When young Anna Symmes met soldier William Henry Harrison on a visit to her sister in Kentucky, there was an instant connection. Anna’s father objected to their relationship because William was not skilled in any trade other than war, despite the fact that he had been a soldier himself, but the two married secretly in 1795. After seeing the happy couple, her father eventually changed his mind. She quickly had ten children and educated them on the Indiana frontier, despite her childhood upbringing being that of a coastal elite.
In 1840, William won the presidency, but Anna had to stay at home as she recovered from an illness. Their daughter-in-law, widow Jane Harrison, took on the First Lady hosting duties temporarily until Mrs. Harrison could make the long journey safely. But before Anna had even finished packing her bags, she received devastating news. In April of 1841, President Harrison died after a single month in office from pneumonia. Congress agreed to offer Mrs. Harrison a pension equivalent to the president’s salary, and she lived until the age of 88. President Harrison was the first U.S. President to die in office, and the one with the briefest term.