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Rutherford B. Hayes, Lucy and Spiegel Grove 

By John T. Marck

 Rutherford Birchard Hayes, the nineteenth president of the United States, was the fifth child of Rutherford and Sophia Birchard Hayes, who came to Ohio from Dummerston, Vermont in 1817.  Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio on October 4, 1822.  He never knew his father, who died about two months after he was born.  

                Consequently, he and his sister, Fanny Arabella were raised by their mother and her younger bachelor brother, Sardis Birchard, who was a successful businessman in Lower Sandusky, later Fremont, Ohio.  

                Hayes attended school in Delaware and Norfolk, Ohio, and Middletown, Connecticut. In 1842, as valedictorian, he graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and then went on to study law in a Columbus law office.  He then entered Harvard Law School and graduated in 1845. He began his law practice in Lower Sandusky, but the opportunities were limited, so in 1849 he left, settling in Cincinnati where he became a successful lawyer.  With the Civil War not far off, his opposition to slavery drew him into the Republican Party.  

                In 1852, Hayes married Lucy Ware Webb of Chillicothe, the youngest daughter of Dr. James and Maria Cook Webb. She was a graduate of Cincinnati’s Wesleyan Women’s College, and would become the first wife of a president to have graduated from college.      


                In 1861, when the Civil War began, Hayes volunteered his services to the state of Ohio, and Governor William Dennison appointed him to the rank of major in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. 

                On September 14, 1982, one day after Antietam, Hayes was severely wounded at the Battle of South Mountain.  In 1864, while still in the U.S. Army, he was elected to Congress, although he never campaigned, and actually refused to do so.  Hayes remained in the Army, refusing his seat until the war was won by the Union. In 1866, he was reelected, and the next year, Ohio voters elected him governor.  

                At the close of his second term in 1872, Hayes retired and moved to Fremont, at Spiegel Grove, in May 1873. In 1875, after winning a third term, the Republican Party nominated Hayes as its presidential candidate.  In 1876 Hayes won the election, after the creation of a special commission that decided disputed electoral votes.  Due to tension among many surrounding the election, Hayes secretly took the oath of office on Saturday March 3, 1877 in the Red Room of the White House.  

                In 1877, the country was going through many problems and Hayes worked hard to try to solve them. At this time, it was clear that the nation’s voters were no longer willing to use military forces to protect the civil rights of the freedmen. And, because Congress refused to provide funding to do so, Hayes reassigned the few remaining troops that were guarding two Southern statehouses. However, before doing so, he received promises from southern leaders that they would protect southern African Americans in their political, economic and civil rights.  Hayes had hoped that this action would help heal the wounds left by the Civil War.  

                Hayes also had a strong policy concerning financial matters, which helped make businesses and industry stronger. He also initiated civil service reform, aimed at ending patronage, and used men with sound qualification in government positions.                

                Hayes also signed into law a bill that for the first time, allowed women attorneys to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout his term as president, Hayes continued his concern for minorities, the poor and immigrants, and believed that education and manual training helped all people achieve better lives.  Because of his honesty, there began a renewed respect for the presidency.  Hayes refused a second term, and honoring this commitment, after his presidency, he retired to his home at Spiegel Grove.  

                In retirement, Hayes continued his work of helping veterans receive pensions, improving conditions in prisons, and promoting education for all.  

Lucy Hayes, First Lady and Spiegel Grove

                 Lucy Webb was born in Chillicothe, Ohio.  Her father was from Lexington, Kentucky and her mother from Connecticut. When Lucy was two years old, her father died of cholera on a trip to Lexington to free some slaves he had inherited. Her mother, with Lucy and her two brothers, searched for a place to settle where the schooling was the best. On this search, Lucy met Rutherford Hayes in Delaware. However, they did not stay in Delaware, but settled in Cincinnati. Three years later, Hayes rediscovered Lucy, and fell in love. They were married a year and one half later, on December 30, 1852, in the home of Lucy's mother in Cincinnati. For almost twenty years, Lucy was occupied and concerned mostly with her eight children. Three were born before the Civil War; two were born and died during the war, and three after the war, as well as one more baby who died shortly after birth.

Rutherford Hayes served during the Civil War, lastly as a Commander of a Brigade. After he was badly wounded at the Battle of South Mountain, Lucy searched many hospitals for him, finally locating him in a private house near Frederick, Maryland, and nursed him back to health. At the end of the war, Hayes was elected to Congress. Lucy believed this to be a turning point for him, as she knew he loved politics. Upon his election to the Presidency, Lucy, as mistress of the White House, held informal receptions, where guests were free to stroll around the rooms and grounds, have dinner, and return home early.

Lucy adapted her own way of life to the White House, in a manner few others brought there. They would have simple prayers at breakfast, and would sing hymns each Sunday evening. Rutherford and Lucy retired to a home they inherited called Spiegel Grove, in Fremont, Ohio. In retirement, Lucy was busy working and lending her name as former First Lady to many charities.

