Edith Roosevelt, wife of TR, was staying with her husband at the Tahawus Club in Newcomb when he was called away to deal with the assassination of President William McKinley.
In 1933, she spoke about her experience in an address to school children:
“In the first place, nobody is too old, nobody is too young to like a story. I am going to begin with the story of how I went to the White House. It is so long ago that I feel as if probably I am the only person in the world to remember it. My husband had been elected Vice-President with President McKinley, and he was going around the country as a good Vice-President should do, making speeches to various organizations.
“In the meantime, two of my children had been very ill, the oldest and the youngest. They had been in the Roosevelt Hospital in New York, and when they were better the doctor recommended they should go to the Adirondacks. There we went to a little out-of- the-way place, one of the loveliest places I had been in. We had to get out at North Creek and then we had a long drive in buckboards over corduroy roads.
“We rode into this place and there we had a little cottage all to ourselves. But we had to walk a little ways to take our meals in the big dining room on the place, although the little cottage had a kitchen and we might have had our meals there. But I don’t know whether we could. The kitchen was always full of shoes and stockings and little trousers and skirts, hung on lines in front of the fire to dry.
“The Adirondacks is probably the wettest place in the world. We were right on the banks of the headwaters of the Hudson. I can tell you that never a day passed but I thought I was going to lose a child or two in the headwaters of the Hudson, because they did nothing but play there.
“Out at Oyster Bay where we always lived, we have of course the Sound [Long Island Sound], and we have plenty of salt water. We have no running fresh water. So those waters had the most terrible fascination for the children. I didn’t know how I was ever going to get them home.
“Finally that terrible day came at the Fair in Buffalo when President McKinley was shot. I got a telegram from my husband saying he was going up to Buffalo and he would let me know how things were going on there. In a few days he telegraphed me and said everything was all right and he was coming back to join me. I remember I drove down to the lower camp, which was a drive of twelve to fifteen miles, to meet him. Then we drove into our funny cottage with all the children’s clothes drying in the kitchen. And we were glad to have him.
“He told me the President was really entirely out of danger and we could enjoy ourselves in the Adirondacks. So we started off as soon as might be to make quite an expedition. We went up to a little place in the woods with all the children, except the baby, who couldn’t possibly go. We went with the others up to a little place they call a rough camp, where you have miserable little cots. I think we slept on balsam boughs. We had to row across the lakes to get to breakfast.
“In the morning my elder boy and my husband, and two young friends who were with us, and the guides, went up to the top of Mount Marcy, which is the highest mountain in the Adirondacks. I took my other children and the governess and we started to go down to the camp. As we were walking along we saw two guides going up. I didn’t stop them. I thought nothing about them. After they passed me I said to myself, ‘I ought to find out why those men are going up the trail.’ I called back to the governess — I was supporting one of the younger children and she was taking care of the others — to ask what those guides were going up the trail for. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘they have a message for one of the party on Mount Marcy.’
“I was troubled a bit, but still I wasn’t anxious about the President. I said, ‘It must be for one of those boys who had gone up, the Robinson boys, because my family are all here safe and sound with me, and the President is getting better.’ So then we went on. As we got to the camp we were met by the doctor who told me the President was very ill again and he was pretty sure my husband would have to go to Buffalo.
“When the party came down from Mount Marcy my husband came to me and he said, ‘I’m not going unless I am really needed. I have been there once and that shows how I feel. But I will not go to stand beside those people who are suffering and anxious. I am going to wait here.’ That was all very well, but the President was taken so ill that in the night they came and knocked at our door and they said it was absolutely imperative that my husband leave at once. The train was waiting for him down at Norfolk (North Creek). He took a most terrific ride in the middle of the night. They changed horses and buckboards. Anyhow, he got there safely.”
The next morning, Mrs Roosevelt, bundled into a cart with her three children and their governess, traveled to North Creek, and then by train and boat back to New York City, a trip which took 24 hours. The Roosevelt’s son Archie, seven years old, was sick with tonsillitis, and Quentin, four, had a persistent and painful earache.
Poppy Cummings contributed to this report.
Photo: Edith Kermit Roosevelt, wife of Theodore Roosevelt.