|The Pierce Manse, Concord, New Hampshire|
As a New Hampshire resident I am well aware that our state has produced only one US president, and that he usually rates a spot somewhere at the bottom of any given ranked list of the presidents. Franklin Pierce (1804 – 1869) was the 14th president (1853 – 1857) during those contentious years leading up to the Civil War. I’ve heard that he was a Copperhead, and he supported the violence in Kansas, and that he died of alcoholism. It turns out that much of this was myth!
The Pierce Brigade is a group of volunteers who turned out to rescue Franklin Pierce’s home from destruction during the 1970s when a section of Concord was undergoing urban renewal. This organization not only preserved the home of our 14th president, they also preserve his legacy and try to dispel the misconceptions about his administration that made him so unpopular.
During his presidency Franklin Pierce supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which led to extreme violence, and he was not re-nominated by his party for the 1856 election. He was also a critic of Abraham Lincoln during his administration. Why? Well, according to the volunteers at the Pierce Manse in Concord, and according to Peter Wallner, the author of a recent two volume biography of Pierce, he was an ardent supporter of the Constitution. Since the Constitution supported slavery, he thought it was up to him to uphold the right of the Southern states to own slaves. He was not a fan of Lincoln suspending several constitutional rights, such as habeas corpus, during the Civil War.
The Pierce Brigade, being such loyal fans of Franklin Pierce, has produced a brochure titled Myths and Truths of the Pierce Administration. It is based on “notes from a lecture at the Pierce Manse by Peter Wallner”. I have heard Wallner speak twice about Pierce, once at a Mayflower Society luncheon and also at a library lecture. He is a real Pierce fan, and his extensive research gives details of his life and administration that is usually just a brief note given in history classes. This little brochure dispels many of the stories I had heard from my own teachers and history professors. According to Wallner “Pierce was a Jeffersonian/Jacksonian Democrat who supported limited power to the federal government, strict interpretation of the Constitution, and states’ rights. He never wavered on these principles, which he applied to every political and social issue he faced during his political career.”
You can now see why Pierce was so unpopular in his own hometown, home state and in the Northern states before, during and after the Civil War. And yes, drinking took a toll on his health and he died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1869. He is buried in the Old North Cemetery in Concord, not far from the Pierce Manse.
This Myths and Truths brochure is passed out to anyone who would like to learn more about Pierce. It is available at the front desk of the Pierce Manse in Concord, New Hampshire, which is staffed and operated by the Pierce Brigade. I was there last week with my “Ladies Lunch Bunch” from my new condo association, and we all enjoyed our tour very much, and appreciated the efforts of these enthusiastic volunteers. I cannot believe that after living in New Hampshire 30 years, it was my first visit to the Pierce Manse.
This bit of local history is interesting to me because President Pierce and I share a common ancestor- Thomas Pierce (1620 – 1683) of Woburn, Massachusetts. I also share a common ancestor with Pierce’s wife, Jane Means Appleton (1806 – 1863). I’ll post these charts below.
Thomas Pierce & Elizabeth Carew
Thomas Pierce & Elizabeth Cole
Stephen Pierce & Tabitha Parker John Pierce & Deborah Convers
Stephen Pierce & Esther Fletcher Ebenezer Pierce & Mary Wilson
Benjamin Pierce & Elizabeth Merrill Deborah Pierce & Increase Wyman
Benjamin Pierce & Anna Kendrick Increase Wyman & Catherine Unknown
Franklin Pierce & Jane Means Appleton Jemima Wyman & Joshua Burnham
(F.P. is my 4th cousin 7 generations removed) |
Jemima Burnham & Romanus Emerson
George Emerson & Mary Esther Younger
Mary Katharine Emerson & George E. Batchelder
Carrie M. Batchelder & Joseph Elmer Allen
Stanley Elmer Allen & Gertrude M. Hitchings
John Baker & Elizabeth Unknown
Thomas Baker & Priscilla Symonds Martha Baker & Thomas Andrews
Priscilla Baker & Isaac Appleton Sarah Andrews & Joseph Swett
Isaac Appleton & Elizabeth Sawyer Benjamin Swett & Elizabeth Norton
Francis Appleton & Elizabeth Hubbard Elizabeth Swett & David Batchelder
Jesse Appleton & Elizabeth Means Elisha Batchelder & Sarah Lane
Jane Means Appleton & Franklin Pierce Jonathan Batchelder & Nancy Thompson
(J.MA. is my 5th cousin, 6 generations removed) |
George E. Batchelder & Abigail M. Locke
George E. Batchelder & Mary Katharine Emerson
(my 2nd great grandparents – see above)
Jane Means Appleton’s maternal grandmother was Mary McGregor, wife of Robert Means. Mary’s parents were David McGregor and Mary Boyd of Londonderry, New Hampshire. Mary’s grandfather was Rev. James McGregor (1677 – 1729), the minister who brought his flock from Aghadowey, Northern Ireland to Nutfield (Londonderry, Derry and Windham, New Hampshire).
For more information on President Franklin Pierce:
The Pierce Manse
14 Horseshoe Pond Lane
Concord, New Hampshire
What is the Pierce Brigade? http://www.piercemanse.org/Support.html
The Pierce Manse http://www.piercemanse.org/
Peter Wallner’s two volume biography of Franklin Pierce is (Volume 1) Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire’s Favorite Son, 2004 and (Volume 2) Franklin Pierce: Martyr for the Union, 2007
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Copyright © 2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo