I have been very happy enjoying a spectacular Spring this year, taking walks among the flowers and seeing that bright thing in the sky that does not always make an appearance here in the Erie area – the sun. Being a student of local history, one of my favorite places to walk is the Erie Cemetery. Walking through, it is a “who’s who” of old Erie families, the wealthy and not so wealthy. So many of the names have been a topic of past blogs. On my last ramble, I was on the high part of the cemetery that goes along West 26th Street and noticed the following gravestone.
Fortunately, there is a modern stone nearby that explains what this old marker laying on the ground once said. Once I read it, I wanted to do a little more research. Please try to read the new marker now.
I did not realize that Erie was the temporary national seat of power for 10 days! President Zachary Taylor was a Southerner and made a tour of the northern states after being elected in 1849. He was in the Pittsburgh area, making his way north to Erie when he fell ill between that city and Waterford. What was to become a pleasant visit with banquets and parades became a rush to Erie and laying in the home of Dr. William Wood who was the surgeon attached to the Steamship Michigan and was stationed here. Some readers may know that the Hagen History Center now has a home of Dr. Wood’s as part of our campus. The President was not taken to this property but to Dr. Wood’s former home on the corner of 8th and State Streets.
Vice President Millard Filmore was in Buffalo at the time visiting his home there. He travelled by botat to Erie, as now the seat of government was conducted out of Dr. Wood’s office. After the President’s recovery, Filmore headed back to Buffalo, receiving a multiple gun salute from the Michigan. It was then that a gun discharged without warning and killed John Robertson and Peter Gilbert, two sailors aboard. The men were buried in a temporary grave, then moved to the Erie cemetery later because the cemetery was not established until 1851.
Sadly, Taylor was not President for long. Plagued by poor health, he passed away less than a year later from a stomach disease. In fact, it was stomach issues which brought him to Erie and into Dr. Wood’s care.
We have had many Presidents travel to Erie and not all under happy circumstances. Taylor was never able to prove if he would have been a “good” president or not, his term was too short. He did leave his mark on the Erie community though and was able to think highly of those here who nursed him back to good health.