Indiana’s Only President

THE RELIGIOUS SIDE OF PRESIDENT BENJAMIN HARRISON:

“On the Sunday of the funeral of ex-President Harrison, in the First Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, March 17, 1901, two classes met that were of special interest, because they had both been freshly bereaved of their teachers—called of God to a higher service.

On the one side of the church was a Bible class which had been taught by ex-President Harrison; on the other side was a Bible class that had been taught by Governor Mount, who died a few weeks previous. These two classes were united in one, and, by urgent request, Mr. John Wanamaker, superintendent of the Bethany Sunday-school, in Philadelphia, who had been Postmaster General in President Harrison’s Cabinet, and was present to attend the funeral, taught the combined classes.

While tributes of respect to Mr. Harrison’s memory have been given by statesmen, newspaper men, lawyers and many others in public life, the tributes to his religious character are of special interest to our readers. His pastor said that Mr. Harrison, an elder in his church, was a regular attendant at divine service, and if compelled to be absent he would render a reason. “Did he attend the week-night meeting, as well?” was asked. “Yes, he was a very frequent attendant at the weeknight prayer meetings; and during the week of prayer last January he was present on three evenings out of the four when special service was held.”

President Harrison habitually conducted family worship while he was an incumbent of the White House, and a member of his official Cabinet speaks of his participating in such a service. When a guest, he was a devout attendant at family worship and willing to take his part in leading. In the meetings of the church also he offered prayer, and his devout and humble spirit impressed those who united with him.

All who attended the great missionary conference in New York city, in the spring of 1900, and all who have read the reports of that great convention, will recall the impression made by ex-President Harrison from the conspicuous ability with which he fulfilled his part as Honorary Chairman. His opening and closing addresses and his short and impromptu speeches showed the most lively sympathy with the purposes of the conference, as an intelligent Christian layman who had at heart the imperative duty of fulfilling Christ’s great commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

Such testimonies to the religious character and influence of a man who had attained the highest offices in the gift of the American people may well be recorded and emphasized in the columns of religious papers. When so many prominent men no longer attend church or read the Bible, but give the whole day to pleasure and the Sunday paper, the Christian example of one like ex-President Harrison should be displayed as a noble incentive for those who would attain to the highest success, not according to the world’s estimate, but as in the eyes of the Lord, who honors his faithful servants and calls us to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”—The Sunday-School World; Vol. 41, Issue 5; American Sunday-School Union; 1901.

RICHMOND, INDIANA, FEBRUARY 25, 1889:

On the way to the White House.

The city of Richmond was reached at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, where several thousand people greeted the travelers. General Harrison said:

My Friends—I have so long had my home among you that I cannot but feel a sense of regret in leaving the soil of Indiana. I go with a deep sense of inadequacy, but I am sure you will be patient with my mistakes, and that you will all give me your help as citizens [cheers and cries of “We will!” in my efforts to promote the best interests of our people and the honor of the Nation we love. I thank you for this cordial greeting. [Cheers.]

RICHMOND, INDIANA, MAY 14, 1891.

At Richmond, Ind., a very large and enthusiastic assemblage cheered the President. The Reception Committee consisted of Mayor Perry J. Freeman, Hon. Henry U. Johnson, C. C. Binkley, John Harrington, Everett A. Richey, Andrew F. Scott, J. H. Macke, John H. Nicholson, Col. John F. Miller, Capt. J. Lee Yaryan, Dr. J. R. Weist, E. D. Palmer, H. C. Starr, Frank J. Brown, J. B. Howes, and Isaac Jenkins.

Congressman Johnson introduced the President, who said:

My Fellow citizens—We are now about completing a very long journey. For something more than four weeks we have been speeding across the country, from the Potomac to the Golden Gate, and northward along Puget Sound. The trip, while it has been full of pleasurable incidents, while it has been attended with every demonstration of friendliness and respect, has, as you can well understand, been full of labor.

I began this day—and it is only a sample of many—at 5 o’clock this morning, by speaking to my fellow-citizens at Hannibal, Mo., and from that place to this I have been almost continuously on my feet or shaking hands over this platform with friends who have gathered there.

We have seen regions that were new to me, people that were strangers, and yet, throughout the whole of this journey we have been pervaded, surrounded, inspired by the magnificent spirit of American patriotism. [Cheers.] I come now to pass through my own State.

I have so often within the last two years been at Indianapolis and passed through Richmond that I did not expect you would take any special notice of our passage-to-night. I am all the more gratified that you should have surprised us by this magnificent demonstration. As I had occasion to say at Indianapolis, the respect, the confidence, the affectionate interest of my Indiana friends is more valuable to me than anything else in life.

I went from you two years ago to new duties, borne down with a sense of the great responsibility that was upon me, and I am glad to believe from what I see to-night that I have at least saved the respect and friendship of my Indiana fellow-citizens. [Cries of “That’s so!” and cheers.] And now, as I return again to labors and duties that are awaiting me, I leave with you my most affectionate greeting and sincere desire for the prosperity of Indiana and all its citizens. I hope that my life will be spared to be once more a dweller in this great State. [Cheers.]—Speeches of Benjamin Harrison; Compiled By Chas. Hedges; 1892.

Additional Information: “President Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901) was;

  • A grandson of our 9th President, William Henry Harrison, (1773-1841); President W.H. Harrison was the first President to die in office–after serving only 32 days. (The shortest tenure in U.S. Presidential history.)
  • A Brigadier General during the Civil War;
  • A practicing attorney;
  • A Town Crier (Federal Court, Indianapolis);
  • A reporter (for the Supreme Court of Indiana);
  • A United States Senator (1881-1887);
  • The President of the United States (elected in 1888). In this election, he received 90,000 fewer popular votes than Cleveland, but he carried the Electoral College, 233 to 168. His presidency was preceded and succeeded by Grover Cleveland (D). While President, he appointed four justices to the United States Supreme Court, beginning with David J. Brewer. President Harrison died from influenza and pneumonia at his home on Wednesday, March 13, 1901, at the age of 67.”

Richmond Photos of President Harrison.

Former President Harrison plants an Ash tree at Glen Miller Park, April 25, 1895.

President Harrison stood 5′ 6″. (He is posing with his left hand resting on a shovel) His height did not appear (at least in this 1895 photo)–less than average.

Update: 2018. *Harrison’s Ash tree has been destroyed by the Emerald Ash Borer. It’s still standing and poses quite a hazard!