Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

The GREAT TEDDY Speaks In Mt. Zion

When a presidential candidate, a first lady, a former President or a member of one of their families visits Van Buren County, it makes headlines and is the subject of conversation for years to come. No less was the case when Teddy Roosevelt made a campaign stop here in 1912, his second visit to our midst.

Republican Presidential Candidate Theodore Roosevelt made a 4,000-mile train trip across the United States in 1903, sight-seeing and stumping for election. He arrived in Des Moines on April 28, spent two days with Iowa party officials, then descended the Des Moines Valley rail line to Keokuk in an entourage of three trains.

Ralph Arnold says that the first train consisted of only an engine and a Pullman Coach, and proceeded fifteen minutes ahead of the Presidential train. Roosevelt’s train had a Pullman Baggage Car, a combination baggage-smoker, a diner, a twelve-section drawing room, and a ten-stateroom parlor, which was the most expensive train car in existence at the time. Behind Roosevelt’s train was another train consisting of Governor Cummins and many "big Whig Iowa Republicans."

The trains lost no time in whizzing through Van Buren County. The first of the procession hit Selma about 6:15 am, ran through Mt. Zion at 6:50, and left Farmington at 7:20 with the other two following close behind. People standing at the depot platforms to get a glimpse of Roosevelt saw nothing of the candidate, and only two red-caps.

It was a different story in 1912. Roosevelt won the election of 1904, soundly beating Democrat Alton Parker by a 2-1 margin. He retired after one term as President and Republican William Howard Taft successfully won the White House.

Roosevelt decided he wanted to be President again, but a majority of the Republican leaders preferred Taft. When Taft won the nomination, Roosevelt formed the Bull Moose Party and ran anyway. He succeeded in splitting the Republican vote so that candidate Woodrow Wilson from the Democrat Party won the election. The popular vote was as follows:

Wilson 6,293,152

Roosevelt 4,119,207

Taft 3,483,922

The electoral college was a little more lopsided with Wilson receiving 435, Roosevelt 88 and Taft only 8 votes.

This time when he traveled up the Des Moines Valley CRI&P line, his campaign manager discovered that the train ran into Keosauqua from Mt. Zion, then backed out to the main line, giving enough time for Mr. Roosevelt to make a speech.

On September 4, 1912 an estimated 4,000 people descended on tiny Mt. Zion to listen, cheer and shake hands with "the Great Teddy." This time the crowds were not disappointed. It was one of Van Buren County’s biggest crowds and certainly the largest group of people Mt. Zion ever hosted (see photos.)

(from a Ralph Arnold article "Looking Back," Leader-Record, October 23, 1997)

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick