Historical Markers
James Buchanan Historical Marker
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James Buchanan

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
PA 416, 3.3 miles NW of Mercersburg

Dedication Date:
January 1955

Behind the Marker

Oil on canvas depicting a formally dressed Buchanan standing next to a table, with his left hand resting on a map.
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James Buchanan, portrait by George Peter Alexander Healy, 1859.
James Buchanan's parents, James Buchanan and Elizabeth Speer, both immigrated to the United States from Northern Ireland. His father, James, arrived in 1783 and settled near Cove Gap, Pennsylvania, then an important trading post nestled within the Allegheny Mountains. James Buchanan later described the region as a "rugged but romantic spot."

His father worked at the community's only store, saved money and purchased a place called Stony Batter where the previous owner had built a small, but comfortable, log cabin. The trading post was busy and the elder Buchanan soon accumulated other land and business interests. Within a few years, he moved his growing family to the nearby town of markerMercersburg.

Born in 1791, Buchanan was one of eleven children. He received a formal education beginning at an early age, studying Latin and Greek at the Old Stone Academy in Mercersburg. He later attended Dickinson College and, after graduating, practiced law in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

In 1814, Buchanan embarked upon a long and distinguished career in politics when elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He went on to serve terms in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, and was appointed Secretary of State and Minister to both Russia and England.

In 1856, Buchanan became the Democratic Party's candidate for president. He won the election, defeating Republican candidate John C. Frémont.

Although a gifted debater and sharp legal mind, Buchanan seemed unable to grasp the gravity of the sectional issues that were dividing the nation. He frequently seemed more impassioned by his bitter rivalry with fellow Democrat and Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas. After one term, Buchanan retired to his country estate, markerWheatland, where he remained throughout the Civil War. James Buchanan died on June 1, 1868.

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