Miss Ida Saxton of Canton, Ohio would go on to be Mrs. William McKinley and eventually First Lady when her husband William took the oath of office of the President of the United States in 1897. Ida’s sister Miss Mary Saxton known as Pina (Peen Ya) would later marry Marshall C. Barber of Canton and serve on the Board of Directors of the George D. Harter Bank and Aultman Hospital both in Canton, Ohio.
Ida & Mary’s parents James & Katherine (Dewalt) Saxton had the means to give their children a well-rounded education. They sent their two daughters to Brooke Hall Female Seminary in Media, Pennsylvania.
Photographer W. L. Germon of nearby Philadelphia took an early photograph of Brooke Hall that found its way into our McKinley Archives.
W. L. Germon worked in Philadelphia at 914 Arch Street, in what is present day Chinatown. The building was razed and the area is now a parking lot.
Brooke Hall was located on Lemon Street near Baltimore Street in Media, Pennsylvania.
William Jennings Bryan who ran for president against William McKinley in both 1896 and 1900.
With help from the generous team of the Media Historic Archives Commission my wife Alyson and I were able to learn more about the “finishing school” Ida and Mary Saxton attended in the mid nineteenth century. We started at the Upper Providence Library in Media where the Media Historic Archives are housed. We met with Kathy a commissioner of the historical group. She allowed us to explore books, archival photographs, and papers on Brooke Hall. The commission’s archivist, Adam generously took the time to pull all the items connected with the school. Walt, another commissioner in the group took us on a two and a half hour tour of the Borough of Media. Our first stop was an area where a house once stood that was associated with William Jennings Bryan who ran for president against William McKinley in both 1896 and 1900. Another place in town that is connected to Mr. Bryan is the Delaware County Courthouse where he gave a speech on the steps.
Using both the 1882 and the 1892 atlases of Delaware County, PA we were able to locate the footprint of Brooke Hall.
It was an exhilarating experience to visit another place where Ida and Mary Saxton once walked and lived for a time in their young lives.
The Media Elementary School became the first anchor in the revitalization of the downtown area.
Students of Brooke Hall were not permitted to write letters to boys or visit Media without an escort. Shortlidge Academy for Boys also operated in town at the same time as Brooke Hall. Walt, our tour guide told us the all too familiar story of the suburbanization of Media, and the decay of the borough in the mid-20th century. The beginnings of the rebirth of the downtown area rested in the land where the poorhouse once stood. The same area then became the Shortlidge Boy’s Academy, and finally one of the borough’s elementary schools. The Media Elementary School became the first anchor in the revitalization of the downtown area.
Other anchors were established and eventually Media came back to be a healthy thriving borough.
Alumni from Massillon, Ohio
Ida & Mary Saxton kept fond memories of Brooke Hall, and their Principal Miss M. I. Eastman. Ida would became Brooke Hall’s most famous graduate, graduating in 1863. Over thirty years later Mrs. McKinley was still on affectionate terms with one of her teachers Miss Harriet Gault. In 1898, First Lady Mrs. Ida (Saxton) McKinley would host a banquet for Brooke Hall Alumni in the White House. The party included Teacher Miss Harriet Gault. The guest list also included; Caroline McCullough Everhard, Flora Russell McClymonds, Annie Steese Baldwin, and Carrie Jacobs Brown all of Massillon, Ohio.
The Massillon Museum has a fan in their collection. It is signed by these ladies from Massillon. We have reason to believe this may be a fan from Brooke Hall.
Brooke Hall in Media, Pennsylvania was a very special place to many young women…
The photographs in this presentation were provided by the Historic Archives Commission in Media Pennsylvania, Massillon Museum in Massillon, Ohio, and the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum in Canton, Ohio.
Thank you to National First Ladies Library in Canton, Massillon Museum in Massillon, Ohio and the Media Historical Archives Commission in Media, Pennsylvania for collaborating with McKinley Presidential Library & Museum in the telling of this story.
Mark G. Holland