Explore rich articles and behind-the-scenes features about the Presidential Site’s exhibits, events, outreach, announcements, and more.
Martha Buehner taught first graders for 43 years. In her last 15 years as an educator, she would bring her students on a field trip to the Presidential Site. Martha quickly became well-acquainted with staff of the site, including VP of Education Roger Hardig. And after a few years of tours, Roger suggested she already knew the tour and the house better than most of staff and volunteers.
“I would have to say, the real reason I came is because of Roger,” she said. “I think that personal invitation of asking someone resonates a lot with people.”
Soon after, Martha began volunteering one or two Saturdays a month. She said she would become a full-time docent after she retired.
For five years now, Martha volunteers every week and is a key member of the Presidential Site’s education staff.
“I knew instantly that she was held in the highest regard among the staff, especially with Roger,” Lukas Ramey, Volunteer and Guest Experience Manager, said. “I understood very quickly that in order to be successful in my job, I would have to have Martha on my side. She is a leader in everything she does, and that includes working amongst the volunteers.”
Two years ago, she was the Vice President of the Volunteer Association. She primarily focused on assisting with fundraising activities. Now, as President of the Volunteer Association, she focuses on listening to what the volunteers need.
“Volunteers wanted the renovation of the volunteer lounge,” she said. “We were sitting on wicker chairs with the thin pads. I feel like I sort of initiated or pushed for those changes, and [the CEO] was very gracious about recarpeting the lounge. And we got new furniture.”
Those around Martha will say her “get it done” attitude and ability to listen to the needs of others has made her a valuable asset to the volunteer team.
“I know that I will get an honest opinion from Martha, whether it is good or bad,” Lukas said. “And that is one of the reasons why I wanted her on the volunteer board. Her no-nonsense approach cuts through the fluff and helps us get to the real challenges so that we can actually work to improve as an organization.”
Roger recalled a story from when Martha was still teaching. She brought her class in for the Wooden Soldiers Program, one the Presidential Site holds around the holidays. Roger read a story while the students put together a take-a-part Christmas tree. He decided to try his hand at crafting, too, and at the end of the program, Martha told him, “Roger, your tree is pathetic and looks awful.” He said she came back after his last program of the season and rebuilt his tree — and it is still being used today.
“If Martha tells me I have done something well in regard to programming or teaching, I take it as a high compliment,” Roger said. “She tells you how ‘it is’ and doesn’t hold back telling you if something could have been done better or was not well received, or not up to quality. Martha is the kind of person who makes everything she is a part of better — the quality ratchets up a notch, when she is involved.”
Roger also said she truly understands the school field trip visitors.
“She is sympathetic to the classroom teacher and what they want a field trip to be,” he said. “She is also a great advocate for the museum, and she loves the story and the artifacts. But, most of all, she understands what will be most interesting for a child who is visiting and she gives an outstanding student tour.”
One thing Martha said she likes to tell the school-aged children is that Benjamin Harrison initiated the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms.
“Did you recite the Pledge of Allegiance before you came today,” she’ll ask. “Tomorrow when reciting the Pledge, think of Benjamin Harrison.”
What are other tips Martha would give to docents leading school groups?
“Make every tour personal. With the kids, when talking about Mr. Whiskers, [the Harrison’s pet goat], you change your voice level,” she said. “In the kitchen, tell them to put their toes on the edge of the rug. Before going to a new room, ask one student what their name is. Let them be leader, and then choose a different student to lead to each room. I focus on not raising my voice and letting them know when they do something positive, like raising their hand.”
Aside from tours, Martha remains involved in school programming like the Future Presidents of America program. She and her husband help out at events, like Croquet Roquet and the Easter Egg Roll. Beyond the Presidential Site, Martha continues to tutor students at her local school and assists with a family member’s school reenactment of the Revolutionary War.
“I think I am without a doubt a better teacher because of Martha,” Roger said. “She has been a wonderful mentor and sounding board for me over the years. I rely on her and value her opinion — more than she can ever know.”
The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site offers a wide variety of education initiatives, from in-classroom visits to on-site tours to programs like Future Presidents of America. Read a few first-hand accounts from teachers and students.
4th Grade Teacher
West Lafayette Intermediate School
I first experienced the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site when I was student teaching. The fifth grade class I worked with took a field trip there, and I was thrilled to see how excited the students were leading up to the trip. The engagement at the Harrison [site] is second to none. The children love to pour over the historical documents and relive history at this special place. Children who think history is boring find a new perspective and appreciation upon witnessing the personal artifacts and charming lifestyle of the Harrison [site].
