In honor of Presidents’ Day, here is a list of four United States Presidents that visited Vincennes with a bit of background about each president’s connection to our city and county.
Before President William Henry Harrison became 9th U. S. President in 1841, he was appointed secretary for the Northwest Territory in 1798 by President John Adams. Two years later, Harrison became the governor for the newly formed Indiana Territory and built his home Grouseland, the first brick home in Indiana and National Historical Landmark. Currently Grouseland, Harrison’s mansion and museum is undergoing an extensive restoration but mark your calendar, the projected reopening is set for June.
Trivia Question #1: Why did Governor Harrison name his mansion Grouseland?
It is said that President Abraham Lincoln stayed in two different homes in Vincennes around the 1840’s. Local attorney, Cyrus Allen was a personal friend of his and Lincoln was a guest at the Allen Mansion, now Gardner-Brockman Funeral Home. Vincennes Mayor, Abner T. Ellis, hosted Lincoln while he was in town campaigning for Henry Clay. Today the Harmony Society occupies the Ellis Mansion.
Trivia Question #2: Proof that Lincoln crossed the Wabash River into Illinois in 1830 is on a historical marker. Do you know the marker’s location?
In June of 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Vincennes to dedicate the completed George Rogers Clark monument as an Indiana State Memorial. He spoke to the huge crowd gathered for the dedication. He praised George Rogers Clark’s Revolutionary War Victory and said “Out of despair and destruction, he brought concerted action. With a flash of genius, the twenty-six-year old leader conceived a campaign, a brilliant masterpiece of military strategy.”
Trivia Question #3: What was the estimated number of people attending the dedication?
In July of 1966, President Lyndon Johnson traveled to Vincennes and signed legislation to designate the George Rogers Clark Memorial and grounds as a national park. President Johnson said “This is going to be a very beautiful park, it will include the memorial to George Rogers Clark that the people of Indiana built, with Federal help back in the 1930’s. This will be the first park in our entire national system to commemorate the Northwest Territory.”
Trivia Question #4: What Indiana company received the contract to build the memorial?
Answer #1: Harrison named his mansion after the grouse, a game bird he was fond of hunting which was in abundance in the area at that time.
Answer #2: The marker can be found on the Vincennes side of the Wabash River, mounted on the wall just north of the Memorial Bridge. So you know what you are looking for, there are photos of the marker on The Historical Marker Data Base, https://www.HMdb.org.
Answer #3: An estimated 50 – 75k people attended the dedication! Go to George Rogers Clark NHP’s Facebook page to see a photo of President Roosevelt addressing the crowd (courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times).
Answer #4: The W. R. Heath Construction Company of Greencastle built the memorial and won the contract with acceptance of their low bid, $773,800.
Photo Credit: George Rogers Clark NHP