Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Presidents Grant and Cleveland in Middleborough

A reader recently brought to my attention the 1874 visit of President Ulysses S. Grant to Middleborough. To this may be added the visit of another, Grover Cleveland.

The novelty of these two presidents visiting Middleborough was the result of two particular circumstances: the rise of Cape Cod as a tourist destination during the latter half of the 19th century, and the fact that all passengers destined to Cape Cod from New York and points south were required to change trains at Middleborough - even presidents.

In late August, 1874, Grant was enroute to Martha's Vineyard. Presumably, he took the boat train as he was met at Fall River (where boats traditionally docked and connected with the Boston trains) by Massachusetts Governor Talbot and a large reception to welcome him to Massachusetts. Included in the party were also the Vice-President, Surgeon General and other officials.

The party arrived at Middleborough where it was required to change trains for Woods Hole near one in the afternoon "and received a warm greeting from a large crowd that had gathered at the depot." While the headline carried at the time in the New York Times at the time indicated that President Grant was given a reception at Middleborough, the newspaper failed to provide any details, and no local record is known to exist.

The arrangement of trains also later led President Grover Cleveland to visit the Middleborough depot en route to and returning from his home at Gray Gables on Buzzards Bay in Bourne. In 1892, following his first term in office, Cleveland was required to swap trains on one return journey from the Cape in September of that year.

When the ex-President changed cars at Middleborough several men on the platform stepped forward and shook his hand cordially, and Mr. Cleveland shook theirs cordially in return. The trip from Buzzard's Bay to Fall River was a quick one. Occasionally people in passing through the train recognized Mr. Cleveland and greeted him cordially.

When Cleveland was reelected to a second term, he, unlike Grant, was not required when returning from Gray Gables for the summer in October, 1894, to deboard the train at Middleborough in order to switch to the New York train as he was provided with a private car by the directors of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Additionally, greater security was maintained since in the interim between Grant's 1874 visit and Cleveland's return journey in 1894, President James Garfield had been shot on July 2, 1881, by a disgruntled office seeker and died eleven weeks later. The President had been waiting for a train in the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad station in Washington.

For Cleveland's return journey in 1894, he was accompanied by "Mrs. Cleveland, Ruth, and Esther, the President's sister, Miss Rose Cleveland; Mrs. Perrine and nurse, maid, and Secret Service men." The train ran as an express from Gray Gables to Middleborough where it was likely switched to the Taunton track and run as an express to Providence where it was attached to the rear of the New York train. It is unlikely that many Middleborough residents at the time even knew of the occupant of the private car.

New York Times, "The President in Massachusetts", August 28, 1874; "Mr. Cleveland Coming", September 30, 1982; "The President Due Here To-Day", October 23, 1894


Post a Comment