We left our campground in Brookline, New Hampshire and drove a short distance to Contoocook. Along the way we drove through quaint small towns with Main Streets lined with American flags and stores and homes adorned with red, white and blue bunting from July 4th.
It was hot and we were glad to get settled into our campground. The friendly camp hosts helped us find just the right spot.
Monday we drove to nearby Hillsboro-ugh to visit the Franklin Pierce Homestead National Historic Landmark, the boyhood home of the 14th president. Even though it is a national landmark, it is maintained by the New Hampshire state parks. Along with the 1804 restored mansion, there was a very small Visitors Center/gift shop. The workers in the gift shop really tried to talk us into taking the admission fee tour of the home, but we are not fond of old home tours where you walk down a hallway peaking into roped off rooms. The Visitors Center had a small bust of Pierce and his sleigh. I remarked that Pierce was one of the least liked Presidents which seemed to slightly offend one of the workers, so I quickly added he was one of the least known. Perhaps he is one of the least known because he was the least popular?? Some historians say he is one of the worst presidents but I didn’t want to say something that negative to the workers. Regardless, we have the goal of learning as much as we can about all our presidents in our travels.
Franklin Pierce was president from 1853 to 1857. He was a Democrat who saw the abolitionist movement as a threat to national unity. At first the Democrats saw him as a good compromise candidate who could unite northern and southern interests. However while president some felt his policies helped push the United States into Civil War. The downfall of his presidency is attributed to his championing and signing the Kansas-Nebraska Act and enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act. The Kansas-Nebraska Act opened the territories to settlement and railroad building and repealed the ban on slavery in Kansas mandated by the 1820 Missouri Compromise which prohibited slavery north of latitude 36°30′. This new bill gave the citizens of each territory, not Congress, the right to choose whether to allow slavery and infuriated northerners. His enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act confused people and he was seen as someone who couldn’t make up his mind and he became very unpopular. All of this confusion led antislavery Democrats and Whigs to form the new Republican party. Kansas soon became a battleground of tensions over sectional slavery. Because of what became known as “Bleeding Kansas”, Pierce was denied the Democratic presidential nomination in 1856. Instead it went to James Buchanan.
Until Kennedy, Franklin Pierce was the youngest president ever elected. His family life was tragic. He married Jane Appleton who was devoutly religious, constantly ill and despised politics which created tension in the marriage. They had three sons, all of whom died in childhood. Their youngest son died at the age of eleven when he was killed in a train accident while traveling with his parents from Boston shortly after Pierce was elected president. According to wikipedia, both Franklin and his wife suffered from severe depression after the accident which most likely affected Pierce’s performance as president. His wife avoided social functions for the first two years of his presidency. She did not attend the inauguration. Pierce chose to affirm his oath of office on a law book rather than swear it on a bible.
In his later years both his wife and author Nathaniel Hawthorne, his close friend died. Pierce drank heavily and died from severe cirrhosis of the liver in 1869 at the age of 64 with no family present.
After leaving the Pierce Homestead we explored the area, enjoying the beautiful stone and covered bridges and finding a couple geocaches.
Tuesday we drove to Concord, capital of New Hampshire since 1808. We like to visit state capitals wherever we go, however this one was a bit of a disappoint-ment because the roof was covered with scaffolding. This state house is the country’s oldest state house in which the legislature continues to meet in the original chambers.
The Memorial Arch was built in 1891 to honor New Hampshire’s soldiers and sailors.
Next we drove to the Franklin Pierce grave site in Old North Cemetery. With no directions as to where to find his grave, we wandered around a bit. Suddenly a lady hustled up the cemetery road and said she noticed us wandering around from the window of her house and wanted to know if she could help. She led us to his grave site, eagerly giving us a history of various citizens interred in the cemetery. She was very kind and helpful and we would have surely wandered for quite awhile before eventually finding his grave site in a more remote section of the cemetery.
On Wednesday we moved a short distance to Hanover, New Hampshire. We are on our way to an RV rally in Vermont and this was a convenient p!ace to stay for a couple days on the way. Hanover is the home of Dartmouth College. Founded in 1769, Dartmouth is the ninth oldest college in the country and the northernmost of the eight Ivy League schools. We drove around some areas of the beautiful campus.
On Thursday we drove to Windsor, Vermont to see the Windsor-Cornish Covered Bridge. Along the way we passed through a small corner of Vermont. Windsor is in Vermont and on the other side of the bridge is New Hampshire. Windsor is nicknamed “The Birthplace of Vermont” and is where the state constitution was written and adopted on July 8, 1777. The general assembly met in Windsor until 1805 when Montpelier became the permanent capital. In the 19th century Windsor was the center of invention, including firearms, the hydraulic pump, the coffee percolator and the sewing machine. We enjoyed driving through this small, picturesque town.
Built in 1866 at a cost of $9,000, the Windsor-Cornish Bridge spans the Connecti-cut River between Windsor, Vermont and Corning, New Hampshire. It is the longest WOODEN covered bridge in the United States and is the longest two span covered bridge in the world. The bridge was a toll bridge until 1943. It is featured on many New England postcards.