This is the second part of the blog I started in honor of Pennsylvania’s only President. This will cover the funeral procession to Woodward Hill Cemetery and his burial. Part one covered his death and services in his home, Wheatland, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Although James Buchanan had expressly requested no “pomp or parade,” it happened anyway. He was well loved in Lancaster, and people turned out to pay their final respects. In addition to people from his county, delegations from other cities, organizations and government lined the streets and joined the procession from his Wheatland to Woodward Hill Cemetery. After all, he had been President, and respect of the position and the man was due.
Throngs appeared early on the day of his funeral, to pay their final respects. His coffin was in the entrance hall of Wheatland and mourners entered via the front door, formed lines on either side of his coffin, and exited by the back door. The entrance hall was “draped in mourning.”
The funeral parade covered a distance of approximately 2 1/2 miles. Wheatland is on Marietta Avenue, then called Marietta Turnpike. I can find no exact route recorded, but must assume the procession went from Wheatland, south on Marietta to West King Street. Since a newspaper account states that some members of the Humane Fire Company sprinkled the street from “the extreme end of West King street to Centre Square, a distance of three-quarters of a mile,” I’ll assume the funeral procession turned east on West King Street and that was the route taken into the heart of the city. Centre Square is just that. The intersection of King and Queen Street is the heart of Lancaster. From Centre Square, one can assume that the procession turned south on Queen Street right to Woodward Hill Cemetery.
The newspaper account estimates “not less than twenty thousand people were either in the procession or looking on at the mournful pageant as it passed through the streets.” According to an account in The Lancaster Intelligencer on June 10, 1868, there were delegations from Philadelphia, New York, Harrisburg, York and the City Council of Baltimore. The paper went on to say “Many distinguished Pennsylvanians from different parts of the State were present in line, either in carriages or on foot.”
Also “Lancaster No. 27; Monterey, No. 242; and Hebel, No. 599, Lodges of I.O. of O.F. These societies combined paraded 175 men. . .” The City Cornet Band was in the parade as well as the Order of Free and Accepted Masons “. . . they paraded 200 men. . “ and then followed the procession of carriages. The paper listed who was in each of the 125 carriages that were in the procession and “. . . they began to move a few moments before 5 o’clock, and the head of it had entered the city before the last of it began to move from position. It extended over a distance of nearly two miles and at the lowest estimate there were not less than 4,000 people in the line. “
According to the Masonic organization, “. . .One of the largest funeral processions of any President who died out of office followed the remains to Woodward Hill, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where four thousand people witnessed the impressive Masonic burial service.”
The sidewalks along the route were packed with thousands of people and when the procession arrived at the Cemetery, throngs lined the paths there, having staked out spots early in the day. Churchbells rang until they reached the Cemetery and funeral trumpets were heard leading the procession.
“When the large procession arrived, to the thud of muffled drums and the long plaintive peal of the trumpets, those persons who constituted the advance body, . . firemen, beneficial associations, etc., formed in line on either side of the turnpike while the Masons, lawyers and the numerous carriages and guests filed through them. It was a scene of solemn and yet imposing interest, the music stirring the foliage and silencing the birds among the trees . . . until at last the hearse moving among them all, brought the President of the United States to his last palace, where he shall be laid away . . .”
James Buchanan’s monument is not the original one that was created per his specifications in 1868. It was replaced in 1960 and the replaclement closely resembles the original. This was a man truly respected and beloved by his community and it appears, all that knew him. The fact that he is rated as “Worst President” this country has ever seen, seems hard to believe when you see names of those that attended his funeral, and read tributes that were printed on the ocassion of his death.
Rest in Peace, 15th President. You were loved.
- Sally Smith Cahalan, At Home With James Buchanan; Science Press, Ephrata, Pennsylvania, 1989, pages 98, 101, 102.
- H.G. Smith and Co., The Lancaster Intelligencer; June 10, 1868, published Lancaster, Pennsylvania, page 1.
- George Ticknor Curtis, Life of James Buchanan: Fifteenth President of the United States; Harper & brothers, New York,1883, page 686.
- Philip Roth, Masonry in the Formation of Our Government, 1761-1799; Kessinger Publishing, Montana, 1995, page 130.
- Photographs personal property of author