chagrin, Rud asked Sardis for the money. Sophia had also been ill and thought that she might need her cash on hand, so she had not sent Rud's tuition with him. But she had corn to sell and knew that she could pay the tuition by October. When Fanny enrolled in the Female Seminary at Putnam later that month, Sardis not only picked the school and paid the tuition but also insisted that Sophia keep Fanny company for a couple of months. Since both Fanny and Rud were content to be away at school and Sophia missed them terribly, it was his sister's welfare that Sardis had in mind.
Fanny excelled at Putnam, and Rud did well at Norwalk. Along with routine studies concentrating on the classics, the Norwalk curriculum emphasized speaking and writing. In October, Rud wrote a composition on the subject of liberty and did "tolerably well" in his maiden speech on William Pitt. "I was not scared as much as the most of the boys are the first time they speak," he assured Sophia. Contemporary politics fascinated Rud even more than history. Eighteen thirty-six was a presidential election year, and his hero was William Henry Harrison, the Whig candidate of the Northwest. Harrison lost the election, but the Whigs triumphed in Ohio, and Rud begged his mother to let him know who won the offices in Delaware County.
Two months after his fourteenth birthday, Rud told his skeptical mother that he would be ready for college in four months. Although she had presumed that he was "getting along pretty well," Sophia did not think that he was "quite so near the end of his preparatory studies." Rud was making progress, but Sophia decided that when the term ended in March, he would study at home until Fanny returned from the Female Seminary. Sophia was lonely and reasoned that because of his youth, Rud would not be hurt by this interruption in his formal schooling. Besides, she added, "he is very steady and a very good boy and I cannot spare him till Fanny comes."
Once home, however, rather than fulfill his mother's hopes, Rud fulfilled her earlier prophecy about boys who interrupt their studies. He lost ambition for further education. He went sledding on what snow remained "not so much for the fun as to say I had slid downhill on the 4th of April." He wished that Fanny were home so they could make lots of maple sugar wax candy together. For clearing the grass near the fences on their town property, Sophia paid Rud two dollars. With these earnings, he got a subscription to the Philadelphia Saturday Courier, which he promised to share with Fanny if she would bring home the issues he sent to her. "I have not studied any yet nor shall," he happily reported, rejoicing to be "free from the musty crusty fusty rules" of such "antiquated fools" as John Locke and Francis Bacon.
Sophia quickly realized her mistake. She had to nag Rud to write even the few lines he sent to Fanny and observed, "He is just as lazy about studying as ever." Rud argued that "all the plow joggers are happier than students." A discouraged Sophia thought that perhaps she should make a farmer out of him, but she realized that although he was slow to study at home he was a fast learner at school. Consequently, she urged Fanny to come home so they could send Rud off to school again.
Fanny, who reveled in her studies at Putnam, was "upset extremely" by Rud's attitude, which threatened her own education. She had nothing but contempt for his romantic notion that "the ignorant farmer boy is happier than the student" and emphatically told him that "the literary man has a thousand sources of enjoyment that the rustic never has." Lest he forget the luck and responsibility that his sex gave him, she combined envy and resignation in her reminder: "Many is the time this winter I have wished myself in your place so I could go to college.
Although Sophia thought it "quite a lecture," Fanny's admonitions had little effect on Rud. Sophia asked Sardis what he thought of sending Rud to Kenyon College at Gambier, an Episcopal school with an excellent moral climate. Meanwhile, in late May 1837, she engaged Sherman Finch, a local lawyer who had been a tutor at Yale, to instruct Rud in Greek and Latin. At first, Rud did "very well," but he failed to regain momentum after Finch returned from a sudden brief visit to New York. When Fanny came home in July, she studied the same texts and reinforced Rud's lessons by reciting to him after his sessions with Finch.
Even with the participation of Fanny, who also taught him French, Rud did not study diligently. By July, however, he once more looked forward to college. "Rutherford," Fanny told Sardis, "reads considerable, studies some, and plays a little occasionally for variety; he is anxious to go to Gambier in the Fall." Since he did not strain himself studying, Rud had what amounted to a long vacation. The considerable reading he did was primarily novels, every one of which, to his surprise, Fanny had already read. Making himself useful around the house, he was "splendiferously happy" whitewashing walls and cleaning out the cistern. Besides hunting with his friends, Rud dropped in on Arcena Wasson and her family and on his other Delaware cousins Sarah and Harriet Moody (their mother Clarissa was Rud's father's sister). He also had "lively frolics" in the evenings with Sarah Bell, one of two young women students who now boarded with Sophia. She came from Lower Sandusky and was living with Sophia at Sardis's "urgent request." Sarah was, Rud later confessed, his "earliest lady friend." After months of unfocused activities, however, the time had come for him, in his mother's words, to "be at something of more importance."
