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First Lady Biography: Abigail Fillmore

 

ABIGAIL POWERS FILLMORE

Born:

13 March 1798

Stillwater, Saratoga County, New York

*There is another source which claims that Abigail Fillmore was born in New Hampshire: "A field, within Corbin Park, is of interest as being the birthplace of one of the wives of the late President Fillmore. Her name was Abigail Powers, and she was the daughter of the late Lemuel Powers of Croydon." Argus & Spectator (New Hampshire), 12 December 1890; in fact, it was Abigail Fillmore's paternal grandmother, Thankful Leland, who was born in Groydon, New Hampshire, 26 June 1724.

Father:

Lemuel Leland Powers, Baptist minister, born 15 June 1756, Littleton, Worchester County, Massachusetts; Lemuel Powers was one of four Baptist ministers who served a group of five associated churches (two in one town where a minister served both) in the bordering regions of New York, Vermont and Massachusetts. They were organized in 1780 as the "Shaftsbury Association," named after the Vermont town where the first church was located. Powers was formally ordained that year. But had helped found and preached at the Stillwater, New York First Baptist Church for several years prior. The institution rapidly grew in terms of its congregation size and wealth. Even through the turmoil of the nearby Battle of Saratoga in 1777, there were eighty-six members, a large congregation under any circumstances for a new, rural church at the time. Its success permitted the church to branch out to establish eight other Baptists congregations in the area, with Stillwater remaining as the central base. In 1798, after fifty congregants migrated to Fish Creek to found another branch there, Powers' church had a remarkable congregation of almost four hundred people; Lemuel Powers died 18 May 1800, Stillwater, New York.

The conventional account of what caused the widowed Mrs. Powers to leave Stillwater for the western part of New York State was that it was a less expensive place for her as an impoverished widow to raise her children. However, it was six years before the move was made. The situation might have been exacerbated by an incident previously unreported in Abigail Fillmore's biographies, stemming from a personal scandal involving her late father. During the first six years following his death (1800-1806), the church congregation he had led shrank radically. By 1808, two years after the Powers family had left Stillwater, in fact, there were only twenty congregants. According to a later report: "The cause of this dispersion was owing partly to the spirit of emigration, which possessed the members, but mostly to some misconduct in their pastor, or at least to some reports unfavorable to his chastity. He confessed he had been imprudent, but at the time, and in his dying moments denied having been actually guilty. But so it was that his usefulness was ruined, his church scattered, and he went mourning down to his grave, which he entered in peace in 1800, in the 45th year of his age. "

Mother:

Abigail Newland Powers Strong, born 22 February 1758, Massachusetts; her father Joseph Newland was a prominent Baptist minister. Her brother Royal Newland was a wealthy businessman in Stillwater, New York. A former Continental Army wagoner during the Battles of Saratoga, he bought most of the property where the battle took place and there built and ran the mill of the town. True to family tradition, he was an Elder of Stillwater's First Baptist Church, where a window was dedicated to the Newlands; Abigail Newland married Lemuel Powers, 16 April 1777, Northbridge, Worchester County, Massachusetts but was widowed on 18 May 1800; married secondly, Benjah Strong, 1818, Cayuga County, New York; died, 23 February 1838, Lansing, Tompkins County, New York.

Stepfather:

Captain Benjah Strong, born on 22 February 1740, New London, New London County, Connecticut. Veteran of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, he was the first cousin of patriot Nathan Hale. He moved to Athens, Greene County, New York in 1782, and ran a ferry company between Athens and Hudson. Following the 1818 death of his wife Jane Cochrane, he moved westward, briefly settling at Great Bend, Ithaca County. He appears on the census of 1810 in Cayuga County, New York, where he met and married Abigail Powers. They moved to, Lansing, Tompkins County, New York, appearing on the 1820 census. He died at age 96 on 22 May 1836, Lansing, Tompkins County, New York.

Ancestry:

English

Birth Order and Siblings:

Youngest of seven; five brothers; one sister

Cyrus Powers (1779-18??); David Power (1782- ?), John Powers (1784 - ?), Royal Newland Powers (1786 - ?), Lemuel Powers (1789 - ?), Mary Powers (1793 -1851)

Step-Siblings

six stepbrothers, three stepsisters: Sally Strong (1761-?), Benajah Strong Jr. (1763-1851); Thankful Strong (1765-?); Almorena Strong (1769-?); Amos Strong [I] (1770-1770); Amos Strong [II] (1771-?); Salmon Strong (1772-1837); Simeon Prime Strong (1774-1841); Truman Strong (1798-?)

