Zachary Taylor, 12th president, 1849-1850Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850), the 12th President, is distinguished by being the last president to own slaves while in office. He had a 40-year military career, winning fame as an "Indian Fighter," and was a wealthy plantaton-owner of properties in Mississippi, Kentucky and Louisiana. His 16-month presidency was the third-shortest.
Born on an Orange county, Virginia plantation in 1784, one of nine children, his father, Richard Taylor, had served with George Washington during the American Revolution. As an infant, the family moved to a small cabin in the woods of the Louisville, Kentucky frontier, and he had almost no formal education. Although he was a career officer in the Army, his heart apparently belonged on the plantation, as his talk was most often of cotton raising. Known as "Old Rough and Ready," Taylor served in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, the Second Seminole War, and the Mexican–American War. It is said his 40 years in the Army, 25 policing the frontiers against Indians, made him a strong nationalist. Taylor won fame as an "Indian fighter" in the present-day states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas. Although he frequently fought Native Americans, he also protected their lands from invading white settlers. He believed that the best solution for coexistence between settlers and Native Americans was a strong military presence to keep the two sides apart.
|1848 electoral map|
As president, Taylor angered many Southerners by taking a moderate stance on the issue of slavery. He did not defend slavery or southern sectionalism, and he urged settlers in New Mexico and California to bypass the territorial stage and draft constitutions for statehood. Southerners were furious, since neither state constitution was likely to permit slavery; Members of Congress were dismayed, since they felt the President was usurping their policy-making prerogatives.
Standing firm, Zachary Taylor was prepared to hold the Union together by armed force rather than by compromise. In February 1850 President Taylor had held a stormy conference with southern leaders who threatened secession. He told them that if necessary to enforce the laws, he personally would lead the Army. Persons "taken in rebellion against the Union, he would hang ... with less reluctance than he had hanged deserters and spies in Mexico." After participating in ceremonies at the Washington Monument on a blistering July 4, Taylor fell ill; within five days he was dead. He is thought to have died of gastroenteritis. His sudden death thrust Vice President Millard Fillmore into the White House, and Fillmore promptly threw his support behind the Compromise of 1850, canceling out much of the impact of Taylor's presidency. The war Taylor had been willing to face and Fillmore tried to avoid came 11 years later.
It is contended that Taylor was not President long enough to cause a substantial impact on the office of the Presidency, or the United States, and he is criticized for being too nonpolitical. Overall, Taylor was something of an anomaly. He was a slave owner who wanted to ban the expansion of slavery into the western territories that had been acquired from Mexico. He was the triumphant military conqueror of Mexico who saw little need for Manifest Destiny as a foreign policy. He was an army general who shied away from war as an instrument of state. He was a stern military commander who avoided decisive actions as President. The one thing about him that is clear is that he was committed to preserving the Union even if it meant using force against the secessionists. In the end, Taylor had limited personal impact on the presidency, and his months in office did little to slow the approach of the great national tragedy of the Civil War.
Just as the Civil War split the nation, so it also split Zachary Taylor's family. Ironically, his children were secessionists: Taylor's only son, Richard, became a Confederate Lieutenant General, while his daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor (1814–1835) was married just three months before her death of malaria to Jefferson Davis, who thirty years later became the President of the Confederacy. His niece Emily Ellison Taylor was the wife of Confederate General Lafayette McLaws. On the other side, Taylor's brother, Joseph Pannell Taylor, was a Brigadier General in the Union Army during the Civil War. There were even family members who defected from the Union to Confederate sides.
The Genealogical Connection
Genealogist William Perry Hay (1871-1947) wrote in his Howsmon Genealogy book that Martha Frost (1759-1832) "is said to have been one of triplet sisters, cousins of President Zachary Taylor. I have not been able to trace her in any of the Frost genealogies that I have examined." He mentioned elsewhere that the connection was through the maternal side, not the paternal side. These stories were likely told to him by Martha's grandchildren (his grandfather Joseph Howsmon died in 1890) and the many Howsmon relatives who remained in the Madison,Ohio area. Harriett Martin, who recited these stories, undoubtedly from William Perry Hay, said they were "handed down by older members of the Howsmon-Frost line." Martha Frost Howsmon named a son Samuel Taylor Howsmon (1800-1819); it is unknown if this had anything to do with a Taylor connection for her mother or her brother, but this was likely one of the clues William Perry Hay pursued.