Although Sophia agreed with Rud that he was ready for Kenyon College, Sardis thought differently. Her "eyes filled with tears" when she learned in August that Sardis, after consulting with Judge Lane, planned to send Rud to Isaac Webb's Preparatory School in Middletown, Connecticut, where Lane's boy Will was enrolled. But after a visit from Judge Lane, Sophia agreed with her brother's decision. Reflecting on Rud's aversion to studying at home and his prowess as a hunter, she told Sardis, "I have more hopes of him when I think his taste and habits are much like yours when a boy." Nevertheless, she confessed that she was "not free from anxiety" lest "the same habits might continue when a man." When Rud first heard of Sardis's plans, he said, "I will not say I wont go -- but I dont wish to go." He immediately agreed to go, however, when Sophia told him that Will Lane was at Middletown and-wanted his company.
With Sardis, Rud made the long journey to Connecticut in October 1837. A former Yale tutor, Isaac Webb accepted only twenty diligent boys of good character into his school, where the principles of "thorough study, faithful instruction, and steady discipline" prevailed. Ever fearful that Rud's morals might be corrupted in the pursuit of an education, Sophia was reassured by Webb's objectives. "Habits, principles, feelings, and tastes were to be assiduously cultivated; truth, justice, honor, and religion to be regarded as the cardinal points of character." The total cost of tuition, room, and board at Webb's school was $25 a year, which Sardis paid.
When Sardis was hurt by Rud's "apparent want of feeling" at their parting, Sophia tried to excuse her son. She stressed that both of her children had a "contented disposition," and although they were happy at home, they did not mind leaving their loved ones and being among strangers. "I do not think," she also perceived, "it is a want of affection for their Friends but a determination not to discover their feelings." It was not Rud's affection but his direction that Sophia was anxious about. With his all-consuming interest in politics, she worried to Sardis, "I dont know what we shall make of him."
Webb's school turned out to be exactly what Rud needed. "I like this school very much indeed," he wrote to Sardis in December. Both pleasant and "not to be trifled with," Webb knew how "to take care of a parcel of boys." Even though Rud had missed the summer term, he caught up with Will Lane and his other classmates. Webb found Rud to be "dutiful and respectful in his deportment" and "faithful and industrious," as well as becoming "more thorough and investigating" in his "habits of study." With school in session from nine to twelve noon, one to four, and six to nine, Rud observed, "I study only nine hours and I learn the fastest I ever did in my life."
But all was not work. Rud and his chums organized a secret society, aptly called "The Cobwebbs," and assumed nicknames from Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist, which was appearing in serial form. A cheerful, laughing companion, Rud was appropriately called "Charley Bates." Saturday was a day of leisure, and Sunday was a day of rest, although attendance was required at interminable church services. Some of Rud's incidental expenses included charges for a black ball, $.06; a ball club or bat, $.10; two broken windows, $.37½; repairing skates, $.37½; a sleigh ride, $.43; jujube paste (a confection), $.18½; suspenders, $.38; a haircut, $.12½; repairing boots, $.37½ and $.75; and a seat in church, $1.
Rud liked New England. On Saturday afternoons, he and his friends trotted eight miles to a mountain from which they viewed Hartford, New Haven, Saybrook, and ten or eleven small villages. Webb's Thanksgiving dinner "beat everything all hollow," and when summer came, the students ate from Webb's garden all the cherries and strawberries they could hold. After witnessing a grand Fourth of July celebration in which Connecticut and New York City troops participated, Rud maintained, "The common soldiers were dressed better than the general officers out our way." Rud also spent a relaxing month visiting Vermont relatives (resisting with glee John and Polly Noyes's efforts to make him an abolitionist) but was glad to get back to Webb's school, because "it seems like home here more than anywhere else."
Although fond of his Yankee relatives and of New England, Rud remained a staunch Buckeye. Rather than yield to his pleasant surroundings, he became aggressive in upholding the honor of his section and state and acknowledged his "aversion to the Yankees." Church services were not as interesting as in Ohio. "We have to go to meeting twice every Sunday," he complained. "The priest prays thirty minutes; everything else in proportion." He liked his Buckeye friends Will Lane of Norwalk and Converse Goddard of Zanesville "a little taller' than anybody else in Connecticut" and was at a loss to explain Webb's virtues until he found that Webb was fond "of the Queen of the West" and "a real Buckeye in every sense of the word." Rud also believed that westerners had more stamina than New Englanders. After he, his Ohio friends, and an Alabamian walked thirty miles in six hours, he boasted, "Quite Pedestrians, the Buckeyes!" Often indulging in hyperbole, Rud kept his Ohio chauvinism on a playful level. "I've had one sleigh-ride," he wrote to his cousin Harriet Moody, "but give me a Buckeye ride in mud two feet deep than a Yankee one in snow the same depth." And when he imagined a coat of arms, Rud identified himself with Ohio and its land by placing a scythe, rake, pitchfork, and haycock above "R. B. H., Buckeye."
