THE  BURIAL  SAGA  OF 
LYDIA  ELIZA  POLK  CALDWELL  RICHMOND 

(SISTER OF  PRESIDENT JAMES  K. POLK)

Section  Two


 

The following article is offered by  Terry  Thompson in his continuing search for the grave of the sister of  President James K. Polk. His goal, if the grave is located will be the moving of the remains to the Polk Family Cemetery, near Bolivar, Tennessee.

 

Thursday, June 18, 1953
Spot Of Ground Is Hard To Find, Where
The Wife Of President Polk Is Buried
By George T. Wilson


Resting in an honored spot on the Tennessee capitol grounds are the remains of President James K. Polk, while the unmarked and bramble-covered grave of his sister is all but forgotten in a grove of cedar trees four miles north of Dancyville, Tennessee.

Apparently no one can point to the exact spot where the metallic casket of Mrs. Lydia E. Richmond is buried, but Annie Foster, a 76-year-old Negro spinster who lives on a shrunken farm that was once part of the Richmond plantation, can probably point as close to it as anyone.

Annie's information came from the one-time slaves that she knew during her childhood, and is backed up by such residents of the Dancyville community as George Cook, 85-year-old planter, and R. J. (Dock) Clark, 54 year-old grocery man.

"I can show you the spot of ground" where Mrs. Richmond and other members of her family are buried, Annie told me. She led the way down a mule path from her house, where she lives with a tenant family, to the grove of trees. The area near an old, log barn and an outdoor well, is grown up with blackberry bushes and other shrubbery. There are no signs of tombstones.

"My folks come to Tennessee the first year after freedom," Annie related, "They came from South Carolina. I'se born a quarter-mile from here, but have been living on this place since I'se 14 years old. The older people told me all about it. Mrs. Richmond is buried here in a metallic coffin; it don't never rot."

Local historians agree that Mrs. Richmond died either in 1864 or 1865. She was buried on the outer edge of the graveyard, Annie says, and her burial was considered temporary because the Civil War was in progress.

Later, under provisions of Mrs. Richmond's will, her body was to be moved to the Polk family cemetery near Bolivar. Just why she remained buried near Dancyville and why some history-minded organization hasn't marked her grave is a mystery.

Mrs. Richmond's will, recorded at the Haywood County Courthouse in Brownsville and dated Dec. 21, 1860, named Will Turner executor and directed him to have her body buried in Polk cemetery near Bolivar, "with suitable monument or tombstone."

Later courthouse records reveal that Mr. Turner refused to act as executor and Oliver Alexander was appointed in open court under $40,000 bond, an indication that Mrs. Richmond left a large estate.
Mrs. Richmond's will also directed that her land be sold on credit of one, two or three years. Courthouse records, however, do not disclose what disposition was made of the land.

Annie now owns part of the 172-acre farm on which she lives. She remembers that several years ago someone dug up some tombstones in the unmarked graveyard but covered them back up. She doesn't remember the inscriptions on them.

"Old slaves told me," she recalled, "that there used to be eight or nine hundred acres on Mrs. Richmond's plantation, 22 plows and their own cotton gin. Mrs. Richmond would knit on her horse, which was the style in those days, and she had a colored boy to hold her ball of thread.

"Uncle Ben Richmond, who was a slave, told me about it. Wally Polk, who used to drive the black horses to her carriage, wore a churn hat that long."

She measured the height of Wally's beaver hat with her hands, indicating about two feet.
Life on the Richmond place was colorful and gay during the life of its mistress, Annie said the former slaves told her.

After being nominated for the Presidency (on the ninth ballot at the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore), Mr. Polk visited his sister before the election which made him the 11th President of the United States. The former slaves told Annie that the Negro children were gaily dressed for his arrival and carried little flags colored with "polk berries." They ran ahead of Mrs. Richmond's carriage shouting, "Hurrah for James K. Polk."

Annie also recalled that the former Tennessee governor returned to his sister's home after he was elevated to the position of chief executive of the nation.

"Uncle Ben Richmond told me he stayed a month," she continued, "and there's a barbecue every day and a ball every night. They had tables in the yard that was 75 feet long. They had a big hog barbecued one time, with a stick through his mouth and an apple in it."

Annie's explanation of why the graves are unmarked is that a man who owned the land after Mrs. Richmond had the grave markers taken down and buried because he had difficulty in getting Negro tenants to live on a place where tombstones were located. Mr. Cook reports that Annie's information closely coincides with what he has heard. Mr. Cook is one of the oldest native residents in the section.

Mr. Clark reported that he went to school near the place where Mrs. Richmond is buried and "have known about it all my life. I am distantly related, on my mother's side, to the Polk family."

Mr. Clark, who has the first two nickels that he took in when he opened his store in l936 tacked to the wall with the names of the children making the purchases written alongside them (Jack Smith and Nina Moore are grown up now and still live in Dancyville) recalls that three tombstones were dug up at one time but that they were covered up again. Sometime he wants to unearth them again and also find the casket of Mrs. Richmond to prove conclusively that she is buried there.

Mr. Clark; whose store has a television set and who was getting ready to go to a Shriner's Club meeting in Memphis when I visited him, likes to talk about Dancyville's history and the days when it was larger than its present population of 150.

"Lot's of the old people have died out," he remarked, "We ought to do what we can to preserve our history."

Editor's note: This should read "sister" instead of "wife" and "Una  Moore" instead of "Nina Moore". mkds


Mr.  George  T. Wilson  provided his  article to the site and gave permission  to use it.

We certainly hope this additional coverage will help find the burial site of
Lydia  Eliza  Polk  Caldwell  Richmond


This page prepared for the site by
Mary Kay Dancy Smith


Article Printed in the
Paris Post-Intelligencer
Paris, Tennessee
June 18, 1953 Edition ~ Used by Permission



GO  HERE  for  the  Mrs. Lydia  Richmond  Saga  ~  Section  1

 

 

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