Christopher Harrison the first Lieutenant Governor of Indiana, was one of Salem’s earliest citizens. His story is a sad one.
Early in the nineteenth century he became engaged to Miss Elizabeth Patterson, of Baltimore (Pictured).
In 1803, while Christopher was in England on business for his prospective father-in-law, Jerome Bonaparte entered the New York harbor in command of a French frigate. Jerome Bonaparte was Napoleon's younger brother.
Later at the home of Samuel Close of Baltimore, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Jerome Bonaparte was introduced to Miss Patterson. Though not yet eighteen she was a reigning belle, beautiful, witty, and accomplished. An immediate and ardent attachment sprang up between them.
In spite of the warnings of her friends remonstrances of her father, she married Jerome Bonaparte on Christmas Eve, 1803, declaring that she would rather be the wife of Jerome Bonaparte for one hour than the wife of any other man for life. With sorrow in his heart Christopher Harrison came to the Territory of Indiana, locating at Salem.
Christopher built the first brick house ever erected in Salem, on a lot now known as Sinclair’s comer (Southwest Corner of the Salem Square) . Here he spent several years of his lonely life. Aunt Becky, a black woman, went in occasionally and tidied up his house, and she took his meals out.
He was described as a man of much polish of manner, a brilliant talker and of warm friendships—though he was subject to moods and fits of depression when for days at a time he would refuse to talk to his best friends.
Today a great commercial enterprise (When the Sinclair Building was a department store) marks the site, and thousands of hurrying feet tread the sacred spot, where Christopher Harrison sat silent and alone, living the life almost of a recluse, because of the great sorrow which had come into his heart.
For it may be a pardonable digression to state that the great Napoleon refused to recognize the marriage. He immediately directed that Jerome should return to France by the first frigate, or he would be regarded as a deserter, neither should he bring his wife with him. Jerome was frightened.
He delayed his departure until March 11, 1805. He and his wife arrived at Lisbon. April 2, but she was not permitted to land. Jerome hastened to Paris, hoping by a personal interview to soften his brother, but Napoleon was obdurate and Jerome never returned. After trying in vain to land at other ports, Mme. Bonaparte sailed for England. A son was born July 7, 1805, and two months later she returned to Baltimore.
In 1861, she filed an inheritance claim in the Tribunal of First Instance at Paris after her former husband, Prince Jérôme, died on June 24, 1860. On February 15, 1861, the Tribunal of the Seine ruled that "demands of Madame Elizabeth Patterson and her son, Jerome Bonaparte, are not admissible, and must be rejected.
Her last years were spent in Baltimore in the management of her estate, the value of which she increased to $1.5 million. She lived her last years in a Baltimore boarding house despite having enough money to have purchased a fine home. At the end of her life, she commented “Once I had everything but money; now I have nothing but money.”