Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Townspeople

January 17, 2013

Dalton column: Death of a boy, and a presidency

On Jan. 6, 1853, a train derailed in Andover, changing the course of American history. The only person killed was a handsome 11-year-old Phillips Academy boy by the name of Benjamin Pierce.

He was the only living child of President-elect Franklin Pierce and his wife Jane.

The Pierces’ connection with Andover was strong, and the town mourned the loss of “Bennie,” but more importantly, Bennie’s death affected the president-elect and his wife so much that most historians feel it demoralized Franklin so much as to diminish his ability to govern.

Franklin Pierce (1804-1869), was born in Hillsborough, N.H. and educated at Phillips Exeter and then Bowdoin, where, after a very poor start, he graduated third in his class. He became a successful lawyer and was elected to the N.H. legislature, soon becoming speaker of the house. Franklin’s father, Benjamin, had served in the Revolutionary War and eventually became governor of New Hampshire, and Franklin thought of him as a hero and followed in his footsteps. He once told a friend that he wanted to provide the same example for his own children. At age 27, Franklin Pierce was elected to the United States House of Representatives, making him the youngest member of Congress.

While a member of the House, he married Jane Means Appleton (1806 - 1863), born in Hampton, whose father was the president of Bowdoin College and a Congregational minister. Franklin and Jane’s love for each other overcame the fact that they were opposites: he was a social extrovert, while she was shy; he was robustly healthy, while she was fragile and inclined to melancholy; he drank, while she was a pro-temperance teatotaler; he loved Washington, while she hated it: and he loved politics, while she abhorred them. Yet, love had conquered all, but perhaps only for a while.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Townspeople
  • AT HOWARD KOH

    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES/Courtesy photo Dr. Howard Koh will step down as U.S. assistant secretary for health after five years to rejoin Harvard School of Public Health this fall in a new position in its Department of Health Policy and Management.

    Koh to rejoin Harvard School of Public Health Posted 11 days ago 1 Photo
  • 48 locals to pedal in Pan-Mass Challenge Posted 11 days ago
  • AT HANNAH CURRIE

    Courtesy photo Hannah Currie is spending 10 days this summer becoming immersed in the music industry at GRAMMY Camp in Los Angeles.

    Currie hits note at LA's GRAMMY Camp Posted 11 days ago 1 Photo
  • South Church names new senior pastor Posted 18 days ago
  • AT BOYS GIRLS CLUB GOLF1

    COURTESY PHOTO Andover residents Patrick James, left, Adam Geaslen, Ryan Byrd and Dan Bryant claimed first place at the 35th annual Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence Golf Tournament at Indian Ridge Country Club in town.

    Local foursome aces Boys & Girls Club tourney Posted 18 days ago 2 Photos
  • AT LOCKS SISTERS2

    COURTESY PHOTO The Marble sisters --Anna, 8, left, and Isabel, 11 -- post-donatin to Locks of Love.

    Sisters pair up to donate pony tails to Locks of Love Posted 18 days ago 4 Photos
  • AT HOST1

    DESI SMITH/Staff photo Former Andover residents Dana Cohen and his wife, Ginny, back, left, have regularly hosted foreign exchange students since 1989. Farrah Moussa, back right, from Egypt, and Paula Valverde, front right, from Spain, are the latest students to spend a year with the Cohens, who now live in Gloucester.

    Former Andover couple welcomes exchange students for quarter-century Posted 18 days ago 4 Photos
  • Thursday, July 3, 2014
  • LENO1

    FILE PHOTO Jay Leno, who honed his comedy skills growing up in Andover, will receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this fall during a performance at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

    In good comedy company Posted 25 days ago 2 Photos
  • COMMUNITY TRUST2

    ACT 3.jpg Susan Stott, third from left, accepts the Opening Doors to Affordable Housing in Andover Award from Andover Community Trust directors, from left, Don Schroeder, treasurer; John Pearson, president; and Joan Johnson, clerk.

    Affordable housing advocates honored Posted 25 days ago 2 Photos
  • AT TABIT

    Salim Tabit

    Townspeople in the News Posted 25 days ago 1 Photo

Pictures of the Week
Stocks