Only 28 cities have had the misfortune of being the location of United States presidential deaths. Some are more famous than others. The throngs of unsuspecting onlookers in Dallas, Texas, who watched the brutal assassination of a young and ambitious John F Kennedy. The citizens in Wilton, New York were among the first to learn that former President and Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant had lost his year-long battle with throat cancer. And lest we forget the city of Washington DC watching the last desperate and shallow breaths of Abraham Lincoln in the middle of what would have otherwise been a typical warm spring evening.  

But what happened when the eyes of the world were focused on Indianapolis during the death and funeral of the 23rd United States President, Benjamin Harrison? From what we can tell, it was anything but ordinary. 

Four years after an electoral college victory (but popular vote loss), Benjamin Harrison found himself on the wrong end of a presidential election in 1892. Grover Cleveland’s revenge was swift and mighty. “Grover the Good” won back the White House after picking up the key swing states of Illinois, New York, and Wisconsin. Harrison was forced to leave behind a mixed presidential legacy filled with victories like awarding pensions to war veterans and embarrassments like the massacre of 146 Native Americans at Wounded Knee. 

But if he was being honest, Harrison’s heart wasn’t in it anymore. The aloof and introverted former Civil War general was still reeling from his wife, Caroline’s prolonged illness and death 13 days before the 1892 presidential election.  

So if Washington D.C. was finished with Benjamin Harrison, he was finished with it. He decided to live his post-presidential life in a state where he once briefly served as its United States Senator, Indiana. Returning to his chosen home of Indianapolis, General Harrison, as he was now widely referred to, returned to his first profession, lawyering. 

Already possessing a stellar and well-respected career as a lawyer, Benjamin Harrison had no trouble finding clients needing his services. From 1895 to 1899, Harrison served as chief counsel for the South American country of Venezuela in the Anglo-Venezuela Boundary Arbitration Commission. The case was one in which the Venezuelan government protested British encroachment on Venezuelan territory. And even though the commission in Paris, France, would rule against Venezuela in 1899, Venezuela paid Harrison $100,000 (about $3.6 million today) for his services.   

But this highly publicized case was not the first major event for the general in his post-Washington D.C. career. In 1896, he traveled to New York City and married Mary Lord Dimmick, the niece of his deceased wife, Caroline. Upon returning to Indianapolis with a new wife, 25 years his junior, Benjamin Harrison fell into a steady role as one of the most influential private citizens in the city. 

From fundraisers to civic speeches, sightings of the former President in public were not uncommon. Life continued this way for Harrison in the Circle City. The only major “disruption” to daily life came in the form of a new bouncing baby girl, Elizabeth, in February of 1897. At 64 years old, the grizzled Civil War veteran was once again playing the role of father. Benjamin Harrison already had two adult children; a son, Russell, and a daughter, Mary. Both had since moved away from Indianapolis after a deep and heartbreaking rift that developed with their father after he married Mary Lord Dimmick. 

As the 1800s gave way to the 20th century, Benjamin Harrison found his calendar filled with fundraisers for orphanages and hosting dinners for close friends like fellow Civil War general (and Ben-Hur author) Lew Wallace. Then, on February 3rd, 1901, Benjamin Harrison was appointed by the United States to be its representative to the international court at the Hague. This high-profile commission to such a prestigious body was set to be yet another feather in the cap of an illustrious post-presidential career. 

Photo from: Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site

The world woke up to a variety of headlines on Thursday, March 7th, 1901. In the town of Bremen in northern Germany, Emperor Willhelm II was recovering after being attacked in his carriage by a disgruntled workman who hurled a large piece of iron at his face. The ambush left a deep cut on the German Emperor’s face that required medical attention. In Topeka, Kansas, Myrtle Webster was in police custody after it was suspected she slit her husband’s throat with his shaving razor. 

