Sarah Maiden's connection to President James K. Polk


Brief biography

James Knox Polk, 11th president, 1845-1849
James Knox Polk (November 2, 1795 - June 15, 1849) was the 11th President of the United States (1845-1849). Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He later lived in and represented the state of Tennessee. A Democrat, Polk served as Speaker of the House (1835-1839) and Governor of Tennessee (1839-1841). Polk was the surprise ("dark horse") candidate for president in 1844, defeating Henry Clay of the rival Whig Party by promising to annex Texas. Polk was a leader of Jacksonian Democracy during the Second Party System.

1844 electoral map
An 1844 compromise candidate, the Whigs and Republican historians originally dubbed him as being drawn from a well-deserved obscurity. Polk had initially hoped to be nominated for vice-president at the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore,MD in May, 1844; the leader for the presidential nomination was former President Martin Van Buren who wanted to stop the expansion of slavery. The primary issue of political contention was the annexation of Texas, which had declared independence from Mexico in 1836 and asked to join the United States; Van Buren opposed annexation. Although Van Buren garnered a majority of votes on the first ballot, he did not attain the super-majority needed; six more ballots clarified the fact that he would never win a super-majority. Polk was then suggested as a "dark horse" candidate, and finally on the ninth ballot the convention unanimously nominated Polk. Polk had promised to serve but a single term, hoping that would mollify some of the contentious factions. Polk's Whig opponent in the election was Henry Clay of Kentucky, when the incumbent president John Tyler, a former Democrat, had become estranged from the Whigs and not nominated for a second term. The annexation of Texas, the most important issue at the Democratic convention, also dominated the campaign: Polk was a strong proponent of immediate annexation while Clay was more equivocal and vacillating. Other expansion issues (Oregon Country) also dominated. Polk won in the South and West; Clay won in the Northeast. Polk lost his home state of Tennessee, but won in Indiana where the Hay's (and several Maiden families) lived.

1848 map displaying Texas, Oregon and California annexations
Although an obscure "dark horse" candidate, Polk has since gone down in American history as one of the top 10 presidents of all time, despite having but a single term. He is now recognized as the strongest president between Jackson and Lincoln. Perhaps more than anything else, Polk is most remembered for "Manifest Destiny" -- the belief that American expansion was not only wise but that it was readily apparent (manifest) and inexorable (destiny). Polk had had four goals for his pre-pledged single term, two of which were national expansion: the acquisition of California and New Mexico from Mexico; the acquisition of the Oregon Country; reduction of tariffs; and the re-establishment of the Independent Treasury system. The 1846-1848 Mexican-American War and the Oregon Treaty of 1846 expanded America to the Pacific Ocean, in accordance with the boundaries over 165 years later. He is generally highly regarded for defining objectives and accomplishing them, being a decisive Chief Executive, and expanding the executive power of the presidency (particularly its war powers, its role as commander in chief, and its oversight of the executive branch) -- this historical list surprisingly does not include the 35% territory expansion of America.

In this pre-emancipation time, Polk's view on slavery was ambiguous. In his expansion, he brought in Texas with slavery and Oregon without, to try to strike a compromise. In his personal life, he was a slave-holder, acquiring 20 slaves from his father's estate, and buying more as President. However, his 1849 will stipulated that the slaves were to be freed upon the death of his wife, and he rarely sold any slaves.

The Genealogical Connection

Margaret Hay Patteron (1844-1912) told her great-nephew William Perry Hay (1871-1947) that "the Maiden family is said to have lived near Raleigh, NC and to have been related to the Polks from which President Polk sprang." Margaret's grandmother was Sarah Maiden Hay (1800-1885), actually born in Iredell,NC where Polk's mother was born in 1776; Polk's mother, Jane Knox, would have been a contemporary to Sarah's father, Andrew Maiden, also born in Iredell circa 1772. James Polk was just five years older than Sarah (born 1795 in Mecklenburg,NC). The story would have been of particular interest to Margaret as her father, Robert Lyle Hay (1821-1903) was a Democrat who cast his very first presidential vote in 1844, and he voted for Polk; surely Robert's mother Sarah Maiden Hay would have talked about her relationship to the Polk family at that time (as she was alive and lived near by, as did his father.)

