Thursday, April 28, 2011

Worst President's Wives, Jane Appleton Pierce

Jane Appleton Pierce, the wife of the fourteenth President, Franklin Pierce, was depressed, it appears, DEPRESSED, so much so, that she had no interest in her social duties at the White House. Mrs. Pierce had no interset in politics, either, preferring to stay in Massachussetts or New Hampshire than in Washington, D. C., and she hated that Franklin was a Congressman prior to becoming President. He got out of politics for awhile, enlisted in the Army and fought in the Mexican War, but he was drafted to run for President on the Democrat ticket. WOE IS ME, thought Mrs. Pierce, MORE POLITICS. WHY CAN'T HE JUST STAY HOME AND BE A NORMAL HUSBAND? WHY OH WHY? I just put words in her mouth that may not be true, but then again, it may be true that she uttered something like that.

She had a baby, a boy, that only survived for three days, her first, and later on after two more boys were born, one was killed in front of her and Mr. Pierce, a tragic thing to witness, and this may be the cause of her attitude toward politics and Washington or she may have been pre-disposed to it, boring, boring, boring, maybe. All three of her children died at an early age, enough for anyone to lose interest in daily life and difficult to get over. However, Wikipedia stated that she has been given credit for beginning the tradition of the Chirstmas tree in the White House, a project she undertook as she finally took up some of the duites of First Lady.

President Pierce with his mind on the problems of his spouse may have let thiis interfere with his duties as President and may not, but it could have had something to do with his being among the worst Presidents or not.

A fine looking woman, if you ask me, but you can see the sorrow in her left eye and the turn of her mouth. (Source: Wikimedia, picture is in the public domain due to copyright expiration.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Worst Presidents' Wives, Harriet Lane

There's never been a President Lane, you say? Well, you are correct in that. Harriet Lane was the orphaned niece of James Buchanan, the life-long bachelor, and he pushed onto her all the social duties at the White House. Buchanan adopted her before she became the First Lady. The "Democrat Queen" as Mr. Buchanan tagged her may have influenced him in some decisions, but nothing I read in preparation for this post made me think that she had anything to do with him becoming one of the worst Presidents, a judgement of historians and critics that came after his term.

Harriet Lane was the culture queen of the Washington set, heavy into art and asking cultural guests to attend the functions at the White House, and not unattractive to her acquaintances and friends, having one old gent ask for her hand, which she politely turned down. She did marry after her White House years and had two boys, and devoted herself to furthering the arts and helping people who asked for help, dying in 1903.

Some have said or thought that Pres. Buchanan was gay, although his girlfriend died early and he never got married.

A picture of Harriet Lane (Source: Wikimedia, picture is in public domain, expiration of copyright.)


Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Look at Worst President Wives, Abigail Fillmore

We may as well take a look at President Millard Fillmore's wife, Abigail Powers Fillmore, for no particular reason other than her part, if any, in her husband's bad ratings. To start off with, I'm happy to see that teachers back then were having relationships with their students, at least Abby Powers was. Mr. Fillmore became one of her students. That was in 1819 when she took a teaching post at the New Hope Academy and Millard Fillmore, 19, was her oldest student. And she being only one year older, you knew that sparks were going to fly between them. The Powers family lived near the Fillmore farm in Stillwater, New York, in her early years and there is a possibility she knew Millard earlier, before the family moved WEST after the death of her father, her mother thinking it would be cheaper to live in a less settled area..

But the morals of the age must not have allowed much in the way of "closeness" since their courtship lasted for years, about seven to be exact, and I think by then they had gotten to know each other pretty well. Abigail loved to read BOOKS and she later started a White House library with an appropriation from Congress. Millard also loved BOOKS and she and he spent hours and hours reading together. WOOPS! I just assumed they did this since they both loved BOOKS so much, who knows or cares? They did manage to have two children before the Presidential years, so they had to interrupt their reading a couple of times.

