Pioneer High School dropout who joined cult killed sitting US president

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan – America’s top five in the world – has always been deeply important to American politics.

At a campaign event in March 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told the crowd, “All roads to the White House go through Michigan.

In the grand scheme of things, there was Michigander who shaped the presidency more than any other. Even more than the Michigander who literally became president.

His name is Charles J. Guiteau.


Michigan Connection is a series of articles from ClickOnDetroit that covers the sometimes bizarre ways the Great Lakes State has helped shape the world.


Charles J. Guiteau and President James A. Garfield still cannot look at each other 140 years later. (WDIV)

Pioneer High School dropout who joined bizarre sex cult and killed sitting US president

Right off the bat, I want to warn you that Guiteau’s life – although strange – is actually quite sad. Not sad enough to condone the assassination of President James. A Garfield, but still very sad.

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Much will be left out – Guiteau’s marriage, his parents, the chain continues to skip bills at county hotels and inns, to be clerks and escape from an asylum, and others. events – and parts will be summarized and lacking in detail. , but this super-condensed version will still be long.

Guiteau was born in Illinois in 1841. Upon his grandfather’s death, he inherited $ 1,000 and moved to Ann Arbor to study at the University of Michigan, where he quickly failed the exam. entry.

He enrolled in Ann Arbor High School (since renamed Pioneer High School) to better prepare for the UM entrance exam, but dropped out before graduating.

After leaving Ann Arbor schools, Guiteau joined the Oneida community, a religious sect in New York City that had complex marriages and shared sexual experiences where older women became sexual mentors to young teens as there had little chance of fertilization in between.

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Despite his five years in the community, he was never involved in the activities and was nicknamed “Charles Git-out”.

After a few brand changes, the Oneida community still exists today, 180 years later. It is now Oneida Limited, the largest supplier of tableware to the restaurant industry in the country. I don’t know how they decided to switch from the polygamous religious sect to silverware, but it was apparently the right choice.

Years later, Guiteau attempted to create his own religious sect by plagiarizing the work of Oneida founder John Humphrey Noyes. He did not take off and did not make silverware.

Connecticut River near-death experience

After surviving a boating accident that killed at least 50 people, Guiteau believes he was spared for a higher purpose.

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Guiteau turned to politics and during the presidential campaign of 1880 he wrote a speech in support of Ulysses S. Grant. He believed passionately and firmly that Grant was the right fit for the job. Deep in his heart, he knew he would support Grant unconditionally because he was the president the United States needed. He wouldn’t compromise.

When the Republican presidential nomination was given to James A. Garfield, Guiteau compromised, but continued to use the same speech but with minor adjustments, such as changing Grant’s name to Garfield. Deep in his heart, Guiteau knew Garfield was the president the United States needed.

It may come as a surprise, but Guiteau was not a stable man.

The new speech gave Garfield credit for Grant’s service during the Civil War and other accomplishments.

Garfield won the 1880 US general election against Democratic candidate Winfield S. Hancock.

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Guiteau believed his speech, “To agree Garfield vs. Hancock, ”was entirely responsible for Garlield’s victory.

He had given the speech twice, at most. Once for a crowd of 12. Guiteau was not a stable man.

Due to his belief that his speech was the only reason Garfield won the election, Guiteau believed he was owed a job and began pushing for a consulate in Paris. He sent countless letters to the White House and even met Garfield, where he handed him a copy of “Garfield Against Hancock” which he had written “Paris Consulship” on the cover page.

Guiteau believed this was his highest goal and wrote letter after letter to the White House, the State Department, and other senior officials regarding the position he felt was owed to him.

On May 14, 1881, Guiteau approached Secretary of State James G. Blaine in person and told him he was responsible for letters and asked if there had been any updates with his appointment.

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“Don’t talk to me about the Paris consulate again as long as you live!” Blaine yelled.

The revolver that was used to shoot President Garfield. (WDIV)

An office or your life!

Guiteau felt betrayed by the Republican Party and after meeting Blaine he felt that the only thing left for him to do was to impeach Garfield. He did not see the president’s murder as an assassination, but as an impeachment.

In search of a gun, Guiteau bought a revolver with an ivory hilt because he thought it would look great in a museum.

He stalked Garfield for several weeks and even sent a letter to William Tecumseh Sherman, the commanding general of the army, asking for the protection of the people after killing the president.

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On July 2, 1881, Guiteau waited for Garfield at the Baltimore and Potomac station. He shot Garfield twice, one in the shoulder and one in the back. As Guiteau was fleeing, he immediately encountered a policeman who had entered the station when he heard gunshots.

He was taken into custody.

Garfield, still conscious and alert, was taken to the White House. Doctors tried to find the bullet in the president’s back. They don’t wash their hands, they don’t sterilize their tools.

After three weeks of digging new holes in the chair and putting their unwashed fingers inside to find the ball, they turned to technology for help. Type of.

Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the first handy telephone, had developed an early metal detector which was used to try to locate the bullet. Medics continued to probe and dig inside the chair, unaware that the metal detector was triggered by the metal springs of the bed Garfield was on.

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The new wounds became infected, causing pneumonia and sepsis. Garfield died on September 19, 1881, almost seven weeks after being shot.

Modern doctors believe he could have survived if they had left the bullet behind.

‘I go to the Lord’

Guiteau went to trial in November, where he received a lot of media attention for his bizarre behavior, where he insulted his defense team, testified in poems and literally asked people watching the trial for legal advice during the trial.

Guiteau planned to begin a speaking tour after the trial was over and eventually his own presidential bid. They didn’t work.

The trial lasted two months. He threatened the jury in his final statement, then was surprised when he was convicted of murder.

Guiteau is condemned to be executed. He believed President Chester A. Arthur would forgive him ever since Arthur took over the presidency after Garfield’s death. This does not happen.

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Prior to his performance on June 30, 1882, Guiteau was allowed to recite a poem he had written that morning. He had asked an orchestra to play it while he read “I am going to the Lord”, but the request was refused.

Memorials at Garfield that we built across the country that still stand. Famous American composer John Philip Sousa wrote a funeral song for the fallen president.

Guiteau’s body was buried where he was executed, but was later unearthed and sent to what would become the National Museum of Health and Medicine, where his brain and spleen were kept. Part of his brain is on display at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.


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