Franklin County Visitors Bureau is showcasing the accomplishments of Harriet Lane to commemorate Women’s History Month during March 2017. Born in 1830 in Mercersburg PA, the first nine years of Harriet life was secure and stable. At age nine, her mother died and at ten, her father. When orphaned, Harriet asked to live with her mother’s brother, James Buchanan.

James Buchanan became Harriet’s legal guardian and in doing so, exposed her to a world few mid-19th century women experienced. Her life co-mingled with James Buchanan, Harriet Lane experienced the male world of politics and power. Touched by the death of siblings and parents, she understood life on a different level at an early age and though a fun-loving young lady, she possessed an early mental maturity and excelled in studies. She was well-prepared for the tasks she would assume throughout her uncle’s political career.

When she became James Buchanan’s ward, he was a U.S. Senator. Later, he would be the Secretary of State and the Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and finally the fifteenth U.S. President. Throughout all Buchanan’s political service, Harriet Lane served as hostess for her uncle. She was his confidante and advisor.

Two years before James Buchanan’s death, Harriet Lane married Henry Elliott Johnston; they had two sons. Both boys died, one year apart, of rheumatic fever. The loss of her sons steeled her focus on providing for the healthcare and well-being of children.

Harriet Lane lived a dynamic seventy-three years. Her dedication and generosity continues in the present. In her will, she provided for what is now the John Hopkins Children’s Center, gave funds to begin the St. Albans Boys School, and bequeathed her lifelong art collection to a national art gallery. Today, the art is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. As well, her will provided for two memorials to honor her uncle. Read more about Harriet Lane’s life and contributions. Download “Harriet Lane Johnston” by Joan C. McCulloh, or contact the Franklin County Visitors Bureau at 866.646.8060 for a complimentary copy.

Experience the life of Harriet Lane and James Buchanan with a trip to Mercersburg PA. See the Lane Family Home, a 2.5 story brick home in the Federal style, located at 14 North Main Street and the boyhood home of James Buchanan, 15 North Main Street. Four miles north of Mercersburg is Cove Gap, where James Buchanan was born. Today, it is a Pennsylvania State Park and houses the 600 ton, stone-pyramid, an impressive tribute from Harriet Lane to her uncle James Buchanan.