President William McKinley’s funeral train disappointed, captivated York citizens
This clip, from the York Gazette on Sept. 17, 1901, tells about how President William McKinley’s funeral train passed through York without stopping, which was the original plan. Background posts: McKinley, Nixon, Johnson, Obama family trees have York County roots and Trivia quiz: Test your U.S. presidential smarts quiz and All posts on presidential visits.
The York County Courthouse bell tapped out a signal to the church bells.
President William McKinley’s funeral train was on its way from Buffalo, where the assassin’s bullet took his life, to a state funeral in Washington, D.C. It would be yet another presidential event touching York County’s soil.
The church bells received the cue and began pealing mournfully, and that signaled the stopping of factory wheels and the closing of stores.
The whole town could now go witness the train – and they did.
And they expected the train to stop.
Only the train did not… .
First came a pilot engine slowly clearing the way.
And then came the train bearing McKinley’s body, barreling through at 25 miles an hour.
That speed made it impossible to put aboard the many floral arrangements sent in the late chief executive’s honor.
The crowd was disappointed but persevering.
The Sept. 18 Gazette reported on the funeral train’s return from Washington and its solemn observances through York to its final Ohio destination.
The York crowd returned and was rewarded with a slow-moving train. It rolled by at such a low speed that it seemed to be picking its way through the onlookers.
A Pullman funeral car at the train’s end was well lighted, and its windows offered a clear view into its interior.
“The sailor at the head and the soldier at the foot of the casket seemed like carved images in a wilderness of beautiful flowers,” the newspaper reported.
Indeed, the flowers were so plentiful that the floral displays extended from the rear of the Pullman as it rolled northward, soon out of sight.
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