Photograph circa 1851. Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (Buffalo, NY).
Nathaniel Fillmore Jr.
April 19, 1771
|Died||March 28, 1863 (aged 91)|
(m. 1796; her death 1831)
(m. 1834; his death 1863)
|Children||Millard Fillmore, 8 others|
A native of Vermont, Nathaniel Fillmore farmed in Bennington until he was in his mid-twenties when his brother Calvin and he moved to western New York. Duped by unscrupulous land agents, their titles proved defective and they lost their new farms. Nathaniel Fillmore became a tenant farmer and occasionally taught school; his family's circumstances were so dire that they sometimes relied on the charity of their landlords to survive.
Over time, Fillmore's fortunes turned for the better. While living in Niles, New York he became prominent enough in the community to serve in local offices including justice of the peace. While living in Niles, he followed the advice of his wife and procured a clerk's position for their son Millard in the law office of Judge Walter Wood, who was also their landlord. This clerkship began Millard Fillmore's training to become an attorney, and placed him on the path to a legal and political career that culminated with the presidency.
Nathaniel Fillmore eventually bought a farm in East Aurora, which he developed into a successful venture, and which he continued to work on until well into his later years. Millard Fillmore became president in 1850, and his father visited him at the White House in 1851.
Nathaniel Fillmore died in East Aurora in 1863 and was buried at East Aurora Cemetery.
Nathaniel Fillmore Jr. was born on April 19, 1771 in Bennington, Bennington County, Vermont, to Nathaniel Fillmore Sr., and Hepzibah Wood. He was educated in Bennington, and worked on his father's farm as a young man.
After his marriage, Fillmore began farming in Bennington. Shortly thereafter, Nathaniel and his brother Calvin Fillmore were approached by land agents offering tracts in New York state. Unhappy with trying to make the stony ground of their Vermont farms productive, they quickly grabbed the opportunity and moved to western New York, sight unseen.
According to biographers of Millard Fillmore, "The Fillmore brothers moved their two families to their new homeland nestled deep within a timber-laden forest. Location was not their greatest problem. Nor was the dense clay they unearthed once the land was cleared. Their greatest setback came with the realization that faulty surveying coupled with corrupt local government officials had left them with virtually nothing." The Fillmore brothers lost their land because of defective titles. Duped, tired, and poor, Nathaniel eventually became a tenant farmer while occasionally teaching school, working the soil for landlords and taking their charity when necessary to survive.
Over time, Nathaniel Fillmore's fortunes changed; he became prominent enough while living in Niles, New York that he served as a justice of the peace for eleven years. He eventually purchased a farm in East Aurora, New York which he developed into a productive enterprise, and on which he continued to be active until well into his old age. While living in Niles, Fillmore followed his wife's advice to secure a clerk's position for their son Millard in the law office of their landlord, Judge Walter Wood. Though Millard did not complete the clerkship, it set him on the eventual path to a successful legal and political career that carried him to the presidency.
Millard Fillmore assumed the presidency in 1850, and Nathaniel visited him at the White House in 1851. President Fillmore and his wife anticipated this visit more than any other, and were concerned that some circumstance requiring Fillmore's attention might prevent it. The other guests at the formal reception Nathaniel Fillmore attended expected to see someone elderly and infirm, given that Millard Fillmore was then 51 years old. They were surprised to meet a man, then approaching 80, who noticeably resembled Millard Fillmore, and was in such good health that he did not appear old enough to be the president's father. Questioned by a guest who wanted to know how to raise a son to become president, Nathaniel Fillmore alluded to his one-time poverty by replying "Cradle him in a sap trough."
After Phoebe died in 1831, he remarried to Eunice Love in 1834.