Introduction to Every Leader
Being There: Encountering America's Presidents
9th President of the United States, March-April 1841
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William Henry Harrison Home
The William Henry Harrison Mansion "Grouseland"
The William Henry Harrison Mansion "Grouseland"
Grouseland Foundation

William Henry Harrison, ninth president of the United States, built this substantial brick house in 1804, while serving as governor of Indiana Territory.  He lived there until he left to take command of American forces in the old Northwest during the War of 1812.  The reputation he gained as military hero and Indian fighter during the years he lived at Grouseland helped ensure his election as president in 1840.  He campaigned as a rough frontiersman and war hero, although he was born in a Tidewater Virginia mansion.  The first Whig to be elected president, he was also the first chief executive to die in office.  He lived less than a month after his inauguration.

In 1773, William Henry Harrison was born at Berkeley on the James River in Virginia.  His father, planter Benjamin Harrison, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  In 1791, he accepted a commission in the United States Army and received an assignment to the Northwest Territory.  After he resigned from the army three years later, he served as secretary of the Northwest Territory and its first representative to the United States Congress.  He helped obtain the legislation that established an independent Indiana Territory in 1800 and received an appointment as the first territorial governor. The new territory included all of what would become the States of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as the northeastern part of Minnesota.  Its capital was Vincennes, and it was here that Harrison built his fine two and one-half story brick Federal house northeast of what was then a small frontier town.  He named it “Grouseland” for the many game birds on his 300-acre tract of land.  The house had 17 rooms, including an attached one and one-half story dependency in the rear. 

As governor, Harrison saw his principal task as opening lands belonging to the local Indian tribes to white settlement.  He negotiated a series of treaties that provided for the cession of millions of acres of land, but his success generated strong resistance.  Tecumseh, the famous Shawnee leader, who was trying to recruit other tribes to join him in armed resistance, met with Harrison at Grouseland in 1810 and warned that his people would fight to prevent further white encroachment.  Located to the left of the center hall, the “Council Chamber,” is where Harrison held many meetings with Indian leaders and conducted much of his business as governor.

Campaign banner
Campaign banner
with Harrison on horseback
Library of Congress

In 1811, Harrison left Grouseland and marched north to attack an Indian stronghold near Tippecanoe Creek.  Celebrated as a great victory, the battle was indecisive and did not end Indian resistance.   During the War of 1812, he obtained a commission in the United States Army and was given command of American forces in the old Northwest.  In 1813, he crossed into Canada to defeat a combined force of British and Indians at the Battle of the Thames.  This battle, in which Tecumseh was killed, ended Indian resistance in the Northwest.

At the end of the war, Harrison resigned from the army and moved his family back to land they owned in North Bend, Ohio.  For the next 26 years, Harrison mingled farming with political activity, holding various state and national offices. Formed in the 1830s in opposition to Jackson’s Democratic Party, the Whig Party nominated him for president in 1840.  The party calculated that a popular military hero could successfully challenge Van Buren, whose popularity had been damaged by the economic depression of 1837.  With the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too,” the Whigs promoted the aristocratic Harrison as a log-cabin-dwelling, hard-cider frontiersman.  Harrison won the election by an overwhelming margin, 234 out of 294 electoral votes, but he died of pneumonia on April 4, 1841, less than a month after taking office.

William Henry Harrison's son, John lived at Grouseland in the 1820s.  John was the father of Benjamin Harrison, 23rd president of the United States.  In 1909, the Francis Vigo Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution saved the house from demolition.  The chapter bought, restored, and opened it as a house museum, which is now maintained by the Grouseland Foundation, Inc.  All of the rooms are furnished with period pieces, some of which belonged to William Henry Harrison.

Plan your visit

Grouseland, the William Henry Harrison Home, located at 3 West Scott St., Vincennes, IN, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.  Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos.  Grouseland is open daily Monday-Saturday from 9:00am to 4:00pm, and Sunday 11:00am to 4:00pm.  Grouseland is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.  An entrance fee is charged.  For more information, including Harrison’s recipe for roast duck, visit the Grouseland website or call 812-882-2096.  Grouseland has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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