News Articles Related to Burial History of James K. Polk
The Daily Union
Monday, June 18, 1849
Death. James K. Polk
DEATH OF JAMES K. POLK
Artist-Ralph E. W. Earl
In our last issue, we briefly announced the death of James K. Polk, late President of the United States. Seized about two weeks since, by a violent attack of a disease to which, in chronic form, he has been long subject, rendered doubtless more malignant by the prevalence of the epidemic in our midst, he lingered, alternating between life and death, until Friday the 15th instant, when at eighteen minutes before 5 o’clock, p.m., he finally sunk to rest. During the continuance of his illness, and up to the very few moments previous to his dissolution, he retained consciousness. Aware of his critical situation, and, from an early period of his illness, satisfied that his earthly career was drawing to a close, he calmly prepared himself for the crisis. With that strong moral courage so conspicuous in every act of his eventful life, he looked to a fatal termination of his disease without fear and died without a murmur or a struggle.
The city authorities on the official announcement of his demise, met at the City Hall, and passed resolutions deploring the visitation of Providence which had deprived them of the society and services of their distinguished townsman, tendering to his afflicted family their condolence for the heavy misfortune that had befallen them, and requesting the citizens of the town to close all houses of business or recreation on the day of his funeral as a mark of respect to the deceased. The funeral was appointed to take place on Saturday the 16th at 3 o’clock p.m.
In accordance with the request of the Mayor and Aldermen, all the ordinary avocations were suspended, stores and other places of business closed and several houses draped in black on the day indicated. At the special request of the deceased, he was consigned to the tomb by the Masons, and with Masonic honors. After the fraternity had gone through with the customary ceremonies – both affecting and impressive – at his residence, the body was conveyed to the Methodist Church, and a funeral sermon delivered by the Rev. J. B. McFerrin. The speaker, in that portion of his remarks personal to the deceased, gave a brief sketch of his life and public career, passed a high and deserved eulogium on his moral character and unblemished integrity, and detailed in a forcible and impressive manner, the particulars of his last illness and death. Early in his sickness Mr. Polk had connected himself with the Methodist Episcopal Church – a church for which, as his friends all know, he always felt a preference. The funeral services performed, the body was conveyed to the grave yard, accompanied by the masons, the city authorities, and a long train of mourning citizens, and deposited in the tomb with masonic forms, after a brief, but beautiful and appropriate address by Wilkins Tannehill, P.G.M., preaching officer of the fraternity. A benediction by the minister closed the ceremonies, and our distinguished fellow-citizen was left to his last and long repose…
He sleeps with the great and good who have gone before him. May the earth lie lightly over this remains.
Daily Nashville Union
Thursday, May 23, 1850
REBURIAL OF THE REMAINS OF THE
LATE EX-PRESIDENT POLK.
Polk's Vine Street Mansion in Later Years
As had been previously announced in the public prints of the city, the mortal remains of the late President Polk, were yesterday morning removed from the city cemetery, where they had been deposited shortly after the death June last, to the spot selected as his final resting place, in front of the family residence on Vine street. A plain vault, surrounded by a neat, simple and chaste monument, had been prepared, under the direction of Col. Strickland, for the reception of the remains. At an early hour, the Masonic fraternity, the different Fire companies of this city, and the citizens generally, began to form in procession --- the former at their Hall, and the firemen and citizens on the public square --- as designated in the order of procession heretofore published. The procession was large and imposing. We noticed many persons from Maury, Williamson, Hickman, Lincoln, and, in fact, from all the surrounding counties. The procession moved through several of the streets at the city, and by the time it reached the tomb, where the body was to be deposited, a large crowd of citizens --- ladies and gentlemen --- had assembled to honor the president. The day was pleasant and agreeable, and brought out a dense concourse of spectators. After an appropriate prayer by the Rev. John B. McFerrin, the following words, put to music by a distinguished Hungarian exile, were sung in the handsomest manner by the choir.
Sung at the interment of the remains of the Ex-President
Polk, in the family vault on the 22nd May 1850…
The Right Rev. Bishop Otey, who had been chosen to deliver an address upon the occasion, followed. He held his audience in profused attention, while he delivered an admirable address, every way worthy of the occasion and its distinguished author. We cannot pay it higher praise than we do in publishing it in the Union this morning. No one felt the least fatigue during the entire delivery. These of our readers who did not hear it, will find the address both classical and chaste, interspersed with personal reminiscences of the deceased and delivered in that clear and impressive manner for which Bishop Otey is so much distinguished.
