FREMONT — When President Grover Cleveland came to Spiegel Grove for the funeral of President Rutherford B. Hayes, the horses pulling his carriage shook and upset.
Cleveland got out of his car and leaned against a hickory while waiting for the horses to calm down.
Years later, the Hayes family named this same hickory tree, located near the porch of the Hayes home, after Cleveland.
During President William Howard Taft’s visit to Spiegel Grove to visit Colonel Webb Cook Hayes, son of Rutherford and First Lady Lucy Hayes, he noticed a large tree near the veranda and walked over to the take a closer look.
“This one’s big enough to be mine,” said the round Taft.
Webb named this tree for Taft.
These are some of the stories behind the more than 1,700 Spiegel Grove trees that John Havens uncovered while tagging and cataloging the trees for Hayes Presidential.
Havens, a member of the Hayes Presidential Board and Buildings and Grounds Committee, has volunteered his time over the past year for the project. He tagged about 400 of the trees with a number, which allows the site to catalog each tree and any unusual and interesting issues or attributes.
“I find it really enjoyable,” Havens said. “I love history, so it’s always fun to re-read the Hayes story. It’s funny when I work here and people ask me what I do.
Havens holds an Associate’s degree in Nursery Management from The Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute. He owns a paint store and is a township administrator.
It uses records from the last time the trees were cataloged, at least 20 years ago, and must identify each tree. Some that were cataloged at the time have since died or been knocked down by storms, and new ones have been planted.
His work is particularly significant because Hayes Presidential was designated an official arboretum last year by Arbnet, an organization that designates and accredits arboretums. He helps staff and volunteers develop a master plan for the property, its trees and plants.
As Havens walks the grounds and points out the different species, his love of trees is evident. He points out the differences in bark, leaves and other attributes and shares the story of some of the unique ones.
There is the willow down the hill which comes from a willow cut on the island of Elba where Napoleon lived in exile.
There is the George Washington tulip poplar which was planted here in 1984. It was a seedling from the original from the Mount Vernon estate in Washington, Virginia.
There are the Reunion Oaks, so named because Hayes’ regiment came to Spiegel Grove for a meeting and camped under them in 1877. These, which include the Bicentennial Oak, are near the rear of the home.
Using his knowledge, Havens developed a tree tour that Hayes Presidential offers visitors. It also works with the Sandusky County Convention and Visitors Bureau to bring this experience to bus tours.
“The trees are peaceful,” Havens said. “They definitely seem to appease people.”
The Hayes Presidential Library & Museums is the first American presidential library and the precursor to the federal presidential library system. It is partially funded by the State of Ohio and affiliated with the Ohio History Connection. It is located in Spiegel Grove at the corner of Hayes and Buckland Avenues.
For information, call 419-332-2081 or visit rbhayes.org.