Millard Fillmore 13th President, 1850-1853

Birthplace, Moravia, New York
Millard Fillmore, the second of eight children, was born into an impoverished family on January 7, 1800. The log cabin where Fillmore was born no longer stands. His family’s small farm in upstate Cayuga County, New York, could not support them, and Fillmore’s father apprenticed his son to a clothmaker, a brutal apprenticeship that stopped just short of slavery. Fillmore taught himself to read, stealing books on occasion, and finally managed to borrow thirty dollars and pay his obligation to the clothmaker. Free, he walked one hundred miles to get back home to his family.

He was obsessed with educating himself. He pored over every book he could get his hands on and attended school in a nearby town for six months. His teacher, Abigail Powers, encouraged and helped him. She would prove to be the most influential person in his life. She was only nineteen-not even two years older than her pupil. After Fillmore received a clerkship with a local judge, he began to court Abigail Powers. The couple married in 1826.

Moravia was the site of an Indian Village. The land was used by neighboring settlers who came to harvest hay during the period from 1783-1790. It was originally called Owasco Flats. On March 8, 1799 Cayuga County was formed from Onondaga County. On March 9th the Town of Sempronius was formed which included Moravia. Moravia lies at the southern tip of Owasco Lake. On March 30, 1833 the Town of Moravia was formed from the Town of Sempronius. It was incorporated in 1837 and reincorporated in 1859 when its boundaries were expanded.

Birthplace Log Cabin, Fillmore Glen State Park, Moravia, New York
Millard Fillmore described his wilderness birthplace, a cabin like this one five miles from here, with the words “completely shut out from the enterprises of civilization and advancement.” Millard Fillmore was born on January 7, 1800. He was the first president to be born in the nineteenth century and the only president born in central New York.

He rose from humble beginnings to become a clothmaker’s apprentice, a school teacher, a lawyer, a New York State Assemblyman, and a U.S. Congressman. He was elected Vice President of the United States in 1848. When Zachary Taylor died in 1850, Millard Fillmore became the nation’s 13th President.

President Fillmore is most remembered for signing the Compromise of 1850, which included a stricter fugitive slave law. Because of this controversial legislation, he was not re-elected. Millard Fillmore died on March 8, 1874, and was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.

The cabin Fillmore was born in was torn down in 1852. In 1965, the Millard Fillmore Memorial Association used materials from a similar cabin to construct this one commemorating their native President. The replica of his log cabin birthplace is in Fillmore Glen State Park. The 938-acre park has a deep limestone and shale glen with five waterfalls, a stone walled swimming pool, campground, pavilion, and picnic areas.

Home, East Aurora, New York
Millard Fillmore, 13th president of the United States, built this home in 1825 for his new bride, Abigail, shortly after he began his law career in East Aurora. The tour begins in the stenciled living room and moves back to the kitchen which includes antique kitchen utensils. Upstairs, in the children’s bedroom, there is a collection of toys and dolls from the 1800s. Some of the furnishings in the home were owned by the Fillmore family, and a portrait of Fillmore, done in his later years, is on display. Outside there are several gardens and a carriage barn, which contains a sleigh that was used by the Fillmore Family.

Today, the house is maintained by the Aurora Historical Society, which purchased the home in 1975 with the intent of restoring it to its 1826 style. Extensive research uncovered the original floor plans, paint colors, and interior details. The society added period furniture and other nineteenth century artifacts to recreate the sense of a typical small dwelling of the Federal period.

Gravesite, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York
Millard Fillmore was twice married. His first wife, Abigail, died less than four weeks after he had retired from the Presidency. Ironically, she caught a severe cold at the Inaugural Address of the incoming President and this ultimately resulted in her death. His daughter, Mary Abigail, died one year later during an epidemic of cholera. This double blow weighed heavily on Mr. Fillmore and he crossed the ocean to seek consolation among the accumulated art and literary treasures in Europe. He had an audience with Queen Victoria, and it is related that she said he was the most courtly American it had ever been her pleasure to meet. After returning to this country, on February 10, 1858, Millard Fillmore remarried, this time a wealthy middle–aged widow, Caroline Carmichael McIntosh.

The year before his death, Millard Fillmore founded the local SPCA. At that time, he wrote letters urging the passage of a bill to prevent cruelty to animals, which was enacted. Death came to Millard Fillmore on March 8, 1874 – his 74th year He was buried in his family plot, and as a memorial to him and to his family, there points skyward a dignified obelisk of pink granite. At his own grave there stands a simple granite memorial marker with only two letters, “M F”.

On a gentle slope in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn, overlooking Delaware Avenue and Park Lake, stand giant shade trees – silent sentinels surrounding and helping to keep ever sacred the burial place of Millard Fillmore, outstanding Buffalonian, who became the thirteenth president of the United States of America.

The Millard Fillmore shrine is visited by thousands of people each year – folks from all the Americas as well as from distant lands – yet it is sometimes said that many residents of the Niagara Frontier are unaware of the fact that here in their midst is the “chosen” resting place of this prominent and inter-nationally known person. It is truly a “chosen” place inasmuch as Millard Fillmore, during his lifetime, selected his family cemetery lot in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn.

Memorial, Buffalo, New York
After Millard Fillmore left the White House on March 4, 1853, he and his wife, Abigail, stayed briefly at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC. Abigail, who had been exposed to the cold weather in Washington during the Inauguration of Franklin Pierce, became ill and died on March 30th. Millard returned to his home in Buffalo.

In 1858, he remarried a wealthy Albany widow, Caroline Carmichael McIntosh. The income from her estate, added to his own, enabled them to purchase the grandest of Buffalo’s Gothic homes, the John Hollister house at 52 Niagara Square in Buffalo. Hollister was one of several enterprising brothers who owned, among other types of businesses, a chain of checkerboard painted stores extending from central New York into Ohio. He erected his house, which resembled the Gothic designs of the eminent A. J. Davis, in 1852 and resided there until 1858. Hollister lost it when the 1858 depression swept away his holdings and Fillmore bought it. After Fillmore’s death in 1874, the house was sold and later became a hotel. It was demolished in 1919 and replaced by the Statler Hotel.

This statue of Millard Fillmore is located next to Buffalo City Hall on Niagara Square and was sculpted by Bryant Baker in 1932. It is located on the opposite side of Niagara Square from Fillmore’s former home. Its inscription reads: “Millard Fillmore, 1800 – 1874, Thirteenth president of the United States, Lawyer, Educator, Philanthropist, Statesman.”