Closer to home, inside the Indiana Statehouse, Indiana State Senator Albert Burns and Indiana State Representative Harris (both from the South Bend area) were in a frantic and somewhat embarrassing search for a missing piece of legislation (SB10) that had already passed both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly. The errant piece of paper, authored by the two absent-minded lawmakers, was meant to amend an act concerning public offenses and their punishments. 

And on this same brisk Thursday morning in March of 1901, former president Benjamin Harrison descended the stairs at his Delaware St. home in Indianapolis for breakfast at 9 am. While presumably reading the local papers and possibly shaking his head while reading about the unfolding snafu at the statehouse, Harrison was, as later reported by his doctor, “Taken with a violent chill.” His wife sent him back upstairs to bed, and after about half an hour, she phoned the family doctor, Henry Jameson.

Dr. Jameson arrived at the Harrison home about two hours later to check on the former President. After an initial inspection, the doctor found that the “violent chill” had subsided, and there were no other signs of distress. But that evening, General Harrison developed pain and soreness on the left side of his chest. This was accompanied by an increased pulse, and by the time Dr. Jameson returned to the Harrison home, the patient was sporting a fever of almost 102 degrees. But as the day drew to a close, Dr. Jameson met with several local reporters and told them that the former President should return to normal within a few days. 

The next day, Friday, March 8th, 1901, Indianapolis residents were greeted with news reports that Benjamin Harrison was suffering from an acute “intercostal rheumatism” or “grip.” The newspapers accurately described Harrison’s discomfort the previous day, and they echoed Dr. Jameson’s optimism that the patient would be back on his feet in a matter of days.      

But between 6 am-7 am that morning, the pain in Benjamin Harrison’s chest and abdomen was getting worse. And by that evening, the entire left side of his chest and upper left lung were showing serious signs of congestion. While Dr. Jameson remained hopeful, the former President’s age, 69 years old, was cause for concern. Dr. Jameson likely knew what would come in the hours and days ahead, and he knew that someone approaching their 70th birthday would have a very difficult time fighting back against any serious respiratory illness.

News of Benjamin Harrison’s illness began to spread across the country. The Saturday morning headline of the New York Times read, “Gen. Harrison Very Ill.” As told by Ray Boomhower in this thorough Twitter thread, upon learning of the general’s condition, many concerned citizens wrote to the Harrison family with homemade cures. From eating as many tomatoes as possible to running hot water up his nose, many Americans showed compassion and concern for their former Commander in Chief. 

Unfortunately, none of these cures would seem to ease the suffering of Benjamin Harrison. By Sunday, March 10th, the upper lobe of his left lung was showing signs of hardening. Dr. Jameson called in his colleague Dr. Evan Hadley to drop in and inspect the now-bedridden Harrison. And while the patient’s pulse stabilized, his fever spiked to an alarming 103.5 degrees. It wouldn’t go below 102 degrees the entire weekend. 

By Monday, March 11th, reports were that the former President’s condition was declining rapidly. Inflammation had now spread to his lower left lung and his upper right lung. Cutting off the tiny air sacs that fill the lungs with life-giving oxygen, this inflammation made it more difficult for Harrison to breathe on his own. So much so that his doctors began to administer oxygen. With the fever came signs of severe infection to Harrison’s nervous system, and he became “delirious,” according to Dr. Jameson. It was becoming clear to all present that things were taking a turn for the worse. Dr. Jameson had the unenviable task of telling Mrs. Harrison that if things did not improve by midnight, family members should be telegraphed to come to the general’s bedside.        

In Washington DC, news of ailing Harrison reached the White House. In a cabinet meeting, his condition was discussed, and President William McKinley approved measures for an appropriate mourning period should the worst come to pass. In addition to flags flying at half mast and navy ships firing salutes, President McKinley also approved President Harrison to be buried with full military honors. Later that night, Dr. Jameson informed the press that Benjamin Harrison was growing weaker, and things could and probably would get much worse overnight. 

