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.
As you can see from the comments below, Mr. Grandey remembers John F. Kennedy’s motorcade coming through town in 1960 but I have not been able to verify this. If you recall this also, please let me know.
If anyone has a picture of any of these events, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Several Presidental candidates also visited Ellwood City including Senator H. Styles Bridges of New Hampshire, who spoke in the auditorium of Lincoln High School on October10, 1940 and Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (the Republican nominee for Vice President) visited Ellwood City in the fall of 1960 during the Presidential campaign.