Franklin PierceHistory

Family of Franklin Pierce

Portrait of Jane Pierce and Bennie

Franklin Pierce was the sixth generation of descendants of Thomas Pierce, an immigrant from Norfolk, England, to Massachusetts Bay Colony. Born on November 23, 1804, find out how his family influenced him to become the man and leader he was.

Benjamin Pierce

Portrait of Benjamin Pierce

Born on December 25, 1757, Benjamin Pierce was born in the province of Massachusetts Bay. He was taken to Benjamin and Elizabeth. At the age of six, his father died and left him no choice but to work on his uncle’s farm until he enlisted for the Massachusetts regiment in 1775. He served as a colonial soldier during the American Revolution. On February 1, 1790, he married Anna Kendrick and had eight children. Benjamin Pierce became involved in politics and served as a governor in New Hampshire. He died on December 7, 1838.

Anna Kendrick

Portrait of Anna Kendrick

On October 30, 1768, Anna Kendrick was born to Benjamin and Sarah Kendrick in Amherst, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire. She married Benjamin Pierce on February 1, 1790. She prioritized the education of her eight children.

Benjamin Kendrick Pierce

Portrait of Benjamine Kendrick Pierce

Born on August 29, 1790, Benjamin was the eldest son of Benjamin and Anna Pierce. Benjamin Pierce began his military career when he was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in 1812 before the War of 1812 broke. He became part of significant battles such as the Second Seminole War and the Mexican-American War.

His health was greatly affected by the severe conditions of his long military service. After 38 years of service, he died on April 1, 1850, in New York.

Nancy Pierce McNeil

Nancy was born on November 2, 1792. She married Solomon McNeil and passed away in 1837 at the age of 45.

John Sullivan Pierce

John was born on November 5, 1796, in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. At the age of 28, he died on September 28, 1824

Harriet Pierce 

She was born on May 23, 1800, in New Hampshire and married Hugh Jameson in 1822. Harriet died at the age of 37 in 1837.

Charles Grandison Pierce

Charles was born in 1803 and died in 1828 when he was only 25 years old.

Henry Dearborn Pierce

Henry was born on September 19, 1812, in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. He died when he was 69 years old on April 9, 1882.

Jane Appleton Pierce

Portrait of Jane Pierce

Jane Means Appleton was born on March 12, 1806, in Hampton, New Hampshire. She was the third of the six children of Reverend Jesse Appleton and Elizabeth Means-Appleton. Described as frail, petite and shy, Jane stood five feet and four inches. Her father was a former president of Bowdoin College before Franklin Pierce enrolled there. After her father’s death, she moved to her maternal grandparents’ mansion. She discovered her significant interest in literature during her time in Keene, New Hampshire.

Her courtship with Franklin Pierce was unknown; however, many believed that it was through the Bowdoin association. They were married on November 19, 1834. Franklin was 30, while Jane was 28 years old at the time of their marriage. Her family much opposed their union because of Franklin Pierce’s political ambition. They spent their six days honeymoon in a boarding house near Washington D.C.

They had their first son, Franklin Jr., in 1836; however, he died three days after his birth. Jane Pierce was forced to become a political wife she never wanted because her husband became part of the U.S. House of Representatives and later, a U.S. Senator. In 1842, she persuaded Franklin to resign, and he listened to her. She blamed the politics for causing all the problems in her life, including her husband’s alcoholism and even their child’s death.

After the Mexican-American War, Franklin Pierce lived quietly at New Hampshire, but another tragedy struck the family. Their second son, Frank, died due to typhus. It caused Jane’s health to deteriorate due to stress and depression. In 1848, Jane objected to James K. Polk’s offer to Franklin Pierce to serve as United States Attorney General.

Politics has always been a shadow of Franklin Pierce. In 1852, the Democratic Party nominated her husband for president. Before the inauguration, on January 6, 1853, Franklin Pierce, Jane Pierce, and their only surviving 11-year-old son, Bennie, traveled by train from Andover back to New Hampshire. The train’s axel suddenly broke, and the family’s train car tumbled off. The train accident resulted in injuries and instantly killed Bennie, who was nearly decapitated. Jane took the tragedy as God’s dissatisfaction with her husband’s political ambition. She was inconsolable and was not present during the presidential inauguration of her husband.

For almost two years, she locked herself up in the living quarters of the White House. She kept herself busy by writing letters to their dead son. She left the mundane chores to Abby Kent-Means and Varina Davis. Jane made her first First Lady appearance at New Year’s Day reception in 1855. From then on, she served as White House hostess for the remainder of her husband’s term.

On December 2, 1863, she died due to tuberculosis in Massachusetts and was buried at Old Cemetery, Concord, New Hampshire.

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