The next morning, Tuesday, March 12th, the other living ex-president was stepping off a train in Norfolk, Virginia. When assembled press members asked Grover Cleveland for a comment on the condition of his former political rival, he said, “He is a good man, a noble character, and a patriot. His party needs him.” 

Over 700 miles away in Indianapolis, General Harrison was still in bed fighting for his life. As the inflation in his lungs continued to spread, his breathing rate was increasing as his failing respiratory system struggled to draw air into his body. By noon, the patient was breathing up to 60 times per minute. 

Amid the pain and hurried breathing, Benjamin Harrison was greeted by a familiar face at his bedside on this day. In what seems like a desperate plea to continue fighting from a child, his four-year-old daughter Elizabeth was brought into the room to present him with a freshly baked apple pie. As she showed her frail father the dish, he took her hand, looked her in the eye, and said in a weak and quiet voice, “What I wouldn’t give to go on one more walk with you.” Having exhausted his strength with that one sentence, he turned his head away from her and stared at the wall. Little Elizabeth was escorted out of the room, the apple pie still intact. 

At midday, another family member joined Harrison at his bedside. As he opened his eyes, he recognized the figure of his aunt, Mrs. Newcomer. Through a weak smile, he called out in the shallowest of whispers, “Aunty.” He tried to continue speaking to her, but his rapidly deteriorating lungs would not spare enough air to let more words escape. Shortly after greeting Mrs. Newcomer, Harrison also recognized his doctor. Again, he meekly tried to communicate, but as before, the only words to escape were brief. “Doctor. My lungs…” It was at this point his wife, Mary, leaned down beside him to offer comfort. He softly whispered in her ears, but the exact words will forever be lost to history.

As the day progressed, curious and concerned neighborhood children would periodically come to the front door of the Harrison home and inquire about his condition. And it wasn’t just kids who were hungry for the latest information. Dr. Jameson began issuing hourly reports to the press about the patient’s condition. Downtown at the headquarters of the Indianapolis Journal, workers were stationed by telephones to answer a steady stream of incoming calls from worried citizens around the country. 

General Harrison’s casket is removed form his home and prepared to lay in state at the Indiana Statehouse.
Photo from: Indiana Historical Society

Wednesday, March 13th, 1901, started slightly chilly, with the temperature struggling to climb north of 45 degrees. German citizens of Indianapolis would open their morning paper, the Indiana Tribune, to a headline that read, “Hoffnungslos.” Things were “hopeless” because, according to Dr. Jameson, the former President’s lungs had begun to fill with fluid, all but stopping circulation in the organ. Whether it was written in German or English, the message to the public was clear; General Harrison could die at any hour.      

As Dr. Jameson and a team of nurses continued in vain to try to open Harrison’s lungs by administering oxygen almost continuously. Harrison’s private secretary, Mr. E. F. Tibbot, was downstairs in the home receiving telegraph after telegraph from people around the globe. Finally, after even more citizens came knocking on the door to offer everything from flowers to cures, the decision was made to close down the house to visitors. 

Around 4 pm, Dr. Jameson made one last desperate attempt to pump oxygen into the general. It was hopeless. Too much fluid was blocking the lungs. The doctor went downstairs to the library and told the assembled family it was time to say farewell. At 4:30 pm, Benjamin Harrison’s wife, Mary, entered the bedroom with their young daughter, Elizabeth, Benjamin Harrison’s two sisters, Mrs. Eaton and Mrs. Morrison (the latter of which had just arrived from Minneapolis less than an hour ago), Mr. Tibbot, and W. H .H. Miller, a friend and former law partner of the general. Along with two nurses and Dr. Jameson, the group was joined in the room by United States Senate Sergeant at Arms Col. Daniel M. Ransdell and the Harrison family’s pastor, Rev. M. L Haines from the First Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis.    