William Perry Hay, as well as modern genealogists, tried to determine more information, but ultimately came up empty-handed.

The most obvious possibility would be a genealogical relationship through Polk's mother Jane Knox. While it is certain that it is not through Sarah's father, as he was married to Mary Passwater, it could be through Sarah's grandfather, whose wife we do not know. Likewise, we do not know all the names of the Maiden spouses, and it could well be that one of them married a Knox relative. However, the story was clearly specifying a Polk connection, and William Perry Hay researched Polk, not Knox. So I believe it is clear the connection is to the Polk family and not the Knox family.

James Knox Polk's father was Samuel Polk, born 1772 in Tryon, NC; his grandfather was Ezekial Polk born 1747 in Cumberland, PA and his great-grandfather was William Polk Jr born ~1700 in Somerset,MD. It is possible that the Maiden connection harkens back to Cumberland,PA -- the Maidens may have been in that part of PA, and that may be where John was born at about this time -- so this could be a relationship of one of Andrew's sisters marrying one of Ezekial Polk's brothers. It is interesting that the Passwaters were in Somerset,MD in 1700 (Thomas Passwater lived in Somerset,MD in the 1690s and early 1700s); so perhaps the connection was confused with the Passwaters (or perhaps this just underscores how small America was, and the commonality of migration patterns). However, since no stories were handed down in the Maiden family stories about exactly where they lived prior to North Carolina (in fact, the stories had Sarah Maiden born in Orange county instead of Iredell), and no mention was made of a Passwater connection, I do not believe that this was the basis of the recollection either.

I believe it is a Polk connection, and one in Iredell. While the Polks lived in Mecklenburg county, since Samuel Polk married Jane Knox from Iredell, they had some connections there, so this is not an obscure hypothesis. When on a trip to the State Historical Society in Raleigh,NC in 2009, I ran across a most interesting land contract:

1795 land warrant: Joseph Polk to John Maiden (page 3 - also p1, p2, p4, p5, p6)
May 8, 1795 Iredell land warrant for 70 acres transferred from Joseph Polk to John Maiden (also p1, p2, p4, p5, p6). This is important because as far as I know, it was not previously found by any other genealogist, probably because it was in a book of warrants and not in any other real estate books, such as land sales/transfers or land grants. Supporting the idea that this Joseph Polk is some relation to the Maiden family, perhaps this is a transfer and not a sale because John Maiden is a relation to Joseph Polk (e.g., son-in-law); I am unsure of what inferences are to be made from the different legal papers of the 1790s.

The significance of this record goes beyond the mention of Polk. John Maiden sold this land in August of the same year, records that have been widely found as they are included in the Iredell county deed abstract books:
Iredell County, NC Deed Abstracts - 1788-1797 (Volume I) - selected records
-----B:324-325. 10 Aug 1795. John Maiden to Wm Tharp, Sr. for 15 pds. 40A. Situated on the waters of Hunting Creek. Being part of tract of land granted to John Maiden by N. C. State. Chris Houston, Robert Calhoon.
-----B:326. Disclaimer by Mary Maiden for above 40 A. 10 Aug. 1795.
Note: This last entry clearly refers to John Maiden's wife (no other woman would need a disclaimer), and confirms her name of "Mary." Modern genealogists have assumed that all the land records in this 1788-1797 book were for the Patriot John Maiden (1752-1820s), and therefore that this record meant that Mary was his wife in 1795, Sarah's mother. However, this is not the only possibility.
I assert that I believe the Patriot John Maiden had a son named John, believed to be his first-born child, born circa 1770, probably the child just before Sarah's father Andrew. One piece of evidence of a child John is another land record of 1790 that states that John Maiden received land adjoining land of Isaac Holman, John Maiden and Alexander Martin -- is this just an odd way of specifying he got more land adjoining his own property, or does that adjoining land belong to a different John Maiden (e.g., John Maiden Jr and Sr) and it was not specified as such? (I see no Jr/Sr designations in the book anywhere, but it was not uncommon at that time to use the Sr/Jr suffix rather fluidly, to specify the older/younger person when there may have been confusion otherwise.) Note that a John Maiden born circa 1770-1775 would had to have been the son of Patriot John Maiden; none of Patriot John Maiden's brothers were having children at that time.

