William Henry Harrison is perhaps best known as an answer to a trivia question as to which President of the United States has had the shortest term. This is unfortunate, as Harrison had a busy and successful career in military service long before his short tenure in office.
It is also the answer to the question “Which US President first visited Mansfield at some point in his life?” On at least two instances, he made a visit here — the second about 28 years after the first.
Born in Virginia, Harrison is often claimed by Ohio to reinforce its “Mother of Presidents” claim. He did settle in Ohio and was elected from here.
William Henry Harrison’s first visit — or visits — to Mansfield took place during the War of 1812. On one, he is said to have stopped at a tavern which stood on the Southern Hotel corner (now an empty lot on the southeast corner of South Park Street and South Main Street downtown) on his way to the siege of Fort Meigs.
Harrison commanded the Army of the Northwest, tasked with defending the Northwest Territories from British encroachment. His army built Fort Meigs near Perrysburg in 1813, and then turned back a siege from British forces in May, 1813.
He served with two officers from Mansfield at Fort Meigs – James Hedges and Mordeci Bartley, the latter the father of Mansfield’s Bartley father and son who both served as Governor of Ohio.
Harrison returned as a presidential candidate during the campaign of 1840, when he spoke from a buggy near the old Market House. One of those listening was an eight year old girl, Mary Pease Turner.
Mary’s father had been with the ill-fated Colonel Crawford Expedition in 1782. She shared this memory years later about Harrison’s Mansfield speech: “During his speech to the crowd he described fully the death of Tecumseh, the great Indian chief at the Battle of the Thames.”
In an 1895 Richland Shield and Banner story, an older resident looking back at the event remembered that there were “thousands of Ohioans” present for the speech.
That presidential campaign for “Old Tippecanoe,” as he was affectionately called, was a successful one, however William Henry Harrison became ill shortly after his inauguration, and died about a month later.
Sources: 1912 History of Jasper County, Iowa; Richland Shield and Banner; Wikipedia; Ohio History Central; Image: Creative Commons; Public Domain