The James K. Polk House

by Tony Luo
8th Grade, Community House Middle School, Charlotte, NC
Mr. Schulman’s Class

 

 As one of the most important presidents in US history, James K. Polk’s childhood home is of key importance to our local history here in Mecklenburg County.

 

History of Polk’s Life

A portrait of Polk.

Before we can find about the Polk house, we have to find out who he is! Polk was born in November 2, 1795, here in Mecklenburg. He lived in the James K. Polk house until he was 11, then moved to Tennessee and studied there, moving back to North Carolina later on to study at the University of North Carolina. He became a lawyer, and also married Sarah Childress who supported his political ambitions. He became a Tennessee politician in the House of Representatives, and was a protégé of Andrew Jackson.

In the election of 1844, James K. Polk was the Democratic candidate over Martin Van Buren and other candidates due to being a compromise choice over disagreements within the party. He faced Henry Clay, who was the candidate of the Whig party. The main presidential issues were about whether or not to bring Texas into the country and whether or not to use and occupy Oregon. James K. Polk believed in annexing Texas and using Oregon, as well as US expansion to the west, an idea known as Manifest Destiny. Polk won the election and became the 11th president.

As president, he promised multiple things. First, he promised only to serve one term. Also, he said he would create the Independent Treasury system, which would make the US treasury handle all the government’s money instead of private banks, establish the boundary in Oregon, annex Texas, lower tariff rates, which are taxes on trade, and take California and New Mexico from Mexico. He succeeded in all of these aspects, which is one of the reasons he is considered the most effective president in history.

Polk’s annexation of Texas, a disputed point between Mexico and the US, since Texas was originally Mexican, resulted in the Mexican-American War. The US won, and the victory allowed the US to take California and New Mexico for a relatively cheap price (as well as Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming).

Also, Polk passed the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which solved a boundary disagreement with Britain. It resulted in the acquisition of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, parts of Wyoming and Montana.

Soon after his presidency, Polk died on June 15, 1849. Stress from the presidency was one of the contributing reasons to his early death.

 

The Local James K. Polk Site and its Importance

 

A picture of the modern day James K. Polk site.

The land owned by James K. Polk’s family during his childhood years in North Carolina was a 150 acre farm. It grew to 450 acres by the time it was sold by his family.

Currently, the local James K. Polk site is located on the same land as Polk’s childhood home.

Many of the current buildings at the location are reconstructions of the buildings that would have been there before. The house is built of logs and has furnishings that could be found during Polk’s time period. In addition, a stone monument to James K. Polk is built there. There is also a visitor center featuring lots of information about Polk’s life.

This location is crucially important to our local history because it remembers one of the most impactful presidents ever, and one who was born and raised here. His impact on the United States is very easily recognized today in the presence of states like California and Texas. Additionally, the site itself has significance because it was the place of his upbringing, where his family imparted upon him patriotic values and life lessons that Polk credits with some of his success.

An image of the stone monument to Polk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 “North Carolina Historic Sites.” NC Historic Sites – President James K. Polk – The Site, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources , 6 Oct. 2015, www.nchistoricsites.org/polk/main.htm.

“North Carolina Historic Sites.” NC Historic Sites – President James K. Polk – Facilities, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources , 6 Oct. 2015, www.nchistoricsites.org/polk/facilities.htm.

History.com Staff. “James K. Polk.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/james-polk.

Robinson, George Clarence. “James K. Polk.” Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 7 Feb. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/James-K-Polk.

 

Notes:

James K. Polk House in NC (Mecklenburg County):

  • 150 acre farm, grew to 450 by the time of the sell, it was his childhood home
  • Many of the current buildings at the location are reconstructions of the buildings there before, memorial of James K. Polk is built there as well
  • The farm was sold by his family
  • The place of his upbringing, where his family instilled patriotic values in him
  • Today the site has a reconstructed building, with a log cabin, kitchen, and barn and a stone monument to Polk
  • *Describe the location and its appearance, what’s located there, what some of the buildings looked like
  • Important because it was the home of a very important president in our history

Personal life:

  • Born November 2, 1795 in NC, Mecklenburg
  • Lived in the James K. Polk House until he was 11, moved to Tennessee and studied there, moved back to NC to learn at the University of North Carolina
  • Became lawyer
  • Married Sarah Childress in 1824 who supported him in his political ambitions
  • Became a Tennessee politician, House of Representatives, a protege of Andrew Jackson

Presidential election of 1844:

  • James K. Polk was the Democratic candidate (over Martin Van Buren and other candidates due to being a compromise choice over disagreements), faced Henry Clay who was the Whig candidate, Polk won
  • Presidential issues included bringing Texas into the country and using Oregon
  • James K. Polk believed in annexing Texas and using Oregon, as well as US expansion to the west (Manifest Destiny)

Presidency:

  • Promised to serve one term, was true to this
  • 5 goals: Create the Independent Treasury system, establish the boundary in Oregon, annex Texas, to lower tariff rates (tariff is tax on imports/exports), and take California and New Mexico from Mexico, succeeded in all of these aspects
    • The annexation of Texas (a disputed point between Mexico and the US, since Texas was originally Mexican) resulted in the Mexican-American War, which allowed the US to take California and New Mexico for a relatively cheap price (as well as Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming)
    • Oregon Treaty of 1846, solved a boundary disagreement with Britain over this, resulted in the acquisition of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, parts of Wyoming and Montana
    • Lowered tariff rates (trade bolstered)
    • Created Independent Treasury, moved funds from private/state banks
  • Considered one of the most effective presidents because he succeeded in everything, was a respectable president
  • Died soon after, presidency was stressful (June 15, 1849)

 

 

Correspondence with the James K. Polk Site Staff

 As part of my research on this project, I reached out to the James K. Polk Site Staff to see if they could answer some questions about some specific details of the site. Here is the email I sent them:

 

Dear James K. Polk State Historic Site Staff,

I am an 8th grade student from Community House Middle School who is researching for a project on James K. Polk and the local James K. Polk House. I have some questions about James K. Polk. I would be grateful for any help you could provide.

One question I have is what happened to the previous house for it to have to be reconstructed – did it just decay away, or was there some other event? Also, did the general environment of Polk’s childhood home affect his growth? I know his upbringing imparted many important values on him, like patriotism, so I was wondering if the location of his home did the same. Also, are there any fun or interesting stories about the site?

Thanks,

Tony Luo

 

Unfortunately, there was no response.