From the White House to Marion and Back

After the Civil War, Marion began to develop in to a summer vacation spot. The railroads connected Marion to Boston and Fall River making the region more accessible in the pre-automobile age. Writers, artists, musicians and anyone else who could afford to spend a summer out of the city could take the Fall River steamboat from New York to Fall River and then hop a train to the sleepy summertime resort in just about a day. Such a trip aroused Marion in August 1887.

During 1887, construction on the Eiffel Tower would begin, the United States leased Pearl Harbor as a naval base, Gottlieb Daimler unveiled his first automobile, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show opened and President Grover Cleveland was gearing up for a re-election run. He had a busy first term. He created the Interstate Commerce Commission, which was to regulate the railroads and later other “common carriers” such as trucking and telephone companies. This agency would last until 1995.

President Grover Cleveland

He was well known for the use of his veto pen, vetoing more bills than any president up to that time including bills providing relief for Civil War veterans and drought stricken farmers in Texas.

At the beginning of his first term, the President was also a bachelor, but he would soon marry. His bride to be was Frances Folsom, a 21-year-old graduate of Wells College. Frances was the daughter of President Cleveland’s law partner Oscar Folsom. When Frances was 11, her father was thrown from his carriage and killed coming home from a meeting. Cleveland was appointed her legal guardian (laws at the time did not recognize her mother as her legal guardian).

In 1886, at the age of 49, President Cleveland married his 21-year-old bride. They had a small ceremony in the White House attended by relatives and close friends. Soon, the new First Lady would gain the attention of many and was followed closely by the newspapers.

Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland, 1886

In 1887, Mrs. Cleveland was invited by the Arctic explorer, Adolphus Greely along with other guests to his summer rental in Marion. Word quickly spread that the first lady was in town. The newspapers wrote extensively on what Mrs. Cleveland wore and followed her movements from church to lectures to lunches. Despite a rainy, gloomy first day in Marion, the First Lady was impressed with all Marion had to offer and decided to return the next summer for vacation.

Before she left for the season, she announced that she would receive visitors at the Greely’s. Word spread and on the day of the reception visitors lined the street for a chance to meet the first lady. However, not everyone had to wait in line to meet her. Mrs. Cleveland took a trip to Mattapoisett to meet 98-year-old Keziah Randall who had recently applied for a government pension. Mrs. Randall’s husband had served during the War of 1812. When Mrs. Randall received the pension, it was noted that Mrs. Cleveland helped secure the pension after her visit.

Frances Cleveland would return to Marion with her mother the next summer. That fall, President Cleveland lost his re-election bid. Mrs. Cleveland was certain that her husband would do something no other President had done – serve two non-consecutive terms. She told a White House staff member: “you take good care of all the furniture and ornaments in the house, for I want to find everything just as it is now, when we come back again.”

The Cleveland’s spent their next four summers in Marion. The President spent his time preparing for his re election… by fishing. He fished regardless of weather and upset the local fish sellers when he gave his catches away for free. His favorite fishing spot became known as Cleveland’s Ledge. The Cleveland’s rented houses at 192 Front Street and 46 Water Street during their stays at Marion.

46 Water Street

The President loved the house on Water Street so much he wanted to purchase it, but the owner did not want to part with it. He offered to sell it at an inflated price, but the President turned him down. In 1893, Frances Cleveland’s prediction that she would return to the White House with her husband came true and the visits to Marion came to an end. In 1895, when their third child was born, they named her Marion.


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