President William McKinley visited this area in the fall of 1897 arriving at the home of W.B. Plunkett approximately at 9:45 AM after traveling by train through Williamstown and North Adams. “The arrival of the presidential party was an event accompanied with comparatively little demonstration; it was the arrival of the chief servant of a democratic nation, not the arrival of a ruler.”
Earlier in the day, Lieutenant Governor W. Murray Crane and W.B. Plunkett left to meet the president in Fitchburg as he boarded the first train west. They stopped in Williamstown where an enthusiastic crowd “received the president with hearty cheers.” President McKinley walked to the rear platform of the last car and shook the hands of grateful residents.
A little later on, the “special train” pulled into the depot in North Adams. “When the train hauled up, the president stepped on the rear platform and immediately an enthusiastic shout went up. He stood for a moment on the steps of the coach bowing to those who so warmly welcomed him…” The president said no remarks except to say, “Good morning.” A number of newspaper reporters boarded the train just before it left for the depot in Adams.
“When [the train] arrived there the crossing gates were down and there were 400 or 500 people waiting to do the necessary cheering.” The president waved at the crowd then debarked from the train, with his party and began walking up the path to W.B. Plunkett’s house.
In the afternoon, President McKinley returned to North Adams, later than expected, at 3:00 o’clock. By that time a crowd of several thousand had amassed to witness a one in a lifetime moment of seeing a U.S. president. Acting Mayor Thayer, welcomed President McKinley to the city while many in the audience tried to shake the president’s hand. Despite the clamor the presidential party made their way to the Fairgrounds, in parade style, “traveling down State street, to Summer street, to Church street, to Main street, to West Main street and to the grounds.”
President McKinley and various area dignitaries mounted the specially built stand for the purpose of addressing the crowd. First Mr. Plunkett spoke and then the president. Two more speeches occurred after, from Secretary of War Alger and Secretary of Navy John D. Long.
On the return trip from the Fairgrounds back to the depot and Adams, crowds remained lined on the streets, waving and cheering as McKinley went by. At the “junction of Main and State, there was a place packed solid with humanity. Many of them said, ‘McKinley is the finest looking man I have ever seen.’ Everyone liked him.”
The only negative event that occurred happened when a “loafer stepped out into the street in front of the Adams bank and as the president was passing said, ‘Hello, Bill!’…it’s the kind of smart alec that deserves a good licking by anybody and everybody. There are some fools so big fools that they can respect nothing and no one.”
Clapp’s Military Band played “excellent music” as the presidential train went back to Adams.
The Lafayette Band of Adams honored the president with their rendition of songs.
Two years after President McKinley was assassinated, the residents of Adams, led by W.B. Plunkett, erected a statue of the president in “memory of the martyred president.” Funds to cover the cost of the statue were raised with the help of contribution envelopes distributed “through the public schools, churches and the mills” in the area, including North Adams.