After the delivery of the address, the coffin containing the body of the late President was lowered in the vault by the Masons, with Masonic ceremonies, the slab placed over the opening, and the great statesman was left to rest in peace. May his monument, which forms so conspicuous an object in that portion of the city, ever remain to remind us of his virtues, and incite our youth to emulate his high qualities. The name of James K. Polk must live in the pages of history and in the hearts of his countrymen.
BISHOP OTEY’S ADDRESS
Companions, Brothers and Fellow Citizens --- In other times when the Greeks and Romans assembled at the tombs of the illustrious dead, to commemorate their services and virtues, the speakers, on such occasions, were accustomed to supplicate their Gods, that nothing unsuitable to the dignity of the occasion, or unworthy to the memory of the dead might be spoken. If such a custom be regarded as pious and becoming to those, unblessed by the light of divine revelation which we enjoy, how much more does it become him, who now addresses you, to implore the grace of “Him who touched Isaiah’s hallowed lips with fire,” to enable him to speak words adapted to the edification of those who hear, just to the memory of the departed, and befitting the seriousness and solemnity of this assembly?
|Polk's Vine Street Mansion and Strickland Monument
“Sorrow is a sacred thing,” and the memorials of man’s mortality, at all times, impressive and awe-inspiring. This assembly --- these insignia of mourning ---the seriousness enthroned upon every brow --- this monument and above all, that coffin, speak a language which reaches the heart, stirs its inmost and holiest affections, and compels us to do homage, not the power of death, unbidden, our sympathies are awakened; unbidden our tears flow. It is the spontaneous offering which we all make, in recognition of the interest we feel in the woes which affect our race, and the common fate which awaits all living. Moved by an impulse alike natural and honorable to humanity, and in obedience to the principals which govern our ancient and venerable order, we come to pay the last testimony of our respect and affection, to the memory of a companion and brother well-beloved and worthy --- to mingle our sympathies with those who mourn over blighted hopes, and offer them the tribute of our sincere and affectionate condolence. We come, to show our estimate of one, who occupied places of high and conspicuous elevation among men --- whose measures of public policy will probably give shape to the future destinies of of this great country --- whose commanding talents and far-reaching qualities of statesmanship secured for him, the confidence and warm support of his countrymen --- and whose private virtues and attractive manners won and retained that friendship and love, which become the brightest ornament of life in prosperity, its sweetest solace in adversity. We come, to commit his mortal remains to their last resting place --- to the receptacle, which the people speaking through the public authorities of the states, have provided for their keeping --- to that rock-hewn tomb, where they will repose undisturbed, till the voice of the son of God, in the morning of the resurrection, shall call the nations to stand, at the bar of the last judgment.
Tennessee State Museum
Artist - William B. Cooper
The occasion and the purpose for which we have convened, alike forbid me, to dwell upon the public services of the deceased. These have already, been considered and discussed by those better qualified, than myself, to discharge, such a duty --- a duty, to which they were called, by Legislatures of this and other states. They require no notice from the humble individual who addresses you, to set forth their value, or perpetuate their remembrance. Your speaker belongs not to the world of politics, and it would be as presumptuous, as it would be inappropriate, to the dignity and solemnity of of the purpose which has convoked us, to canvass political opinions here and attempt to show their agreement or inconsistency, with the true interests of the country. Especially, do I deem it unfitting, to recur to such topics, now become the appropriate study and property of the historian, when I call to mind the sentiments uttered by the late President Polk, in a public address to the people of Columbia and vicinity, in his return about 12 months ago from Washington.
“My political life,” said he, “is ended. Yes, fellow citizens, who have known me from boyhood to this time, when you see my locks frosted with age; who first conferred on me, by your favor political distinction and trust; who have sustained me in every struggle; who have watched my whole progress; you know at what object I have aimed, and by what principles I have been guided. You know, that we have lived in eventful times --- times emphatically marked by distress and perplexity of nations --- times rendering the administration of government, a matter of extreme delicacy and difficulty. I have honestly endeavored to act faithfully to the principles of the Constitution; faithfully to the honor and interests of our beloved country. By you --- by posterity I am willing that my acts should be judged. I see many here, who have differed with me in measures of public policy. I give them all the credit for patriotism, and honest intentions which I claim for myself. I have no political animosities; my public life is at an end, and I come to pass the remainder of my days, among those, who have known me longest, and most intimately, and who have the first claim upon the affections of my heart.”