This first trip to the [Presidential Site] was firmly impressed on my mind as a young educator, and once I found a permanent teaching position, I was surprised that none of the teachers on my team had ever been there or heard about it before. I decided to make it a new tradition, and we take the entire grade level there every year. I highly recommend the Settler and Surveyors program. It is one of the students’ highlights from their entire school year! My sincere thanks to the wonderful team at the Harrison [site] that provides this special opportunity to us each year!
Looking back, it is almost inconceivable to think that my summer could have passed without being a part of FPA, because it has been, in all seriousness, life changing. Within my first hour of the class, I was enamored. Enamored by the passion for policy circulating the atmosphere. Enamored by the dedication the faculty of the Presidential Site had for preserving, protecting, and passing on history. Enamored by the surfeit of speakers expanding my understanding of my own community and country. But most impactfully, enamored by the other young and brilliant minds who, just like me, possessed a vigor for scholarship.
5th Grade Teacher
Westfield Intermediate School
I wish I could adequately explain how incredible the experience is each year with Roger Hardig, the [VP of Education] from the Benjamin Harrison [Presidential Site]. He comes in each spring for a little over an hour and masterfully engages our kids in a conversation spanning the 30 years from the French and Indian War (1753) through the Revolution (1783). He is funny, honest, passionate, and knowledgeable. Our students are always exhilarated! Their hands fly up?hands of high achieving students, hands of struggling students, hands of ALL students?and they answer his questions. They are giddy as they practice writing with real liquid ink and a feather quill, they cheer when they realize they get to take home a feather and its wooden block, and they are reverent as Roger calls them up by colony groups, lets them bend over a replica of the Declaration of Independence, dip their quills in the inkwell, and sign. We look forward to time with Roger every year!
FPA taught me so many things that I utilize every day. One of the most influential and educational parts was the speakers that came to talk to us. The speakers were so diverse in where they came from and where they are now; however, in the end I realized that their experiences stitched together to present a single narrative: the story of a young person fighting through failures and difficulties to emerge a successful ‘Phoenix’. The quilt of successful people’s stories presents a warmth I feel every day as I stride through the cold world of a teenager. As I freak out about PSAT scores or scholarships or my class rank, I feel the sturdy stitches of the quilt and remember just to breathe and try my best because in the end everything that should happen will.
This is the second installment in our National Education Month 2018 series. Read more about our education programming by visiting the education section on our website.
If you have questions about this post, or ideas for future posts, let us know by emailing email@example.com.
He has been involved with the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site for about 25 years. He started as a weekend docent when he attended the IUPUI School of Education. After a year working as an education assistant to the director and short period of time as a co-director, Roger Hardig became the VP of Education — what was then called Director of Education —in 2000. In the past 15 years, he has orchestrated education programming for both children and adults. See what he has to say about working with the Presidential Site and leading programs like Future Presidents of America and the In Pursuit of State Pride field trip.
Q: How did you get involved with the role at the Presidential Site?
A: Because of my upbringing, I was always in museums. My parents always travelled for work, but no matter where we were, we always made time for museums… I’ve always had this natural interest in history. I remember as a young kid, I was given book about presidents — after visiting the [Dwight D.] Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum in Kansas, I believe. I became obsessed with the history of presidents.
[Museums] accrue all these artifacts and have always been reminders to me that we are not alone. There were people before us who were going through the same things we are now.
Q: A great deal has likely changed in the 25 years you’ve been with the Presidential Site. What are some of the most recent initiatives you have carried out?
A: The biggest one of my time has been the In Pursuit of State Pride field trip, which was a set up to the bicentennial. It’s a three-way field trip between us, the Indiana State Tour Office and Indiana State Library. It’s for all fourth graders in Marion County, and I solely administer it. That, to me, has been one of the most important things, because it has removed the barriers from education. It’s no cost to the school systems. The tour doesn’t cost. We take care of transportation. For a lot of school systems with little money, we’ve been able to serve them. Because of financial issues, we lost a lot of schools in the past. So, to be able to do this has made me very happy.
Q: Outside of field trips and classroom visits, the Presidential Site also offers youth leadership programs. Can you share a memorable anecdote from one of those programs?
