Central New York’s Surprising Connection to a Presidential Assassin
Did you know the man responsible for ending the life of a U.S. president had ties to Central New York?
Charles Guiteau is known throughout history as the man who assassinated President James A. Garfield, less than four months into his term. Before that, however, he lived in Oneida as part of the infamous Oneida Community.
Born in Freeport, Illinois in 1841, Guiteau joined the Oneida religious sect in 1860 and spent five years there. He supposedly held the group's founder, John Humphrey Noyes, in the highest regard, once writing that he had "absolute confidence in him in all things."
Guiteau was apparently a bit of an oddball, even for the Oneida Community. Even though the community promoted group marriage, nobody seemed to want Guiteau. According to Wikipedia, he was continually rejected, and his name was turned into a play-on-words to create the nickname "Charles Git-Out."
Guiteau left the Oneida Community twice. At one point he attempted to start a newspaper based on the group's teachings, but this endeavor failed. He also tried to sue John Humphrey Noyes, but that too was unsuccessful. Guiteau's father, also heavily involved in the Oneida Community, sided with Noyes and dismissed his son as insane.
A bit of a screwup by today's standards, Guiteau would fail at various endeavors before eventually etching his name in history books as a killer.
THE ASSASSINATION OF A PRESIDENT
On the morning of September 19, 1881, Guiteau shot Garfield at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station. According to Wikipedia, Guiteau "falsely believed he had played a major role in Garfield's election victory, for which he should have been rewarded."
It took Garfield 79 days to succumb to his wounds. The circumstances surrounding his death remain controversial to this day. Many believe Garfield could have been saved, and it was the negligence and ineptitude of his doctors that sealed his fate.
Because his term was so brief, Garfield isn't usually mentioned in conversations relating to best OR worst presidents. Historians do tend to agree that he had a lot of promise.
Guiteau, however, did not. On June 30th, 1882, he was hanged for his crimes.
The Oneida Community dissolved in 1881, but the Mansion House is still one of the most beautiful 19th century buildings in Central New York. Visitors can walk the grounds at 170 Kenwood Ave in Oneida, or learn more at oneidacommunity.org.
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