A friendship begun in the joyous days of youth, and continued, without interruption, through the long period of two and thirty years, authorises me to say, that such sentiments were in keeping, with the uniform tenor of his language and deportment, under all the circumstances, in which I have known him to be placed. Ardent in the pursuit
of al objects, which he deemed worthy of attention, persevering in his efforts, for their accomplishment, and laboring with an energy, that counted not the cost of personal sacrifices, he could not be any thing less, than a leader. He was a leader at college; a leader in the literary society, of which he was a member; a leader In his county; in his congressional district; in his State; in the national councils, and, yet, in all the heat engendered by the mental conflicts, which sprung up naturally, from these various positions, he was rarely if ever, heard to utter a word of personal unkindness or bitterness, towards an opponent --- his language was, always, respectful, his bearing, the polite and dignified deportment of the gentleman. A rapid survey of his life, by bringing under review, the principal events of his history, will perhaps furnish the best delineation of his character. He was born Nov. 2, 1795, in Mecklenburg county, N. C., whence he removed at the age of six years, with his Father and family, to Tennessee. He entered the University of N. C. in 1815, and received his degree of A. B. in June 1818. The same year, he began the study of law, with Judge Grundy, in this city, and commenced practice in the courts, in 1820. In 1821, he was elected clerk to the Legislature of Tennessee, and in 1823, was returned a member of that body, from the county of Maury. He was elected representative to Congress, in 1825, and on taking his seat, was the youngest member of the house -- save one. In Congress he served fourteen years, during which time, he acted on some of the most important committees; participated in the debates, upon all leading questions, and was twice elevated to the chair of Speaker. Retiring from Congress, he was elected Governor of the State of Tennessee, in 1839, and, afterwards chosen President of the U. S. in 1844, in opposition, to a man of transcendent talents; of acknowledged public services; of unsurpassed powers of eloquence, and of world-wide fame.
Artist - W. B. Cooper
He retired from the office of President, on the 3d March 1848, and very soon after the inauguration of his distinguished successor, set out on his return to the home of his youth, and his affections. Every where on his journey, he was greeted with a most cordial welcome. The feelings of all parties seemed to be merged into the one prevailing desire, to honor the faithful public servant and manifest respect to him, whose administration of the government, had elevated the country in the eyes of foreign powers; brought to a successful and honorable conclusion, all questions between ourselves and other governments, as to the territorial limits, conducted the war with Mexico to a fortunate termination, and added 640 millions of acres, to the public domain…
On the 5th of April last year, he arrived in Columbia, where he began his public career, and was received with the warm welcome, of long known and well-tried friends, without distinctions of parties. The anxieties, and cares of office; the wear of incessant application of public duty, had made visible and fearful inroads upon his constitution and health. It was fondly hoped, by friends, that he would rally by relaxation from labor, and in the delights of social intercourse; the pleasures of intellectual research, and literary employments, he would yet attain a good old age, fruitful in works for the benefit of future statesmen, and politicians. Such hopes were cherished, to end in the most bitter disappointment. Disease laid its cruel and relentless grasp upon a frame, already taxed to the utmost physical endurance, and after a few days of acute suffering, he closed his life, calmly and peacefully, with an humble trust in the mercy of God through a Redeemer, on the 15th of 1849…
In the private relations of life --- with his friends --- in his deportment towards his fellow-citizens --- in the transactions of business --- in punctuality to meet his engagements --- in the civilities due to strangers, to station and to age, Mr. Polk was all that could be reasonably expected or desired. He was a dutiful son --- an affectionate brother --- a faithful friend – a kind husband --- and easy and merciful master --- a good neighbor and last of all, but not least, he was an humble believer in Christ.
