Never before in this city was there ever such a majestically solemn and inspiring scene as that which was enacted in the drawing room of the home of Ansley Wilcox at 646 Delaware Avenue at 31 minutes past 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon. Standing there under the veil of sorrow that was woven by the death of President McKinley, was a man that was about to become the Chief Executive of this country. Before him was a Federal Judge. Around him, the hands that guide the ship of State.
The silence, infinitely deep, was broken by the firm notes of Judge Hazel's voice as he said: "Theodore Roosevelt, raise your right hand."
CEREMONY EXTREMELY SIMPLE
Col. Roosevelt arrived in Buffalo shortly after 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon. He was met at the Exchange Street Station by his friend Ansley Wilcox, whose guest he was while in this city a few days before. It was agreed that it would be better for Col. Roosevelt to go through the Exchange Street Station and on to the Terrace Station, by train. It had become pretty generally known that he was to arrive here from Albany at about 1 o'clock and, in consequence of this fact, a great crowd had assembled in the vicinity of the Exchange Street Station to greet him as the President of the United States. To obviate a possible demonstration, which, in the circumstances would be obnoxious to Col. Roosevelt, Wilcox suggested his going through to the Terrace Station.
A private carriage had been sent to the Terrace Station and a platoon of mounted police had assembled there. On the arrival of the Vice-President's train, Roosevelt was escorted to the carriage and his company got on with him. Followed by the platoon of police and secret service men, the Vice-President was driven hurriedly to the Wilcox home. He lunched with the Wilcox family, and, it being agreed that he should immediately thereafter go to the Milburn house and pay his respects as a friend to Mrs. McKinley, he ordered that the secret service and police be discharged from further escort duty. He did, however, agree to an escort of two mounted police and local detectives.
DIDN"T SEE MRS. MCKINLEY
When the Vice-President left the Wilcox house he was accompanied by Mr. Wilcox. It was 2:35 o'clock when they arrived at the Milburn residence. As Roosevelt passed up the walk, he doffed his high silk hat to a party of the President's male relatives who were on the lawn at the time. He did not pause, but went directly into the house and shook hands with several acquaintances who were assembled in the house. He inquired for Mrs. McKinley, but did not see her. Neither did he see and of the relatives within the house, nor the remains of the deceased President. He paid his respects to the memory of the dead in this call and after spending about fifteen minutes at Mr. Milburn's house, returned to his carriage and with the same police escort, he returned to the Wilcox residence.
DECIDE ON WILCOX HOME
While the Vice-President was yet discussing the matter of an immediate swearing in with members of the Cabinet, Judge Hazel arrived at the Milburn residence. While he was going up the steps, he was met by Senator Chauncey M. Depew with whom he shook hands. Their going to the Milburn house proved conclusively that it was at first intended to there administer the oath of office to the Vice-President. It was hurriedly agreed between the Vice-President and the members of the Cabinetry that it would probably be better to have the ceremonies take place away from the house in which the remains of the dead President lay. The home of Ansely Wilcox was at once agreed upon.
QUESTION OF FORM
When the Vice-President, Cabinet members, and other political dignitaries arrived at the Wilcox house, the formalities were decided upon as to which method of swearing in would be done. Would Roosevelt sign the oath of office first and then proceed to have it verbally read to him, or would it be better to have it read first? The latter was decided upon. It was now 3:31 o'clock. Secretary of War Elihu Root, who by law was the fourth in line for succession of the Presidency, took a step forward and began to speak. His voice was low and not clearly audible. Evidently his emotions were deeply touched. Tears were in his eyes.
ROOT BREAKS DOWN
"Mr. Vice-President, I..." commenced Secretary Root, but his voice broke and for fully a minutes he could not utter another word. His fellow Cabinet members were all affected. Tears came into their eyes. It was a touching scene at this moment and about every head was bowed as there welled up in the hearts of these devoted men the memory of the beloved man whose life had been offered as a sacrifice on the alter of his country. Tears trickled down the cheeks of Secretary Root. The Vice-President's eyes were moist and he clutched nervously as the lapel of his frock coat.