Lo and behold! While Mr. Fillmore was Vice President, President Zachary Taylor up and died, and Millard became the President. The succeeding President, Pierce, was inaugurated outdoors in 1853 and Mrs. Fillmore caught a cold which turned into Pneumonia and she passed away just 26 days after leaving the White House.

As I read this short bio on Wikipedia, I saw no mention of slavery, the massacre at Bleeding Kansas, or any other indication of helping her husband be judged one of the worst Presidents in our nation's history. The book, First Ladies by Betty Boyd Caroli, says that she was up on the issues of the day and Millard bounced his plans and ideas off her, but there was nothing of her own ideas in this regard. And as far as I could tell, there were no gate-crashers busting into the parties either. Below is a picture of the lovely Abigail Powers Fillmore, the sixteenth First Lady, dressed to the nines, for your viewing pleasure. (Source Wikipedia and Wikimedia, picture is in the public domain, and the book aforementioned.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Another President

Millard Fillmore has shown up on more than one list as a worst President. Its beyond me why. Maybe it was because he was number 13, or maybe it was because he appointed Brigham Young Governor of Utah, or maybe it was because he joined the Know-Nothing Movement, or maybe it was because he was the last member of the Whig Party to become President, or maybe it was because he opposed the proposal to keep slavery out of the Western Territories, or maybe it was because as Vice Pres he became Pres after Zachary Taylor died in office on Jan 9, 1850 and he served until 1853, or maybe it was because the aforementioned Mr. Young named the capital of Utah Fillmore and the county Millard in retaliation for the appointment as Governor. or maybe it was because he detested slavery, but was pro-slavery, thinking it would help win more votes., or maybe it was because he signed the bill admitting California as a free state and also the one settling the Texas boundaries and the one making New Mexico a territory, and the one called the Fugitive Slave Act which placed federal officers at the disposal of slaveholders seeking escapted slaves,  and the one that abolished the slave trade but not slavery in the District of Columbia, all bills of Stephen A. Douglas.

In any event, the three men classed as among the worst Preisdents were all in a row, one after the other, in office just prior to the Civil War, and maybe that's why. Maybe the people were discombobulated during that period and no one fit the bill, or maybe it's the historians that are discombobulated feeling they have to name somebody the worst. And since they were in office more than 150 years ago, I'm not going to waste any more time today thinking about it. Maybe tomorrow or the next day. .

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Welcome to a New Follower/Another Forgotten President Quick Peek

A hearty welcome to the blog to J. R. SANDERS, author of The Littlest Wrangler published by Moonlight Mesa Associates.  

As President, Franklin Pierce made many divisive decisions which were widely criticized and earned him the reputation as one of the worst Presidents in U. S. history. He was the Pres from 1853-1857, prior to James Buchanan, and the only Pres from New Hampshire. One of his problems, if not the major one, was that he was pro-slavery, and signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act which repealed the Missouri Compromise prohibiting slavery in the Louisiana Territory but allowing it in Missouri and renewed the debate over expanding slavery in the WEST. The Kansas-Nebraska Act created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and allowed the citizens to decide if they wanted slavery. Its main purpose was to provide for the Transcontinetal Railroad  One of his successes was the Gadsden Purchase where he bought southern New Mexico and southern Arizona for ten million dollars to build a southern railroad.. 

That's President Pierce pulling the beard of the Free-Soilier and President Buchanan pulling on the hair as Stephen A. Douglas shoves a black man down his throat. (Source: Wikipedia. Image is in the public domain due to its age.) 