A: There’s been so many. Every [Future Presidents of America] class has been special and unique; each group takes on their own character. One of the coolest things to me was the wreath laying on Benjamin Harrison’s grave at Crown Hill Cemetery. After that part, we go and sit on the highest point of the grounds and look out at the city, and the kids write an obituary for Harrison. Just some of the creative writing that has come out of that is amazing. I also get to meet kids from all walks of life. It’s funny because one of the students asked me do a letter of recommendation for him, to talk about everything he had learned and things like that. But the students have taught me more than I could ever teach them. With the field trips, you have a finite amount of time with them. You have to relay your entire message with a time limit. But with Future Presidents, you get to really dig in, have debates and discussions. So, there’s learning on both ends, and that’s really, really cool.
Q: What has been the most rewarding part during your time as VP of Education?
A: Probably getting to know and be a part of the growth of so many dynamic people. One of my past interns graduated from NYU and now works in Washington, D.C. Another is a pediatric doctor on the east coast. Another has Pentagon clearance. Just getting to be a part of that and teaching the Future Presidents kids has been so rewarding.
One thing that has always challenged me is trying to take subjective information and make it objective information that a 9 year old can understand. I do agree with that old statement that if you can’t explain what you’re thinking, you probably don’t understand it yourself… [It’s about] getting people to see there is a place for them. We do matter. We’re not alone. We can look back to figure out what we’re supposed to do going forward.
One of the unique things about us, is that we do programming by appointment. I encourage teachers, if they have time and are looking at our website and there’s a program they are interested in, don’t be daunted by anything. That’s the beauty of trying to be flexible. We’ll work on anything. Seeing the house, the artifacts speak for themselves and you can’t replace that. But if that’s not possible — I understand all the reasons why — I will pack my stuff and come to them.
This is the first installment in our National Education Month 2018 series. Read more about our education programming by visiting the education section on our website.
If you have questions about this post, or ideas for future posts, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Scott Harrison, father of 23rd President Benjamin Harrison, passed away on May 25, 1878. Four days later, he was buried at this resting place near Augustus Devin, Benjamin’s 23-year-old nephew who had died about a week earlier. But during the burial, attendees noticed something a little off about Augustus’s grave. It had been robbed.
This sparked concern among Benjamin and his brothers, John and Carter. To ensure their father’s grave remained untouched, they reinforced the brick-vaulted grave by placing three large stone slabs over the casket, followed by the pouring of cement on top of that. The Harrison brothers hired a watchman to guard the grave for the first month after the burial.
Benjamin returned to Indianapolis late in the day after the funeral; he hoped to finish his address that was to be given at the Republican State Convention on June 5. The rest of the family departed as well, except for John and his cousin, George Eaton. The two acquired a search warrant and, with the assistance of local Cincinnati officers, went looking for Augustus’s body. First stop: the Medical College of Ohio.
Throughout the 1800s, it was common for medical schools to steal recently buried bodies and use them to practice surgical procedures.
The search party scoured the school, led by janitor A.Q. Marshall. Room after room, George and John came out with no new discoveries. Near the end of the search, the janitor led the party upstairs to a room with a windlass and rope that exited through a hole in the floor.
Upon further inspection, it seemed this device was used to lift cadavers to other floors of the building.
One of the men in the search party, Constable Lacey, noticed the rope to the device was pulled tight — as if there were something at the other end. He ordered a detective to haul the device to the service. Slowly and strenuously, he pulled the rope, eventually pulling a bare body to the surface. George and John initially rejected the finding, as the body was clearly that of a relatively old man, not one in his early 20s. The detective insisted, nonetheless, to lift the cloth from the face of the body.
It was not Augustus Devin, that was clear. But the look on John’s face told of another, more shocking discovery.
“My God, that’s my father.”
A windlass is a device used today to hoist ship anchors. In the past, it was used to lower and raise buckets from wells. This illustration from The Harrison Horror by Harry J. Sievers shows a diagram of the device John Scott Harrison was found hanging from.
Upon receiving a telegram of the finding less than 24 hours after arriving home, Benjamin Harrison acted immediately. He contacted the Pinkerton Detective Agency to conduct a private investigation. Benjamin boarded a train to Cincinnati and, once more news reached Indianapolis, Russell Harrison released them to the press. The Cincinnati Daily Star and a Plymouth, Indiana newspaper, the Marshall County Republican, reported on the incident. News even stretched to Wisconsin, where an article was published in the Janesville Daily Gazette.
From left to right: Clippings from the Cincinnati Daily Star, Marshall County Republican and Janesville Daily Gazette.