My (unconfirmed) hypothesis is that John Maiden Jr was born circa 1770, married Mary Polk, daughter of Joseph Polk, circa 1795, and they moved to Mecklenburg where son Samuel Maiden was born circa 1796. Mary died young, and John then remarried in Orange county, and subsequently moved to Humphreys, Tennesee.

Genealogist George Madden (George_Mad@msn.com), descended from Samuel Madden born ~1796, said his Maddens are from Rowan,NC (by oral history handed down). But he also said that he thought they were from Orange by 1801 and that Samuel had been born in 1796 in Mecklenburg,NC to John W. Maddin and unknown wife. But, he has always been troubled that the only marriage record for this John was after this time in Orange, so he was not sure if Samuel was born out of wedlock, or if there had been a previous marriage. (more)

As a supporting thought, it does seem likely that Patriot John Maiden would name one son John. It is noteworthy that only one land record mentions wife Mary; however, it appears that there was only one record of sale for John. Genealogists have said the Patriot John Maiden received land grants for his Revolutionary War service; as far as I can tell, all such grants were for land in Tennessee and not Indiana, which could explain why this John ended up in Tennessee after 1816. Samuel Madden's 1786 birth in Mecklenburg supports the idea of his mother being a Polk; there is no Maiden family in Mecklenburg. It is interesting that this John Maiden then moved to Orange, which is where Hay descendants thought Sarah Maiden had been born.

An interesting question is how Sarah Maiden knew she was related to the Polks in 1844. She lived in Indiana almost her entire life (although born in Iredell,NC she had lived in Indiana since she was about 6 years old). Her Maiden grandfather had died in NC in the late 1820s, but her father was still alive in Indiana in nearby Clark county. My guess is that Sarah's father, Andrew Maiden, upon finding out that James K. Polk had been born in Mecklenburg knew of the connection, and so told it to his daughter Sarah; he may not have been certain of the exact connection, but only that all the Polks in Mecklenburg were related. Note that if it is Andrew's brother who married a Polk, as I suspect, it means the connection is by marriage only (non-genetic). And note that this assumption of John Maiden Jr marrying Mary Polk means that Mary Polk Maiden had died by about 1800 (it was not uncommon for women to die young in childbirth).

It is curious that the stories handed down included one of Sarah's grandfather serving under General Washington in the Revolution, living in Orange,NC, and some relatinship to Polk. Note that the connections between Iredell-Mecklenburg-Orange-Surry probably date back to before the Revolution. The Polks were one of the five early proponents of American autonomy from Britain -- John McKnitt Alexander, Ephraim Brevard, Abraham Alexander and Thomas Polk were at the center of Mecklenburg's political and economic struggles during the pre-Revolutionary War years (the "Mecklenburg Resolves" proclamation). I think that Patriot John Maiden had likely been involved with the pre-Revolution Regulators, most of whose activities were in Orange, NC. It is probable that through involvement with American Independence, particularly during the 1760s, the Maidens, Polks, Knoxes and Passwaters all met.

It is also possible that Patriot John Maiden's wife was Mary Polk, daughter of this Joseph Polk, who perhaps in anticipation of death gave this land to her and her husband. Finding a will for a Joseph Polk (perhaps in Mecklenburg), mentioning his daughter Mary Maiden, or a grandson Samuel Maiden (son of his daughter Mary), would likely answer all these questions.

It should be noted that Joseph Polk's relationship to James Knox Polk has not been determined. I believe he was likely to be a cousin to James' grandfather. If so, this means that Sarah's uncle John Maiden married a third cousin once-removed to James Knox Polk. This would be consistent with "Polk family from which President Polk sprang" mentioned by Margaret Hay Patterson.

Since records are spotty, it seems unlikely that much confirmation will be found. It is likely the best further research would be in Mecklenburg, NC. Finally, it should be noted that one of the biggest repercussions of this hypothesis is that Patriot John Maiden's wife's name is then completely unknown; genealogists have used the single 1797 land sale record above to assume her name was Mary.

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