Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Anna (Symmes) Harrison 1775 ~ 1864

 


Anna Symmes Harrison

Anna Symmes Harrison, wife of William Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States, was born the 25th of July, 1775, at Morristown, New Jersey, her mother dying soon after her birth.

She was given into the care of her maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Tuthill, at Southhold, Long Island, at the age of four years. The British were then in possession of Long Island and, notwithstanding her tender years, she realized the danger of the journey. Her father, Hon. John Cleves Symmes, a colonel in the Continental Army, assumed the disguise of a British officer's uniform, that he might accomplish the perilous undertaking of transferring his little daughter from Morristown, New Jersey, to Southhold, Long Island.

He did not see her again until after the evacuation of New York, in the fall of 1783. She had most excellent care by her worthy grandparents, who did not neglect to give Anna religious instruction in her earliest childhood. She was also taught that industry, prudence and economy were Christian virtues. She was educated in the school of Mrs. Isabelle Graham, of New York.

In 1794 she accompanied her father and stepmother to Ohio, where her father had a small colony of settlers at North Bend, on the Ohio River. Judge Symmes was appointed one of the associate judges of the Supreme Court of the great northwestern territory. His district was a very large one, and frequently while he was attending the courts in his district. Anna visited her sister, Mrs. Peyton Short, at Lexington, Kentucky. During one of these visits she met Captain William Henry Harrison, the youngest son of Benjamin Harrison, of Virginia, and later married him.

After his service in the army. General Harrison was appointed the first governor of Indian Territory by President Adams, and removed his family to the old French town of Vincennes, on the Wabash, then the seat of government of the Indian Territory. Here he and Mrs. Harrison and their family lived for many years. Mrs. Harrison, through her courteous manners and liberal hospitality as mistress of the Governor's Mansion, won for herself a wide reputation. She resided in the Governor's Mansion through the administration of Adams, Jefferson and Madison, till 1812, when, after the surrender of Hull, Harrison was appointed to the command of the Northwestern army.

Mrs. Harrison remained in Vincennes during the absence of General Harrison, when he commanded the army which fought the battle of Prophets Town, Tippecanoe and other engagements. After his victories General Harrison was appointed Major-General of the forces in Kentucky, and removed his family to Cincinnati, where Mrs. Harrison and her children remained while he conducted his campaign against the hostile Indians. She arranged for the education of her children by private tutors, and herself conducted the entire rearing of her family, displaying the greatest executive ability, loyalty and Christian fortitude, bearing bravely bereavements that came to her through the death of her children and other members of her family.

When, after his election to the Presidency, General Harrison left his home to be in Washington for his inauguration, the 4th of March, 1 841, he was unaccompanied by Mrs. Harrison, who was in very delicate health and, through the advice of her physician, did not accompany her husband to Washington. Consequently, she never presided over the White House. One month from the day of his inauguration President Harrison died of pneumonia. Mrs. Harrison was in her home at North Bend, and was overwhelmed for a time by this fearful blow. She rallied, however, and lived for many years in the old home.

She eventually removed to that of her only surviving son, Hon. J. Scott Harrison, five miles below North Bend, on the Ohio River, where she resided until her death, the 25th of February, 1864, in the 89th year of her age. She lived to see many of her grandsons officers and soldiers in the Union Army during the Civil War and to predict the elevation of her grandson, Benjamin H. Harrison, to the office of President of the United States, which office had been filled by his grandfather, General William Henry Harrison.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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