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As It Was: Madame Holt Entertains President Hayes in 1880

In 1880, Rutherford B. Hayes visited Jacksonville, Ore., on an unprecedented tour of the West Coast.  He stayed at the U.S. Hotel owned by Madame Jeanne DeRoboam Holt.  Madame Holt came to town in the 1850s from France and became famous for her stylish hospitality.  She and third husband George Holt were putting the final touches to the new hotel when the President’s visit was announced.

Madame Holt had previously run the old Franco-American Hotel in Jacksonville for years, so preparing for a president didn’t daunt her.  She installed new carpets and furniture and prepared a delicious feast.  The Jacksonville brass band played for the occasion, and bank president Cornelius Beekman served as host to Hayes and his guests, who included his wife, Lucy Hayes, and Union Army Gen. William T. Sherman.

She billed President Hayes a goodly amount for his visit, saying presidents surely could pay more than ordinary citizens.  Criticized by some for her love of wine, she brought dignity to the town and often fed the needy.

Madame Holt outlived three husbands and is buried in the Jacksonville cemetery.

Sources: "Madame Holt, The Lady and the Hotel." Table Rock Sentinel, vol. 3, no. 1, Jan. 1983, pp. 3-9; Kingsnorth, Carolyn. "Madame Jeanne DeRoboam Laugier Guilfoyle Holt, Hotel Proprietress." Jacksonville Review, Jacksonville Publishing LLC, Mar. 2017. Accessed 13 June 2019. Path: www.jacksonvillereview.com; pioneer profiles.   

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.