Ask Rufus: A presidential visit to Columbus

April 9, 2011 6:02:00 PM



Nov. 2, 1909, was to be a red letter day for Columbus. President William H. Taft was coming to town. He was to be accompanied by his Secretary of War, Hon. J. M. Dickinson, a Columbus native. (A few years later, Crawford native T. W. Gregory served as Woodrow Wilson''s Attorney General.) 


Taft''s visit which would amount to only three hours was one of many stops on a 13,000 mile rail tour of America. 


Well in advance of the President''s visit preparations were underway. There was to be a parade, a speech and a barbecue on the campus of the Industrial Institute and College (MUW). 


Taft was to ride through Columbus in the finest carriage available.  That was said to be Mrs. T. W. Hardy''s ''Victoria" style carriage.  She was out of town and so Mr. Hardy was approached with the request for President Taft to use the carriage. He replied that since his wife was visiting her daughter in Greenwood he thought it would be all right. 


On Nov. 2, 1909, a welcoming committee from Columbus traveled to West Point where they met with a committee form there. Taft''s train paused briefly in West Point and he delivered a short speech from the rear of his private car.  The welcoming committees boarded the train and traveled with the president to Columbus. 


The special train arrived in Columbus at the Southern Railroad Depot on Main Street, 13 minutes late. Then there was a parade up Main Street. The parade was led by a "platoon of mounted police". Escorting the president there followed National Guard units from the surrounding counties and the A & M Cadet Band (MSU). 


Taft attended a reception and then went to the II&C campus where he delivered a speech from the portico of the Music Hall.  The crowd that had gathered along the parade route and at the II&C was estimated to exceed 15,000 people. 


After the speech tables had been set up along the side of the Music Hall and a barbecue was held for Taft and 200 invited guest. The menue included; Brunswick Stew, barbecue, dainties and a dish called hobbly-cobbly. Taft was said to have eaten two helpings of hobbly-cobbly, which contained tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. 


After the barbecue Taft boarded his train and continued on his cross country tour. 


When Mrs. T. W. Hardy returned from Greenwood and was informed that President Taft (he was very much over weight) had used her carriage, she immediately exclaimed: "I hope that fat Republican didn''t bust the springs." 


Rufus Ward is a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to him at [email protected]