William McKinley’s Desk

A WORK IN PROGRESS …

According to an old family legend, my great-great-grandfather, John Weidman, owned a desk that once belonged to William McKinley (1843-1901), who went on to become the 25th president of the United States. After passing its way among a series of relatives over the last 150 years or so, the desk in question now sits prominently in my living room. I became curious about this legend, so this page will serve as my ongoing attempt to either prove or disprove whether it was possible that McKinley at any time owned this particular desk (in addition to being an impromptu history of both my family and Navarre, Ohio, in general). My first goal was to discover a direct connection between John Weidman and William McKinley and lo and behold I fortunately stumbled upon this article in The Evening Independent out of Massillon, Ohio, dated June 24, 1952, and titled “Old Navarre Hotel Being Torn Down” (note section in bold):

“NAVARRE – An old landmark in which Presidents William Harrison and William McKinley stayed overnight when it was used as an old hotel, is being razed by workmen to make room for a new oil station on the square of the village.

According to Mrs. Laura Weidman Dunlop Sterl, who resides on Center St, the red brick building which has been the property of her family for nearly a century, served as a hotel about 1836. It was operated by George Harter and his wife, the former Miss Sara Reed of Maryland, who are buried in the old Lutheran cemetery there.

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IT IS SAID that President Harrison stopped at the hotel during his presidency in 1840 [sic], while traveling by canal boat and carriage. President McKinley, who was a friend of Mrs. Sterl’s father, John Weidman, also stopped at the hotel before he became president. Both men served in the Civil War.

Mrs. Sterl recalls stories told by her mother, Maria Bordner Weidman, concerning a black bear owned by the Harters, which performed for the entertainment of the hotel’s guests. The guests were seated on the porch of the hotel which was enclosed with a picket fence and watched the antics of the bear in the yard.

Following the closing of the hotel, a grocery store, saloon, hardware store, restaurant and an auto supply store have been operated in the building.

The grocery store was first operated by Paul Converse and a Mr. Hess. The name of the operator of the saloon in a lean-to at the rear of the building for a few years is not remembered. When Mrs. Sterl’s parents moved into the building in 1866, her father assumed operation of the grocery store, adding hardware. He closed the saloon. The building, incidentally, was then owned by Weidman’s mother, Mrs. Lydia Kurtz, of Cross Roads, from whom he later purchased it.

Three of the four Weidman children, including Mrs. Sterl, were born in the two and a half story building, as well as Mrs. Sterl’s daughter, Mrs. Francis Simler, with whom she now lives. In 1919, Mrs. Sterl and her brother, H. Boyd Weidman of Navarre sold their interests to another brother, Charles Weidman, who lived there until his death two years ago this month. During his ownership, Mid’s restaurant, which later moved next door and an auto supply store had quarters there. Charles Weidman’s son, Melvin [sic], his wife and daughters, Charlotte and Florence, occupied the residential quarters until a few months ago when the building was sold.”

Stay tuned for more revelations concerning the “McKinley Legend” in the near future …

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