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Road Trip: Ulysses S. Grant’s Birthplace
Listen to the Story
Thereâ€™s a quiet but distinct charm about Pt. Pleasant.
Maybe itâ€™s the name.
Or itâ€™s location at the mouth of Big Indian Creek. Itâ€™s small enough that it might have disappeared from the map by now, except for its claim to a bit of very important history: it’s the birthplace of Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S.Grant.
Grantâ€™s Birthplace, an Ohio State Memorial, is a small white cabin that sits in the middle of a handful of other houses.
“We have three rooms, the big room in the front measures 16-and-a-half by 19 feet, and that was the entire home when the Grant family lived here,” says Lorette Furhan, the home’s caretaker since 1966.
“The two back rooms now were added after the Grants moved to Georgetown when Grant was 11 months old.”
Ulyssesâ€™ father, Jesse Grant, was a tanner.
“And, in the front room we have the boot that his father made in his tannery,” Furman says. “Itâ€™s almost 200 years old. And, the chest at the bottom of the bed with the initials on it, JRG was also made by Jessie Root Grant, Grantâ€™s father, and General Grant took it to West Point and kept papers and documents in it.”
Grant lived in Georgetown in Brown County until the age of 17, when he left to attend West Point Academy.
“His father asked him one day what he would like to do when he got older, and Grant really had his heart set on working on a riverboat going up and down the waterways of the Ohio River, but his father didnâ€™t see that for his son.”
The picnic area across the road from Grantâ€™s Birthplace is a good place to get a glimpse of the river that called to Grant. .
Furman says it was a lot busier in his day.
“There was a wharf here, where people would bring their hogs head of tobacco down and ship it down the river to Mississippi, New Orleans and all down through the south,” Furman says.
The river was remarkably shallower then, too. Dams built in the 20th century have made the river deeper and wider.
“I can remember my grandmother telling me when I was growing up,” Furman says, “that in the summertime the river would be so low that the people would take baskets and go pick up coal that had fallen off of the barges and use it to burn in the winter time.”
Grant Memorial Bridge, that takes travelers on US 52 across Big Indian Creek, is also worth appreciating.
It retains artifacts from an earlier bridge built and includes canons that were reportedly some of the first shot in the Civil War.
“It was a big iron bridge,” Furman says. “And, it was a beautiful bridge and my boys when they were growing up used to jump off of it into the creek. But, then in 1983 they imploded the bridge.”
Many things, like the bridge, have changed in Pt. Pleasant over the years. But itâ€™s still the little town on the Ohio where Ulysses S. Grant was born.
There were only three houses in the community when the Grants lived here. Itâ€™s just still a very small town. We have like 76 people living here and we kind of like it that way.
You can download an audio tour of Rt. 52 and explore it on your own. Just visit seeohiofirst.org and click on The New Ohio Guide.
The New Ohio Guide is produced by the Ohio Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.