Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce was born in a log cabin in 1804, in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, at a site that is now under the waters of a reservoir called Franklin Pierce Lake.
His father was a prominent citizen, who served with George Washington during the Revolutionary War, and later became a government surveyor dispatched to the region. He ended up owning several hundred acres here (not all of which are under the lake).
When Franklin Pierce was born, the seventh of nine children, the cabin was just their temporary home, while they waited for their large house in town to be finished. He was a log cabin occupant for just a few weeks of his infancy.
The house they moved into was his home for the first 30 years of his life, though he spent several years away at college, studying law. Franklin Pierce’s father became governor of New Hampshire, and the house was busy with visitors, just a few miles away from the state capitol, Concord.
Pierce returned home after school, and set up a law office in a shed across the street, where a real estate office stands today. In 1834, he married Jane Means Appleton, and they moved into another house in Hillsborough, and eventually moved into Concord.
His father continued to live in the homestead in Hillsborough until he died in 1839. The house remained in the family until it was donated to the state of New Hampshire in 1925. It underwent a major restoration in the late 1940s, and is now open to the public, with a gift shop in the garage.
In 1838, Franklin Pierce and his wife moved from Hillsborough to Concord, 20 miles away, and bought a Greek Revival style house at 18 Montgomery Street, where they lived from 1842 to 1848. The house is no longer there.
The Housing Authority wanted the land as part of an aggressive urban renewal plan for downtown Concord in the late 1960s, and the house was initially considered to not have enough historical value to be saved. The Housing Authority eventually built a street where the house was, in front of a new apartment building.
A nearly identical house that used to be next door to the Pierce home remained where it was, and is now a law office, on the newly created street corner.
The Pierce house itself, however, was saved and moved to a new location, in a designated historic area, in 1971.
The historical organization, known as the Pierce Brigade, continued to raise money to restore the house at its new location, and turn it into a museum celebrating Franklin Pierce, the only president from New Hampshire.
The house is open to the public seasonally, and has displays about Pierce, as well as restored period rooms, and a gift shop.
Though Pierce Manse was the only house he ever owned in town, the principal events in his life occurred elsewhere, particularly at a house he lived in at 52 South Main Street, which is no longer there.
He was living here when he heard about his election to the presidency, in 1852, and it is where he returned to live after his presidency. These were not happy times, though.
Shortly after his election to the presidency, his family was in a train accident in Amherst, New Hampshire, and their 11 year old son was killed in a gruesome way, witnessed by both parents. This was even more tragic, as he was their last surviving child; their other two boys had died a few years earlier. Jane never recovered, and didn’t join her husband on his inaugural trip to Washington.
He returned to this house in Concord after a controversial presidency, that linked him with the pro-slavery south. Though they traveled to Europe for a while, Jane died in 1863, and he sank further into alcoholism. He died in the house in 1869, at the age of 64, of cirrhosis of the liver.
In 1981, the house, recently recognized officially as a historic site, mysteriously caught fire and burned to the ground.
The house next door, of similar vintage and style, is a funeral home.
Franklin Pierce is buried in the Old North Cemetery in Concord.
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