From William Perry Hay's Howsmon book: "Lineage of Zachary Taylor: Martha Frost, my great-great-grandmother is said to have been one of triplet sisters, cousins of Zachary Taylor. Thinking that perhaps an examination of Zachary Taylor's ancestry would turn some light on Martha Frost's ancestry, I visited congressional Library on August 6, 1937 and looked into the matter. In "Several Famous Families of Orange Col Va. by D. N. Davidson (1734 (1934)) I found the following Taylor Family:
James Taylor emigrated from Carlisle, England to eastern Virginia. He married 1. Frances by whom he had James M. 2. Mary Gregory by whom he had Mary (m. Henry Pendleton), Edmund, Elizabeth and John (m. Catharine Pendleton). James and Martha (Thompson) Taylor had George (m. Rachel Gibson). Frances (m. Ambrose Madison and became grandmother of President James Madison) and Zachary (m. Elizabeth Lee). Zachary and Elizabeth (Lee) Taylor had Zachary (m. Alice Chew??) and Richard (m. Sarah Strother). Richard and Sarah Strother Taylor had Zachary Taylor, Pres U.S. (m. Margaret Smith). The parents of Sarah Dodney? Strogther who m. Richard Taylor were William Strother and Sarah Bailey. Zachary Taylor, president of the U.S. was born in Orange Co., VA Nov. 24 1754 [actually Nov 24 1784], but in 1785 was taken to Kentucky when his father had bought a plantation in the neighborhood of Louisville. In addition to the son Zachary, there were in the family four other sons and three daughters: Hancock, George, Zachary, William, Joseph, Elizabeth, Sarah and Emily [in other sources I have found listed perhaps two other sons Richard and Strother but I think these were middles names confused as first names - DLH 2012]."
My biggest issue with this whole story is dates. Martha Frost was born in Frederick,VA in 1759, married in 1782, moved to Ohio in 1804, and died in 1832. Zachary Taylor was born in Orange,VA in 1784, moved to Kentucky about 1786, and became president in 1849; he was not president until after she died. So the obvious question is, how did this family story get started?
Most genealogists who have not dismissed the story out-of-hand, have assumed that Martha's mother was a Taylor, and specifically an Orange county Taylor. In fact, that is the basis for the assumption that Hannah's maiden name was Taylor (while another genealogist suggested Dawson as a possible surname). There is also a possibility that the Taylor connection comes through Martha's brother Amos who married Elizabeth Taylor, daughter of Captain William Taylor and Catherine Bushrod, on May 29, 1788. The "Frederick" Taylor family is not supposed to be related to the "Orange" Taylor family; many researchers have dismissed the President-Taylor-relationship story on that basis. However, the connections could be to both families, and moreover, Orange is not far from Frederick; Frederick county was formed out of Orange in 1743 (so county dealings were unified at least prior to 1743).
It seems plausible that if Martha's mother was from one Taylor branch and her brother married into a different Taylor branch, Martha would have known the difference. In fact, the differences would likely have been discussed at the time of her brother's marriage in 1788. A possible scenario I suggest relates to this time: In 1788 when Amos married Elizabeth Taylor, the family discussed all the Taylor relations, and then also the recent Taylor move to KY. This is especially likely as migration and Indians would have been huge topics, especially after the problems with the Indians in KY and WV in the 1770s and Lord Dunmore's War -- a war in which Martha's husband fought, as well as at least three of her brothers. Her sisters Mary Frost LaRue (1747-1804) and Elizabeth Frost Lindsey (1755/1765-1822) will both move to Kentucky, underscoring the likelihood of the Howsmons thinking of moving to KY. Deciding when and how far west to move would have been a huge decision. It is not implausible that as Martha and John Howsmon told their children the stories about the move to Ohio, and the Indians in WV, VA and OH, they also discussed the Indian situation in KY. In fact, the older children would have been old enough to know their LaRue-Lindsey-Taylor cousins, and there may have been written communication between the Howsmon-LaRue-Lindsey-Taylor siblings/cousins after their respective moves. Knowing that Martha's maternal history was a Taylor family in Orange who moved to KY in the 1780s would be sufficient for her children to know of the relationship to Zachary Taylor's branch. With the lack of television and radio and electricity in those days, and the major entertainment being family stories, we forget today in the 21st century what a rich source of information these family stories were. Martha's mother would have talked about her family ancestors to her children, as would have Martha.
