County named for president
Editor’s note: Indiana will celebrate its bicentennial in 2016, and Harrison County, specifically Corydon, where it all began, will be part of the festivities. The Harrison County Committee for the Indiana Bicentennial began meeting last year, and Karen Schwartz, who is serving on the committee’s legacy group and is president of the Historical Society of Harrison County, will provide a monthly column, focusing on a person, place or event, that gives insight to our history. To suggest a topic, contact Schwartz at 736-2373 or 738-2828, by e-mail at [email protected] or by regular mail at 5850 Devil’s Elbow Road NW, Corydon, IN 47112.
Karen Schwartz, Special to The Corydon Democrat
Did you know that Harrison County was named for the ninth president of the United States, William Henry Harrison?
Although he was born Feb. 9, 1773, on Berkeley Plantation in Richmond, Va., Harrison had many ties to Harrison County. Born into an aristocratic family, his father, Benjamin Harrison, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and served as governor of Virginia. Although his father wanted him to become a doctor, he enlisted in the Army at 18 and was sent to the Ohio frontier. He eloped with Anna Tuthill Symmes of North Bend, Ohio, on Nov. 22, 1795, because her father, Judge John Cleves Symmes, didn’t approve of his military career either. William and Anne had 10 children.
Harrison moved rapidly through the territorial offices, serving as secretary of the Northwest Territory and territorial delegate to U.S. Congress. On July 4, 1800, Harrison was appointed as Indiana’s first territorial governor by President John Adams. Harrison often passed through Harrison County while traveling on business from Grouseland, his home in the first territorial capitol of Vincennes, to the Falls of the Ohio at Clarksville. Harrison named the town of Corydon after a shepherd boy, who dies in the song ‘Pastoral Elegy’ which Jennie Smith, daughter of Edward Smith who lived near the fairground springs, often sang when Harrison visited.
In 1807 and 1808, Harrison purchased properties at four sites near good waterways in Harrison County. These properties included the site of the town of Corydon, along with properties at Lanesville and in Spencer and Boone townships. Places associated with Harrison include Branham Tavern (Ozzie’s today) along North Capitol Avenue, Harrison Spring, and fields at the intersection of Old Goshen and Union Chapel roads.
Harrison’s military fame grew after his victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe on Nov. 7, 1811, where he was aided by many volunteers in the Harrison County Yellow Jackets. Receiving the name ‘Old Tip,’ he was appointed commander-in-chief of the army of the Northwest and brigadier general. His troops defeated the British at the Battle of the Thames in 1812.
Harrison’s plans to settle and develop his properties in Harrison County were disrupted when his father’in-law died and he inherited property at North Bend, Ohio. He sold his last Harrison County holding, in Spencer Township, in 1817. After serving in the Ohio and U.S. Senate, William was thrust on the national stage when he was nominated for the presidency by the Whig party in 1836. Defeated, he returned and vigorously campaigned for the office using the slogan ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too!’ and the imagery of ‘Log Cabin and Hard Cider’ in 1840.
This time, Harrison defeated sitting president Martin Van Buren by an Electoral College vote of 234 to 60 and became the nation’s ninth president. On a rainy, cold March 4, 1841, Inauguration Day, Harrison insisted on riding his white horse in the parade and delivered an 8,445-word speech that lasted almost two hours.
Consequently, he contracted pneumonia and died on April 4, 1841, serving only one month. His vice president, John Tyler, became president, and William was buried at North Bend.