James K. Polk
Would that I could say, that he was known to all the world as a devout Christian, during all that splendid career of distinction, which marked his progress through life. This is the only defect in his character, upon which I feel bound to make a remark --- and fidelity to him, fidelity to the living, and above all fidelity to Him, whom I own and acknowledge as my master, and in whose name I speak, all require me to say, that this was a grievous defect --- a defect which he himself acknowledged and deplored, which he atoned for, to the best of his ability, and opportunity, on the bed of his last sickness. I saw him on that bed of pain, and within a few hours of the closing scene, and his language then was, “If any man in the world has reason to acknowledge his debt and gratitude to God for his mercies, and to deplore his forgetfulness of Him, I am the man. For twenty years past, I have been sensible of my duty to God, and intending to do it, but the cares of life and incessant occupation with public business, have interfered to prevent me.” It was no doubt an honest, true and heart-felt confession --- for the hour of death is an honest hour, and we shall all find it so, my hearers, no matter what may be our condition, or rank in life. It was a confession, which we humbly trust, that the searcher of hearts accepted, as some atonement, through the merits of Christ, for that forgetfulness which it acknowledged, and lamented.
But, why was President Polk through a long course of time, unknown to the profession of Christ’s religion? It could not be that he was ignorant of his duty in this behalf; for, from the time that he was at college, to the close of his eventful life, he a constant attendant upon the worship of God. It could not be. The true cause is, doubtless, to be found in that which we are compelled to pronounce the prevailing and besetting sin of the day --- the habit of procrastination -
a habit, most likely to be strengthened and confirmed, by devotion to worldly objects, and especially the pursuits of political life. But this forms no sort of justification for the neglect of a bounden duty --- nor for the commission of an acknowledged fault --- a fault more glaringly apparent in the lives of all our Presidents, Andrew Jackson perhaps excepted… General Jackson professed religion and died in the communion of the Presbyterian church, some years after he retired from the Presidential chair. General Harrison, it is said, intended to attach himself by communion to the Episcopal church, on the Sunday which followed his death. He died in his 69th year. What had he been doing in the fifty years preceding, that he found neither place nor opportunity to testify his personal interest in the purchase of the Redeemer’s blood? President Polk professed his faith in Christ, was baptized and received the communion, at the hands of a Methodist minister, a few days before his decease…
I feel that this is the only proper topic... If we can send you back to your homes, more deeply impressed than when you came, with the uncertainty of life and the emptiness of worldly honors, and more resolved to make religion a matter of personal concernment and duty, then we shall feel that we have not labored in vain nor failed in the object proposed to ourselves in meeting this appointment.
The uncertainty of life and the vanity of human calculations are subjects which the Word of God repeatedly presents to ur consideration --- which it enforces by the employment of the most striking language and the amplest illustrations.
“What is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth
for a little time, and then vanisheth away. Boast not
thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a
day may bring forth.”
Terms still more emphatic are used to denote the rapidity with which life hastens to its close. It is compared to a weaver’s shuttle, to the flight of an arrow, to a dream when one awaketh…
In the dissolution which the heart feels when rifled of the objects of its love, in its yearning search after them in the depths of the spirit… O may the comforter come with words of sweetest peace --- lead us on to more enduring lights to attract our upward gaze --- strengthen the wings of faith for a loftier and more vigorous flight --- pour upon the heart a flood of glory in the final assurance of hope and then enable us to rejoice in the consolation that these very friends whom it is now expedient for us to lose will be restored to us in measures of eternal rest where we shall meet to part no more.
May 23, 1850
Re-interment. James K. Polk
William Strickland - State Capitol Portrait
The ceremony of removing the remains of the late lamented President from the temporary vault in the cemetery to the monument erected in his memory took place yesterday. (At the City Cemetery) Col. Strickland conducted the exhuming & re-entombing. Mr. McCombs, the undertaker, deserves great praise for his preparations.
At 7 o’clock a.m., the remains were exhumed from the temporary vault at the cemetery under the direction of Col. Strickland and the undertaker Mr. McCombs. The coffin was in an excellent state of preservation, and appeared as though just deposited. We noticed that the acacia that had been dropped in the tomb by the brethren of the mystic tie was withered. After being exhumed the coffin was placed in a black walnut shell, beautifully polished, which was delivered by Col. Strickland to the committee appointed to escort the body into the city.
