Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Ohio Bicentennial Moments


Anna Symmes Harrison helped tame wilderness

On Feb. 25, 1864, Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison - the first "first lady" from Ohio - died at the North Bend home of her son, Ohio Congressman John Scott Harrison.

She was the wife of the ninth U.S. president, William Henry Harrison.

And she was the only first lady to have a grandson reach the White House - Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president.

Anna Symmes was born in New Jersey in 1775. Her mother died the next year, weeks before the Revolutionary War began. Her father, John Cleves Symmes, a colonel in the Continental Army, disguised himself as a British soldier and carried Anna on horseback through enemy lines to Long Island, N.Y.

There, she was cared for by her maternal grandparents during the war.

As a young woman, she traveled with her father to Ohio. At the time, Ohio was called the "Miami slaughterhouse" - because of the dangers posed by Miami Indians. She fell in love with Harrison, an Army officer at Fort Washington in Cincinnati.

Symmes asked Harrison how he would support his daughter. Harrison replied: "With my sword and my good right arm."

Mrs. Harrison gave birth to 10 children.

She was unable to attend her husband's inauguration as president in March 1841 because she was ill. A month later, she was in North Bend packing for the trip to Washington when she got word that the president had died.

- Rebecca Goodman

E-mail rgoodman@enquirer.com




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