31 Main Street, Newtown, CT 06470. Phone: 203-426-0864.
James A Garfield is not a name that springs to mind when we think about our Presidents; his short term in office doesn't resonate as Kennedy's Camelot does. Never the less, he was our President, and if his presidential term did not set off fireworks, he did have a long and successful career as a Congressman, and as a Civil War general. On March 10, at 7.30 PM, in Newtown's Meeting House, 31 Main Street, the Newtown Historical Society will examine Garfield's career in "The President and the Madman" a program presented by Gordon Williams. Garfield actually fulfilled the presidential stereotype by being born in a log cabin in Ohio in 1831. His father died when he was 18 months old, leaving the family in relative poverty. Using the rudimentary education at local schools, Garfield was able to work his way through several years in college, finally graduating from Williams in 1856. He was an active minister of the Disciple of Christ church, and waa an effective preacher. Always a religious man, he is reported to have said when he resigned his ministry after election as President, "I resign the highest office in the land to become President." He received a commission as Lieutenant Colonel shortly after the Civil War began, and even with little military training he was successful enough to be breveted Brigadier Genral, and was appointed as Chief of Staff to General Rosencrans. He remained loyal to Rosencrans even after he fell into disfavor. First elected to Congress in 1862 while still in the military, Garfield resigned his commission to take his seat full time in 1863. He would go on to serve nine terms in Congress. When the Republican convention stalemated in 1880, he became the compromise candidate for President. He was destined to serve the second shortest term in our history. Charles Guiteau was both a disappointed office seeker and a man who believed he was directed by God. His vision of God's direction was to kill the President. Guiteau began to stalk Garfield, and on July 2, 1881, less than four months after Garfield's inauguration, he would put two bullets in Garfield's back. Although the shots were not fatal - Garfield lived for 80 days, and many historians believe Garfield died from his medical care rather than the actual shooting - he was unable to govern. Gordon Williams is a retired history teacher, and is a former Teacher of the Year in Trumbull. He is also a past president of the Newtown Historical Society. He has spoken many times before local groups, including an annual talk for the Society. Please note this program will be in the Meeting House while the library undergoes renovations. All Newtown Historical Society programs are free and open to the public.