Education:

one-room schoolhouse, Sempronius, Cayuga County, New York, 1804-1814:In 1801, months after their father's death, Abigail Fillmore's brother, Cyrus Powers - 19 years her senior - left Stillwater for the western village of Sempronius (current-day Kelloggsville), Cayuga County, New York. In April of 1804, the widowed Mrs. Powers took her remaining six children to Albany to join a departing wagon train to Cayuga County. There, they came to live with Cyrus Powers. The family was impoverished, thus making Abigail Fillmore the first First Lady to rise from the lower-economic class. Although her father had died, Abigail Fillmore later recalled, "before I was old enough to appreciate my loss," he did leave a rich educational legacy to her and her siblings in his large personal library of books. Thus, Abigail Fillmore received an excellent education simultaneously from her mother at home, and her brother in the schoolroom. An especial love of reading literature was borne in her at this time, but she also became proficient in math, government, history, philosophy and geography. William L. Barre, a family friend stated that she "received all the advantages of a liberal education."

Occupation before Marriage:

Public School Teacher, Sempronius, New York, Lisle, New York, Aurora, New York, 1814-1826:Abigail Fillmore's brother Cyrus Powers taught school in Sempronius from 1801 to 1803 in a double-log house (it also seconded as a meeting-house) built on land owned by the First Baptist Church there. After a three-year term by an eccentric predecessor, David Powers, another brother, and then a cousin Gershom Powers succeeded as teachers. In 1814, following in the profession of her brothers and cousin, Abigail Powers became the teacher of the Sempronius village school. Although her first year of teaching was conducted in the same building where they had taught, unlike them, she taught in what was now a public institution. In 1812, a town council had approved funding for a public school. In 1815, a school-house was built at Sayles Corners that became Sempronius's first district school, and this is where she then taught. In 1817, after three years as a part-time teacher, Abigail Fillmore was employed full-time as a teacher. In 1819, she was able to supplement this work by also teaching at the private New Hope Academy, in nearby New Hope. In the summer of 1824, in the town of Lisle, Broome County, some 18 miles from Binghamton, New York, she came to privately tutor three of her first cousins, the daughters of her father's brother Herman Powers. Her professional reputation earned her the invitation to open a private school in Broome County, an offer she accepted. She returned to Sempronius to resume her regular teaching in the summer of 1825.

Physical Appearance:

Five feet, six inches tall, light auburn hair, blue eyes.

Religious Affiliation:

Raised Baptist; married by Episcopalian minister; joined Unitarian Church

Marriage:

30 years old, to Millard Fillmore, lawyer, (born 7 January 1800, undesignated wilderness in Milton Township, Onondaga County, western New York State, died 8 March 1874, Buffalo, New York) on 5 February 1826 in the Moravia, New York home of her brother Cyrus Powers. In 1817 or 1818 Fillmore bought a two dollar share in the small circulating library of a private citizen, Charles Kellogg, that Abigail Powers has been anecdotally credited with helping to organize. In 1819, Abigail Fillmore had first met her husband when he came to enroll for a more substantial education at the New Hope Academy, beyond his brief and rudimentary frontier-school lessons in arithmetic, reading, spelling, and writing. An indentured servant in farming, accounting, chopping wood for lumber and making cloth, he'd been unable to have a continuous education. With a thirst for knowledge and a growing awareness of his comprehensive deficiencies, Fillmore read voraciously - using a dictionary to learn the meaning of words he didn't understand. His poverty and discipline for self-knowledge mirrored Abigail's own experience and ambition. She helped him learn with precision, and on subjects where they both lacked knowledge, they studied together. Abruptly separated when his family moved, Fillmore later realized he had been "unconsciously stimulated by the companionship" of his teacher. Too poor to visit Abigail Powers, they did not see each other for three years but kept in touch by letter. In the interim, he apprenticed to a lawyer, began to teach professionally in the city of Buffalo, and was able to begin a law practice in the nearby town of present-day East Aurora across the street from which he built a home to share with his new wife.

Children:

Two children, one son, one daughter; Millard Powers Fillmore (25 April 1828 – 15 November 1889), Mary Abigail Fillmore (27 March 1832 – 26 July 1854)

Occupation After Marriage:

Public School Teacher, Aurora, New York, 1826-1827:Abigail Fillmore continued to work as a professional teacher in a public school for more than a year following her January 1826 wedding, until the pregnancy of her first child in the summer of 1827, making her the first First Lady to draw a salary from independent employment as a married woman.

