Monday, August 4, 2014

The Pierce Brigade ~ Fans of one of our least popular US Presidents

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 classesThis 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.   

Photographs were not allowed inside the Manse
but I was allowed to take a picture of these dolls
According to the label:
"In 1970 the Pierce Brigade commissioned Mrs. Ruth M. Barlome
of Sheffield Lake, Ohio to create molds for china doll heads
resembling Franklin and Jane Pierce.  Using photographs,
Mrs. Bartlome did create the molds and produced over 200 dolls
for the Brigade.  These dolls were sold for $25 each to raise funds
for the restoration of the 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
                                                                                                 (my grandparents)


                                                     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
Phone: 603-225-4555

What is the Pierce Brigade?

The Pierce Manse

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

The URL for this post is

Copyright © 2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Back when ancestry used to have that "possible famous relatives" function it told me I was related to Franklin Pierce but I never pursued it.Now I know. It's through 9x great grandparents Thomas Pierce & Elizabeth Cole.

    1. And another cousin connection for us, too, Bill!