How William Henry Harrison really screwed up my Wednesday night

Last week, I was helping my daughter with a school Social Studies project on two different U.S. Presidents, the first of which was William Henry Harrison. It should have been painless. And it should have only covered the subject of history. But it wasn’t. And it didn’t.

William Henry Harrison, 9th Philanderer-in-Chief of these United States

We worked side by side in the room. I was on my laptop and she was on the desktop, both researching, while she created her Power Point presentation. Following is our back and forth exchange as we learned about William Henry Harrison, who held the shortest presidency in American history, only 31 days, before dying in office. That’s a bummer, WiHeHa.

ME: (scrolling through facts on my laptop) Okay. I see here that he had ten children. Nine that lived into adulthood and one that died in infancy.

VIVIEN: Wait, what? I only thought that he had one kid. You found TEN?

ME: (nervously checking Wikipedia and my other shoddy sources) Um … yes, let me make sure this information is about him and not his father. (searching the screen then reading directly from it) Um … yes! Yes, William Henry Harrison had ten children. Here are their names.

VIVIEN: (interrupting … politely, of course) That’s okay. I found them all right here. (counting them on the screen) Wait. But now I see eleven. Why do I see eleven?

ME: Eleven???

VIVIEN: Yes, there are eleven names here.

ME: (frustrated sigh) Okay. Let me read off my list of names and you tell me which one is extra on yours, okay?


ME: Elizabeth Bassett . (reading off the names one by one) …. John Cleves Symmes … (each being immediately followed with a “Got it!” from Vivien until I reached all ten).

VIVIEN: Yep, that’s all the ones I have here. Plus I have one more.

ME: (confused) What? … How? … Well, what is it?

VIVIEN: Dilsia.

ME: Dilsia???

VIVIEN: Yes, Dilsia.

ME: Well, I don’t have anything about a “Dilsia” here. Let me try looking it up. (checking my laptop)

VIVIEN: Okay. I will, too. (checking the desktop)

ME: (starting to read and panicking because I’m not really sure how in the HELL I’m going to explain what I’m finding)

VIVIEN: (already way ahead of me) Ohhhhh. Dilsia was from a different wife. (reading more and putting it together innocently) Or wait! I think Dilsia WAS the wife. And it says they had six children. (pausing to take it all in) Oh, my gosh. SO HE HAD SIXTEEN CHILDREN?!!?

ME: (panicking a little more and annoyed with myself that I’m not faster on my feet. Because I’ve just discovered that Dilsia was actually William Henry Harrison’s SLAVE. With whom he had six illegitimate children.) Um …

VIVIEN: So, should we put that in here, too? That he had two wives? (innocently curious) I wonder why they don’t list any of the kids’ names from that marriage.

ME: (pretending to have a coughing fit so I could think a minute) Um … well … I guess it’s just because she wasn’t … the first lady! (continuing on with my stupid idea) Since she wasn’t the first lady, they didn’t keep good records about all of her kids.

VIVIEN: (eyeing me somewhat suspiciously) Yeah, I guess so.

ME: (exhaling … and realizing I might have pulled something during my “coughing fit”)

VIVIEN: He sure was a weird man. With a VERY weird lifestyle.

ME: (still speechless and totally pissed at oily, adulterous presidents who make my life difficult) Yes, he was, Vivien. Yes … he … was.

Next up? James Buchanan, who I understand was the only bachelor president in U.S. history. My information also says that he had no children.  

(Yeah, right.)

None that he KNOWS of.

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3 responses to “How William Henry Harrison really screwed up my Wednesday night

  1. Isn’t history fun!

  2. If you need help on the presidents shoot me an email.

    Also, Harrison is part of the only grandfather/grandson presidents. His grandson Benjamin Harrison became President in the 1880’s.

  3. I agree, that could have been very awkward for you. I hope Buchanan is or was a little easier for you. Way to go Michele explaining this delicate subject to Vivien.

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