In 1829, Abigail Fillmore remained in East Aurora when Millard Fillmore went to the state capital in Albany, New York to serve a term in the state legislature. During that time, they continued to correspond and Abigail Fillmore began to purchase books of literature, poetry and the classics to build upon his collection of law books at home, the core of what would become their personal library of over four-thousand titles.

Two years later, Millard Fillmore returned to practice law in Buffalo, to which they moved from East Aurora. Together, the Fillmores worked on helping to establish a lending library and college in the city. While raising her son and giving birth to a daughter, Abigail Fillmore also continued her pursuit of education by learning a new language - French, a musical skill - piano, and scientific horticulture, cultivating floral species in a conservatory built onto their home.

From 1836 until 1842 Abigail lived in Washington with her husband, who was serving as a Congressman, having remained in New York during his initial term from 1833 to 1834. The children were left in New York with relatives and her letters to them during their separation were balanced between academic admonishments and maternal love. Enduring long separations from her extended family often left Abigail Fillmore forlorn. She learned by letter from her daughter in 1838, for example, that her mother had died – and wept through the night at her loss, wishing she had seen her one last time.

Washington did afford Abigail Fillmore opportunities she enjoyed. She usually attended sessions of Congress and listened to great debates of the era, paying close attention to the progress of various bills, especially those affecting recess periods when she could return home. While she adhered to the conventions of society, Abigail Fillmore did not take the pretentious very seriously. During a stay in a prestigious Newport, Rhode Island hotel, she found that the crowd was "very fashionable. It is amusing to look on and see the great vanity of costume and the great effort made to rival each other at display…but it does not interest me…I seldom – never go into the parlor." Although she did attend at least one horse race in Washington, Abigail Fillmore preferred museum exhibits, art galleries, theater and concert performances, and most especially lectures. She relished the company of loquacious intellectuals, calling one talk with a theologian "such a mental treat."

Equally uncommon for women of her era was Abigail Fillmore's pleasure in physical activity. She enjoyed sea bathing, but despised the "waste of time" necessary for dressing and arriving at the shore. Her health began to slowly deteriorate in 1842 when she badly broke her ankle then failed to let it heal properly. Bed-ridden, then housebound for months, she was unable to continue her vigorous exercise of walking. After two years of using crutches, she was able to walk freely but was never free from pain. To avoid further household duties, she and Fillmore lived in an Albany boarding house when they returned there upon his 1847 election as State Comptroller. By 1848, Abigail Fillmore was experiencing back and leg problems and lung inflammation.

Campaign and Inauguration:

In 1848, Zachary Taylor was nominated as the Whig Party's presidential candidate and Millard Fillmore was chosen as the vice-presidential candidate. Abigail Fillmore seemed indifferent to the outcome, writing her daughter of the nearing Election Day, "It will take place the first Tuesday in Nov. We will send you some peaches on Friday." She did not attend the 4 March 1849 Inauguration and save for a brief April 1850 visit remained in Buffalo, desperately lonely for her son, in Boston at Harvard College, her daughter in local boarding school, and her husband in Washington.

Her public role as the Vice-President's wife was limited: although honored when asked to deliver a public speech, she declined, but as the recipient of federal job requests, she passed on those she deemed worthy to her husband. Abigail Fillmore was vacationing with her children at the New Jersey shore when they learned that President Taylor had died on 9 July 1850 and that their husband and father was now President. He briefly joined them there. They all took up White House residence in October.

First Lady:

52 years old

9 July 1850 – 4 March1853

Contrary to contemporary perceptions, Abigail Fillmore as First Lady was viewed as a bona fide public figure. In fact, she received her first mention in the public press just nine days after President Taylor's death with the unusual distinction of being referred to by her first name. As theCortland County Expressreported on 18 July 1850, in regard to the new President's wife, "In 1826 he married Abagail [sic] - the daughter of the Rev. Lemuel Powers. She no doubt will hereafter preside at the White House."

