Column: Grouseland: Indiana home of William Henry Harrison

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Grouseland, a National Historic Landmark since 1960, was William Henry Harrison’s history-making Indiana home for 12 years.

In 1800, President John Adams named 27-year-old Harrison, the youngest son of a prominent Virginia planter/politician, the first governor of the Indiana Territory, with its capital in Vincennes. Soon after arriving in Vincennes, founded by French traders along the Wabash River in 1732, Harrison established Jefferson Academy (now Vincennes University). In 1802, Harrison and his wife Anna began building a 5,000-square-foot federal-style mansion on a 300-acre riverfront site Harrison named “Grouseland” for its birds. The 13-room house, completed in 1804 at a cost of $25,000 (about $540,000 today), incorporated 400,000 bricks fashioned from local clay. The first floor featured a council room and dining room, and the second floor, reached by a self-supporting curved staircase, contained six bedrooms. The Harrisons imported many of the house’s furnishings from Europe. During 12 years as governor, Harrison negotiated 11 treaties with Native American tribes, five signed at Grouseland, obtaining a total of 60,000,000 acres for the United States. The 1809 Treaty of Fort Wayne drew the anger of Tecumseh, the great Shawnee leader, who met twice with Harrison outdoors at Grouseland, demanding that he abrogate it. Harrison’s insistence on maintaining the treaty precipitated the Battle of Tippecanoe.

The Daughters of the American Revolution acquired Grouseland in 1916 and restored the house, furnishing it with period items and original items obtained from Harrison’s descendants and others. Among the many interesting items on display in the house are memorabilia from Harrison’s two presidential campaigns, a gilded plaster bust made in 1837 and two portraits of Harrison looking little alike. The grounds include the walnut grove where Harrison met with Tecumseh. A tall wooden statue memorializing Tecumseh, dedicated in 2009, is nearby. Grouseland is undergoing extensive renovations and is open by appointment at grouseland.org/.


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