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Anna Harrison

From Academic Kids

Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison (1775 - 1864), wife of President William Henry Harrison and the grandmother of President Benjamin Harrison, was nominally First Lady of the United States during her husband's one-month term in 1841, but she never entered the White House.

She was born in near Morristown, New Jersey in on July 25, 1775 to Judge John Cleves and Anna Tuthill Symmes of Long Island. When her mother died in 1776 her father disguised himself as a British soldier to carry her on horseback through the British lines to her grandparents on Long Island, who cared for her during the rest of the war.

When she was thirteen years old, she went with her father and stepmother into the Ohio wilderness in spite of Indian dangers, and settled at North Bend, Ohio. A few years later she met young army officer, William Harrison, who was stationed at Fort Washington, a military post long since covered by downtown Cincinnati. The young couple was married on November 25, 1795 at North Bend. The bride and groom were 20 and 22 years old. Though Harrison 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 eventually, seeing her happiness, he accepted her choice. Over the years the couple had six sons and four daughters: Elizabeth (1795), John Cleves (1798), Lucy (1800), William Henry, Jr. (1802), John Scott (1804), Benjamin (1806), Mary (1809), Carter (1811), Anna (1813), and James (died as an infant).

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.

Facing war in 1812, the family went to the farm at North Bend. 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 her husband was inaugurated in 1841, she was detained by illness at their home in North Bend. 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, the President died. Anna was packing for the move to the White House when she learned of William's death in Washington, so she never made the journey.

After his death she lived with her son (John Scott Harrison) in North Bend, and helped raise his children, including eight year old Benjamin who became President of the United States. She died at the age of 88, on February 25, 1864 at home in North Bend, Ohio.

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