Born in a Log Cabin

Millard Fillmore, 13th President, United States of AmericA

Last Friday the grandsons and I had an outing to the hills above Moravia in Cayuga County, there we visited the birthplace of Millard Fillmore. The site is a rather steep, rocky hillside near where the future President was born in a log cabin. He was not the last future President thus born, James Garfield in 1831 was born fatherless in Ohio in a log cabin. The future 20th President and the last to be so born. Nine years after Millard Fillmore, Abraham Lincoln was born, February 12, 1809 in the same residential circumstance and was the first future President born west of the Appalachian Mountains at Sinking Springs Farm, Kentucky. At least seven (7) future USA Presidents were born in log cabins, the others are: Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur.

There is quite a bit to do at this open air museum: educational signs, split rail fencing from that time, a pavilion build from concrete, steel I-beams and a metal roof with picnic tables where we played games.

On the way to Fillmore Glen New York State Park to visit an actual log cabin from that time, we stopped at the Lickville Cemetery on Lick Street. Opened a few years after Fillmore’s birth, 1807, 180 headstones are still standing. We practiced sounding out words from the large carved letters on the stones.

After visiting the log cabin our day was interrupted by symptoms of a stomach flu that has been terrorizing all our families. Fortunately, I escaped. Our plan is to continue to explore Fillmore Glen at a later time.

More about Millard Fillmore from Wikipedia

Millard Fillmore was born on January 7, 1800, in a log cabin, on a farm in what is now Moravia, Cayuga County, in the Finger Lakes region of New York. His parents were Phoebe Millard and Nathaniel Fillmore, and he was the second of eight children and the oldest son.

Nathaniel Fillmore was the son of Nathaniel Fillmore Sr. (1739–1814), a native of Franklin, Connecticut, who became one of the earliest settlers of Bennington, Vermont, when it was founded in the territory that was then called the New Hampshire Grants.

Nathaniel Fillmore and Phoebe Millard moved from Vermont in 1799 and sought better opportunities than were available on Nathaniel’s stony farm, but the title to their Cayuga County land proved defective, and the Fillmore family moved to nearby Sempronius, where they leased land as tenant farmers, and Nathaniel occasionally taught school. The historian Tyler Anbinder described Fillmore’s childhood as “one of hard work, frequent privation, and virtually no formal schooling.”

Over time Nathaniel became more successful in Sempronius, but during Millard’s formative years, the family endured severe poverty. Nathaniel became sufficiently regarded that he was chosen to serve in local offices, including justice of the peace. Hoping that his oldest son would learn a trade, he convinced Millard, who was 14, not to enlist for the War of 1812 and apprenticed him to clothmaker Benjamin Hungerford in Sparta. Fillmore was relegated to menial labor, and unhappy at not learning any skills, he left Hungerford’s employ.

His father then placed him in the same trade at a mill in New Hope. Seeking to better himself, Millard bought a share in a circulating library and read all the books that he could. In 1819 he took advantage of idle time at the mill to enroll at a new academy in the town, where he met a classmate, Abigail Powers, and fell in love with her.

Later in 1819 Nathaniel moved the family to Montville, a hamlet of Moravia. Appreciating his son’s talents, Nathaniel followed his wife’s advice and persuaded Judge Walter Wood, the Fillmores’ landlord and the wealthiest person in the area, to allow Millard to be his law clerk for a trial period. Wood agreed to employ young Fillmore and to supervise him as he read law. Fillmore earned money teaching school for three months and bought out his mill apprenticeship. He left Wood after eighteen months; the judge had paid him almost nothing, and both quarreled after Fillmore had, unaided, earned a small sum by advising a farmer in a minor lawsuit. Refusing to pledge not to do so again, Fillmore gave up his clerkship. Nathaniel again moved the family, and Millard accompanied it west to East Aurora, in Erie County, near Buffalo, where Nathaniel purchased a farm that became prosperous.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

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