Conspicuous in their absence from this sad scene were the two adult children Benjamin Harrison had with his previous wife, Caroline. Even though his marriage to the much younger Mary Lord Dimmick had driven a rift between the father and his children, it was not for lack of trying that the two couldn’t be there at this critical moment. Upon receiving word of the severity of her father’s illness, his oldest daughter, Mary Harrison McKee, was stationed at the bedside of her two children in Saratoga Springs, New York. The young boy and girl were laid up with a bad case of measles. Mary Harrison McKee was forced to make the seemingly soul-crushing decision of which sickbed she should attend. When it came to the President’s son, Col. Russell Benjamin Harrison, who at the time was in Washington DC and serving as Inspector General of Puerto Rico, he could not make a train soon enough to arrive in Indianapolis to watch the sad event that was about to unfold. 

With his wife holding tightly to his right hand and Dr. Jameson his left, Benjamin Harrison’s pulse grew weaker and his breathing more shallow. At 4:45 pm, Dr. Jameson felt for a pulse one last time. Upon finding none, he put his ears to the President’s chest. As expected, he heard nothing. An eerie silence and absence of life that can only mean one thing. “General Harrison is dead.’ Dr. Jameson announced to the room. Rev Haines said a brief prayer, and Mrs. Harrison began to weep. When later recounting the scene to the press, Col. Ransdell, who served alongside General Harrison in the Civil War said, “It was a most affecting scene, to see that great man lying there, his life ebbing away, and no power on earth to hold it back.”   

Outside of the home, the first to learn of this historic death would be the children who were so eager for an update earlier. Mr. Tibbot interrupted their playing in the street to gather them and share the sad news. Because of this, news of Benjamin Harrison’s death spread quickly around Indianapolis. Minutes later, fire stations throughout the city rang their bells, many 69 times, to reflect on each year of the great general’s life.    

Upon learning of the event, Indiana Governor Winfield Durbin immediately ordered flags across the state to be flown at half mast for the next 30 days. City courts decided to adjourn for the day. Throughout the evening and night, almost 300 telegrams with messages of condolences poured into the Harrison home. From foreign ambassadors in Germany and Austria to actors and politicians, Mr. Tibbot kept busy trying to organize incoming communications. Included in these condolences was a message from President McKinley for Mrs. Harrison. He remarked that her husband was “An excellent statesman, devoted patriot, and loyal citizen.” Former president Grover Cleveland also quickly sent the new widow his thoughts. “Such a career and the incidents related to it should leave a deep and useful impression upon every section of our natural life.”   

Later that night, as a light rain fell and the temperature dropped to a near-freezing 36 degrees, Benjamin Harrison’s son, Russell, arrived via train to Indianapolis. Having missed his father’s death by only six hours, he traveled straight to the Harrison home with his wife. Unfortunately, Harrison’s oldest daughter, Mary, having decided to leave her sick children to be by her father’s side, would not arrive until the next morning at 11:30 am. After spending days at her husband’s bedside without rest, Mrs. Harrison finally slept that night.     

The next morning officials, including Gov. Durbin and Indianapolis Mayor Thomas Taggart, arrived at the Harrison home to offer their condolences and start working with the family on funeral and memorial arrangements. It was almost immediately decided that President Harrison’s body would lie in state at the Indiana statehouse, less than two miles away. While those discussions took place downstairs in the front parlor of the home, upstairs, a more macabre scene was unfolding. C. E. Kregelo paid a visit to the home that afternoon to embalm the body of the dead. After the procedure, he dressed the body and placed it into a satin-draped black cedar coffin that was lined with copper. 

The city of Indianapolis stood in a kind of quiet shock. The loss of “their president” was heavy and felt by many. The Columbia Club dressed the front of their building in mourning decorations. Local, superior, circuit and criminal courts were all closed for the day. Local business groups met to discuss if they should close or adjust their business hours to show proper respect to the fallen. In Washington DC, the Supreme Court adjourned for the day without hearing or discussing any cases. And that evening at 7:45 pm, President McKinley boarded a train bound for Indianapolis.

