In politics, have you heard it said that politicians go “stumping” or make “stump speeches”? This phrase came from the 1800’s when politicians would go around from town to town making speeches. They literally stood on huge tree stumps so that they could be easily seen and heard. In Chehalis, Washington we have our own replica of one of those stumps. It’s called the McKinley Stump.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “How the heck do you have a “replica” of a stump?” Well, the original tree was from the Pe Ell area (pronounced just like the letters – P. L.). It was cut down in 1901 and the stump was transported by railroad to Chehalis because President McKinley was supposed to come through the area and give a speech. The stump was 28 feet around and 8 feet tall cut from a tree that was 350 years old. Unfortunately, the appearance was cancelled because McKinley’s wife got sick, then shortly after that he was assassinated so never actually got to appear on the stump named for him.
A president did actually get to “stump” on the stump though. In 1903 President Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech from the stump. A president-to-be also spoke from the stump. In 1907, while Secretary of War and before he was elected president, William Taft stood on the stump and gave a speech.
The original stump along with a gazebo was located at the intersection of West Street and Market Blvd. in Chehalis. At one point someone attempted to burn it so concrete was poured into it to try to preserve it, and it was moved to Recreation Park in the hopes it would be better protected.
Then in 2007, while making plans to move the stump to the Lewis County Museum located at the old railroad depot, it was discovered that the tree was so rotted through with ant damage that it could not be saved. Weyerhauser, a lumber company, donated a new stump from an old growth tree to stand as a replica for this time in history.
You can now see the “McKinley Stump” under a covered structure, outside the Lewis County Museum located at 599 NW Front Way, Chehalis, Washington. Picture the President of the United States standing on the stump, speaking without any electronic equipment such as a microphone, in all kinds of weather, to huge crowds of people. It must have been a very exciting event to look forward to. Imagine the disappointment of hoping to see President McKinley, then the excitement again when President Roosevelt actually came to town.
Understandably it is also a bit strange to have a “replica” of a stump that was named for a man who never spoke from it. But it was an exciting time for the area and most small towns like to be able to show that they are important in history and worthy of prominent politicians’ attention. The McKinley Stump stands today as that icon for Chehalis, Washington.