The Emancipation Proclamation of Pres Lincoln ended the prospect of more slavery in the West, but it took a Civil War to do it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Quick Peek at a Forgotten President

James Buchanan was one of the worst Presidents according to a TV announcement this week, so let's take a look at his record as it relates to the West. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1791 and died in 1868, a life-long and the only bachelor President. First, there was the Dred Scott descision, which says Congress has no business excluding slavery, and Mr. Buchanan didn't become President until a week after. It pertained mostly to the South, but there was slavery in Texas, primarily in the eastern part where the cotton was produced. Buchanan didn't interfere with this decision, although some politicians inferred that he was not completely innocent.
Over the issue of slavery, John Brown showed up for the massacre of Bleeding Kansas, building support for anti-slavery and the advent of the "Border Ruffians" and later (after Buchanan's term)  Quantrill's Raiders with some of the better known Western personalities (the Younger Gang) taking part in support of the pro-slavery forces.  Stephen A. Douglas won the battle with Buchanan and the anti-slavery faction won out.
In 1858 there was the battle with Utah. Buchanan appointed  a governor to take over from Brigham Young, but the Mormons fought back using a "scorched earth" policy against the Army, destroying there supply wagons and burning up the fields, but not harming the drivers or the soldiers. A settlement was finally reached, the Army was let in and the new Governor arrived.
James B. was President from 1857 to 186l, a one-termer, and was superseded by Lincoln. Was he a victim of circumstance or not handling problems to fit the majority of the people? To me, it was the latter.
All this didn't have much effect, if any, on the Western way of life during Buchanan's term, except for those directly involved, because the West didn't really get revved up until after the Civil War. 

(Source: Wikipedia, with my comments thrown in.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A short peek at the Pony Express/True Grit

This invention of necessity to speed up the mails (The Pony Express) was only in exitsence for about eighteen months until no longer needed because of the telegraph. I was thinking about this during the writing of the last post, which mentioned St. Joe, MO, briefly. I took the little side tour a few years ago through the Pony Express Museum with my wife's nephew who lived there. The Express served a meaningful purpose and a useful but short life. The trail was almost 2,000 miles to California with almost 200 way stations and I guess that Buffalo Bill (William Cody) still holds the record for the longest ride between two points, riding  322 miles in 21 hours, forty minutes, although Jack Keetley did about the same thing riding 340 miles in thirty-one hours. Some of the other riders were: Johnny Fry, William Upson, James Randall (the first rider going east from San Francisco to Sacramento - by boat), and "Pony Bob" Haslam (Robert Haslam), who holds the record for the fastest ride (120 miles in 8 hours and 20 minutes) and got wounded by an arrow on the way.  (Source: Wikipedia.)

John Wayne's eye patch from True Grit is going up for auction in LA October 3-6, 2011, as reported by Reuters, along with some personal items, e.g., cowboy boots, hats, etc.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kanesville, Iowa/Council Bluffs City/Fire on the Pawnee Reservation

My great-grandfather on my mother's side of the family lived in the area or in the town of Kanesville, Iowa, from 1846 to 1850 when he and family emigrated to the Rocky Mountains. Kanesville was the fitting out point for the Mormons traveling to the West, and with the gold-rushers going to California in 1849, it became the main starting point along the Missouri River for emigres along with St. Joseph and Wesport, Missouri. Kanesville was named for Thomas L. Kane, a man sympathetic to the Mormons who negotiated in Washington for the Mormon use of the land. On the western side of the Missouri was Winter Quarters, Nebraska Territory, now surrounded by Omaha..

My ggfather grew corn on his property, worked as a miller, and cut logs during his stay in Kanesville, from which he was able to make enough money to outfit a wagon to carry him and family West. The rush of gold-seekers helped a lot of them that were stuck while working to get in shape for the journey, sending prices higher than normal and causing scarcities in some crops and supplies.

Kanesville was changed to Council Bluffs in 1852 as being more fitting since the Lewis and Clark expedition meeting was held here at Council Bluffs with the Indians and with most of the Mormons having departed.  As far as I know, the Indian Agency has always been called the Council Bluffs Agency. At least is was called that when my other gggrandfather on my father's side was working for the Indian Agent in the late 1830's until 1847 in the Territory of Nebraska on the Pawnee Reservation. When the Pawnees became upset and set his house on fire, there was no mention of my gggrandmother, although his two sons were there with him. I assume she was living in Kanesville or maybe Winter Quarters during this time.

You may get a chuckle from my story about my great-great-grandfather's Journey to the Rocky Mountains published in the May 2010 issue of Frontier Tales,