President comes to Ellwood City

At least ten Presidents of the United States have come through our little town. Not all of them were President at the time but were President none the same.

The first President of the United States to come through Ellwood City was the first President George Washington. In 1753, while surveying western Pennsylvania, he and his brothers stayed some time in what would later become the Fourth Ward of Ellwood City. A descendant of the Matheny family has a handsaw that dates back to the mid 1700’s given to Moses Matheny by the future President’s survey crew. It is thought that this saw was used in the construction of the Matheny Inn.

In 1847, President James A. Garfield came through the locks at Rock Point as a teenager. Actually he came very close to drowning there after tumbling overboard into the muddy waters on a dark rainy night. Mrs. Moses Mathany took care of him that night with some hot coffee, hot bath, and a warm bed in the old “Matheny Tavern”. Three years later in the early summer months of 1850, Mrs. Moses Mathany also hosted President Zachary Taylor at the tavern on his way to New Castle.

The funeral train of President William McKinley slowly came through Ellwood City September 1901. Pictures of the train passing under the old wooden bridge that crossed the railroad tracks at Second Street are quite amazing. Then on May 29, 1907 President Teddy Roosevelt came to Ellwood City. He stood on the rear platform of the Baltimore and Ohio coach shaking hands and chattering for some time.

December of 1918 saw President Taft visit the National Tube Company in Ellwood City. Originally the plans called for President Taft to spend the night at the Offutt home but the Presidents plans were changed at the last minute and he was forced to leave on the 10 pm train headed East.

The funeral train of President Harding came through town on August 4th, 1923 and his successor President Coolidge is noted to have come through Ellwood City a couple of times.  On one such occasion, his special eight coach train came through town on his way to attend President Hardings funeral on August 7th, 1923 and again during his bid for re-election in 1924.

George Bush was in town to present a check from the federal government to the Ellwood City Forge Nov 3, 1984 while he was Vice President and people still talk about how he did not receive the warmest of welcomes from some local citizens.

On Aug 3, 2000 his son George W. Bush & Dick Cheney came North through Beaver County and Rock Point by train waving to people in their back yards and stopped in Wampum to give condensed speeches while campaigning for office.

If anyone has a picture of any of these events, please contact me at

Additional Presidents may have been in our town as they were in the area including President Truman who was in New Castle Oct 21, 1958, Herbert Hoover campaigned from train in New Castle, and Harry Truman stayed the night in New Castle Oct 21, 1958. Richard M Nixon campaigned for VP to Eisenhower in New Castle in 1951 and J.F.K. campaigned in New Castle and Beaver Falls in 1960. Then in August 1992 Bill Clinton & Al Gore swung through the area and stopped at the Lawrence County Fair to make speeches but did not get an opportunity to get a Leroy’s hot sausage sandwich.

At the time of the “crash” there was a number of comments on this post

Anne Jones Frederick wrote: I have a coin that my father, Robert T. Jones, placed on the railroad tracks when President Harding’s funeral train passed through town. Apparently, a LOT of coins were crushed by that train as souvenirs of the event.

Carole (Wimer) Starz wrote: I was too young to be interested in politics at the time, but I thought JFK (while a senator) passed through Ellwood campaigning for Adlai Stevenson before the 1956 election. I could be wrong. Does anyone remember who campaigned for Stevenson in Ellwood?

Jim Hardie wrote: Carole – I remember that time very well. The person who came to speak during the 1956 pres. election was Estes Keffauver (please excuse the spelling I know it is wrong) He spoke from the top steps in the front of the Municipal building . I stood right beside the war memorial and was about 30 feet from him. There were sound speakers and the crowd was very noisy which made for a confusing time. I was a cub scout and I went with my Den Chief to see the V. P. candidate. Wesley was 3 or 4 years older than I and a demonstrative republican, as much as you could be at thirteen. I was just excited to see someone with national fame in Ellwood. JFK could have been with the Senator.???

Bob Grandey wrote: When JFK’s motorcade came up 5th street and turned on Crescent in front of Lincoln High in 1960, students were released from classes to line the sidewalk.

Bob Stevenson wrote: Hi Bob, In 1960 I believe it was Henry Cabot Lodge who’s motorcade came through and all us students were released to line the sidewalk to wave to him

Jo Ann (Miller) Oxsen wrote: Yes, Bob S. – you’re right. It was Henry Cabot Lodge – I have a photo packed away somewhere of him about to shake my Dad’s hand in the crowd.

Bob Stevenson wrote: Jim, I’m not sure but your Den Chief was probably Wesley Weidenhoffer. Not sure if that is the right spelling. Haven’t heard of him in years!

Ernie Young  wrote: Bob and Jim — It was Lodge that came through and yes we lined the banks of the school to get a glimpse of him. If you have an Ellwoodian from that year I believe there is a picture of the students on the bank. As for me Lodge is the only one I can really remember. There were others who have been written about on this site by you folks, but Lodge is the only one who rings my memory bell.

Jim Hardie  wrote: Ernie, I was talking about 1956 not 1960. I can’t remember Lodge coming to town. I was a chairperson for the Republican party in the 1960 civics election for George Reese. You would have thought I would have remembered it. I am getting old!!! Bob S. You are right- Wesley Weidenheimer, not sure about the spelling. He was a very nice kid and a great role model for we cubs. He always had a smile, extremely helpful and never talked down to us.


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