FREMONT, Ohio –
October 4, 2023 marks what would have been the 201st birthday of Rutherford B. Hayes, a Civil War General, an Ohio Congressman, and the 19th President of the United States. Each year the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museum hosts a wreath laying ceremony on behalf of the sitting president, at Spiegel Grove in Fremont, Ohio.
The day’s festivities began with a reverse parade. The concept is that the patrons moved, while the floats stood still. Reenactors and historians portrayed famous figures, friends, and family members describing important moments in Hayes’ life from his childhood to the founding of the very first Presidential Library by his son Webb Hayes.
Community members were then brought to the Hayes Tomb, where Rutherford B. and Lucy Webb Hayes were laid to rest.
Burke Hayes, president of the Presidential Library and Museums board and the great-great-great grandson of President Hayes opened the wreath laying ceremony. U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain (Maj.) Daniel Hamman, a chaplain with the 302nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve, gave the invocation. Remarks from Maj. Gen. Matthew Baker, Commanding General of the 88th Readiness Division (RD) followed.
“When our nation was at a crossroads at the outbreak of the Civil War, he left a comfortable life and volunteered to serve with the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment.” Said Baker of Hayes, who was wounded four times during the war. “Hayes not only left a tangible legacy of written words; he left a true and lasting legacy to humanity by serving a cause greater than his own.”
Following his remarks, Baker and Chaplain Hamman laid the wreath upon the Presidential tomb. A color guard of local Veterans from Fremont VFW Post 2947, Fremont American Legion Post 608, Clyde VFW Post 3343, Pfc. Russel Mook Ohio Marine Corps League Detachment 279, and Ohio AMVETS Post 67 rendered a three-volley, 21 gun salute to Hayes.
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Mindy Strahl, a bugler with the 338th Army Band, 88th RD, played Taps as Baker and Hamman saluted the wreath and tomb. Special Events and Volunteer Coordinator Joan Eckerman then sang Amazing Grace to conclude the wreath laying ceremony.
Julie Mayle, Manuscripts Curator, then announced the dedication of a tree on Spiegel grove to the U.S. Colored Troops of the Civil War who had ties to Sandusky County, Ohio. Tyre’k Hyde, who portrayed W.E.B. Dubois in the reverse parade, along with Solomon Woodson and Father Edward Schleter with the Fremont chapter of the NAACP, read the names of the soldiers currently recognized by the Museum. Onlookers then moved to walkway, where a brick inscribed “HONORING U.S. COLORED TROOPS, CIVIL WAR, SANDUSKY CO” was placed in the soil next to the tree. Participants and community members were encouraged to come touch the tree as a symbol of solidarity and remembrance.
Army Reserve Ambassadors for the state of Ohio Robert P. Stall, John Lendrum, and Ralph Veppert were among the honored guests to the day’s festivities. Veppert stressed the importance of not only the wreath laying, but the tree dedication as well, as an opportunity to highlight the military in an area that doesn’t see a lot of it.
“Doing this stuff, getting out in the community, it helps us remind people that the U.S. Army exists. Especially in an area that’s kind of a military desert,” said Veppert. “If we can get that out there in front of people, that service to one’s country is not a bad thing, that’s our plus.”
The day’s events concluded with ice cream and lemonade in the yard of the Hayes home, free to all who attended, along with tours of the home and surrounding grounds, library, and museums.