Newspapers and journals gave heavy coverage to the regal green coach with silver and mother-of-pearl mountings and blue silk interiors that was presented to the First Lady as a gift from the citizens of Albany. When the novelist Helen deKroyft of New Orleans visited Abigail Fillmore she asked for her aid in finding an eye specialist to help reverse her increasing state of blindness. The First Lady arranged for her to be seen by specialist Joseph Turnbull who had great success in treating eye ailments. A year later, deKroyft publicized the First Lady's help by permitting her letter of gratitude to be reprinted in a December 1852 issue of theDaily Deltaof New Orleans. Abigail Fillmore received a large number of public requests for her intercessions, such as minor patronage or entrance into West Point. As many notes of appreciation to her attest, she was attentive to those citizens who needed her genuine help. In one instance, she helped the fledgling career of a young dressmaker who wrote for her patronage by urging her services to other women in Washington. She even persuaded the President to break his firm opposition to nepotism by obtaining a postmaster position for her brother David Powers.

Receiving greater press coverage than her more socially-active and recent predecessor Sarah Polk, Abigail Fillmore may have become part of the larger nation's awareness because technology had so rapidly advanced in four years that the general public were able to see what she looked like in person. A full-length photograph of the First Lady was mass-produced on small, hard paper cards known as carte de visites, analogous to contemporary tourist postcards. They were made available for sale in 1853 at the Washington, D.C. studio that made the original photograph.

Highly conscious of her public appearances, she hired a maid who also fancily dressed her hair, and a seamstress whose work made Abigail Fillmore the first First Lady to wear clothing created with the aid of the relatively new invention of the sewing machine. Another factor in the public's growing consciousness of the First Lady role was the reported presence of Abigail Fillmore with the President at public and official ceremonies, such as his receiving a delegation of Sioux Indian leaders, following a treaty-signing, an event at which she was the only woman present. Such public exposure ran counter to the era's prevailing idealization of a wife as a purely private person whose domain was strictly domestic. "I think if I were a lady, and my husband should become president," her nephew wrote Abigail Fillmore, "I should run away."

Abigail Fillmore hosted the open house New Year's receptions on New Year's Eve in 1850 and 1852. She received callers in proper social protocol on Tuesday mornings, hosted public receptions on Friday nights, held large formal dinners on Thursdays and small intimate dinners on Saturday nights. The First Lady took an active interest in the popular cultural entertainment of the era. She attended both of the famous singer Jenny Lind's Washington concerts in December 1850, as managed by the famous show promoter P.T, Barnum, then invited them both to the White House to talk. In 1852, she attended the concerts of Maria Alboni and Henrietta Sontag, two of the most famous prima donnas of the mid-19th century.

Of the various singers, musicians, artists and writers that she entertained, Abigail Fillmore seemed to derive her greatest pleasure in befriending her guests, authors Washington Irving, Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray. The famous work by Thackeray, Vanity Fair, was claimed to be her favorite contemporary novel. The Fillmores were later credited with having installed a steam-heated iron cooking range for the kitchens and a bathtub in the White House. They may have placed the initial order for the cooking range, since one was installed in 1854 under Pierce and had the rudimentary plumbing extended to the family bathroom, renovated in the fall of 1853, but there is no documentation to support either claim.

The innovation most frequently attributed to Abigail Fillmore was the newly-created White House library in the second floor oval room; however, there exists no documentation to justify the complete credit for this to her. The claim that her shock upon coming to the White House and finding no library prompted her to urge the President to seek federal funding for one is chronologically impossible, even if perhaps her true sentiments in retrospect. Abigail Fillmore had not yet come to the White House when, on 1 September 1850, the President received a response from the Librarian of Congress to his August inquiry of an estimate for a reference library ($2,500) or on 6 September 1850 when such funding was first proposed to Congress and rejected. Also false is the claim of her expressing displeasure over the rejection to Congressmen at a 14 September 1850 dinner, or their suggestion she seek funding to create one. She was still up north on 23 September 1853, when President Fillmore appealed to Congress and Senator James A. Pearce, Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library [of Congress], successfully pushed through a $2,000 appropriation in the first session of the 31st Congress. She was present in the second session when a subsequent one for $250 was approved.