Spiegel Grove

                 The home, library, museum and tomb of Rutherford B. Hayes are located in a twenty-five-acre park called Spiegel Grove, in Fremont, Ohio.  Wrought iron fencing and six original gates from the White House surround the area. 

                The house was originally constructed by his guardian, Sardis Birchard between 1859 and 1863, as a summer home he shared with his nephew and family. The house took five years to complete because materials and labor were hard to obtain during the Civil War.     The two-story brick house has eight bedrooms and a wraparound verandah.  Hayes loved the verandah area of the house, saying in 1873, “The best part of the present house is the veranda.  But I would enlarge it.  I want a veranda with a house attached!”

  Hayes moved his family to Spiegel Grove in 1873 for only two years before leaving to serve as Governor of Ohio, and then as President of the United States.  In 1880, Hayes prepared for his return to Spiegel Grove after his presidency by building a large addition and remodeling the interior. This addition, which can be seem today housed his library, consisting of more than 12,000 books, three bedrooms, a large reception room, and indoor plumbing.  The most spectacular improvement during the remodeling was a four-story walnut and butternut staircase that leads to a room, built on the roof, known as a lantern, that offers a 360-degree view of Spiegel Grove. 

                In 1889, Hayes remodeled again, in anticipation of visits from his grandchildren and friends, whereby the back wing was demolished.   This was replaced with a larger wing that consisted of a larger dining room, kitchen, servant’s quarters and five bedrooms.  Sadly, Lucy Hayes died on June 25, 1889, from a stroke, during this construction, never having seen it completed. Rutherford B. Hayes died at Spiegel Grove on January 17, 1893 at the age of seventy. Both Rutherford and Lucy are buried at Spiegel Grove. 

                It is said that the Christmas season is one of the best times to visit Spiegel Grove. Each Christmas the Victorian Guild, is the group of volunteers who decorate the home in the fashion of the late 19th century.  They grow flowers and dry them, then fashion Victorian Era decorations in various rooms of the thirty-three-room mansion.  

                If weather permits, between December 26 and 30, visitors are able to take a horse-drawn carriage or sleigh ride on the grounds of the estate.  Across the street is the 1873 Dillon House, which is a part of the Presidential Center, which is also decorated with Victorian displays.  

Quick Biographical Facts:


19th President

Term- March 4, 1877 to March 4, 1881

Republican Party

Birth: Delaware, Ohio, October 4, 1822

Ancestry: English, Scotch

Marriage: Cincinnati, Ohio, December 30, 1852 to Lucy Ware Webb who was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, August 28, 1831. Lucy died in Fremont, Ohio, June 25, 1889 and is buried in "Spiegel Grove," Fremont, Ohio

Children: Birchard Austin (1853-1926); Webb Cook (1856-1934); Rutherford Platt (1858-1927); Joseph (1861-1863); George Crook (1864-1866); Fanny (1867-1950); Scott (1871-1923); Manning (1873-1874)

Home: Spiegel Grove, Fremont, Ohio

Education: Academy at Norwalk, Ohio; Isaac Webb's school at Middletown, Connecticut; Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio; Harvard Law School

Religion: No specific denomination. Attended Methodist

Occupation before Presidency: Lawyer, soldier, and politician

Military Service: Commissioned major in 13th Ohio Volunteers (1861); resigned as major general in June 1865

Pre-Presidential Offices: City Solicitor of Cincinnati, Ohio; U.S. Congressman; Governor of Ohio.

Age at Inauguration: 54

Hayes Administration: Vice President: William A. Wheeler of New York, Inauguration, March 3, 1877, The Red Room, The White House (private ceremony); March 5, 1877, The Capital, Washington, D.C.

NOTE- Hayes was the third President who postponed their oath taking ceremonies to Monday because March 4th fell on a Sunday. However, because the election had been so vigorously disputed, he had taken the oath privately in the White House, Saturday, March 3, 1877. The election/electoral vote was Hayes 185; Tilden 184

Occupation after Presidency: Philanthropist; President of National Prison Association

Death: Fremont, Ohio, January 17, 1893

Cause of Death: Heart Attack at age 70

Place of Burial: Spiegel Grove State Park, Fremont, Ohio

Interesting Facts: 

·         Hayes was the first president to take the oath of office at the White House.

·         Hayes was the only president whose election was decided by a congressional commission.

·         Hayes was the first president to travel to the west coast during his term as president.

·         Hayes was the first president to have a telephone and a typewriter in the White House.

·         He was the first President to start the annual Easter-egg hunt on the White House lawn, in 1878.

·         Of the Presidents that fought during the Civil War, Hayes was the only one who was wounded-four times!

·         Lucy Hayes was the first wife of a president to be called “first Lady,” and the first to graduate from college.

·         To the delight of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Lucy Hayes enforced her husband’s orders to banish wines and liquors from the White House. 



Copyright ©  1992-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.  Photographs of Spiegel Grove and informational assistance compliments of The Presidential center, Spiegel Grove, Fremont, Ohio.  Additional information from The Presidents of the United States, and The First Ladies of the United States, by John T. Marck.


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