Jane Means Appleton (1806-1863)

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Jane Appleton was born 12 March 1806 in Hampton, New Hampshire, United States to Jesse Appleton (1772-1819) and Elizabeth Means (c1776) and died 2 December 1863 in Andover, Massachusetts, United States of tuberculosis. She married Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) 19 November 1834 in Amherst, New Hampshire, United States. Ancestors are from Ireland.

Jane was a petite, frail, shy, melancholy figure. After the death of her father, who had served as president of Bowdoin College not long before Franklin enrolled there, she at age 13 moved into the mansion of her wealthy maternal grandparents in Amherst.

How she met Pierce, a young lawyer with political ambitions, is unknown, but her brother-in-law Alpheus S. Packard was one of Pierce's instructors at Bowdoin. Franklin, aged almost 30, married Jane, aged 28, on November 19, 1834, at the home of the bride's maternal grandparents in Amherst, New Hampshire.

In 1852, the Democratic Party made Pierce their candidate for President. His wife fainted at the news. When Pierce took her to Newport for a respite, eleven-year-old Benny wrote to her: "I hope he won't be elected for I should not like to be at Washington and I know you would not either." But the President-elect convinced Jane that his office would be an asset for Benny's success in life.

The Pierces apparently had genuine affection for one another, but quarreled often and gradually drifted apart. She opposed Pierce's decision to run for president, for she much preferred private life. When her son Bennie was killed in a train accident before Pierce was sworn in as President, she believed God was displeased with her husband's political ambitions.[1] After the deaths of her children, Mrs. Pierce was overcome with melancholia and distanced herself during her husband's presidency. She never recovered from the tragedy. For nearly two years, she remained in the upstairs living quarters of the White House, spending her days writing maudlin letters to her dead son. She left the social chores to her aunt Abby Kent-Means and her close friend Varina Davis, wife of War Secretary Jefferson Davis. Mrs. Pierce made her first official appearance as First Lady at a New Year's Day reception in 1855 and thereafter served as White House hostess intermittently.


Offspring of Jane Pierce and Franklin Pierce (1804-1869)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Franklin Pierce (1836-1836)
Frank Robert Pierce (1839-1843)
Benjamin Pierce (1841-1853)

Sources and notes

‡ General
₪ Wedding
  • At the home of the bride's maternal grandparents


  Robin Patterson

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