The following days saw more dignitaries and family members arrive in town in preparation for services. Benjamin Harrison’s brother, Carter B. Harrison, arrived early Friday from his home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Also that morning, back at the Harrison home, sculptor John H. Mahoney arrived to make a plaster cast of the President’s head and neck. This cast would later be used to make many of the statues and sculptures of Benjamin Harrison placed around downtown Indianapolis today. 

As the city began to drape its businesses and the nearly completed Soldiers and Sailors monument in black mourning drapes, the Indianapolis school superintendent sent a letter to all area schools and teachers instructing them to spend 10-15 minutes of Friday morning’s class time to discuss the life and accomplishments of Benjamin Harrison. The Indiana Supreme Court announced it would not reopen until after the funeral.

Indianapolis Recorder – March 16, 1901

As early as 9 am the next morning, crowds began forming outside the Indiana statehouse. The most eager of citizens got in line early to view the body of the dead ex-president. Most of the Indianapolis police force was on duty this morning to ensure things stayed calm. By 11 am, members of the Indiana National Guard moved into formation along Washington St. The militia was made up of men from all corners of Indiana, including South Bend, Auburn, Ft. Wayne, and Tipton. Slowly, led by a band from the Soldiers and Sailors Orphan Home from Knightstown, they began the long march from the statehouse to the Harrison home on Delaware St.  

When the militia reached the home, they were greeted with the sullen faces of hundreds of onlookers who had come to watch the spectacle. It was members of Benjamin Harrison’s own Civil War regiment, the Seventeenth Indiana, who had the difficult task of moving his body from the front parlor of the home, out the front door, and onto a hearse that four black horses would draw. Once loaded, the procession back to the statehouse was ready to begin. Finally, it was time for the public to say goodbye. 

As the funeral carriage neared the statehouse, the parade moving south on Delaware and west on Washington, city offices began to close for the day. Officials wanted to allow city employees to stand in line to see the body. Most city businesses followed suit and shuttered their operations from 11 am-2 pm that afternoon. In addition, the post office suspended service from noon-2 pm. 

Around 1 pm, the parade arrived at the Indiana Statehouse. The march was relatively incident free, except for Mr. William Arnholter, who fractured his skull after being thrown from his horse-drawn wagon when his horses were startled by the passing band. Undisturbed by this event, the body of Harrison was removed from the hearse and carried into the statehouse, where it would be on public display for the next 10 hours. 

Inside the building, the rotunda was dressed in heavy black drapes. One rotunda column was dressed with hundreds of white roses donated by the Columbia Club. Over the casket, suspended from the rotunda balcony, hung a large American flag that once flew from the masthead of the battleship Indiana. As viewers entered the capitol through the south door, they would enter the dome to find Benjamin Harrison lying peacefully in an open casket. His body, guarded by members of an artillery detachment from the Indiana National Guard, was surrounded by bouquets made of roses and lilies.   

After the casket was set amongst a bed of flowers, Harrison’s wife, Mary, approached the display and placed a bundle of violets on the casket. Shortly after, the general’s son and oldest daughter, Russell, and Mary, placed a wreath on the casket and stood watch for 30 minutes while the public filed past their father. Ahead of his visit for the funeral, President William McKinley sent a wreath of roses and lilies that would sit at the head of the casket on the rotunda floor. 

At one point in the afternoon, a 54-person choir from the German immigrant group, the Indianapolis Maennerchor, stood on the second floor and sang songs, their voices filling the otherwise quiet rotunda. Under an escort from Indianapolis bicycle police, over 600 schoolchildren from the Girls’ Industrial School located in Tomlinson Hall marched from their class into the capitol to view Harrison’s body. 

