The President died in Lancaster today. That is to say, the 15th President, James Buchanan, died in Lancaster today, 1 June, back in 1868. He was 77 years old and died of Rheumatic Gout.
Buchanan was born 23 April 1791 into a prominent Irish-Pennsylvania family in Cove Gap, PA. His parents were James Sr., and Elizabeth Spear Buchanan. He was the second of 11 children. He graduated Old Stone Academy and Dickinson College. It was after college that he moved to Lancaster.
Buchanan enlisted and served during the War of 1812. He volunteered in defense of Baltimore.
Before serving as President, he served five terms in the House of Representatives, as a Minister to Russia, and in the Senate for a decade. He also served as Secretary of State to President James Polk and as Minister to Great Britain under President Franklin Pierce, his predecessor.
In March 1861 Buchanan returned to Lancaster to his home, known as Wheatland, to retire. Tensions continued to heat up between Northern and Southern states. A little over a month later, Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter, thus throwing the nation into the Civil War. He became a recluse after his memoir, published in 1866, was largely passed by.
From 1857 to 1861, he served as our nation’s 15th President. He is the only US President from Pennsylvania and the only bachelor President. His niece, Harriet Lane, stood as the First Lady during his presidency.
He is buried at the Woodward Hill Cemetery. The Reverend John W. Nevin, his friend and neighbor, officiated at his funeral. A Masonic burial service was performed at his graveside by his fellow Masons.
On Saturday, 7 June, the Lancaster Historical Society will open Wheatland and take visitors back to this day in 1868 when the President slipped into history. The Living History Tours run hourly from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults. Seniors and children are discounted.