We continue to discover new surprises in the collections at the Bay Village Historical Society. One such discovery happened last year when two of our archival volunteers, Jack Hanley and Bill O’Brien, came across a letter from a newly inaugurated President Benjamin Harrison. It is dated March 6, 1889, only two days after he was sworn in as the 23rd President of the United States. The typed letter is an acknowledgement of the receipt of what must have been a letter of good wishes by Rose Hill’s own Margaret Cahoon.
The President’s letter reads, “My Dear Madame, It gives me pleasure to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 4th inst. I beg you will accept my sincere thanks for your very kind words. Very truly yours, Benjamin Harrison”
Margaret A. (Dickson) Van Allen Cahoon (b. 1810, d. 1894) came to live in the area we now know as Bay Village in 1842. She was the wife of Joel Butler Cahoon (b. 1793, d. 1882) who, along with his parents and siblings, was the first to settle in what was then known as Dover Township on October 10, 1810. The family built a framed house in 1818. Margaret later named it Rose Hill because of the abundance of rose bushes that had been planted by her mother-in-law, Lydia.
Margaret was born and raised in Washington D.C. and through her short autobiography written near the end of her life in 1890, we know something about her time growing up there. You may read her transcribed memories on our website under The Autobiography of Margaret Dickson Van Allen Cahoon. Margaret was there as a young child during the War of 1812 and remembered seeing the Capitol building blackened with smoke, the eagle over the Speaker’s chair broken and graffiti on the walls and columns. She was present at the inauguration of President Monroe in 1817 and remembered First Lady Dolly.
Margaret wrote that she became friends with one of their grandchildren. Her father, John Dickson, took her to sessions of the Supreme Court where she visited with the judges who took an interest in her education. She would walk by the Capitol on her way home from school and stop in, at times, to hear debates from the likes of John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, among others. The family was friendly with many congressmen and judges.
After marrying Joel Cahoon in 1831, Margaret left Washington, later making the effort to visit three times. One of these journeys was made to see the inauguration of 14th President, Franklin Pierce, during which she rode a train for the first time. Her parents were buried in the Congressional Cemetery and it’s not a stretch to think she had many old friends to visit in the city as well.
The Harrison family could also be one of those visited considering that Benjamin’s grandfather, William Henry Harrison, had been President and his father, John Scott Harrison, served two terms as a U.S. congressman from Ohio. Margaret writes that Joel attended the burial of the first President Harrison in 1841 in North Bend, Ohio, near where her young family was living at the time.
If you are interested in finding your own “treasures” of history in our collections, please think about donating your time as a volunteer to the Bay Village Historical Society. You may find out more about ways you can help us on our website Support Us Page. You may also contact us by phone at (216) 319-4634 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another way to support us is by dining at Houlihan’s Westlake on Tuesday, March 7 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Up to 20% of all food proceeds during this time will be donated to the Bay Village Historical Society when you mention our flyer. Tell any friends you think might be interested. (See the attached flyer below.)
Rose Hill and the Osborn Learning Center is closed to the general public until April 2023. Please come and visit us this spring!
(Note): Finding a letter from the newly inaugurated President William Henry Harrison is an absolute amazing find given the fact he died just 31 days after taking office. In 1841, the number of communications sent to constituents definitely would have been limited for many reasons, making the finding of this document significant.