In the spring of 1838, Isaac Webb thought that Rud, who was still fifteen, was too young for college and urged that he return to Middletown for another year of preparation before entering Yale. Sardis agreed, and Rud was tempted (talking "werry" loud with Will Lane of walking to Ohio some vacation), but he thought that an extra year of preparation was unnecessary. He also realized that both Sophia and Fanny wanted him in Ohio; he was afraid they might think that he did not wish to see them and that he "thought more of the Yankees than of them." Sophia wanted Rud to start college in Ohio and told Sardis, "If we think best he can spend his last year in an eastern College." Sardis protested and consulted with Judge Lane, but Sophia was adamant, declaring, "If Rd. lives he is to be a Western man." In August, she decided that Rud would enter Kenyon College at Gambier that fall.
Sophia got her boy back to Ohio, and Sardis, though disappointed, graciously gave up his dream of making his nephew a Yale man. Despite Yale's attraction, Rud was happy to start college immediately and was delighted to be attending a Buckeye school. He left Middletown at the end of September, having "grown 'werry tall'" and matured considerably at Webb's school. On 4 October 1838, his sixteenth birthday, Rud was on board the steamboat Columbus on Lake Erie. That afternoon he arrived in Sandusky City, spent the next day on a stagecoach, and arrived home at eight o'clock on the morning of 6 October. After a year's absence, home was "quite natural," Rud reported. He was met not only by a loving, thankful mother but also by a "beautiful and joyous" sister. The following day he "spent loping about, seeing the folks." Apart from his interest in the election on 9 October, he hunted and loafed the rest of the month. "There never was so good a time for small game," Rud claimed, as that dry, pleasant fall. "Those slaughtered by me," he boasted, "were 60 or 70 squirrels 1 porcupine 1 skunk 2 turkies 3 ducks 3 pheasants & a crow the wounded were 1 deer & some other beasts of prey. I saw one bear & a blue bird."
Years later, Rud recalled that time apart at school had changed his and Fanny's relationship. After he returned from Norwalk and she from Putnam, they "had one renewal of our former quarrels," he remembered, "which we laughed ourselves out of before it was fairly begun, and from that time we were loving sister and brother." When he returned from Webb's school, Rud found that the "rather plain-looking" playmate, who loved to go sledding and willingly waded into the river after sticks, had been replaced by a mature, beautiful young woman of eighteen. Fanny, who had always been intelligent, well informed, and sensible, had built on her training at Putnam and continued to grow intellectually. She had organized her friends into a reading and debating club, called the Union, and made the Hayes home the cultural center of Delaware. In addition, Rud's home had become a social center, since, as Sophia complained, "Young Ladies of Fannys acquaintance" from as far off as Columbus brought their brothers to meet Fanny.
Rud was growing up, but his boyish high spirits remained, and his behavior confirmed Sophia's prejudices concerning an eastern education. "I presume," she dourly wrote to Sardis the day Rud came home, that he "has acquired considerable book knowledge but he is just as unpolished as ever. I see no great improvement as to manners." Rud irreverently, facetiously, and arbitrarily accounted his year at Middletown a profitable one. He entered in his notebook the cost of his tuition, room, board, and "needfuls" as three hundred dollars, then estimated the "present worth of what I've learned" at five hundred dollars, declared a "profit in one year" of two hundred dollars, and concluded: "WERRY GOOD THAT! HAH! HAH!"
Despite his mother's observations, Rud had matured. Although still playful, he had studied so well at Middletown that Isaac Webb regretted his departure "for my own sake as well as that of his companions and himself." Aware of the differing expectations that Sophia, Sardis, and Fanny had for him, Rud adjusted to them. With his placid, good-natured personality, he was willing to fulfill the plans of Webb and Sardis or the wishes of Sophia and Fanny. But when it came to choosing a college, Rud sensed that his mother's mind was made up, and he cheerfully fell in with her plans.
Excerpted from Rutherford B. Hayes by Ari Hoogenboom Copyright © 1999 by Ari Hoogenboom. Excerpted by permission.
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|1||"We Are All for War"||13|
|2||"There Are Some Bloody Deeds Done in These Hills"||23|
|3||"Never Was a Man Prouder of His Regiment"||32|
|4||"You Came a Good Ways to Fight Us"||43|
|5||"I Shall Not Lose My Arm"||55|
|6||"A Good Colonel Makes a Good Regiment"||63|
|7||"The Best General I Have Ever Known"||71|
|9||"I Was One of the Good Colonels"||103|
|App||Selected Organizations in Which Hayes Served During the Civil War||110|