So while Martha herself did not say she was related to President Taylor (since he became president after her death), it is theoretically possible that she and her husband John Houseman had talked about the Taylor-LaRue-Lindsey relatives who moved to Kentucky while they moved to Ohio, and the children then realized the familial relationship. It is also possible that she said she was related to famed "Old Rough and Ready" Indian fighter which was during her lifetime; however, this still would have been too early to be Samuel Taylor Howsmon's namesake as he was born in 1800 when Zachary Taylor was 16. I (DLH) still have trouble visualizing how this story came to be told that would have some basis other than wild speculation.
2013 Breaking news: DNA testing suggests Hannah was a Taylor and was related to President Taylor. April 2013 email from Jenny Stephenson: "My mother recently took one of the (relatively) new autosomal DNA tests to try to break through our Taylor family brick wall. The results of the test show that mom is a match to at least 9 descendants of the Orange County, Virginia Taylors and at least one descendent of Hannah Dawson Taylor and William Frost (listed as of Henrico, Va in your tree). Though more work needs to be done to verify that these matches all stem from the same matching segment of atDNA on a certain chromosome, it looks like there's a definite possibility that your Hannah Dawson Taylor may have been, in fact, related to President Zachary Taylor."
Zachary Taylor's ancestry is complex, and while his direct ancestry seems certain, the list of his cousins is not. And, unfortunately, it is the cousin lineage in which we are interested. Research is made more difficult since records in the 1700s are scant, and Taylor is a common name, and the same given names were used over and over again, so attributing the right person to the right family is problematic if not impossible. From research found online (always a risky undertaking, but more so when there is someone famous in the tree), this appears to be a likely tree for Zachary (based largely on (1) the Francis Taylor diary and (2) the brochure about Plantation Hayfield and (3) "Virginia, Prominent Families." Vol 1-4, and further filled out with online information):
"The History of Hayfield" - James Sr "The History of Hayfield" - James Jr
1. James Taylor (born 1615 in Carlisle, England; died September 10, 1698 in New Kent,VA), married (1) Frances Walker (born ~1646; died ~1680 VA) in 1673 in Virginia and (2) Mary Bishop Gregory in August, 1682** -- "numerous" children
2. James Taylor (born March 14, 1674 King & Queen, VA; died June 23, 1729 Orange,VA) married (1) Martha Thompson (born 1679 New Kent,VA; died November 19, 1762 Orange,VA) on February 23, 1699 in King & Queen,VA and (2) Mary Gregory (1665->1745)(she remarried)**. 1716: Rode with Gov. Alexander Spotswood from Williamsburg to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the valley beyond and the group called itself the"Knights of the Golden Horseshoe." One of the first settlers and land owners in what became Orange Co, VA, in 1735 (Hayden, VA Genealogies, 3rd printing, 1966). He received a Crown Grant for 13,500 acres in 1722 and built "Bloomsbury." He subdivided the 13,500 acres for his sons. One son, Zachary Taylor, Sr., grandfather of the president, was given the land that became "Meadowfarm." -- 13+ children
Children supposedly by wife #2, Mary Gregory (see article at right, or entire source; apparently derived from "Virginia, Prominent Families")**; also the name bothers me, as the middle name of Bishop for daughter Mary suggests that the mother's maiden name was Bishop (since the notation under James Sr is Mary Bishop Gregory, I think it was Mary Bishop, the widow Gregory):
