PRESIDENT #11 – JAMES POLK

President #10 is John Tyler. I have not been to his house which is outside of Williamsburg (though I have been to Williamsburg). The house is privately owned and you need to make an appointment to visit – and be prepared to pay. Ten dollars to tour the grounds and thirty-five dollars to tour the house. Two different sources I’ve read (including the website for the house) say that the house is lived in by Tyler’s grandson. I’m trying to wrap my brain around that – Tyler was born in 1790 and his GRANDSON lives in the house? Even if the grandson was born at the end of Tyler’s life or after his death in say – 1870 – that would make him 150 years old.  Someone needs to check some “facts” somewhere.

Anyhow – on to the James Polk house, a place that I have visited.

James Polk lived in a simple house in Columbia, Tennessee. We were there on a stifling hot day in May – the only ones on the tour. The tour guide was very personable. When we told her we were interested in the people, not just the house, she took a lot of time sharing fascinating tidbits. Later, she recommended a book that was sold at the gift shop that was written in the 1800s by someone who was a personal friend of Sarah Polks. The book was good and talked a lot about Sarah’s dependency on God’s grace – information we used in our Christmas Tea at Central when we did our White House Christmas.

James Polk is consistently listed as one of the top ten presidents. Though you don’t hear that much about him, he is considered to be the only President to keep all his campaign promises. When he was asked to run again, he said “no,” because he had promised he would stay in office only four years.

The Polks could not have children, but raised a nephew as their own.

Sarah Polk was educated at the Moravian Academy, and graduated from Salem College – one of the few colleges open to women.

The Polks had a good marriage. James respected Sarah’s intelligence and she often helped him make decisions and write his speeches.

Sadly, Polk died three months after he left office – some think because of the stresses of the presidency. Sarah, well loved by both parties – lived 42 years after her husband’s death. People often visited the house, enjoying good conversation and the intelligent, gracious Sarah. She also began collecting and saving furniture and other memorabilia from her husband’s life so that house is well furnished with originals.

Some information from our tour guide.

1. The Polk family symbol was the acorn showing unity and strength.

2. Sarah was 5’2″ , had a 21″ waist and wore size 3 shoes.

3. James was 5’7″

4. Polk’s mother was the grand niece of John Knox.

5. Houses were taxed by numbers of rooms. Closets were considered rooms. Many homes build around this time have no closets, but Maury County (where the Polks lived) did not have a room tax, so the Polk’s home had closets.

6. Sarah’s favorite color was red.

7. Sarah grew up Presbyterian.

8. Sarah died 3 weeks before her 89th birthday. She loved carriage rides and had gone on carriage rides several days in a row and took sick.

9. Sarah took this fan to the inaurgaration – it has the first 10 presidents on it and was a gift from her husband.

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