|The tomb of President James K. Polk and First Lady Sarah Childress Polk, located on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol in the City of Nashville.|
President Polk on the 28th day of February, 1849, while still in Washington, D.C., executed his will. He devised to his brother, William H. Polk, and his heirs forever, the remainder interest which he owned in the house and lot in Columbia, Tennessee, which at the date of the will was occupied by President Polk's mother, Jane Polk, who held a life interest in the property. President Polk's will is as follows:
I, James K. Polk of the State of Tennessee, but residing during the term for which I was elected President of the United States, in the City of Washington, considering the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death, do make, ordain and publish this my last Will and Testament, as follows: that is to say:
It is my will and desire, and I do so direct, that all just debts which I may owe at the period of my death shall be paid out of my estate by my Executors hereinafter named.
I devise and bequeath to my brother, William H. Polk and his heirs forever, the remainder interest which I own in the house and lot lying and being in the town of Columbia, Tennessee, at present occupied by my aged mother, Jane Polk, and in which she holds a life estate.
I devise and bequeath to my nephew, Marshall T. Polk, now a Cadet at the Military Academy at West Point, and to his heirs forever, all lands which I own lying in the State of Arkansas, which said lands were patented to me by the United States; and as I have much solicitude for the future welfare and prosperity of my said nephew, Marshall T. Polk, whose father and mother are both dead, and for whom I am guardian, it is my request that my beloved wife, Sarah Polk, will from time to time, give him such further aid and assistance out of the estate hereinafter devised and bequeathed to her as in her discretion she may think right and proper, provided he shall in her judgment, prove to be worthy of such aid and assistance, and she shall be in a situation to do so, without embarrassment or inconvenience to herself.
I devise and bequeath to my beloved wife Sarah Polk, to be held, used and enjoyed by her, during the period of her natural life, the dwelling house and lots and all the grounds, with the appurtenances thereunto attached and belonging, situated, lying and being in the City of Nashville, in the State of Tennessee, which said house, lots and premises I purchased from the estate of Felix Grundy, deceased, and from John M. Bass, and which on my return, I design to make my future residence.
It is my will and desire that my said wife, Sarah Polk, shall have the full right as long as she may live, to the exclusive possession, occupation and enjoyment of the said house lots and premises, and to add to, alter or change the improvements thereon as she may think proper. And as my beloved wife, Sarah Polk, and myself, have mutually agreed with each other, that at our respective deaths, it is desired by us, that our bodies may be interred on the said premises, which I have denominated the Polk Place,
|This historical marker marks the site of "Polk Place," James K. Polk's house, which no longer stands, and Polk's tomb which was moved from Polk Place to the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol, less than one mile from its original location.|
and as it is also our desire that the said house, lots and premises should never pass into the hands of strangers, who are not related to me by consanguinity, I do hereby, with a view to prevent such a contingency, devise, bequeath and give the said house lots and premises, and all the appurtenances thereunto belonging or appertaining, from and after the death of my said wife, to the State of Tennessee, but to be held by the said State of Tennessee in trust for the following uses, objects and purposes, and none other, that is to say:
the said State of Tennessee, through its Governor for the time being, or if he should decline to assume the Execution of the trust, then through such other person, as the legislature of the said State may from time to time empower and authorize for that purpose, shall permit the said house, lots and premises, to be occupied, used and enjoyed by such one of my blood relations, having the name of Polk as may be designated by the said State, or its authorized agent, preferring always my nearest of kin of the name of Polk, if there be such a person who shall be deemed worthy, and a proper person to occupy the same; but if at any time, there shall be no such blood relation bearing the name of Polk, then the said house, lots and premises shall be occupied, used and enjoyed by such other of my blood relations as may be designated by the said State to execute this trust.
Whichsoever of my blood relations, shall after the death of my said beloved wife, Sarah Polk, from time to time, use occupy and enjoy the said house, lots and premises, shall be required to keep the same in repair, so as to prevent them from delapidating [sic] or falling into decay, shall pay the public taxes thereon, and shall preserve and keep in repair the tomb which may be placed or erected over the mortal remains of my beloved wife and myself, and shall not permit the same to be removed, nor shall any buildings or other improvements be placed or erected over the spot where the said tomb may be.
I request the public authorities of the State of Tennessee, whose people I have so long served in various public stations, and to whom I am under so many obligations of gratitude, at the death of my beloved wife, Sarah Polk, to accept and execute the trust specified in this devise.
I devise, bequeath and give to my beloved wife, Sarah Polk, and her heirs forever, all the balance of my estate, not hereinbefore disposed of, wheresoever situated, including all my lands and real estate, all my servants and personal property of any description, in the State of Tennessee and Mississippi or elsewhere, and including also money and debts and securities, which may be due or owning to me, or held by me. I have entire confidence that my beloved wife, Sarah Polk, who has been constantly identified with me in all her sympathies and affections, through all the vicissitudes of my public and private life for more than twenty-five years, and who by her prudence, care and economy has aided and assisted me in acquiring and preserving the property which I own, will at her death make a proper and just disposition of what property she may then possess, between her relations and mine. This is left entirely to her sole discretion, but with a request, if she shall deem it proper, that it may be distributed as equally as practicable, between such of her blood relations and my blood relations, whether they be the nearest of kin or not, as she may select and deem to be the most worthy recipients of it.
Should I survive her, unless influenced by circumstances which I do not now foresee, it is my intention to emancipate all my slaves, and I have full confidence, that if at her death she shall deem it proper, she will emancipate them.
I do hereby nominate, constitute and appoint my beloved wife, Sarah Polk, Executrix, and my faithful and trusty friends, John Caltron and Daniel Graham Executors of this my last will and testament.
In witness whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed my seal this twenty-eighth day of February in the year of Our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred and forty nine.
[Signed] James K. Polk [Seal]
Signed, sealed and delivered by the testator in our presence, and in the presence of each other, as his last will and testament, and witnessed by us at his request.
James H. Thomas
H. L. Turney
Excerpted from "Discussion of James K. Polk's Will" published in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly, June 1956 issue.