A Woman Scorned; A Man Warned; A Family Mourns

DBF

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Messages
1,138
April 1899

You could hear a pin drop in the courtroom as 15 year old Russell Hogan reluctantly takes the stand. Just a few days ago, he had been brought before the court on a charge of disorderly conduct. It’s been a rough time for the young man. After seeing a man shot down “in cold blood” he’s been running all over the country terrified that something will happen to him if he testifies to what he saw. When he faces Judge Tuthill, young Russell Hogan has been assured nothing will happen to him if he tells the truth. But this isn’t an ordinary murder - - - the murder victim you see is the brother of the First Lady of the United States.

The Saxton Family

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Mary, Ida and George Saxton of Canton, Ohio
(First Ladies National Library)

By all accounts the Saxton family was a close knit and loving family. Ida the eldest was born in the home of her grandparents in 1847. Her grandfather, John Saxton, in 1815 founded a weekly newspaper that he called “The Ohio Repository”. As most newspapers were during the time period, it had political leanings and it tilted Republican. Her father was a successful banker and real estate developer. Sister Mary followed quickly in December of 1848 and then came the last a son they named George Dewalt in 1850. George carried his maternal grandfather’s name the owner of the successful Eagle Hotel in Canton. The Saxton family lived a comfortable life and their children were well educated. The one critique appears to be: the parents were over-indulgent with their children, and this will prove to the detriment to little George.

When A Little Boy Grows Into A Man
There’s a party and George Saxton has walked in, unfortunately his reputation has proceeded him. He’s 47 years old and his proudest accomplishment is his status as a “playboy”. Throughout the years, his greatest love is women. He loves them all. Married/Unmarried it matters not to him. His least favorite word is “Commitment”. He was charming, good-looking and employed in the family business meaning he was wealthy. He had been engaged twice but has never walked down the aisle. He lives in the family mansion but he’s a playboy consequently he has an exclusive bachelor pad for “entertaining” his ladies.

George Saxton.JPG

George Saxton
(Public Domain)

He is also extremely “politically connected”; for in 1898 his brother-in-law is no other than President William McKinley and the First Lady is his older sister, Ida. His life style and behavior will finally catch up to him as it will be a former lover who “takes him down”.

Mrs. Anna Ehrhart George
The “Mrs.” starts the beginning of the end for George Saxton. Anna was the wife of Sample George a carpenter. The George’s were a hard-working middle class family, not usually found in the Saxton’s social sphere. She was an attractive dressmaker and well known in the community. Sample’s family was aware of the affair and although they were not happy about the situation they loved their brother.

anna george saxton murder.jpg

Mrs. Anna Ehrhart George
(Source #4)
Unfortunately for George Saxton he thought a married woman would make a safe paramour. Believing he could trifle with her emotions with no commitment was not to be as Anna fell in love with the rake. The more he pursued her and enticed her with expensive gifts the more she was committed to loving him. Anna finally left her husband and children to move into an apartment next door to George’s bachelor pad.

Sample George was enraged and sued George Saxton for alienation of his wife’s affection. The original suit asked for $30,000.00 in damages. Saxton could afford the best lawyers and the suit dragged on for 6 years. It had been 9 years since Anna first met George Saxton. As the case was plodding through the court, Saxton’s feelings for Anna were cooling, however, he forgot to tell Anna of his changing feelings, and when he settles with Sample George for $1,800.00; he looked to his future and Anna is not in it.

With a promise of marriage, George Saxton sent Anna our west for a quickie divorce. With $1,200.00 in her pocketbook she raced to get her divorce. When she returned, Saxton had move on with a series of several women. Anna was shaken and desperate, so she takes him to court for breach of promise, although with his influential political connections the case is thrown out of court. They briefly reconciled, but it ended when Anna discovered he had moved on to several new and married women; Eva Althouse and Mary Park. Interestingly Mary Park wanted to divorce her husband because she was engaged to George Saxton proving that a skunk never changes its’ stripe.

What’s a scorned woman to do? She stalks him and at one point threatens to kill him. Saxton takes out a restraining order thinking this will stop her. He blissfully was unaware on the depth of her anger, hatred and her thirst for revenge.

