Mother’s Day with Millard’s Mom

April 12, 2023
Written by
Don Vidler
Millard Fillmore Presidential Dollar

This Mother’s Day, why not remember someone else’s mom as well as your own?

Just a three-minute walk from Vidler’s 5 & 10 is the beautiful East Aurora Pioneer Cemetery, final resting place of President Millard Fillmore’s mother, Phoebe.

Born August 12, 1781, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Phoebe died when she was 49, on April 2, 1831, in Cayuga County, New York. It may have been merciful she didn’t live long enough to see her son become president and plummet in the eyes of historians. “Almost every time modern historians rank the U.S. presidents in order of greatness, Fillmore’s name appears near the bottom of the list,” reports “Even the White House’s official website calls him ‘uninspiring,’ and, in 1988, a Yale history professor quipped that ‘to discuss … Millard Fillmore is to overrate [him].’”

Of course, as a mother, Phoebe may not have worried so much about Millard’s political aspirations as whether he was eating right and wearing his coat. Millard, the 13th president, from 1850 and 1853, began his law and political career in East Aurora. And it was in East Aurora where he built what is now known as the Millard Fillmore House, one of only 10 National Historic Landmarks in Erie County.

The house stood in disrepair for years, until another accomplished mother, the artist, toy designer, and children’s book author Margaret Evans Price, bought it, in 1930, and had it moved and remodeled for her studio. Price, of course, co-founded Fisher-Price toy company with her husband, Irving Price. Margaret’s claim to motherhood? She and Irving had three children.

The Aurora Historical Society acquired the Fillmore house-turned Price art studio in 1975 and returned it to its 1820s-era grandeur. The house now typifies a small, frame dwelling of the Federal Period and is furnished with pieces that belonged to Millard Fillmore and his wife, Abigail, from their East Aurora, White House, and Buffalo years.

A tour of the house includes the living room, kitchen, bedrooms, playroom, Victorian library, and carriage barn, as well as a stroll through its period gardens. The tour lasts about one hour. Take it; you’ll be glad you did.

Take a minute, also, to visit Millard’s mom in East Aurora Pioneer Cemetery. To paraphrase an ages-old mother’s lament: Her own kids never come by anymore.

Then, when you’re through paying Millard’s mom your respects, come on over to Vidler’s, which has a connection or two of its own to the estimable Fillmore family. One of our buildings is the site of Millard’s original law office in East Aurora; there’s a plaque designating it as such in the front window. (Millard’s actual office building was long gone by the time our store opened, but it’s the same spot. And my mother (Ed's wife), Virginia Vidler, who was the town historian in the 1970s, was part of a group that was instrumental in having the house designated a National Historic Landmark.

So, what better way to cap off a wonderful East Aurora Mother’s Day than to visit Vidler’s? We have a huge variety of items available to help you show your own mom just how much you love and appreciate her, or to help you remember her.

And, since you’re honoring your mom and all, be sure to zip up that coat on your way out.

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