|Interment Location||Visited||Sequence in Graves I Have Visited|
|Buffalo, NY||June 17, 2005||19th President visited; 9th Vice President visited|
The last member of the Whig Party to serve as U.S. president, Millard Fillmore, lived for many years in Buffalo, New York. He and his family are buried in the city’s most prestigious cemetery, Forest Lawn.
Fillmore was vice president under Zachary Taylor for 16 months before Taylor’s death hastened the end of his term and elevated Fillmore to commander-in-chief. Fillmore is considered one of the “forgotten presidents,” who are comprised of the many chief executives in the years ahead of and subsequent to the Civil War whose contributions while in office are generally considered negligible or negative. Despite his consistently-low rankings in C-SPAN’s surveys of presidential historians, Fillmore is respected in Buffalo for his philanthropic endeavors. Even if there is a winter snowfall, a crowd gathers annually on January 7th in honor of the 13th president’s birthday. I attended the 2016 commemoration with my father and my close friend Kelvis.
Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery has myriad notable residents and unique sculptures decorating their grounds. Apart from former First Lady Abigail Fillmore and the president, burials include musician Rick James, the inventor of the electric chair, tribal leader Sagoyewatha (aka Red Jacket), and Representative Shirley Chisholm. Two presidential cabinet members are interred there as well, including Fillmore’s postmaster general, Nathan K. Hall. Forest Lawn also contains one of my favorite all-time graves, the elaborate, statue-laden tomb of the Blocher family.
It was not unusual in the 1800s for deceased people of means to have a joint monument erected in their burial plot and separate stones placed to mark their exact individual resting places. So is the case with the Fillmores, whose headstones surround the pinkish-red granite obelisk. This image shows me crouched next to the 13th president’s stone, partially hidden at that point by shrubbery. It was better trimmed when I revisited in 2010 and 2016.
Born: January 7, 1800 in Locke Township, New York
Spouses: Abigail Powers Fillmore (m. 1826-1853); Caroline Carmichael McIntosh Fillmore (m.1858-1874)
Highest Military Rank: Major — New York Militia
Primary Political Affiliation: Whig Party
Vice Presidential Term: 1849-1850 under Zachary Taylor
Presidential Term: 1850-1853
Vice President: Vacant
Died: March 8, 1874 in Buffalo, New York
Cause of Death: Stroke
Last Words: “The nourishment is palatable.”
Interment: Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York
"What they want, and what I want, is some assurance from the Republican Party, now dominant at the North, that they, or at least the conservative portion of them, are ready and willing to come forward and repeal all unconstitutional State laws, live up to the compromises of the Constitution, execute the laws of Congress honestly and faithfully, and treat our Southern brethren as friends. When I can have any such reliable assurance as this to give, I will go most cheerfully and urge our Southern brethren to follow our example, and restore harmony and fraternal affection between the North and the South."
- Millard Fillmore December 19, 1860 in a letter to John A. Dix regarding the pending secession of southern states over slavery
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Lamb, Brian and the staff of C-SPAN. Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. Rev. ed. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.
“President Fillmore to Gen. Dix.” New York Times. January 24, 1861. https://www.nytimes.com/1861/01/24/archives/president-fillmore-to-gen-dix.html.
Rayback, Robert J. Millard Fillmore: Biography of a President. Buffalo: Henry Steward Inc., 1959.