Presidential Tombstone Blues

I've seen a fairly ridiculous number of William Henry Harrison-related sites, considering he was only president for 31 days. Pictured here is his tomb in the tiny Ohio village of North Bend. Photo by Rachel Pincus.

I’ve been engrossed in this project for well over two months now. Which, by extension, means I’ve been grudgingly excitedly telling others about this project for well over two months. The best reaction I’ve received came from an 83-year-old man last month, the father of my Cleveland host. “Tell him what you’re doing in Ohio!” Laura ordered. So I did. He stared at me over his coffee. Then he scowled.


I mumbled something vaguely coherent, presidential birthplaces interesting blah blah insight into presidents’ backgrounds blah roadtrip blah blah school history.

“You’re focusing on the footnotes.”


Still, there are some questions I can’t escape. If this blog had an FAQs page, it’d look something like this:

“Are you gonna go to Hawaii?” (No.) “So when are you going to Kenya?” (No.)  Have you read Assassination Vacation? You should!” (No.) “But Lincoln was born in Illinois, right?” (No.) “Are you gonna visit presidential tombs next?” (Hrmmmph.)

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“If it wasn’t for Bed & Breakfast people, I wouldn’t know much of anything.”

or, “Zachary’s Psychedelic Breakfast, Part 1”

As promised, an interview with Ridgely, the 74-year-old wife of George Forbes Copland II with whom I stayed at North Bend Plantation in Charles City, VA. “It’s just like the good lord sends all these people that we’d never have the opportunity to meet,” she tells me about her experience operating a Bed & Breakfast on the plantation once owned by her husband’s ancestors, family of founding father Benjamin Harrison and President William Henry Harrison. “We’ve met people from all over the world.”

Above, Ridgely speaks in great detail about the plantation’s history (“in 1864 there were 30,000 Union troops here,” nbd), her family connection to Edmund Ruffin (I guess we’re kin too, now that we’ve sorta shared a bed), her husband’s staggering English lineage (“George’s ancestors are in the Book of the Dead in England. . . . He’s kin to Charlemagne and the First Lord of Windsor in England”), and her own family history (“there were two people that were knighted, which is kinda fun”).

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