The following gentlemen formed the escort committee: Granville P. Smith, John S. Dashiel, George W. Aravitte, H.L. Claiborne, Maj. A. Herman [sic], John L. Glenn, C. W. Robertson, John E. Bell.
A park of artillery was stationed on College Hill under charge of Alderman Brown, of the Fourth Ward, which commenced firing minute guns at 10 o’clock when the procession from the cemetery moved in the following order: Four of the Committee of Escort Knights Templar on horseback; a hearse drawn by four grays, grooms, containing the body; Col. Strickland and Mr. McCombs, four of the Committee of Escort, same grade as deceased, on horseback; citizens of South Nashville on foot; citizens of South Nashville in carriages. Arriving at Broad street by Cherry from the cemetery, the remains were handed over by the Escort Committee to the Grand Marshals, Dr. Shelby and Gen. Clements, and were received by the Masonic body and citizens generally in an appropriate manner. The procession then formed in the following order and proceeded to the final resting place of him whose remains they met to honor: Grand Marshals, band of music, Masonic fraternity, juniors, first; carriages contained Bishop Otey and the Rev. J. B. McFerrin, four Knights Templar on horseback; four pall-bearers on each side of the hearse accompanied by Masons, Col. Sttickland and Mr. McCombs, four Master Masons on horseback, band of music, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen and members of the fire companies Nos. 1 & 3 (this company made a very fine appearance in neat white shirts and glazed caps), resident and visiting clergy, Governor, ex-Governor and State officers, judges of the several courts, members of the bar, physicians, citizens on foot, citizens in carriages, etc. The procession was large and imposing. The Masonic body turned out in full strength and made a fine display, especially the Knights Templar, whose regalia was in keeping with the occasion. Arriving at the monument a very impressive prayer was offered to the throne of grace by the Rev. J. B. McFerrin of the M.E. Church after which the choir sang in a very effective manner an ode. The ode is given, and the statement made by Bishop Otey made as address, is given in full.
Nashville Daily Gazette
Thursday Morning, May 23, 1850
Re-interment. President James J. Polk
REMOVAL OF THE REMAINS OF
THE LATE EX-PRESIDENT POLK
|James K. Polk
Artist - George Peter Alexander Healy
The proceedings yesterday on the occasion of the removal of the remains of Ex-President Polk to the vault, prepared for their reception, on the lawn in front of his late residence, were of a most imposing and solemn character, and were attended by a large concourse of our citizens, who in respect for his character and services, and the high station he had filled, assembled to perform this last sad rite, to commit his mortal remains to their final resting place, there to remain till the last trump shall call the quick and the dead, the high and the low, to stand at the bar of God.
In accordance, with the published programme, the Masonic fraternity formed in procession at their Hall, and preceded by an excellent band of music marched to the Square, where they were joined by the Mayor and Council, Fireman and a large concourse of citizens. The procession then marched down College street to Broad, where they received the remains. They then proceeded up Broad to Summer, and up Summer to Church, and up Church to Vine, up Vine to the vault.
The throne of grace was addressed in beautiful and appropriate prayer by Rev. J. B. McFerrin, after which the following Original Requiem, composed for the occasion, was sung. Music by Otto Ruppius
Gather in silence here,
Dust lies on the statesman’s brow
His elegant voice is hushed in death,
And the proud form lieth low.
Draw ye around his tomb,
Drop a tear for your country’s dead,
For the heavy hand of care hath pressed
To the earth, a weary head.
His thoughts were a nation’s guide,
On his word hung the battle array.
But his breath which summoned the
Now is cold as the ocean spray
Gray and worn we lay him here,
In the might of his fresh renown,
With the people’s sighs, his requiem,
And the laurel wreath his crown.
In faith we give him up,
With his “country’s wishes blest,”
In the trusting hope of a better world,
Where the weary are at rest.
The Rt. Rev. Bishop Otey then delivered an eloquent and highly wrought eulogium on the character and public services of the illustrious dead. He dwelt with some length on bad example set up men in high stations, so few of whom honor God by a profession of religion, citing as an example the lives of our eleven Presidents, of whom he said there was no evidence that more than four had lived or died
In his address to the bereaved widow and venerable mother, and the surviving friends generally, he was truly pathetic and felicitous; closing with a powerful appeal to the young to remember the dying words of him whose funeral obsequies they had met to celebrate; that they might not on a death bed have a like cause to regret the neglect of their soul’s salvation until their dying hour partially unfitted them for so important an undertaking.
