Learn About President Hayes

The birthplace of Rutherford B. Hayes was the first brick house built in Delaware, Ohio.

A young Rutherford B. Hayes.

Rutherford: The Early Years

Rutherford B. Hayes, nineteenth president of the United States, was the fifth child born to Rutherford and Sophia Birchard Hayes, Jr. He was born October 4, 1822, in Delaware, Ohio, about two months after the death of his father. His parents had come to Ohio in 1817 from Dummerston, Vermont. Shortly after his father's death, Hayes' mother moved to a home on the northeast corner of W. William and N. Franklin Streets. This is where Hayes spent most of his years in Delaware.

Young Rutherford and sister Fanny Arabella, the only two of the five children to grow to adulthood, were raised by their mother and her younger, bachelor brother Sardis Birchard, a successful businessman of Lower Sandusky (later Fremont), Ohio. Hayes attended school in Delaware (2 years at the Murray School, 15 N. Franklin St., which was across the street from his home, and afterward at a one-room public school located on the same block) and Norwalk, Ohio and Middletown, Connecticut. In 1842 he graduated from Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, as valedictorian of his class. After a year of study in a Columbus law office, he entered Harvard Law School and received his degree in 1845. He began his law practice in Lower Sandusky, but not finding many opportunities, he left in 1849 for Cincinnati, where he became a successful lawyer. He defended several runaway slaves which drew him into the Republican Party.

Lovely Lucy

Lucy Ware Webb was the youngest daughter of Dr. James and Maria Cook Webb. Although Lucy grew up in Chillicothe, she and her family moved to Delaware in 1844 to be near her brothers who were attending Ohio Wesleyan University. They lived at the corner of Spring and Franklin Streets. Lucy was permitted to audit her brothers' classes at Ohio Wesleyan University. She is affectionately called OWU's first co-ed. Her family moved and she graduated from Cincinnati's Wesleyan Women's College.

It is said that Rutherford and Lucy first met at the Sulphur Spring in Delaware while Hayes was home for a visit. The two met again in Cincinnati as members of the same wedding party. In 1852, Rutherford B. Hayes married Lucy Ware Webb. They became the parents of eight children.

Wedding photo of Rutherford B. Hayes and Lucy Ware Webb.

From General To Governor

When the Civil War began, Hayes became a Major in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He saw much active service and was severely wounded at the Battle of South Mountain. In 1864, while still serving with his regiment, he was elected to the U.S. Congress and was reelected in 1866. The following year he was elected Ohio's Governor and served until 1872. After winning a third term in 1875, Hayes was chosen as the Republican Party's presidential candidate. The election was very close and had to be decided by a special congressional commission. Because of the tension surrounding the election, Hayes was secretly inaugurated in the Red Room of the White House. This was the first time that a president-elect had taken the oath in the White House.

President Hayes Takes Office

When President Hayes took office in 1877, many problems and changes were occurring in America. Though it had been twelve years since the Civil War, the North and South were still divided and federal troops were still present in the South. The country had just experienced a serious economic crisis. The government was poorly run and positions were given to friends rather than those who were qualified. The lives of Blacks, Native Americans, and the millions of immigrants flowing into America were impoverished and lacking education. Women had few rights. The nation was no longer one of small farmers. Technology in oil, coal, and steel production were creating huge industries in growing cities. Railroads were tying the country together. Inventions such as electricity, the telephone, and typewriter were improving communications.

President Hayes worked very hard to solve many of the problems. By removing the troops from the South, he began to heal the wounds of the Civil War. His sound money policies helped make business and industry stronger. He saw that only qualified people received government jobs and that the government itself was run in a business like manner.

One of the president's greatest concerns was the welfare of the minorities, the poor, and the immigrants. He believed that education and manual training would help these people have better lives. Though Lucy Webb Hayes was the first wife of a president to be a college graduate, Hayes still believed that a woman's role was that of wife and mother. However, he did sign into law a bill that would, for the first time, allow women attorneys to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The honesty and fairness of Rutherford and Lucy Hayes did much to bring renewed respect to the office of the president. Refusing to serve a second term, Hayes retired to his beautiful home, Spiegel Grove, in Fremont, Ohio. Here, Hayes continued to give of his time - helping veterans receive their pensions, improving the conditions in prisons, and creating ways to education the poor and the minorities. He died at Spiegel Grove on January 17, 1893, at the age of seventy.

Lucy and Rutherford relax on the verandah of their Fremont home.

Photographs courtesy of: Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums; Our Shared History: Delaware, Methodism and Ohio Wesleyan University; American Educator Encyclopedia.