Did former U.S. President James A. Garfield and his family once briefly call Newcomerstown home?
Over the years, there has been several small newspaper accounts found that stated that the Garfield family once resided in the vicinity between Newcomerstown and Port Washington during the construction of the Ohio-Erie Canal.
One of the news articles comes from the Sept. 21, 1939, edition of the Newcomerstown News, a special edition commemorating Newcomerstown's 125th anniversary states that Garfield's father was one of the individual's involved in the construction of the Newcomerstown-Port Washington section of the Ohio-Erie Canal. The section of the canal between Zoar and Coshocton was constructed between 1827-1832.
According to Internet history resources, Garfield was born in Cuyahoga County, near Cleveland on Nov. 19, 1831. He was the youngest of five children born to Abraham and Eliza (Ballou) Garfield. He was 17-months old when his father died. He was the raised by his widowed mother and an older brother.
The newspaper article added that Garfield's family operated a boarding house located between Newcomerstown and Port Washington where the family resided during the canal's construction. The family rented rooms, and provided meals for approximately 20 of the canal construction workers at that time. In the evenings, Garfield's mother would entertain her family, and the workers with singing.
A young Garfield worked various jobs in his early life, later including work as a canal driver (possibly passing through Newcomerstown years later), to finance his education. He eventually graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts, and later received a law degree from Hiram College in Ohio. He practiced law and served as Ohio Senator from 1859-1861.
Garfield later entered politics as a member of the Republican party, and eventually became the nation's twentieth president on March 4, 1881. His presidency included a controversial resurgence of authority, energizing the U.S. Naval power, and purging corruption in the U.S. Postal Department. One of Garfield's quotes included "If wrinkles must be written upon our brow, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should never grow old."
Garfield's term in office was cut short on July 2, 1881, when he was shot by a rejected and disillusioned political office seeker, Charles Guiteau. The president lived until September 19, 1881 succumbing to a systemic infection. Garfield was buried at the Lakeview Cemetery in Cuyahoga County. His wife, Lucretia (Rudolph) Garfield, and seven children survived him.
Charles Guiteau was later executed on June 30, 1882.
While none of the news articles mention much about the Garfield's children, namely their son, James, it was believed that he was either not born yet, or was an infant at the time the family were residing in the vicinity.
The family apparently followed the construction of the canal through various parts of the state until it's completion. It is unknown how long they were residents of the area.
With these questions remaining, one thing is fairly certain that the Garfield family, and possibly Garfield himself once tread the soil of Newcomerstown.