Benjamin reached Cincinnati and called for the arrest of A.Q. Marshall. The janitor was later taken in on charges of receiving and concealing the body of John Scott Harrison, but shortly after the arrest, the medical college posted the $5,000 bond. This angered Cincinnati citizens, who suggested mob-like action to take on the medical college. Benjamin vetoed this idea, and as a response to the release of A.Q. Marshall, issued a response on June 1. Part of the open letter reads:
“We have been offered through the press the sympathy of the distinguished men who constitute the faculty of the Ohio Medical College. I have no satisfactory evidence that any of them knew whose body they had, but I have the most convincing evidence that they are covering the guilty scoundrel… The bodies brought there are purchased and paid for by an office of the College. The body-snatcher stands before him and takes from his hand the fee for his hellish work. He is not an occasional visitant…”
An illustration, from Siever’s book, of Benjamin Harrison writing the open letter to the citizens of Cincinnati.
Benjamin Harrison made it clear he would exhaust any resources to find Augustus Devin’s body, which was uncovered at the University of Michigan. John Scott Harrison was was later re-interred in a family friend’s vault at Spring Grove Cemetery just outside of Cincinnati.
Information gathered from The Harrison Horror, a chapter in the second volume of the biography of Benjamin Harrison, by Harry J. Sievers. Information also gathered from The Library of Congress newspaper archives and “The Body-Snatching Horror of John Scott Harrison,” an article published by MentalFloss.
This season, the Presidential Site hosts spirits of six presidents grappling with the same curse, a ghost who conspired to assassinate the 16th president, and the apparition of a first lady with some questions about her husband’s death.
Think you can add these political ghost stories to your plate, too?
Among all of the White House haunts, Abraham Lincoln seems to be the most commonly seen apparition. He is said to appear in the Lincoln Bedroom and Yellow Oval Room. President Ronald Reagan said his dog would go into any room except the Lincoln Bedroom. Prominent figures from Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands claim to have seen Lincoln. Recordings tend to coincide with times of great upheaval, particularly during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. Like Lincoln, Roosevelt was a president who headed the country during a time of war.
Mary Surratt, portrayed in The (White) House of Horrors by Candlelight Theatre Creative Director Donna Wing, was convicted of playing a role in Lincoln’s assassination. She was later hanged inside Fort McNair on July 7, 1865. Residents and visitors of the White House have sworn to have heard the ghost of Annie Surratt, Mary’s daughter, banging on the front door, begging for the release of her mother.
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison, President Benjamin Harrison’s grandfather, was the first president to die in the White House. He developed pneumonia and passed away within a month. A few years after his death, White House residents began reporting noises in the third-floor attic and later claimed to have seen his ghost. Some attribute his death to Curse of Tippecanoe, placed on Harrison after the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Stories relay this curse has caused deaths of presidents elected in years divisible by 20, starting with Harrison and most recently “ending” with John F. Kennedy.
First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln claimed she would hear Andrew Jackson stomping and swearing in halls of the White House. Harry Truman also wrote of Jackson’s ghost in the presidential home. In June 1945, he recorded, “I sit here in this old house and work on foreign affairs, read reports, and work on speeches — all the while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway and even right in here in the study. The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth — I can just imagine old Andy [Jackson] and Teddy [Roosevelt] having an argument over Franklin [Roosevelt].” To this day, many believe the Rose Room, Jackson’s old bedroom, is one of the most haunted rooms in the White House.
For this last ghost tale, we’re going to take a few steps out of the White House. New York is home to the ghosts of several early politicians. Perhaps the most famous is Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson’s vice president and the man who killed Alexander Hamilton in 1804. People say Burr roams the streets of the West Village, his old neighborhood, and frequents One if By Land, Two if By Sea. The restaurant is located in a building that was once Burr’s carriage house.
Learn about other ghost stories — such as those of Mary Surratt, Judge Joseph Holt and Mary Todd Lincoln — by checking out The (White) House of Horrors from now until October 28. Visit our Eventbrite page for times and ticket info.
This is part of our (White) House of Horrors blog series. Check back in next week for our post.
Candlelight Theatre, formerly known at Victorian Theatre by Candlelight, produces four plays in partnership with the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site every year. This season begins on October 12, the opening night of The (White) House of Horrors.
The (White) House of Horrors, initially titled Ghost Tales of D.C., is the theatre’s original fall production. The company has since added different types of ghost story plays, like Hoosier Haunts and Spirits of Blue and Gray. Now, there are six total and each play is presented every six years.
The last time Candlelight Theatre performed a version of The (White) House of Horrors was in 2012.
Donna Wing, creative director of Candlelight Theatre, recalls one of her most memorable experiences of the show.
