CEDARVILLE, Ohio (WDTN) — As many around the Miami Valley are celebrating Labor Day weekend, the Cedarville community is celebrating its tie to the federal holiday.
If you’re driving through Greene County on U.S. 42, you will pass the welcoming sign. The Ohio-shaped sign designates Cedarville as the Birthplace of the father of Labor Day.
Sen. James H. Kyle was born in Cedarville on February 24, 1854. His family moved away from the area when he was 11-years-old. He went to college and became a minister.
Ann Hein is the great granddaughter of former Senator James H. Kyle.
“It was, it was sort of the government’s way to say, let’s do something for labor,” Hein said.
2 NEWS was joined by several of Kyle’s descendants. They remember hearing stories about Kyle’s life and career throughout their lifetime.
“I think he would he would be a fish out of water in today’s politics,” said Rocky Kyle, grandson of the senator.
Kyle and his wife eventually ended up living in Aberdeen, South Dakota, which is where his political career got its interesting start.
“He was called upon on the spot to give this speech on the Fourth of July,” said Troy McQuillen, publisher and writer, Aberdeen Magazine. “And apparently, he just, you know, shook it out of his sleeve and just delivered this rousing speech that just changed his life.”
Kyle was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1891. While in the senate he sponsored a bill to create a holiday recognizing America’s workers. The bill was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland in 1894, which made Labor Day a federal holiday.
While Cedarville is recognized as the birthplace of Labor Day, there is debate about whether the creation of the holiday belongs to someone else.
Cedarville History Professor Tom Mach says some believe two union leaders at the time were heading the labor movement.
“Most of the debate revolves around which politician should be given credit for this, or whether or not various labor leaders should,” said Tom Mach, Ph.D., professor of history, Cedarville University.
Mach claims the speculation does not discredit Kyle’s work.
“There’s no question that labor played a role in the creation of labor day, but when we talk about a father of some sort of piece of legislation, we always refer to a member of Congress,” Mach said.
Kyle died in 1901 at age 47-years-old. His descendants say his faith guided his work.
“He tried everywhere, he went, it sounds like to me to make a significant contribution, you know, kind of without the fanfare,” said Tammie bourguignon, granddaughter of Kyle.
CedarFest is held each year in Cedarville to celebrate Labor Day Weekend.