By 10 pm, with people still waiting outside for their turn, the doors to the statehouse were closed. Thousands of people were able to view Benjamin Harrison lying in state under the rotunda dome. The proceedings were calm and peaceful except for three women who fainted while waiting in line outside. After the last mourner left, Harrison’s body was placed back onto the horse-drawn carriage. Under cover of darkness, he was escorted back to his house by the Indianapolis Battalion of Infantry and Battery A. Most troops who participated in the parade earlier that day had already made their way home. As night fell on Indianapolis, President McKinley was boarding a train in Canton, Ohio, to make his way here for the next day’s funeral service. 

Indianapolis News – March 14, 1901

On Sunday, March 17th, 1901, a semi-private funeral for President Benjamin Harrison was scheduled. Perhaps to reinforce his simple and plain-spoken demeanor, Mrs. Harrison requested that her husband not have a funeral complete with full military honors. Instead, she wanted a simple ceremony that would be devoid of any ostentation or complexity. 

The freshly printed Indianapolis Recorder headline that morning read, “A Great Loss.” At sunrise, a garrison at the nearby arsenal held a 13-gun salute. This salute would repeat every half hour until sundown, the last of which was a 45-gun salute. The day was St. Patrick’s Day, and out of respect, the local Irish Hibernian Society canceled plans for their annual parade. Instead, they held a modest celebration inside Tomlinson Hall—an event in which many speeches paid homage to General Harrison. 

That morning, parishioners in churches all over the city would hear sermons that focused on Benjamin Harrison’s Christian lifestyle and morality. At the First Baptist Church, Rev. T. J. Villers told his followers that Benjamin Harrison was “not a Christian in representation, but a Christian in deed.” At the Seventh Presbyterian Church, pastor R. V. Hunter praised Harrison’s “sturdy courage and unflinching patriotism.” 

At 6:40 am, President William McKinley’s train pulled into Union Station in Indianapolis. After a short rest and a visit from local officials, President McKinley left the surprisingly uncrowded station in a carriage at about 8:30 am. His first stop was the home of Indiana Governor Winfield Durbin. The home, which former State Treasurer Julius A. Lemcke owned, was situated on the edge of University Park on the corner of Meridian and Vermont St, just north of Monument Circle. A small crowd gathered outside the home, craning their necks to look past the fence and into the windows to get a glimpse of the President. After some conversation and lunch, Gov. Durbin and President McKinley boarded a carriage and made their way to the Harrison home. 

Here, a much larger crowd gathered. So many spectators ended up on the grounds of the home Mr. Tibbott had to come outside and ask them to move across the street. Police did their best to keep the streets clear and onlookers away from the Harrison home, but one local man managed to get too close for comfort. 

At around 1:30 pm, shortly before President McKinley was to arrive, Martin Haven, or “Humpy” as he was known to local authorities, pushed his way through the crowd and past police officers and got as close as the front steps of the Harrison home before he was wrestled away from the scene. With a history of armed robbery and other offenses, “Humpy” was called a “character” by many who knew him. On this day, he was drunk, and the police found a long knife on him when he was searched. When asked why he would try to gain entry to the home, Haven said he thought the home was open to the public for viewing, much like the statehouse was the day before. Humpy was taken around the corner to a police wagon and charged with drunkenness and malicious trespassing.

With drunken “characters” secured away, President McKinley arrived at the Harrison home to greet the family and help escort General Harrison’s body to the First Presbyterian Church for the funeral. The church, which Harrison had attended since he first moved to Indianapolis, was located at the corner of Pennsylvania and New York streets (where the Birch Bayh Federal building now stands). The funeral party consisted of 25 carriages, and like the day before, thousands of Indianapolis residents lined the streets to watch the procession. People stood on porches and leaned their heads out of second-story windows to glimpse history. This was the first time a sitting president had attended the funeral of a former president. Outside the church, a mass of people had grown so large several members of the public were injured when they tried to rush into the church to view the services. This was all in vain because guests needed a ticket to gain entrance. 

