A local tie to an assassination

President William McKinley, our nation’s 25th president, was assassinated July 4, 1891, by anarchist Leon Czolgosz, while he stood in a receiving line in the “Temple of Music” at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.
My columns always deal with Fayette County connections, and there is a connection between this event and Vandalia resident Olivia Yoos Burtschi, Mary and Josephine’s mother.
Remembered as historians and preservationists, Josephine and Mary were daughters of Joseph Burtschi and founders of the Vandalia Historical Society.
Olivia was the daughter of Adam Yoos, an Effingham merchant whose store was a short distance from the railroad station.
One day, a racket began in the store when a customer began to make a scene. It was Mary Burtschi, the recorder of history, who wrote the following account:
“President McKinley was assassinated Sept. 6, 1901, at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y. He was shot by a Polish anarchist Czolgos (Shawl-goss) who stopped at Grandpa Adam Yoos’ grocery store between trains and, inflamed with hate for ‘Czar McKinley,’ declared that he was going to shoot the President. Grandpa, thinking he was a ‘krank’ dismissed the thought from his mind until he learned of President McKinley’s death.”
Following Mary’s death, boxes of loose papers, books and Vandalia Historical Society property were put in storage at the office of Dale Timmermann.
One day, Dale handed me a file folder, saying he thought I might find the contents interesting.
Inside was a church flyer, with Mary’s account written in pencil on the reverse.
Reproduced for you is a copy of that flyer advertising Requiem Services for President McKinley being celebrated at Mother of Dolors Catholic Church in Vandalia.
President McKinley who was remembered for conducting his presidential campaign from his front porch in Canton, Ohio, and for starting the Spanish-American War, was a little over a year into his second term when he took a day to make an appearance at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y.
He had been in the receiving line for a little over an hour when a man approached.
McKinley extended his right hand, and the man slapped it away, raised his right arm, which was bandaged, and fired two shots from a .32-caliber Iver Johnson “Safety Automatic” revolver.
The first bullet ricocheted off a coat button and lodged in McKinley’s jacket. The second shot hit the president in the abdomen.
McKinley was heard to say, “Don’t let them hurt him,” as Czolgosz, an out of work Detroit mill worker, was taken into custody. Born in Alpena, and one of eight children, he had constant employment until the economic crash of 1893.
Following the attack, McKinley rallied at first, but the inability to locate the bullet sealed his fate, as infection set in. On Sept. 14, 1901, eight days after he was shot, President McKinley died, making him the third president to be assassinated.
Czolgosz was held for trial, never wavering from the statement that he and he alone planned the assassination and pleaded guilty; however, the laws of the state had that set aside and a plea of not guilty entered instead.
A trial was held, and Leon Czolgosz was found guilty on Tuesday, Sept. 24, and sentenced two days later to death in the electric chair. This sentence was carried out Oct. 29, 1901.
As would be expected, some anarchists thought his actions made them look bad.
Intimates of Mary Burtschi remember the reams of handwritten Vandalia history that she recorded.
She wrote about the Virgin Forest surrounding Vandalia and Abraham Lincoln, published three books of history and left a historical legacy for those who follow.