Grave Sightings: William Henry Harrison

Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt / Stacy Conradt

Every time we so much as touch a toe out of state, I’ve put cemeteries on our travel itinerary. From garden-like expanses to overgrown boot hills, whether they’re the final resting places of the well-known but not that important or the important but not that well-known, I love them all. After realizing that there are a lot of taphophiles out there, I’m finally putting my archive of interesting tombstones to good use.

Before he was president, William Henry Harrison had a whole host of accomplishments under his belt. He had been governor of the Indiana Territory, a major general in the Army who led victories in the Battle of Tippecanoe and the War of 1812, and, eventually, a U.S. Congressman and senator from Ohio.

After his tenure as POTUS, however, the ninth president became most famous for something else. With just a month at the White House, Old Tippecanoe had the shortest presidency in history—and he was the first president to die in office.

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It’s long been said that Harrison’s undoing was his long, wet inaugural address on March 4, 1841. He spent nearly two hours orating in the chilly D.C. elements—it was damp and only about 48 degrees—with no coat or hat. A cold he had turned into pneumonia, and by April 4, he was dead.

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The country had never mourned a president before, but they figured out how to send Harrison off in a spectacular fashion modeled after royal funerals. After a simple service in the East Room of the White House, 24 white-sashed pallbearers carried Harrison in a funeral procession watched by more than 10,000 people. His saddled but riderless horse, Old Whitey, followed the procession to the Capitol. Later, when the cold winter in Ohio was finally over, Harrison was transported down the Ohio River via a series of black-draped barges, arriving at his final destination of North Bend, Ohio. The president had requested a spot there overlooking the river and the corners of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.

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Though the land Harrison was buried on originally belonged to the family, his son, John Scott Harrison, later donated it to the state of Ohio under the condition that they maintain and preserve it. John Scott himself was laid to rest there in 1878. Also buried there are First Lady Anna Symmes Harrison; daughter Mary Symmes Harrison Thornton; granddaughter Anna Harrison Thornton Fitzhugh; great-grandsons George C. Eaton, Jr., and Arch Irwin Eaton; and several other family members.

Peruse all the entries in our Grave Sightings series here.