Along with the Harrison family and President McKinley, the funeral was attended by local officials and dignitaries, Illinois governor Richard Yates, Ohio governor George Nash, Michigan Lt. Gov. O. W. Robinson, poet James Whitcomb Riley, and members of Benjamin Harrison’s presidential cabinet. These former cabinet members, Charles W. Foster (Treasury Secretary), W. H. H. Miller (Attorney General), Stephan Elkins (Secretary of War), Benjamin Tracy (Secretary of the Navy), John W. Noble (Secretary of the Interior), and John Wanamaker (Postmaster General) served as honorary pallbearers for the funeral. 

Inside the church, Benjamin Harrison’s pew (number 84) was draped in black and sported an American flag. At 2 pm, the service began with a prayer from Rev. M. L. Haines. President McKinley sat at the front of the church near the Harrison family. After a sermon, singing of a hymn, and another prayer, it was time for the funeral party to head for Crown Hill Cemetery on the north side of Indianapolis. As the coffin left the building, the organ inside the church played Chopin’s funeral march.      

Naturally, a crowd gathered at the cemetery to get a rare glimpse of a president’s body being committed to the earth. Some of the estimated 15,000 spectators waited upwards of four hours to witness this moment. At 5:10 pm, the pallbearers, one of whom being James Whitcomb Riley, removed General Harrison’s coffin from the horse-drawn carriage and prepared for it to be lowered into the ground, Rev. Niccolesss said a short prayer. The flag-draped casket, topped with three white roses, was slowly lowered into an underground stone vault that was made of granite. The sound of Benjamin Harrison’s wife softly weeping could be heard by many as the 15-minute graveside ceremony concluded.

Benjamin Harrison was now resting next to his first wife, Caroline. As time marched on, many of his friends, including James Whitcomb Riley, would join him on this burial ground. Already interred at Crown Hill at the time of his eternal commitment were former United States Senators Oliver P. Morton, James Whitcomb, and Joseph E. McDonald, and former Vice president Thomas A Hendricks (who served in that position for only seventeen months under Grover Cleveland).

President McKinley and Governor Durbin arrived at Durbin’s residence around 5:50 pm. After a quick dinner and conversation, McKinley made his way to Union Station to journey back to Washington DC. But, unlike his arrival that morning, a sizable crowd had gathered at the station to see the President off as his train pulled away from the station at 7:25 pm. Almost exactly six months later, he too would be dead. But instead of pneumonia, it would be an assassin’s bullet on the platform at a Buffalo, New York, train station.       

It didn’t take long for life in Indianapolis to return to normal after the death of Benjamin Harrison. The very day of his funeral saw an evening concert by composer John Phillip Sousa. During the show, Sousa played a new piece he had written for the auspicious occasion. Titled “The Honored Dead,” Sousa dedicated the march to General Harrison. In addition to Sousa’s concert that night, the melodrama “Human Hearts” began its run at the Park Theatre.   

In the days following the funeral, Benjamin Harrison’s will, tucked away in a safety deposit box inside the Fletcher National Bank, was published. The former President left a sizable estate estimated to be worth $350,000 at the time (over $12 million today). Harrison wrote the will by hand shortly before he left for Paris in 1899 to settle the Venezuelan border case. Included in his will, Harrison left money and property to his wife, Mary, daughter, Elizabeth, grandchildren, and several local charitable causes, including his beloved orphan asylum.   

By March 22nd, 1901, less than a week after his funeral, any mention of the general had disappeared from the local and national newspapers. His death and funeral came less than three months after the highly publicized death of England’s Queen Victoria. Benjamin Harrison left this world much the way he lived in it. Quiet and dignified. He lingered in his sick bed for two full days and nights, his doctors working 18-hour shifts by his side. His legacy as a president is mixed, at best, but the legacy he left on the city of Indianapolis is one we still live with today. From the statues downtown to the art center that bears his name, Indianapolis still holds a special place for “their president.”