Although their White House correspondence is now lost, it can be speculated that the new First Lady might have suggested her husband seek federal funds for a library in response to a possible letter in which he may have first reported that there was none. Harriet Haven, wife of Fillmore's law partner and friend to his wife, reported: "She was accustomed to be surrounded with books of reference, maps, and all the other acquirements of a well-furnished library, and she found it difficult to content herself in a house devoid of such attractions. To meet this want, Mr. Fillmore asked of Congress and received an appropriation." What is unclear is whether the President was asked or simply inspired by what he assumed Abigail Fillmore would wish. To a later acquaintance, James Grant Wilson, Fillmore would vaguely credit his wife with the library. Choosing and purchasing the books are tasks also incorrectly assigned to Abigail Fillmore. This job was done by Charles Lanman, librarian, author and personal secretary to Secretary of State Daniel Webster. He recorded that: "When Congress made the first appropriation for furnishing the President with reading matter Daniel Webster suggested to Mr. Fillmore that the duty of making the proper selection should be assigned to me." He asked the President for the job in a 26 November 1850 letter and further stated that Smithsonian Institution scientist Joseph Henry would chose the scientific books. In a 4 December 1850 meeting, Fillmore gave Lanman the go-ahead. "I made extensive purchases, according to my own judgment, in New York & Boston," he recalled. On 12 December 1850, Lanman gave the President the list of books he bought from Boston publishers Little & Brown, including works by Goldsmith, Milton, Adam Smith and The Library of American Biography volumes. From New York publisher, Lanman bought works by Washington Irving and Plutarch. He further obtained about 2,500 copies of federal government publications. Lanman does not mention the First Lady in any of his recollections. She was later credited with having specifically ordered works of Dickens, Thackeray and Hawthorne, but no such titles are on Lanman's list or a larger one of those books that were bought. The First Lady did transform the room, ordering for it three custom bookcases on 27 January, 1851 from William M. L. Cripps, and two more on 30 August 1851. Given her own history of creating a loaning library in Sempronius and then a circulating library in Buffalo, it is hard to disassociate Abigail Fillmore with a certain influence in creating the library, however much lacking documentation. Her nephew Cyrus Powers, Jr. was so influenced by her that he amassed the largest private library in central New York State and created a trust to have it established as an important research library in his hometown of Moravia.

On social and political issues during her tenure, only informed speculation can surmise her opinions and efforts to influence the President on important policy. A friend quoted the President as saying he "never took any important step without her counsel and advice," and a reporter called her "remarkably well informed" on political issues her husband faced. Abigail Fillmore did not seem to endorse Sarah Polk's ban on hard liquor or any public temperance movement. Although she had wines and liqueurs served to guests, there is no record that she either drank or abstained from spirits. Certainly her absolute belief in a woman's right to equal access to high educational opportunities and their capacity to succeed at all intellectual pursuits might suggest she supported the general principals of the 1845 Seneca Falls Women's Rights convention. From both her moral beliefs and her regional culture and as reflected in a letter from a cousin, Abigail Fillmore opposed slavery, but it is not clear whether she was an avowed abolitionist. A later account by William Elliott Griffis, her husband's biographer who had the opportunity to interview many who knew the Fillmores, affirms that Abigail Fillmore urged the President to veto the Fugitive Slave Law which required that runaway slaves be returned to their owners, even if they had crossed into free states. The specific claim was that Abigail Fillmore warned that if he signed it, he would not receive the Whig Party nomination for the presidency in 1854. He did sign the bill and was not nominated. Since they were apart when he signed it, her advice may have been in a letter no longer extant. It was also likely to be less "political advice" and simply her moral opinion and prediction. It was Griffis who also credited Mrs. Fillmore with successfully convincing the President to end the U.S. Navy practice of flogging.

Living in the White House with the President and First Lady were their two children. Mary Abigail "Abbie" Fillmore who frequently appeared at public events with her mother, serving as a supplemental hostess. Neither woman, however, had any intention or perception of it as a matter of "First Daughter" substituting for "First Lady." In one documented instance, a late February 1851 dinner, Abbie Fillmore substituted as official hostess, her mother being absent due to her sister Mary's death in Ohio. Senator Edward Everett described Miss Fillmore in this role as "a pretty modest, unaffected girl of about twenty, as much at ease at the head of the presidential table as if she had been born a princess." Signing her name as "Abbie," the Fillmore daughter spoke French, German, Italian and Spanish. She was equally versatile as a musician, frequently performing in the White House library for her mother's pleasure or to entertain special guests, whether on her harp or guitar or the First Lady's piano.