Generations 3 & 4
3. daughter Taylor** (?-)
3. Mary Bishop Taylor** (1688-1770) married <1) Henry Pendleton (1683-1721) ~1701 (yes, she was 13 and he 18 at marriage!) and (2) Ed Watkins (?-1770) -- 7 children
-----4. James Pendleton (1702-1761) married Mary Unknown (widow Lyall)
-----4. Philip Pendleton (1704-1770) married Martha Unknown
-----4. Mary Pendleton (~1703-?) married James Gaines
-----4. Isabella Pendleton (<1715-?) married William Henry Gaines
-----4. Nathaniel Pendleton (1715-1794) married his first cousin, Unknown Clayton
-----4. John Pendleton (1719-1799) married (1) Unknown James and (2) Unknown Madison
-----4. Edmund Pendleton (9/1721-10/26/1805 Richmond,VA) married (1) Elizabeth Roy (?-1741) in 1741 and (2) Sarah Pollard (1725->1792) -- no children
3. John Taylor** (1696-1780) married Catherine Pendleton (1699-1774) in 1716 -- 10 children
-----4. Edmund Taylor married Annie Lewis
-----4. John Taylor married Unknown Lynne
-----4. James Taylor married Anne Pollard
-----4. Philip Taylor married Mary Walker
-----4. William Taylor married Unknown Anderson
-----4. Joseph Taylor married Frances Anderson
-----4. Mary Taylor married Robert Penn
-----4. Catherine Taylor married Moses Penn
-----4. Isabella Taylor married Samuel Hopkins
-----4. Elizabeth Taylor married (1) Unknown Lewis and (2) Unknown Bullock
(It is unknown which of the above sons had a son John Taylor (1759-1824) who acquired Plantation Hayfield in 1822 from his first cousin once removed Hay Battaile. The property was left to his son William Penn Taylor (~1791-?; married Elizabeth Moore) who had been born in Fredericksburg.)
Children supposedly by wife #1, Martha Thompson**:
3. Frances Taylor (8/30/1700 Orange,VA-11/25/1761 Orange,VA) married Ambrose Madison (~1700-8/27/1732 VA) on August 24, 1721 -- 3 children
-----4. James Madison (3/5/1722/23 VA-2/27/1801 Orange,VA) married Eleanor Rose Conway (1/9/1730/31-2/11/1829 Orange,VA) -- 10 children, oldest was James Madison (b.3/16/1750/51), the 4th president in 1809.
-----4. John Madison (~1724 VA-1784 Botetourt,VA) married Agatha Strother (1728 King George,VA-?) -- 10 children
-----4. Elizabeth Madison (6/14/1725-1/6/1773) married (1) John Willis and (2) Richard Beale -- 2 children
3. Martha Taylor (1/17/1701/2 Orange,VA-<1761 Orange,VA) married Thomas Chew (1706 Spotsylvania,VA-3/27/1778) -- 4 children
3. James Taylor (3/10/1703/4 Orange,VA-11/4/1792 Orange,VA) married Alice Thornton (widow Catlett) second wife?
-----4. Francis Taylor (~1728 VA->1781 NC) married Mildred Ann Craddock -- 8 children
-----4. Alice Thornton Taylor (5/21/1730 VA-?) married Anthony Winston -- 5 children
-----4. James Taylor (12/27/1732 Orange,VA-3/12/1814 Orange,VA) married Ann Hubbard -- 10 children
3. Zachary Taylor (4/17/1707 Orange,VA-3/29/1768 Northumberland,VA) married (1) Elizabeth Lee (1709-?) on February 23, 1737 in Northumberland,VA. and (2) Esther Unknown (widow Blackburn) Zachary died in 1768 and his epitaph in the Taylor Cemetery at Meadow Farm, Orange County, reads "son of James II, of Bloomsbury, Knight of the Golden Horseshoe. Grandparent of President Zachary Taylor, Great Uncle of President James Madison, Great Grandparent of Sara Knox Taylor, wife of President Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy, husband of Elizabeth Lee." -- 4 children:
-----4. Hancock Taylor (1738) (married and died in KY)
-----4. Elizabeth Taylor (1740-? Henderon,KY) married Thomas Ball
-----4. Richard Taylor (3/22/1744/45 Orange,VA-1/19/1829 Fayette,KY) married Sarah Dabney Strother (12/14/1760 Orange,VA-12/13/1822) on August 20, 1779 -- 9 children (Hancock-1781, William-1782, Zachary-1784, the 12th president, George-1790, Elizabeth-1792, Richard-1794, Joseph-1796, Sarah-1799, Emily-1801, Strother?)