October 7, 1898

On this Friday evening George Saxton is on his bicycle as his pedals his way to his lady love’s house Eva Althouse. He wears a new 3-piece suit with a flower in his lapel. He brings along a bottle of champagne and his pajamas (as reported). Life is grand for this philanderer and then - - -

“he was confronted by a woman dressed in black. An eyewitness--who was, unfortunately, too far away to identify the woman--saw her pull out a gun and shoot Saxton twice. She began to walk away, when she heard her victim crying out for help. She calmly walked back to where he was lying in agony, shot him two more times, and vanished into the surrounding darkness. George Saxton was now very quiet, because he was very dead.” {5}

President_William_McKinley_and_first_lady_Ida_in_the_White_House,_1900.jpg

President & Mrs. (William & Ida) McKinley
(Public Domain)

For the McKinley’s this was devastating news. The President was told as he was receiving guests at the White House. As an aide whispered the news in his ear the president immediately went pale. He first and foremost concern was how to tell his wife this news. It was no secret that Ida was not a well woman when she entered the White House. By the time she had ascended to First Lady she had faced many heartbreaks - the death of her mother and the death of her 2 daughters, and only children. Katherine was 3 years old when she died in 1875, and baby Ida was born in 1873 and died 6 months later. She suffered from epilepsy and after her pregnancies her health left her in a weakened state. There were times during her tenure when she would have a seizure and her beloved husband would cover her face with his white handkerchief until her face contortions stopped, lest any one see her in this state. That night he continued on with his hosting duties, waiting to tell his wife of her brothers murder until later that night.

For the public couple they managed to keep this affair as private as they could. They never publicly commented and attended the private and unannounced funeral for George Saxton without press attention. Mrs. McKinley wept at her brother’s gravesite.

The Trial

The prosecution had motive but not much else. There was no eye-witness that clearly saw who shot George Saxton, even young Russell Hogan only saw a lady in black that shot Mr. Saxton but never clearly saw her face. With George’s playboy’s reputation, it was easy for the defense to point the finger at many numerous suspects, and they aggressively did. George Saxton was on trial - not Anna. She was portrayed as a victim. Her attorneys argued Saxton was a “destroyer of families” and throughout the years had accumulated many angry husbands and had wronged and lied to numerous woman all having just as much motivation to shoot the scoundrel as Anna George.

The murder weapon was never found (it was found after the trial), and 3 people were able to corroborated Anna’s alibi. She never testified nor did she try to plead insanity of cry it was a “crime of passion”.

Neither members of the Saxton family or especially the family of President McKinley went to the 22-day trial. The newspapers were busy reporting the story as it was quite a national sensation and did so with sympathetic reporting towards Mrs. George. Even her ex-husband Sample George would not speak out against her.

After 23 hours and 22 votes, the jury came back with a declaration of “Not Guilty”. George Saxton’s murder is officially listed as “unsolved”.

The story made it’s biggest headlines in the paper that George and Ida’s grandfather’s began in 1815.

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The Repository Headlines on October 8, 1898
(Source #6)

* * * * * * *
After her brother’s murder, little did Ida know that in three years she would face another horrible loss, when her beloved husband would be assassinated 6 months into his 2nd term. She will go down in history as the 1st First Lady to have lost a husband and brother by an assassin. At the death of her husband on September on September 14, 1901, he became the last of the Civil War Veterans that went on to serve as President of the United States.

* * * * * * *

Sources
1. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SFC18990725.2.50&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN--------1
2. http://www.firstladies.org/blog/president-mckinleys-home-in-the-saxton-house/
3. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/19669/ida-mckinley
4. https://featherfoster.wordpress.com/2019/02/25/the-murder-of-ida-mckinleys-brother/
5. http://strangeco.blogspot.com/2017/05/murder-in-high-places.html
6. https://www.cantonrep.com/article/20151008/special/151009423?template=ampart
 

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luinrina

Sergeant Major
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What a dramatic story! I pity Ida - she apparently hadn't much luck with her family life, losing children, brother and husband.

I wonder how they came to arrest Anna George in the first place if no eye-witness clearly saw who show George Saxton. Did your research reveal anything about that? And how can we be sure that Anna shot him, not someone else?

Thank you for sharing! :smile:
 

DBF

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
Messages
1,138
I read where George Saxton had a restraining order against Anna as she had threatened him before she actually carried out the murder, but as was written, there were many women and men that loathed him so I imagine that may be why she was acquitted. And I agree that it appears many First Lady's had "issues" and I suppose they were fortunate they lived in an era where there was distance between public and private lives. To think the McKinley's managed to attend George's funeral privately.
 


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