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Much has been written about the cottage in which General Grant was born. Accounts of the building of the Grant cottage vary somewhat in detail. The "History of Clermont and Brown Counties, 1913" states that on June 24, 1821, Jesse Grant…had married Hannah Simpson…soon afterward they took up their residence in "a strong frame house, covered with good full inch Allegheny pine, and containing two nice rooms with a cellar…". Jesse had come to work at a tannery owned by Thomas Page.

The Birthplace apparently remained intact from 1823 to 1885.

Inquiries into the purchase and preservation of Grant's Birthplace began almost immediately after his death. Other movements were underway throughout the country to preserve historical sites relating to American history in general, and presidential dwellings in particular. In 1885 the owner, Michael Hirsch, considered an offer to purchase the cottage from someone in New York, but apparently declined. Later that year, the cottage was moved by barge to Cincinnati and displayed at the one hundred day Ohio Valley Centennial Exposition, on the banks of the canal outside the grounds. It was here that Henry T. Chittenden, of Columbus, saw the cottage. He had been well acquainted with General Grant. After he left Cincinnati, he determined to make an effort to rescue the cottage and place it where it would be carefully preserved for future generation, Ohioans especially, to whom it was sure to be and object of increasing interest through coming years.

To effect a purchase of the building, he took with him to Cincinnati William F. Burdell, then a young banker of Columbus. Mr. Burdell finally negotiated the purchase for Mr. Chittenden at a price of $3,000. The cabin was brought from Cincinnati and first erected in Goodale Park in Columbus as part of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) encampment. This "Great Reunion" had seventy thousand comrades march in front of an estimated one hundred thousand spectators.

Subsequently, the birthplace went on a tour of the nation before being moved to the State Fair Grounds at Columbus, where it was an object of great interest during the Ohio Centennial of 1888.

Grant Photo

Exposed to the elements and throngs of visitors for nearly a decade, the birthplace's condition became a source of concern. In September 1896, a glass and limestone pavilion was erected on the fairgrounds to enclose and protect the cottage. The memorial building was dedicated on September 3. The program included addresses by Governor Bushnell and Henry Chittenden, and others. Chittenden, vice president of the Centennial Board, proclaimed, "we have gathered about this now consecrated spot to complete an affair that had its beginning some eight, or perhaps better, eighty years ago when this little cottage which we see here was reared upon the banks of the Ohio River to be the home of a simple pioneer of our great state. The son of that pioneer was the great soldier…"

The patriotism that had always motivated America's preservation movement sustained itself into the early twentieth century. In fact, it was the public's continuing patriotic fervor that contributed to the growing shrine-like stature of Grant's birthplace and the homes of other political and military figures. Despite its isolation and the lack of good roads, aging Civil War veterans and others continued to make pilgrimages to Point Pleasant. Though another house had by now been built on the site, a Civil War cannon and plaque dedicated to the memory of Grant were installed in 1907.

The people of Point Pleasant had long advocated the return of the birthplace and the centennial of Grant's birth in 1922 accelerated their efforts. A U. S. Grant State Memorial Association was created and a Grant Centenary Commission was appointed by the Governor. Clermont County native, Hugh Nichols, former Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court and Chairman of the Grant Centenary Celebration Committee, is credited with spearheading the effort to bring the birthplace home.

The nearly impassable road leading to Point Pleasant had long been used as an argument against returning the birthplace to its original site. In February 1922, Congress finally responded to the problem, approving the creation and sale of Grant memorial gold dollar sand silver half-dollars, with part of the proceeds to be used to improve the five mile stretch of road from New Richmond to Moscow. The link between the road and the birthplace were further strengthened in 1927 with construction of the Grant Memorial Bridge over Indian Creek. The road gained further attention in 1928, when a congressional committee on post roads and post offices designated it as part of a proposed Atlantic to Pacific Highway. A Grant Memorial Highway Association was established. For a one dollar donation, Association members received a certificate. Proceeds, along with state and local funds and labor, helped finance the reconstruction of the highway.

Moving Grant's Birthplace Photo

In March, 1936, the birthplace was dismantled in sections and shipped in six trucks to Point Pleasant, where it was stored in a barn. A two-story frame house which had occupied the site since the 1880's was moved to a nearby lot on Locust Street, and the birthplace was reconstructed on the original stone foundation. However, the evidence suggests that much of the original fabric of the birthplace was replaced during the reconstruction.

In a fitting conclusion to the convoluted history of the birthplace, a dedication ceremony marking its return and "restoration" was held October 4, 1936. During the year, one hundred thousand people visited the cottage.

However, assaults on Grant's birthplace did not end, the great Ohio River flood of 1937 was particularly devastating, with water reaching the eaves of the house. Federal flood relief made repairs. A year later, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) made significant improvements to the park, including stone retaining walls, sidewalks, and street gutters.

The history of efforts to commemorate the life of U. S. Grant now transcends his birthplace. Whatever its value as a historic structure, the Grant birthplace has become a significant commemorative monument, a major element of Grant iconography and perhaps most important, an excellent example of the nation's slow, sometimes curious, but steady endeavor to recognize and preserve its heritage.

Have Shrine Will Travel: The Long and Wandering Road of the Ulysses S. Grant Birthplace. Glenn A. Harper with Steve Gordon.
Centennial Anniversary of the Birth of Ulysses S. Grant. Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications
National Register of Historic Places Continuation Sheet. U.S. Grant Birthplace & Grant Commemorative Sites Historic District. Clermont County, Ohio