Throwing back his head as though seized with a determination to go on with his address to the future Executive of the nation, Secretary Root continued, in a voice stronger and more distinct and audible than before:
"I have been requested by all members of the Cabinet of the late President who are present in the City of Buffalo, to request that for reasons of weight affecting the administration of the Government, you should proceed to take the constitutional office of President of the United States."
Taking a step toward Secretary Root, the Vice-President said, in a voice that wavered at first, but grew stronger with each succeeding word:
WILL CONTINUE MCKINLEY'S POLICY
"I shall take the oath of office in accord with the request of you members of the cabinet, and in this hour of our deep and terrible national bereavement I wish to state that it shall be my aim to continue absolutely unbroken the policy of President McKinley for the peace, prosperity and the honor of our beloved country."
Now the Vice-President stepped back toward Judge Hazel, and the latter, taking a sheet of parchment on which was written the constitutional oath of office, said:
"Theodore Roosevelt, hold up your right hand."
"I do," he said, as he raised the hand.
Judge Hazel read the oath and Col. Roosevelt repeated it after him: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
PROFOUND SILENCE FOLLOWS
"And thus I swear," ended the now President, his right hand dropping
to his side, his chin falling to his breast, while for a minutes the silence remained unbroken. It was as if the newly made President was offering a silent prayer that God might direct him from the bullets of would-be assassins and that the soul of the departed President was at peace with its maker..
The silence was broken by Judge Hazel. He said, "Mr. President, please attach your signature," and he handed him a pen with which the President affixed his name to the oath on parchment. "Theodore Roosevelt," he wrote at the bottom of the document, in a strong hand.
TURNS AWAY GUARDS
After briefing the members of the Cabinet, Roosevelt turned to Secretary Root and said, "Let us take a little walk; it will do us both good." Secretary Root assented, and they walked out on to the porch. His host, Mr. Ansley Wilcox, said, "Mr. President, shan't I go along with you?"
He said, "No, I am going to take a short walk up the street with Secretary Root and will return again."
When he got down the foot of the walk, a couple of policemen and detectives in citizen's clothes started to follow him. He turned and told his secretary, Mr. Loeb, to tell them that he did not desire and protection. "I do not want to establish the precedent of going about guarded."
The policemen and detectives touched their hats, but before he had gone a hundred yards, two of them were walking just behind him and two more were following on the opposite side of the street. The two distinguished men attracted very little attention until they got near the police lines in Delaware Avenue, when, as the President stopped to say good-bye to Secretary Root, some of the crowd recognized him and he was surrounded. The police drove the crowd back and the President walked briskly back to the Wilcox mansion.
DESCRIPTION OF THE WILCOX MANSION
The Wilcox Mansion wherein the oath of office was administered to President Roosevelt, is an inspiring old villa of the colonial order standing on high ground on the easterly side of Delaware Avenue, just south of North Street. It is set well back in a well kept lawn, shaded by numerous fine, old trees and adorned with verdant flower beds, while its commodious porch is trellised with masses of running vines.
The library, the room in which the important and history-making ceremony was performed, is in the front of the house. A wide hall divides the rooms of the first floor. The library is to the right on entering the house from the front porch. It is just off the porch on which one of the windows opens. The room has one other window, a big bow with little panes of cathedral glass in colonial design. This is on the southerly side.
On the walls of the room at either side of the alcove window are long rows of books, reaching from floor to ceiling. The room is finished in dark green and is richly hung. A few palms were used in yesterday's decorations. The room was of ample size to accommodate all of the witnesses to the ceremony without crowding.
President Roosevelt dined with Mr. Wilcox's family last evening and spent the evening at home. It is expected that he will attend the morning service at the First Presbyterian Church at The Circle this morning, this being where he worshipped while in this city last Sunday.
NOTE! Buffalo has many historical landmarks and museums. Often overlooked, the Theodore Roosevelt National Historic Site/Wilcox Mansion is a fantastic museum to experience the life of Roosevelt and the Pan-Am. Leon Czolgosz's handkerchief and other artifacts are on display, and the mansion is lavishly decorated around the Christmas Holiday season offering many programs to entertain and enrich.
Located at 641 Delaware Avenue, the Wilcox Mansion is open year round, Sat.-Sun. 12-5, Mon.-Fri-, 10-5. It's closed on Saturdays from January to March.