13th President of the United States
Born: January 7, 1800, in Locke Township (now Summerhill), New York
Served: July 9, 1850 - March 3, 1853
Died: March 8, 1874 in Buffalo, New York
Buried: in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York
If you don't know the answer to a presidential trivia question, I have been told, say Millard Fillmore. While this is not true, very little is know of one of our more obscure presidents. Born into poverty in western New York, Fillmore was a self educated man. He was self driven and succeeded in whatever he did. He was elected to Congress in 1833 and was chosen by the Whig Party as it's vice president on the ticket with General Zachary Taylor in 1848. They wanted to balance out Taylor, a southern slaveowner, with a moderate northerner. After they won, Fillmore was forced to live in Washington D.C. alone. For whatever reason, his wife Abigail insisted on living in Buffalo. He also didn't agree with President Taylor on the issue of slavery. Taylor opposed any expansion of slavery into the territories and Fillmore wanted a more compromising position toward the South.
On July 8, 1850, while Fillmore was presiding over the Senate he received a message from the White House that President Taylor was dying. The following night, he received a message that said, "Zachary Taylor is no more." As president, unlike other Whig presidents Tyler and taylor, went along with his party. He supported the Compromise of 1850, which Taylor threatened to veto. The compromise brought some temporary peace, delaying the Civil War, and made Fillmore popular. Soon, both the North and the South came to hate the Compromise and they blamed Fillmore for it. He was accused of being pro-slavery and being an abolitionist. He felt he was neither. Southern Whigs still supported him for re-election but Northern Whigs, still fuming over the Fugitive Slave Act, refused to nominate him for the Presidential Election of 1852. The Whigs instead went with Mexican War hero, General Winfield Scott (The Whigs liked nominating generals). Sadly, at the inauguration of his successor, Franklin Pierce, his wife Abigail caught a cold and died several weeks later.
Fillmore returned to Buffalo, but still remained interested in politics. He was the American, or Know Nothings, Party's candidate for president in 1856. He lost his only presidential election, but he did get 21% of the popular vote and carried the state of Maryland. In 1858, he remarried to Caroline Carmichael McIntosh and enjoyed good health
On February 13, 1874, while Fillmore was shaving, he suffered his first stroke. He suffered another one later in the month. On March 8, Fillmore died. Placed in a rosewood coffin, a private service was held was in his home on Niagara Square in Buffalo (now the site of the Statler Hotel). Afterwards, he was taken to St. Paul's Cathedral where he laid in state. Following a brief service, he was escorted in a flag covered hearse to Forest Lawn Cemetery. Fillmore had chosen the site where he, along with both of his wives, are buried. Forest Lawn Cemetery gets thousands of visitors each year to Fillmore's grave. In the summer on Sundays, you can take guided tours through the cemetery in small buses. They have actors in costume playing the parts of a historic characters who are buried in the cemetery.
Debbie and I took a trip to Niagara Falls in July of 2001. We flew into Buffalo and rented a car to drive to Canada. We stopped at Forest Lawn on our way. Luckily it was a Sunday, and we were able to take the tour. Forest Lawn is very beautiful. Fillmore was easy to find, just follow the signs.
Here are some webpages of interest:
The Millard Fillmore House
White House Biography of Millard Fillmore
The Internet Public Library Biography
The American President Biography
Forest Lawn Cemetery