Sarah <I>Childress</I> Polk


Sarah Childress Polk Famous memorial

Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, Tennessee, USA
Death 14 Aug 1891 (aged 87)
Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, USA
Burial Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, USA
Memorial ID 8627 View Source

Presidential First Lady. She was born Sarah Childress on a plantation near Murfreesboro, Tennessee the daughter of a prosperous planter and merchant. As was usual with daughters of the wealthy during this time, her education was entrusted to a series of finishing schools. She was well qualified to assist a man with a political career. James K. Polk had just began his first year's service in the Tennessee legislature when a courtship with Sarah commenced and ended in marriage; he was 28, she 20. It is said that Andrew Jackson himself was the matchmaker. The couple was childless and all her energy was directed to helping her husband, acting as his secretary and upon becoming First Lady worked along side the president conducting the business of the land and even attended cabinet meetings. However, fun times in the White House were over. An over zealous Presbyterian, she issued edicts: no dancing, singing, music, card playing, gambling or alcohol at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. No business was conducted on Sunday. Sarah observed the first traditional Thanksgiving day dinner in the White House. Just three months after the Polk's vacated the White House to retire to a newly constructed home in Nashville, (Polk Place) Andrew died of Cholera. Sarah endured the longest widowhood of any first lady extending over forty two years. During the Civil War, both sides respected her neutrality and she entertained officers from both armies. Clad always in black, she turned their home into a shrine in her husbands memory. His grave was on the grounds of the estate. Because of her austere views and no children, her life became barren and joyless. She had some famous visitors, President and Mrs Hayes stopped by and later President and Mrs Cleveland. Upon her death at age 87, her burial next to her husband was short in duration. Polk Place became a run down, unkempt mansion in downtown Nashville and sadly was sold and demolished. The graves were moved to an even more austere site on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol. Only the cast iron fountain from the property was preserved and is today displayed at the James K. Polk Ancestral Home in Columbia. Constructed by his parents, he began his political career from this home. Adjacent is the Polk Sister's home containing many items from President and Sarah Polk. The Polk Memorial in Pineville, North Carolina is a reconstruction on land from the farm of his birth and where he spent most of his childhood. The log buildings and furnishings are not original to the Polk homestead but are period pieces of that time.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 1 Mar 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID: 8627
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sarah Childress Polk (4 Sep 1803–14 Aug 1891), Find a Grave Memorial ID 8627, citing Tennessee State Capitol Building and Grounds, Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .