November 2: On This Day in Eureka History

On this date in 1880 James Abram Garfield was elected to be the twentieth president of the United States. Both directly and indirectly there are ties between Garfield and Eureka College.

Garfield was the first member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to be elected to the presidency - two other denominational members, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald W. Reagan would subsequently be elected to that high office.

As a young man, Garfield had attended the Eclectic Institute in Hiram, Ohio, which eventually became known as Hiram College - a sister institution of Eureka College. Garfield later taught classical languages at the Institute from 1856-57 and served as its president from 1857-61. He served during the Civil War and was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh.

Garfield eventually studied and practiced law before he entered into a political career. For many years he served as personal attorney to Alexander Campbell, one of the co-founders of the Christian Church movement, and he also represented Bethany College, the institution that Campbell had founded, and served that school as a member of its Board of Trustees.

For many years a young man named Wallace J. Ford served Garfield as personal secretary. In the early 1880s, distraught from President Garfield's death by assassination, Ford and his family moved to Eureka, Illinois, and purchased the luxurious [Robert T.] Cassell family mansion that was located near the College. When the Ford family lost its young daughter Lida just a few years after arriving in the community, the Wallace and Mary Ford were quite distraught. They gave their home to Eureka College and moved once more - this time to Hollywood, California.

By the way, although Garfield won the election, Woodford County did not help him very much. He lost the county to his Democratic rival Winfield Scott Hancock who claimed 52.8% of the vote in Woodford County.

Fifty years later, on this date in 1930, the Eureka College community mourned the loss of a notable alumnus, Oliver P. Hay (Class of 1870). Hay had become one of the most renown paleontologists in the United States and was considered to be the world's leading authority on animals of the Pleistocene geological period.

During his career as an educator, Hay taught at several schools including Eureka College, Oskaloosa College, Abingdon College, and Butler University. Later in his career, Hay was associated with the Field Museum in Chicago (1895-1905), the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (1905-11), and the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. (1911-30). He was the author of Bibliography and Catalogue of Fossil Vertebrates of North America.