|Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
|North Bend, OH
|August 19, 2004
|13th President visited
William Henry Harrison is best remembered in modern times for delivering the longest-ever presidential inauguration speech and for having the shortest presidency — death cut off his White House residency at 32 days. Like many U.S. presidents who died in office, the location of Harrison’s body is marked with an elaborate gravesite. The ninth commander-in-chief is interred in a tomb on Mount Nebo, an incline that represents the last vestiges of the Harrison property in North Bend, Ohio, west of Cincinnati. The tomb, shown in the back center of this photograph, overlooks the Ohio River and the juncture of three states: Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.
The 60-foot shaft of Bedford limestone was completed in 1924. Its southern-facing exterior wall lists Harrisons numerous posts. Those include secretary of the Northwest Territory, delegate of the Northwest Territory to Congress, territorial governor of Indiana, member of Congress from Ohio, Ohio state senator, United States senator from Ohio, minister to Colombia, and ninth president of the United States. The memorial has a history of disrepair, but was in good condition when my father and I toured it in 2004.
The gate to the burial chamber is generally locked. Ahead of our trip, my father contacted the organization that maintains the memorial to arrange for our entry. The president of the Harrison-Symmes Memorial Foundation, Bev Meyers, and her husband, Terry, bestowed upon this nine-year-old the honor of unlocking the interior gate. Here I am posing with Mrs. Meyers at the first entrance gate, holding the Harrison-related paraphernalia she and Mr. Meyers gifted me. Terry Meyers died in 2016. I met Mrs. Meyers again in August 2023, when she once more unlocked the tomb for me. My friend TJ Fallon and his nine-year-old son, Henry, were there too, mirroring the experience I had 19 years prior.
Here I stand inside the monument, in front of the second entrance gate, which protects the tomb. President and Mrs. Harrison’s vaults are on the right-hand side of the chamber and are out of view in this image. The current entryway is on the southern side of the monument, but Mr. Meyers explained that originally visitors gained access from the west, which would have made the first couple’s graves the first they saw upon entering. My father took this picture after Bev and Terry Meyers relocked the second entrance gate and departed.
William Henry Harrison and former First Lady Anna Symmes Harrison’s vault covering is the most ornamented in the tomb. Others in their family have plainer stone coverings or none at all. One of the markers that is mostly cropped out of this image — the one to the left of Mrs. Harrison’s slot — holds the remains of U.S. Representative John Scott Harrison. John Scott was William and Anna’s son, as well as the father of the 23rd president, Benjamin Harrison. As opposed to being entombed with his father and grandparents — or even interred with his mother, Elizabeth, at North Bend’s Congress Green Cemetery — Benjamin Harrison is buried in his adoptive state of Indiana.
Born: February 9, 1773 in Charles City County, Virginia
Spouse: Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison (m. 1795-1841)
Highest Military Rank: Major General — U.S. Army
Primary Political Affiliation: Whig Party
Gubernatorial Tenure: 1801-1812
Presidential Tenure: 1841
Vice President: John Tyler
Died: April 4, 1841 in Washington, D.C.
Cause of Death: Enteric Fever (probable); Pneumonia (diagnosed)
Last Words: “Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”
Interment: Harrison Tomb State Memorial, North Bend, Ohio
"Upon another occasion I have given my opinion at some length upon the impropriety of Executive interference in the legislation of Congress--that the article in the Constitution making it the duty of the President to communicate information and authorizing him to recommend measures was not intended to make him the source in legislation, and, in particular, that he should never be looked to for schemes of finance. It would be very strange, indeed, that the Constitution should have strictly forbidden one branch of the Legislature from interfering in the origination of such bills and that it should be considered proper that an altogether different department of the Government should be permitted to do so."
- William Henry Harrison
March 4, 1841 in his inaugural address
Washington, D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery possesses a book with records of interments in its public vault between 1833 and 1845. On page 159, the second entry from the bottom, dated April 7, 1841, reads “Genl Wm H Harrison, President U States.” Harrison spent just 32 days in the White House, compared to 81 days in Congressional Cemetery. His remains were removed from the public vault on June 26th and taken by steamship to Ohio.
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Harrison, William Henry. Inaugural Address, March 4, 1841. Transcript. From Yale Law School, Avalon Project. https://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/harrison.asp.
Picone, Louis L. The President is Dead! The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Final Days, Burials, and Beyond. Rev. ed. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2020.