-----4. Zachary Taylor (1745? Orange,VA-1797 Jefferson,KY) married Alice Chew/Cheu on 7/20/1771 -- 4 children (John, Sarah, Elijah, Samuel)
3. George Taylor (2/17/1710/11 Orange,VA-11/4/1792 Orange,VA) married (1) Rachel Gibson (5/4/1717 Orange,VA-2/16/1761 Orange,VA) on February 28, 1737/38 and (2) Sarah Taliaferro -- "gave 10 sons to the Revolution"; unknown daughters
Diary of Francis Taylor, 1747-1799 - son of George
-----4. Charley Taylor
-----4. Francis Taylor (1747-1799) never married -- the "Diarist"
-----4. Reuben Taylor
-----4. William Taylor
-----4. James Taylor
-----4. Jonathan Taylor
-----4. Edmund Taylor
-----4. Richard Taylor
-----4. John Taylor
-----4. Benjamin Taylor
3. Tabitha Taylor (3/2/1713 Orange,VA-?) married Thomas Wild -- unknown
3. Erasmus Taylor (9/5/1715 Orange,VA-7/19/1794 Orange,VA) married Jane Moore (12/22/1728-9/19/1812 Washington,DC) on October 13, 1749 -- 7 children
3. Hannah Taylor (3/15/1718 Orange,VA-?) married Nicholas Battaile (1701 VA-~1761 Hayfield,VA) ~1750s -- 1 child (3 stepchildren)
-----4. Hay Battaile (~1760 Hayfield,VA-~1840 Montgomery,KY) married (1) Mary Willis (?-1792) and (2) Ann Daingerfield (~1776-?) ~1794 -- 10 children
3. Mildred Taylor (12/11/1724 Orange,VA-1762 KY) married Richard Thomas on August 24, 1753 in Orange,VA -- unknown
**Note: The genealogy given in the booklet on Plantation Hayfield (apparently based on the books: "Virginia, Prominent Families," Vol. 1-4) regarding James Jr's marriages does not make sense. It appears that the 1682 James Taylor marriage to Mary Bishop Gregory was actually a first marriage of James Jr, with the three+ children born -- it would appear from the names of the children that her name was Mary Bishop (widow Gregory). In any case, these three children who seem rightly attributed to James Jr (since James Sr is in his 70s) are, I am guessing, from a first marriage and not a second marriage.
It is possible to estimate Hannah (Taylor?) Frost's birthyear; which I estimate as most likely 1720-1725. This is calculated from the assumption that the Hannah widow of William Frost in 1775 is the mother of all his children, and the children were born ~1743-1766. William is assumed to have been born in the early 1710s, as his first record is a land survey in 1736 for 1,632 acres. It is possible that William Frost could have been married twice (or more) and either one could have been a Taylor. I am working under the hypothesis that it was the mother of Martha, assumed to be Hannah, that is the one related to the Taylor family.
I would expect that Hannah Taylor had to be a close relation to Richard Taylor (1745-1829), the father of Zachary Taylor, in order to know they moved to KY. Since she was born ~1720s, she is likely to be a generation older. Clearly the first person who jumps out on the chart is aunt Hannah Taylor above born March 15, 1717/18 (1718 on the modern calendar), who married Nicholas Battaile, who died ~1761. While it is theoretically possible she married William Frost after Nicholas died in 1761, and was William's second wife, there is absolutely no evidence that Hannah Frost Battaile remarried. Much research was done on their Plantation Hayfield, and nothing points to a second marriage, and as mentioned she is older than expected to be having children in 1766, so it seems likely, but not definitely, that she can be ruled out.
Besides an aunt to Zachary Taylor's father Richard, Hannah could be an older cousin to his father; there are two possibilities here -- an unknown daughter of uncle James Taylor (1704-1792) or an unknown daughter of half-uncle John Taylor (1696-1780), but the information (largely based off the source book "Virginia, Prominent Families," Vol. 1-4) seems extensive and there is no mention of another Hannah. And note that should Hannah Taylor be a second wife to William Frost, she could be even younger.
