Historical marker to honor Oxford-born first lady


Photo provided by Dana Miller

Photo of the Scott/Harrison house taken in 1931.

By Taj Simmons

A new historical marker near the corner of High Street and College Avenue will commemorate former first lady Caroline Harrison. Created by Oxford’s Historic and Architectural Preservation Commission, leaders say the marker helps connect the city’s past to its present.

Harrison was born as Caroline Scott in Oxford in 1832 and lived in a house that stood at 131 W. High St. from 1827 until 1940. She went to school at the nearby Oxford Female Institute, which is now the Oxford Community Arts Center, and also attended Miami University, where she majored in music.

Caroline married Benjamin Harrison, also a Miami University alum, in 1853 in the living room of her home. Benjamin went on to serve as the 23rd president of the United States from 1889 to 1893.

She supported the Union cause in the Civil War, caring for wounded soldiers and helping to raise money for supplies. She was also a music teacher. 

The information will be displayed on a historical marker at the Caroline Harrison Building, a three-story apartment/retail complex named for her.

“Having that information available to the public helps to tell the larger story about Oxford’s part in our nation’s history,” Community Development Director Sam Perry said.

After moving into the White House in 1889, Caroline oversaw the renovation and addition of electricity to the building. She died of tuberculosis in the White House at the age of 60 in 1892.

Dana Miller, the vice-chair of the Historic and Architectural Preservation Commission of Oxford, said the purpose of the marker was to inform citizens about the house where Caroline grew up. Caroline’s father, John Witherspoon Scott, who became the first president of the Oxford Female Institute, is also mentioned.

“As a commission, we came together with the text on that building,” Miller said. “Caroline’s father had a house on that property for a long time, and he has a long history with Miami University and Oxford.”

The historical marker will show a picture of Harrison’s former residence, which Miller said will help onlookers connect the land’s past to its present.

Oxford City Councilor Alex French, who is a member of the commission, said that she hopes the marker will help Oxford citizens understand their stories.

“I just can’t say enough about how important it is for us to really truly understand Oxford’s history,” French said. “And you know, to talk about the First Lady, all the way to our everyday citizens who lived in the town the same way that we live in our town.”