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TR Speaks in Penn Yan (November 1900)

Yates Past - November/December 2008 issue

We have in our collection approximately 7,000 letters written by the family of Admiral Frank H. Schofield coving the time period from 1886 to 1922. Schofield was born in the Town of Jerusalem in 1869, the son of a tenant farmer, who went to the Naval Academy and made a career of the Navy. When he retired in 1932, he was the highest ranking Navy officer in the field.... Commander-in-Chief of the entire US fleet. Through the family’s letters, I have not only been able to trace his career but also see how the Yates County community was impacted by national events. Schofield’s parents lived on Head Street in Penn Yan .... now North Avenue. The Dr. Cox quoted at the end was Admiral Schofield’s father-in-law who lived in San Francisco.

There was a presidential election in November of 1900. The Republican, William McKinley, ran for re-election but this time his running mate was New York Governor Teddy Roosevelt, still basking in his status as a war hero. As Governor , he had established a reputation as a reformer and Republican Party bosses hoped to “bury him” in the Vice Presidency where he could do no harm. The Democratic candidate was once again the populist William Jennings Bryan. Roosevelt campaigned in Penn Yan just a few days before the election and “Ma” described the event to Frank:

Uncle Lo (Lorenzo Schofield) came down to attend the great Roosevelt meeting to be held at 5:20 pm. About 5 pm Pa hitched up and we went down to hear and see too. Why, what a crowd of people! They had a big platform fixed by Birkett’s mill and the papers say there was over 5000 people there. The mill windows were all rented and in the Chronicle building and adjoining buildings, every window was full. We had thought we would sit in the carriage but I was fearful the horse might be frightened by the music. So Pa drove up the street and hitched and it was well he did for they sent up skyrockets and the horses lunged and were so frightened. Well, we stood in the mud for some of the time. It rained for a long time. Roosevelt was an hour late. A man from Corning talked and told stories to interest the people. One comes to be now. An Irishman hired out to carry mortar, so he went in haste to buy a pair of overalls. He put them on in a hurry... and hind side to and started up the ladder with his mortar. He got part way up and fell. The men were frightened and said...”Pat, are you alive? Pat, are you dead?” He came to and, looking down, saw the seat of his pants in front and said “I’m alive boys but I’m badly twisted!” Well, after a while Roosevelt came. He is a large man; talks very deliberately and to the point. We listened until he got on the Philippine question, then I had to go home and get supper. Uncle Lo came back about 7 pm. He is a most unreasonable Republican. He don’t think a Democrat ever did a good deed. I don’t care for such narrow men.

Wednesday there was to be a big Democratic meeting in the Cornwell Opera house. (NOTE: where Long’s bookstore is today on Main St.) Stanchfield, the Dem. candidate for governor was to speak. We walked down; there was an awful jam and we didn’t get in. There was a great many who couldn’t. Then it was announced that in thirty mins. he would speak from the balcony. Well, we waited about an hour and he spoke to the crowd. He spoke mostly against the “trusts”. He said Roosevelt spoke against them in some places and for them in some just as the pulse of the place beat. He told this story: A man applied for a school. The trustee said, “Do you believe the world is round or flat? Now we believe it is flat and the teacher we had taught it was round. Now what will YOU teach?” Well, the young man said, “It don’t make any difference to me if it is round or flat. I want the school.”

Backed by the return of economic prosperity , a generally popular foreign policy, and corporate money, McKinley and Roosevelt won handily. Dr. Cox wrote to Frank a few days after the election....”How do you like the result of the election? I preferred Bryan and voted for him, but bow cheerfully to the will of the majority. I do not like McKinley. He is too much the tool of the capitalistic class and I think the Republicans have drifted far away from the teachings of Lincoln and the founders of the party, but it may all be for the best. “Tempora Mutantur” (Times are Changing).

by Rich MacAlpine


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