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This article is about the American First Lady. For the American chemist, see Anna
Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison (July
25, 1775 - February 25, 1864), wife of President William
Henry Harrison and grandmother
Harrison, was nominally First
Lady of the United States during
her husband's one-month term in 1841, but she never entered theWhite
Life and Marriage
Anna was born at Flatbrookville, Walpack
Jersey on July 25, 1775 to
Cleves and Anna Tuthill Symmes
Island. Her father was a Chief Justice of the New
Jersey Supreme Court and later
became a prominent landowner in southwestern Ohio.
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 war.
Her father was also a New Jersey delegate to the Continental Congress and the
Chairman of the Sussex County Committee of Safety.
She grew up in Long Island, receiving an unusually broad education for a woman
of the times. She attended Clinton Academy at Easthampton, Long Island, and
the private school of Isabella Graham in New York City.
When she was thirteen years old, Anna went with her father and stepmother into
the Ohio wilderness, where they settled at North
Bend, Ohio. While visiting relatives in Lexington,
Kentucky in the spring of 1795,
she met Lieutenant William Henry Harrison, in town on military business.
Harrison was stationed at nearby Fort
Washington. Anna's father thoroughly disapproved of Harrison, largely
because he wanted to spare his daughter the hardships of army camp life.
Despite his decree that the two stop seeing each other, the courtship
flourished behind his back.
They married on November 25, 1795 at the home of Dr. Stephen Wood, treasurer
of the Northwest Territory, at North Bend (her father was away in Cincinnati
on business). The couple honeymooned at Fort Washington, as Harrison was still
on duty. Two weeks later, at a farewell dinner for General "Mad" Anthony
Wayne, Symmes confronted his new son-in-law for the first time since their
wedding. Addressing him sternly, he demanded to know how he intended to
support his daughter. Not until his son-in-law had achieved fame on the
battlefield did Symmes come to accept him.
The couple apparently had a happy marriage despite the succession of tragedies
in the untimely deaths of five of their grown children.
- Elizabeth Bassett Harrison (29 September
1796-27 September 1846)
- John Cleves Symmes Harrison (28 October
1798-30 October 1830)
- Lucy Singleton Harrison (5 September
1800-7 April 1826)
- William Henry Harrison Jr (3 Sept 1802-6
Sept 1838); married to Jane
John Scott Harrison (4
October 1804-25 May 1878)
- Benjamin Harrison (5 May 1806-9 June
- Mary Symmes Harrison (28 January 1809-16
- Carter Bassett Harrison (26 Oct 1811-12
- Anna Tuthill Harrison (28 October 1813-5
- James Findlay Harrison (15 May 1814-6
Rise to Fame
Harrison won fame as an Indian
fighter and hero of the War
of 1812, but he spent much of his life in a civilian career. His service
in Congress as territorial delegate from Ohio gave Anna and their 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,
Indiana that blended fortress
and plantation mansion.
Facing war in 1812, the family moved to the farm at North Bend. There, upon
hearing 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."
Lady of the United States
When William was inaugurated in 1841, Anna was detained by illness at their
home in North Bend. She decided not to accompany him to Washington.
President-elect Harrison 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,
President Harrison 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.
Life and Death
Following William's death she lived with her son John Scott in North Bend, and
helped raise his children, including eight year old Benjamin who
later became President of the United States. She died at the age of 88, on
February 25, 1864 at home in North Bend, Ohio. In June 1841, President John
Tyler signed into law the first
pension for a president's widow, a grant of $25,000 for Mrs. Harrison.
Anna Harrison died on February 25, 1864, at age 88, and was buried at the William
Henry Harrison Tomb State Memorial in