Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center
Sardis Birchard Photograph Collection
Scope and Content
Sardis Birchard was the uncle and benefactor of Rutherford B. Hayes. He was an early entrepreneur in Lower Sandusky, later renamed Fremont, Ohio and advanced the community through his various businesses and donations.
Sardis Birchard was born January 15, 1801 in Wilmington, Vermont. By the age of 12 both of his parents had died and Sardis lived with his sister Sophia and her husband, Rutherford B. Hayes, Sr. In 1817, Hayes moved the family to Delaware, Ohio. At the age of 21 Sardis took charge of his sister’s family and estate after the death of Rutherford B. Hayes, Sr. in 1822. The children included Fanny ad Rutherford Birchard Hayes who was born after his father’s death. Sardis oversaw Rutherford’s education through his preparatory years, Kenyon College, and Harvard Law School.
Sardis became familiar with Lower Sandusky, Ohio (later renamed Fremont) in 1824 while delivering hogs in cities along the Sandusky River. He eventually established himself in Lower Sandusky and became a well-known merchant and banker. Sardis carried on an extensive trade with the Wyandot, Seneca, and Delaware until the Native American tribes were removed west of the Mississippi River. His store became the largest in Ohio west of Cleveland and north of Columbus. Largely unsettled, Northwest Ohio’s land could be purchased at the government rate of $1.25 per acre. Birchard acquired landholdings in Sandusky, Wood, Lucas, Erie, and other Ohio counties. His wealth continued to grow through real estate sales and several business partnerships.
On July 1, 1851 Sardis and his partner, Judge Lucius B. Otis, opened the first bank in Fremont known as Birchard & Otis. After Judge Otis moved to Chicago, Illinois, the bank became Birchard, Miller & Co. which later merged into the First National Bank of Fremont. The bank was the second national bank organized in the state of Ohio.
On his daily trips to his business, Birchard admired the great trees and deep woods of the property he would later name Spiegel Grove. Its clear standing pools of water reflecting like mirrors reminded him of the German fairy tales of his youth. “Spiegel” is the German word for mirror. He selected the property for the site of a home for his nephew, Rutherford B. Hayes, and his family with whom he planned to spend his final years. Birchard began building the brick home in 1859. Military and political obligations prevented Hayes from residing there until 1873. However, several of the Hayes children, especially Birchard A. Hayes and Webb C. Hayes, spent considerable time living with Sardis in Fremont.
Today Spiegel Grove is the 25-acre estate that includes the Hayes home as well as the Museum and Library building. In 1916 the estate became the first presidential library in the United States.
Sardis was generous with the community. He made several public and private donations, including the Home Missionary Society, the Ladies’ Relief Society, the First Presbyterian Church building fund, and a public library endowment. In addition to the estimated $50,000 monetary donation for the library, Birchard purchased the historic Fort Stephenson land as a site for the library building. He also donated two public parks to the city. The Birchard Public Library, Birchard Park, and Birchard Avenue all bear is name.
Prior to his death Sardis appointed his nephew, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Anson H. Miller trustees of the real estate for his future library. Sardis Birchard died January 21, 1874 I Fremont, Ohio and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery. Rutherford B. Hayes inherited his uncle’s business and real estate holdings. At the conclusion of his administration, President Rutherford B. Hayes and Lucy Hayes made Spiegel Grove their permanent home.
Scope and Content
The collection spans the years from 1850 to 1874. It contains numerous copies of five different photographs of Sardis Birchard at different ages as well as cartes de visite. Other photographs in the collection show Sardis with Austin Birchard and his Oakwood Cemetery grave marker. Tintypes of Sardis Birchard with Mary Birchard and Sarah Jane Grant as well as a group of 14 unidentified tintypes complete the collection.
¾ linear ft
1a Sardis Birchard (39)
1b Sardis Birchard (40)
1c Sardis Birchard (40)
2 Sardis Birchard (1)
3 Sardis Birchard (4)
4 Sardis Birchard (3)
5 Sardis Birchard (2)
6 Sardis Birchard (1)
7 SardisBirchard (2)
8 Sardis’s Tomb – Stereoptic Views (10)
9 Sardis Birchard (48)
10 Cartes de Visite – Sardis Birchard (27)
11 Cartes de Visite – Austin Birchard (6)
12 Cartes de Visite – Sardis & Austin Birchard (3)
13 Tintypes – Sardis Birchard (2)
14 Tintypes – Sarah Jane Grant, Mary Birchard, Sardis Birchard (2)
15 Tintype collection (14)