Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison
[William Henry Harrison]
Biography: Anna Harrison was too ill to travel when her husband
set out from Ohio in 1841 for his inauguration. It was a long trip and a difficult one
even by steamboat and railroad, with February weather uncertain at best,
and she at age 65 was well acquainted with the rigors of frontier journeys.
As a girl of 19, bringing pretty clothes and dainty manners, she went out
to Ohio with her father, Judge John Cleves Symmes, who had taken up land
for settlement on the "north bend" of the Ohio River. She had grown up a
young lady of the East, completing her education at a boarding school in
New York City.
A clandestine marriage on November 25, 1795, united Anna Symmes and Lt.
William Henry Harrison, an experienced soldier at 22. Though the young
man came from one of the best families of Virginia, Judge Symmes did not
want his daughter to face the hard life of frontier forts; but eventualy,
seeing her happiness, he accepted her choice.
Though Harrison won fame as an Indian fighter and hero of the War of
1812, he spent much of his life in a civilian career. His service in
Congress as territorial delegate from Ohio gave Anna and their two
children a chance to visit his family at Berkeley, their plantation on
the James River. Her third child was born on that trip, at Richmond in
September 1800. Harrison's appointment as governor of Indiana Territory
took them even farther into the wilderness; he built a handsome house at
Vincennes that blended fortress and plantation mansion. Five more
children were born to Anna.
Facing war in 1812, the family went to the farm at North Bend. Before
peace was assured, she had borne two more children. There, at news of
her husband's landslide electoral victory in 1840, home-loving Anna said
simply: "I wish that my husband's friends had left him where he is, happy
and contented in retirement."
When she decided not to go to Washington with him, the President-elect
asked his daughter-in-law Jane Irwin Harrison, widow of his namesake son,
to accompany him and act as hostess until Anna's proposed arrival in
May. Half a dozen other relatives happily went with them. On April 4,
exactly one month after his inauguration, he died, so Anna never made the
journey. She had already begun her packing when she learned of her loss.
Accepting grief with admirable dignity, she stayed at her home in North
Bend until the house burned in 1858; she lived nearby with her last
surviving child, John Scott Harrison, until she died in February 1864 at
the age of 88.