The remains were then deposited in the vault, when the appropriate Masonic ceremonies were performed, closing with benediction by Bishop Otey.
The Daily American
Wednesday morning, September 20, 1893
Re-interment. James K. Polk
In Its Bosom now Repose
The Honored Remains
Of Ex-President and Mrs. James K. Polk
Taken from Polk Place with Impressive Ceremonial
Yesterday’s Interesting Event -- Incidents at the House and Sketches of President Polk’s Death and Burial
President Polk was born in Mecklenburg, N.C., Nov. 2, 1795. He died June 15, 1849. His remains were removed (from City Cemetery) to Polk Place May 22, 1850. Removed to Capitol Hill, September 19, 1893. Mrs. Pok was born near Murfreesboro, Tenn., September 4, 1803. She died August 14, 1891, and was interred in the vault at Polk Place. Removed to Capitol Hill, September 19, 1893.
Strickland Designed Polk Tomb on Capitol Grounds
Yesterday in the bright sunlight of a glorious September day, this community once more did honor to the memory of President James K. Polk and the wife who shared his honorable career. At 5 am the morning the immediate family gathered about the tomb at Polk Place and lovingly transferred the two caskets to the house, a hundred yards distant, and there they were placed in the cedar boxes and sealed. The caskets are of copper and both were in a perfect state of preservation. The ceremonies were set for 11 o’clock. By 10 o’clock the yards from both Park avenue and Vine street contained a large gathering of people of all ages and classes, among them gray-haired men who were present at President Polk’s burial in the old City Cemetery on June 16, 1849, and again at his removal to Polk Place in May of the following year. And there were younger people, who know of President Polk only as a figure of history, whom they have been taught to regard as worthy of their patriotic regard. Inside the mansion, the near friends of the family, the pall-bearers and a few of the prominent older citizens of the city occupied the parlor, drawing rooms and halls. The caskets rested under the mantel-piece in the drawing room and immediately above hung oil portraits of President and Mrs. Polk and President Washington. Flowers were seen here and there about the house, but on top of each of the cedar-boxes was simply a wreath of Mermot roses tied with a satin ribbon, placed there by the grand-niece of Mrs. Polk, Mrs. G.W. Fall, and the latter’s daughter, Mrs. M.M. Gardner. There was one other floral token, it may be added --- a simple bunch of violets, placed by Miss Jane Thomas, 91 years old, a school-mate of Mrs. Polk’s. The boxes bore each the date of death of the two distinguished deceased…
Just before the procession moved from Polk Place, the Washington Light Artillery began firing twenty one guns, finishing as the hearse reached the Capitol grounds. A thousand people were awaiting its arrival there. They filled the grounds on the east side of the building, terraces, esplanades, and occupied the east balcony and even the cupola. They were of all classes and both races, and the inevitable crowding was prevented only by a detachment of polite policemen under the command of Sergt. Mitt Marshall from obstructing the passage of the cortege to the elevated spot. Arriving there a passage way just wide enough to permit the pall-bearers and attendants to go through was made from the driveway to the place of entombment. There the principal actors in this historic event gathered around the spot and the caskets were reverently lowered.
Dr. S. A. Steel, pastor of McKendree Methodist Church delivered a prayer…
A benediction by Dr. McNeilly closed the ceremonies and assemblage dispersed. It was the intention of the family to remain until the grave was filled, but as it was attended with construction of more or less masonry, they retired after the benediction…
The final resting place of President James K. Polk and his wife is a gentle well-shaded knoll in the northern section of the grounds surrounding the State Capitol, and about 300 feet from the equestrian statue of President Andrew Jackson. It was selected by the near relatives of Mrs. Polk, in company of Gov. Turney and his official staff last spring, in pursuance of a resolution by the last General Assembly providing a resting place on the Capitol grounds. The expense of the removal, estimated at $1,500, and which included the removal also of the tomb at Polk Place, will be borne by the heirs to President Polk’s estate. The tomb will be taken down and erected on selected within a short time. It is a four-pillared canopied structure and is appropriately inscribed…