Historic Sites and Buildings
This mansion, now surrounded by the city of Vincennes, preserves the memory of William Henry HarrisonIndian fighter, military leader in the War of 1812, Governor of Indiana Territory, and ninth President of the United States. He built Grouseland and lived in it during most of his term as Territorial Governor, when he helped bring peace to the old Northwest and opened to white settlement a vast territory between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes.
In 1800 Congress created Indiana Territory out of a part of the old Northwest Territory and President John Adams appointed Harrison, who had been serving as Secretary of and Delegate to Congress from the Northwest Territory, as Governor. Arriving in the small Territorial capital of Vincennes in January 1801, Harrison purchased a 300-acre tract just northeast of town, which he called Grouseland, and in 1803-4 built a mansion on it. As Territorial Governor, he sought to protect white settlers against Indian tribes blocking the tide of westward expansion. He negotiated a series of treaties with tribal leaders of the Northwest that provided for the cession of millions of acres of Indian lands. During a meeting with Harrison at Grouseland in 1810, Tecumseh, the Shawnee leader, warned that his people would fight white encroachment.
Apparently learning from Tecumseh that he was going south to seek allies, Harrison left Grouseland in September 1811 and traveled northward to the site of present Terre Haute, where his troops constructed Fort Harrison to serve as an advance base for an attack on the stronghold of the Shawnees and their allies at Tippecanoe Creek, near present Lafayette, Ind. Late in October, he resumed his march northward and at the Battle of Tippecanoeprecipitated by a premature attack on the whites led by Tecumseh's half brother, "The Prophet"scattered Tecumseh's followers. Harrison suffered heavy losses and the victory was inconclusive, but the battle made him a national hero and helped him win the Presidency in 1840.
When the War of 1812 broke out, Harrison resigned as Governor of Indiana Territory, obtained a commission in the Army as brigadier general, and left Grouseland to command U.S. forces in the old Northwest. The next year, he became a major general. Harrison's forces finally drove the British and their Shawnee and other Indian allies into Canada and decisively defeated them at the Battle of the Thames (1813). After years of diplomatic struggle and frontier war, this victory assured U.S. domination of the old Northwest. In 1814, after resigning his commission, Harrison returned to a house that he had built at North Bend, Ohio, instead of to Grouseland.
The next occupant of Grouseland was Judge Benjamin Parke, who lived there until about 1819. John Harrison, William Henry's son and father of President Benjamin Harrison, Receiver of the Land Office in Vincennes, then resided in the mansion for about a decade. Subsequently it fell into disrepair and the city encroached upon it. By 1850 ownership had passed out of the Harrison family, and during the following decade the mansion served as a grain storehouse and a hotel. From 1860 to 1909, it was again a private residence. In 1909 the Vincennes Water Company purchased it and planned to raze it, but the Francis Vigo Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution collected enough money to acquire, furnish, restore, and open it as a historic house museum. This group still administers the property.
Grouseland is a 2-1/2-story, brick Georgian house containing 26 rooms and 13 fireplaces. It resembles Berkeley, Harrison's birthplace and boyhood home in Virginia and may have been designed by him. To its rear is a one-story annex, joined by a covered passage. One of the most handsome rooms in the residence is the "Council Chamber," where Harrison held many of his meetings with Indian leaders and conducted much of his business as Governor. Features incorporated for protection against the Indians include two false windows in the front of the house, a lookout in the attic, heavily barred basement windows, powder magazine, and basement well. All the rooms are furnished with period pieces. On display are articles associated with the Harrisons, as well as with Francis Vigo, fur trader and merchant of Vincennes who was friendly to the American cause during the War for Independence.
Adjoining Grouseland is the Indiana Territorial Capitol, where the first Indiana Territorial Legislature met. This building stood elsewhere in Vincennes until 1919, when it was moved to its present location.
Last Updated: 22-Jan-2004