“A group of middle schoolers had attended the play to celebrate a birthday party,” she said. “They were quite engaged and tremendously haunted. At the end of the play one of the parents approached me and said, ‘Thank you for giving the children a delightful time while teaching them U.S. history without their knowing it!’ I have received this type of feedback many times.”
The autumn productions are works of resident playwright James Trofatter. He has directed, written and acted in the Ghost Tales series since 2006.
“Candlelight Theatre is unlike any other theatre in the country,” Wing said. “Guests are immersed in the theatre experience; they are in the action. [The (White) House of Horrors] is entertaining, creepy, engaging, and historical. And the venue is unlike any other.”
This year, The (White) House of Horrors will show weekends from October 12 – 28. Shows begin every half hour from 6 – 8:30 p.m. besides October 28. On that day, shows start at 2 p.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. For a full list of dates and times, visit our Eventbrite page.
This is the first installment in our (White) House of Horrors blog series. Check back in next week for our post highlighting YOUR scary stories. Send us your spooky tales by emailing email@example.com.
Our annual Croquet Roquet is a week away, but it’s not too late to register! Need a little more convincing? We have six reasons why you should check out Croquet Roquet on Oct. 4.
1. We have a two-round croquet tournament
As the name of the event implies, there will in fact be croquet. The tournament is for spectators and players alike. Don’t know how to play? Don’t sweat it. Partake in lessons at the beginning of the event, or stick close to our pros who can help you out during the tournament.
Do we really need to say any more?
3. It’s an excuse to dress up
So, there’s no rule that you have to dress up. But why not? Don your best white shoes and a Polo or dress, and you’ll have the chance to win a prize for best dressed!
4. It’s a different kind of date idea
Among all of the fall date ideas, this might be the most unique. Croquet stands out from the apple orchards and pumpkin carving rendezvous. Show off your compatibility by participating as a team in the two-round tournament. If leisure is more your speed, take your date on a stroll down the Presidential Site’s south lawn, beer in hand—errr, we mean, hand in hand.
5. It’s super affordable
It also might be one of the cheaper fall date ideas. For just $10, a team of two people can play two rounds of croquet and receive complimentary drinks and food. If you are more interested in watching, $5 will get one person in and includes food and drinks as well.
6. You can win prizes and snag some pretty great deals
The team with most points in the tournament will win registration to Wicket World of Croquet 2019. If you simply secure your team’s spot WWoC, we will apply your Croquet Roquet entrance fee to that ticket!
Get your tickets now, and don’t miss out on this year’s Croquet Roquet event. We hope to see you on Thursday, Oct.4!Get Tickets
From September 27 to 29, Indianapolis residents will have the opportunity to participate in the annual Indy Do Day.
This year, about 30,000 Indianapolis residents can get to know their neighbors and volunteer throughout the city — and it’s not too late to sign up for the fun.
Jenny Dexter, Indy Do Day co-chair and director of business development at Matchbook Creative, volunteered with the Presidential Site last year. She and her team will continue that tradition this year as we take on the Great Talbott Street Clean-Up.
We spoke with Jenny last week to ask about her experience with the project.
Q: What inspired you to take on the Indy Do Day co-chair position?
A: The opportunity to work closely with so many organizations, businesses and schools to call Indianapolis the most civically engaged community in the nation.
Q: Last year you volunteered with the Presidential Site. Can you describe what that experience was like?
A: I really appreciated that your team put together opportunities to work 1-2 hours and 3-4 hours depending upon each volunteer’s time constraints. That was helpful to me as I moved around to visit many of the Indy Do Day projects that day. The Presidential Site’s project was well organized and fun. It was set up so that my team and I could work well together. Your staff was welcoming and helpful. The post-event communication was great. My team had such a great experience that we’re back again this year.
Q: What do you hope to see this year?
A: The Presidential Site is surrounded by small businesses, apartments, single-family homes and non-profit organizations. I’d love to see representatives from each one of those segments participating in your project.
Q: How would you describe Indy Do Day in three words?
A: Macro civic engagement
Q: Why would you encourage people to participate in Indy Do Day?
A: There is a direct correlation between philanthropy and being happy. Giving back immediately positively affects our community, our relationships with others and ourselves. The impact of accomplishing these things with over 30,000 other volunteers during the course of Indy Do Day’s three days of service cannot be denied. I would encourage everyone to go out and be happy with 30,000 of your closest friends!
Register now to help with the Great Talbott Street Clean-Up. We hope to make the street a safe, and welcoming space for the neighbors and more than 19,000 kids who will visit the Presidential Site this year.
“Great lives do not go out. They go on.” Benjamin Harrison