Abbie Fillmore was only six when she was separated from her parents who went to live in Washington with her father's election to Congress. She was cared for by her maternal aunt Mary while her parents were in Washington. When her daughter expressed a longing to be united with her parents and brother, Abigail Fillmore advised her to use the time to focus on her education: "I know your fondness for study and anxiety to obtain knowledge and this will absorb your mind that you will have less time to dwell on home." Abigail Fillmore consciously sought to balance her parental advice with an enlightened sense of respect for her daughter as a young woman: "I shall be very happy to do anything for you that I can to give you a perfect education, and adorn you with every grace that the best teachers and the best society can confer for I love my little daughter very much and am very anxious to gratify her in everything that is proper, presuming that she will ask for nothing less." She was early on an expert at geography, encouraged by books and maps sent by her parents. She was also an accomplished and fearless horsewoman, often going for lengthy, vigorous rides in the countryside. Abigail Fillmore encouraged her daughter's love of literature and music, but never at the expense of a thorough intellectual education. Abbie Fillmore left the Lenox Institute for Girls in Massachusetts in the fall of 1848. The following year, uninfluenced by even her father's anti-Catholic sentiments, Abbie Fillmore joined seventeen students at the new "Buffalo Academy for Young Ladies." Established at the Sherwood House on Lake Erie by the city's first Roman Catholic Bishop under the aegis of the Vincentian order, the instructors were nuns of the Sacred Heart School in Manhattanville, New York. The Vice President's daughter, one of the four students to board there, and one of eight who were non-Catholic attended religious services every morning in the makeshift chapel. Her mother soon after arranged for her to attend the state Normal School first as a sort of graduate student after and then to teach there "for a living." As Mrs. Fillmore wrote Abbie, "I am glad to see young girls think they can be useful." She had planned to share a room with two roommates but took her mother’s advice to board in a private home in a room by herself, and put up a screen in front of her desk so she could remain undistracted in her studies. Those plans were cut short when her father unexpectedly became President and she moved to the White House in October of 1850.

Upon leaving the White House and her mother's death, Abbie Fillmore assumed responsibility for her father's household at their Buffalo home on Franklin Street. She became his companion at the few public events he attended in Buffalo, but her most famous appearance was during the "Grand Excursion" of June 1854. Organized to publicize newly created transportation links between railway and steam boat travel, she was among several hundred prominent citizens in business, academia, politics, the clergy and the arts to go from Chicago to Rock Island, Illinois by rail, then to St. Paul, Minnesota Territory and back by steamboat. Along the way were tours of lead mines and endless speeches with former President Fillmore as the lead figure. Covered by large eastern newspapers, the event especially celebrated the natural beauty of the upper-Midwest. The scenic wonder was captured in June 7 accounts from Trempealeau, Wisconsin where Abbie Fillmore made a dramatic and swift climb to a bluff on horseback, the very image of a healthy and adventurous American girl. Only seven weeks later, while visiting her grandfather in East Aurora, Abbie Fillmore contracted cholera and died in one day. The loneliness caused by her death was cited as a reason Fillmore returned to politics and remarried.

After the White House:

Planning an extensive tour of the American South in the weeks following their departure from the White House, Millard and Abigail Fillmore moved to a suite at the nearby Willard Hotel. Within days, her lingering cold developed into pneumonia. To prevent her lungs from swelling with liquid, her bed was leaned nearly upright but her condition worsened and she died. In a 4 April 1853 letter, Washington Irving wrote a friend, "I almost think poor Mrs. Fillmore must have received her death warrant while standing by my side on the marble terrace of the Capitol, exposed to chilly wind and snow, listening to the inaugural speech of her husband's successor." Coming just twenty-four days after she left her role as First Lady, Abigail Fillmore's death was more widely reported in detail, along with praiseful obituaries, than that of any of her predecessors. Both Congress and the President's Cabinet adjourned in mourning.

Death:

55 years old, 30 March 1853

Washington, D.C.

Buried, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York

second wife of Millard Fillmore

Caroline Carmichael McIntosh Fillmore (1813-1881)

Five years after the death of Abigail Fillmore, her husband married again. His second wife, Caroline Carmichael McIntosh Fillmore was born 21 October 1813, in Morristown, New Jersey, the daughter of Charles Carmichael and Temperance Blachley. She was the widower of Ezekiel C. McIntosh. Former president of the Troy Schenectady Railroad and a prosperous Troy merchant, he left her an extremely large financial inheritance. Prior to their 10 February 1858 marriage in her Albany mansion, she required Millard Fillmore to sign a prenuptial agreement that stipulated he could manage but not disperse her estate if he survived her.

They lived together for sixteen years with his bachelor son in a Gothic mansion on Niagara Square in Buffalo. Contemporary accounts show her as nervous and eccentric, and one letter suggests she was alcoholic. Caroline Fillmore survived the former president for seven years and was awarded a presidential widow's pension and franking privilege by Congress. She died on 11 August 1881 and is buried alongside her second husband, his first wife and their two children.