|Concord, NH||February 19, 2005|
Franklin Pierce’s inauguration in March 1853 came less than two months after he and his wife, Jane, witnessed the killing of their last surviving child in a railroad accident. The parents’ grief permeated the White House during their full four years in the home. Particularly in the first half of her husband’s term, Jane was withdrawn and rarely acted in the traditional first lady capacity of hostess. The loss drove an already-present wedge even deeper into her relationship with Franklin, who turned in what historians generally regard as one of the worst presidential performances in U.S. history. The Pierces died in the 1860s and are laid to rest in Concord, New Hampshire, alongside two of the offspring who predeceased them.
Old North Cemetery where the Pierces lie was created in 1730 and was downtown Concord’s lone burial ground for 130 years. The Pierce gravesite is located in a section called the Minot Enclosure, which was established in 1854 by a trio that included Franklin Pierce’s law partner, Joseph Minot. The U.S. Department of the Interior added Old North Cemetery to the National Register for Historic Places in 2008, three years after my first visit there.
Originally, three separate stones marked the burial places of the Pierces: a cross-topped pinnacle commemorated Franklin and was flanked by a smaller headstone for Jane on its left and one shared by sons Frank, Jr. and Benjamin on its right. The 1946 memorial resembles the original gravestones but unifies their designs with a single monument.
Born: March 12, 1806 in Hampton, New Hampshire
Spouse: Franklin Pierce (m. 1834-1863)
First Lady Tenure: 1853-1857
Died: December 2, 1863 in Andover, Massachusetts
Cause of Death: Tuberculosis
Interment: Old North Cemetery, Concord, New Hampshire
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. “New Hampshire property added to the National Register for Historic Places.” December 9, 2008. https://www.nh.gov/nhdhr/news/nr_listing_oldnorthcemetery.htm.
Picone, Louis L. The President is Dead! The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Final Days, Burials, and Beyond. Rev. ed. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2020.