Mysteries Across the States: Possible Recovery  of the Harrison-Symmes Sword


By Carla Charter

CLEVES, OH .-  A missing sword once worn by William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison may have been recovered.  The sword has been missing since 1980.

The story of the sword begins in the 1700’s with John Cleves Symmes, for whom the village of Cleves Ohio is named.  Symmes served in the Revolutionary War, where he carried the sword with him and he was a member of the Continental Congress. He was a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Symmes daughter, Anna Tuthill Symmes, married William Henry Harrison who wore the sword during the War of 1812 and at his inauguration.  The sword since then, had been passed down to the oldest son in the family, according to Beverly Meyers, Board President of the Symmes-Harrison Foundation.

In 1922 a collection of Symmes- Harrison memorabilia, including the sword, were turned over to the Hamilton County Probate Court for safekeeping.   The collection was placed in the courthouse in a boxed display where it could be viewed.   In 1974, the courthouse hired a new judge who had concerns that the items could be stolen so the collection was given to the County Commissioner of Hamilton County.

In 1976 the Cincinnati Historical Society borrowed the collection, including the restored sword, which was used as part of a mannequin display for the Bicentennial.   The sword was then packed away and stored for safekeeping at the Cincinnati Art Museum.  That was the last time the sword was seen. In 1980, Hamilton relatives came in to view the sword and were told it was missing.

In 1993, the Village of Cleves wrote a letter to Cincinnati Historical Society, to see if they could borrow the sword to display as part of the Village’s 175th anniversary celebration.  They then learned that the sword was missing and they filed a police report.  “We continued to look for the sword.  A reward was offered, yet we did not find the sword.  We continued to search for it periodically, we thought maybe it was gone at that point,” Meyers said. The rest of the collection was donated to the Harrison Symmes Memorial Foundation.

Recently a woman from Colorado gave the foundation a soup tureen belonging to Harrison and the organization began thinking about the missing sword again. Father David Sunberg, a board member, who while searching the internet looking for Symmes-Hamilton items to add to the foundation’s collection, discovered a Harrison Sword at an upcoming auction in Windsor Connecticut.  “At this point the sword had been missing for 40 years,” Meyers said. The auctioneer and police departments in both Ohio and Connecticut were notified that the sword could potentially be stolen property.

“I know it’s the sword.  A descendent of the Harrison Symmes family has said there was only one sword. All the signatures of everyone who carried it were engraved on the hilt of the sword,” Meyers said.  The sword is currently in the custody of the Cleves, Ohio police department until ownership of the sword is decided.

More information on the Harrison-Symmes Memorial Foundation Museum can be found at

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