As the twentieth President of the United States of America, James Garfield’s presidency was brief. Before politics, he worked as a teacher, who later became a lawyer. During the Civil War, he was commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel and promoted to Brigadier General after his successful campaigns against the Confederate troops.
In this article, you will discover how his family shaped him as a leader.
Eliza Ballou Garfield
James Abram Garfield never knew his father and was raised in poverty by his mother, Eliza Ballou Garfield. She was born on September 21, 1801, in Richmond, Cheshire County, New Hampshire. She had five children, and James holds a special place in her heart and even credited her for his success. She lived in the White House during her son’s short term in office. Eliza was the first mother of a President to attend her child’s inauguration and even outlived him for seven years. She died on January 21, 1888, at the age of 86.
Lucretia Rudolph Garfield
On April 19, 1832, Lucretia was born to Arabella Mason and Zebulon Rudolph in Garrettsville, Ohio. She was the eldest among their four children. Lucretia attended Garrettsville Public Grammar School from 1838-1847 in her hometown. She concentrated on language studies, mainly Greek and Latin. She rigorously studied French, which widened her experience in classical literature, British and French literature. Lucretia even helped to organize a literary society that staged debates, oratorical presentations, and elocution. She is often on-stage to defend women’s rights and worked as an editor and illustrator in their school magazine called The Eclectic Star.
When she graduated, she worked as a French, algebra, and Latin teacher at the Eclectic Institute and began corresponding to James Garfield. He is attending Williams College in Massachusetts. The courtship and James and Lucretia were long and cautious. James appreciates the depth of intellect she possessed, and they agreed that she needs to leave her teaching job to concentrate as a full-time wife and mother; however, when it seemed that they would not be married, James was never faithful. Lucretia took a teaching job in Cleveland instead of depending on her father, earned her salary. She even took drawing lessons and pursued her passion for performing arts.
At the age of 26, James and Lucretia were married on November 11, 1858, in Hiram and did not take a honeymoon. As James served in the Union Army from 1861 to 1863, it kept them apart from each other, and their first daughter died in 1863. Also, during James’ service in Ohio and enjoyed their domestic life together, another tragedy struck the family when their two-year-old son died in 1876, but their other five children lived healthily.
During James Garfield’s brief time in the office brought a cheerful family in the White House, and Lucretia was never interested in the First Lady’s duties; however, her genuine hospitality made her events enjoyable.
When her husband was shot on September 19, 1881, she raced to the White House by a special train and immediately went to her husband’s bedside. She won the nation’s respect because she exhibited great devotion and fortitude while her husband was fighting for his life. After the death of James Garfield, she lived a private and comfortable life in Ohio and preserved her husband’s memory.
On the remaining days of her life, she volunteered for the Red Cross when the United States entered the World War. She died on March 13, 1918, at the age of 85.
Harry Augustus Garfield
Harry Augustus Garfield or “Hal” was born on October 11, 1863, to James Garfield and Lucretia Garfield. When he was only seventeen years old, together with his brother, Jim, they witnessed how Charles Guiteau shot their father at the Baltimore and Potomac Railway Station in Washington, D.C., and their father died on September 19, few weeks after they began their classes in Williams College.
When he graduated from his father’s alma mater, he studied law at Columbia University and practiced law with Jim. Hal then worked as a professor of politics at Princeton University and befriended future president Woodrow Wilson. Hal eventually became a law professor in 1908 and served as the eighth President of Williams College until his retirement in 1934.
He was commissioned by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917 to manage the United States Fuel Administration during World War I to conserve the coal supply and control the price in reasonable bounds.
Hal married Belle Hartford Mason and was blessed with four children. He died on December 12, 1942.
James Rudolph Garfield
James Rudolph Garfield or Jim was born on October 17, 1865, in Hiram, Ohio. He was the third among the seven children of James and Lucretia Garfield. He attended St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire. Together with his brother Hal, they saw how their father was assassinated right in front of their eyes.
When his father passed away, he entered Williams College and pursued further studies at Columbia Law School. After he was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1888, he established a law firm with his brother, Harry Garfield. A couple of years later, he married Helen Newell and had four sons with her. John, James, Newell, and Rudolph.
Eventually, he followed his father’s footsteps and entered politics. He served in the Ohio State Senate from 1896 to 1899. Then, he became a part of Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Interior from 1907 to 1909.
During World War I, he was selected by President Roosevelt to become part of the eighteen officers to raise a volunteer infantry division for service in France.
Jim died on March 24, 1950, and outlived his father for more than 68 years.
Mary “Mollie” Garfield
On January 16, 1867, Mary Garfield was born in Washington D.C. and was named after her father’s sister but had a household nickname “Mollie.” She grew up in the capital during James Garfield’s service in Congress. She was educated by her parents and learned to speak French at the age of five. At the age of twelve, she entered the Madame Burr’s School. When they moved back to Ohio, she was enrolled at Miss Mittleberger’s School in Cleveland.
She celebrated her fourteenth birthday in the White House. In a diary entry she wrote in December 1882, she indicated her affection towards Joe Brown, her father’s secretary. Mollie married Joe on June 14, 1888, and had three children. She died on December 30, 1947, at the age of 80.
Irvin McDowell Garfield
Irvin Garfield was born on August 3, 1870, and was usually called Irv. He was enrolled at Mentor Village School and was tutored when their father was elected as President by Dr. Hawkes. He followed the footsteps of his brothers as he entered St. Paul’s School and Williams College. Irv attended Harvard Law School and worked in his brothers’ law office in Cleveland.
On October 6, 1906, he married Susan Emmons and were blessed with three children: Eleanor, Jane, and Irvin Jr. He died on July 19, 1951, at the age of 80.
Abram was born on November 21, 1872, and was named after his paternal grandfather and had a household nickname “Abe.” He was very close to Irvin and graduated from the same school. He studied architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for three years and graduated in 1896.
He married Sarah Granger Williams, daughter of a co-owner of Sherwin-Williams Company, on October 14, 1897. They had two children named Edward Williams and Mary Louise.
As Abe earned a reputation as a premier architect and designer, he formed a partnership with Frank Meade. Eventually, he founded the Cleveland School of Architecture and became its first president from 1924 until 1929.
Two years after Sarah died, he married Helen Matthews at the age of 75. He died on October 16, 1958, at the age of 85.