The National Park Service manages more than 400 historic sites. One of them is White Haven. When we lived in St. Louis, Ruth and I often visited Grant’s Farm, which is across the road from White Haven. On our last visit to St. Louis, we decided to see White Haven for the first time. I had just read Ron White’s excellent biography of Grant and was now interested. Grant sure did get around.
U.S. Grant grew up in Ohio. He went to West Point in New York State and married in Missouri. He served in the military in both Texas and Washington States. That’s Grant House, now a restaurant on Officer’s Row in Vancouver, WA, above. Grant won several Civil War battles, notably bloody Shiloh in Tennessee. He served 2 terms as the youngest President ever elected at the time. He was 46. After living in Washington, DC, he and his wife Julia took a 2½ year around-the-world tour. Off and on they lived in Galena, Illinois. He is buried in New York City.
Grant was a complex man. Even though he opposed slavery, he owned a slave named William Jones. Grant spent a lot of time arguing with his father-in-law, Colonel Frederick Dent, who owned 30 slaves, about this issue before he married Dent’s daughter in St. Louis in 1848. Grant promoted the 15th Amendment that gave the vote to African-American men, and it was enacted during his presidency. He wrote the terms of surrender after the Civil War and made sure that The South received compassionate treatment.
For a period of time, U.S. Grant considered White Haven his home. He was still in the military when he and Julia lived in her father’s house for 5 years. They started their family there, eventually having 4 children. After he left military life temporarily in 1854, he and Julia and their children lived at Hardscrabble.
Ulysses had decided to become a farmer. He and Julia received 80 acres from Colonel Dent as a wedding present, so Grant selected a site near White Haven and built a residence on the 80 acres. He shingled. He laid floors. It was appropriately called Hardscrabble, and Julia never really liked its 4 rooms. They moved in and lived there for only 3 months in 1856. Grant said to a friend, “Whoever hears of me in ten years will hear of a well-to-do old Missouri farmer.” This was not to be. In 1866 he was named the 1st four star general in U.S. history.
The National Park Service has done a good job of turning White Haven into a viable tourist attraction. A visit to the main house, outbuildings, museum and more is a 5 Compass experience.
Across the road, Grant’s Farm is still opened seasonally, but that is likely to change. The Busch family of Budweiser fame has run it since 1954 as a popular summer treat with Clydesdale horses, free beer, a glimpse of Hardscrabble from a tram, etc. But the family no longer owns the brewery. A Belgian-Brazilian company called InBev, which also makes Corona and Stella Artois, now controls it. Grant’s Farm’s future is somewhat uncertain.