100 years ago, former president visited Glenwood City

The October 17, 1912 addition of the Glenwood City Tribune modestly proclaimed, “Most Famous America’s Citizen Tarries Briefly in the Best Town on Earth”.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt was traveling on a Soo line train from Duluth to Oshkosh campaigning to defeat William Howard Taft, Roosevelt’s handpicked successor. He was bearing the mantel of the Progressive ‘Bull Moose’ Party, which had earlier that summer broken away from the Republicans. Roosevelt arrived with little fanfare on Friday, October 12th, 1912 greeted by 100 to 200 people. The Tribune decried the fact that they had no notice of the visit and opined had more notice been given, that a crowd of 500 or 1000 would have been on hand to greet the former president. Glenwood City’s moment in the spotlight was short lived. “The train stopped but a minute, and before he had spoken a half dozen sentences of the brief speech which he began from the rear platform of his sumptuously furnished private car, the modern caravan of travel resumed it’s journey and Teddy had to cut it short, concluding with the words: “Well, goodbye and good luck to you!”.”

The appearance of the former President seems to have caught citizens of our community by complete surprise as the train rolled out of site the Tribune reported, “that for some reason the crowd was singularly undemonstrative. There was not a cheer, and the most noted man in America passed out of view smiling and bowing cordially from his conspicuous place on the receding train amid comparative silence.” The Tribune did not attribute this to disrespect or hostility but concluded, “the crowd appeared to be simply tongue tied and throat bound probably as a result of being suddenly brought face to face with a man so eminent”.

Less than an hour after leaving Glenwood City, the ex-President arrived in Colfax, where according to the Colfax Messenger, he was greeted by a crowd of people and school children who shouted and waved flags on his arrival. Colfax basked in the pride of “being the only town in Dunn County favored with a call by the Bull Moose Candidate” and having provided the ex-President “with a crowd of interested spectators that would have done credit to many of the large cities.”

Roosevelt had thrown the presidential campaign into a tizzy and he ran against the incumbent President Taft for the 1912 Republican presidential nomination. Earlier that spring, Roosevelt had beaten Taft in nine Republican presidential primaries including the one in Minnesota. He went on to the National Convention in Chicago. The convention deadlocked and being convinced he could not win the nomination he and his allies formed the Bull Moose Party.

On October 14, just a few days after his Glenwood City and Colfax stop. Roosevelt was shot while leaving his Milwaukee Hotel to give a speech at the nearby Auditorium.

It was reported that the thick 50 page manuscript of his speech and eyeglass case in his suit jacket retarded the force of the bullet and saved his life. Three physicians examined Roosevelt’s wound finding his shirt bloody but finding it not to be life threatening. The assailant, John Schrank, of New York City told police that the ghost of William McKinley had told him to avenge McKinley’s death by killing Roosevelt. Against doctor’s orders, Roosevelt continued, “I will deliver this speech or die.” Deliver he did, holding forth for 90 minutes with blood seeping from his shirt, he began “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know if you fully understand, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”

Surgeons did not remove the bullet lodged in his chest and Roosevelt left the campaign trail to recuperate. He was dogged by complications from the shooting the rest of his life. Roosevelt proved the spoiler in the November election winning nine states and 27% of the popular vote, outpolling Taft but losing out to Woodrow Wilson the Democrat.

(The Glenwood City train Depot was located west of First Street and south of the present Brandt Construction building.)