It is not expected, but possible, that our Taylor line would relate to some other children of James Taylor Sr (1615-1698), as these would likely be too distant a relation; in other words, even if they existed, the distant relations are less likely to stay in touch with our Frost branch such that they are not likely to be remembered in family stories. However, it was a small community at that time, and so this possibility can not be ruled out either. And the "Hayfield Plantation" book does state that James Taylor Sr had "numerous" children, of which only one, James Jr, is documented; however, these might have been the children of James Jr with Mary Gregory.
Finally, it cannot be overlooked that Hannah could be a Taylor cousin without the last name of Taylor. While she would not be expected to be a daughter of Frances Taylor who married Ambrose Madison (or the link to James Madison would have been remembered), she could theoretically be a here-to-fore-unknown daughter to Martha Taylor Chew or of Mary Taylor Pendleton. After all, the story only mentioned she was a cousin, and did not specify her name was Taylor; the Taylor surname was deduced from the Taylor-relation statement not vice-versa.
However, it is clear from the above information that there is no obvious place for a Taylor relation -- no obvious match for Hannah or for a first wife.
It is noteworthy that the family stories made no mention of a familial link to President James Madison, a second cousin to Taylor. This is particularly noteworthy as Madison was the 4th president, and was instrumental in drafting the constitution. One would think that a cousin would be aware of this important cousin as well. This makes me think the Kentucky migration is of key importance. A possibility that would fit would be that Hannah is a relative of Zachary Taylor's mother/grandmother (Strother/Lee) or even sister/brother-in-law (Ball/Chew) -- this would fit with both the KY connection and the lack of relation to James Madison.
Note that there is an indication that our Frost family lived in Orange County prior to Frederick County. James Taylor Sr/Jr and William Frost were both early settlers in Orange county. On February 10, 1735/36 James Wood surveyed 1,632 acres for William Frost on Little Cape Capon for which he did not get a Colonial patent or Fairfax grant (source: Pioneers of Old Frederick County). John Frost then purchased a 380-tract on November 12, 1735 on Hiatt Run, a branch of Opequon Creek, about 3/4 miles south of Stephenson in Frederick. Confirming a land purchase in Orange before or after the date of his marriage (estimated ~1742) would lend credence to this story. Research into service during Lord Dunmore's War should also be undertaken; although there are no Taylor kin serving with John Houseman, the composition of the Frost units should be examined as well.
Finally, it would seem that if there is truth in the story, it would likely have been handed down in family stories in the LaRue and Lindsey lines as well, as they lived in KY where Zachary Taylor was raised; no mention of the relationship by any other branch of the 14 Frost children would be suspicious. However, this could also indicate that William's assumed-brother John Frost, who married a Mary Taylor ~1832, might be the source of the President Taylor connection; then it is likely that this story would have been handed down in that family for this to be the case, and the connection was not through the maternal line.
It is important to note that Taylor is a common name, and there were several branches of Taylor families in Virginia at the time. For that matter, so is Frost. And records are scarce with little information (like the 1682 marriage for James Taylor and Mary Bishop Gregory), and even excellent printed sources contain errors (like the 1682 marriage), so it is hard to attribute the records found correctly. Extra caution should therefore be exerted when relying on posted information by other genealogists.
In summary, it is still not clear if the Frosts are related to the Zachary Taylor branch. Unfortunately, not enough records survived to disprove or to prove. Since this story was coupled with the "triplet" story, I tend to think the Taylor story is also untrue, both stories being some sort of supposition or literary license (e.g., "they were as close as triplets" and "I think cousins to the Taylors"). However, even if not a relation to Zachary Taylor, the fact that the relation was suggested means that the Taylor name is somehow prominent in this Frost ancestry. Unfortunately, it could all be confusion over brother Amos marrying a Taylor as well. However, based on the 2013 preliminary DNA testing, it appears that this may be more likely than I had thought based on genealogy records alone.
James Madison was Taylor's second cousin, and both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Robert E. Lee were kinsmen.
Of the three presidents to whom we supposedly have genealogical links, Fillmore is the only one that is certain. The link to Polk seems likely but unknown, but would NOT be genealogical -- a Maiden relative married into the Polk line. This one to Taylor is upgraded in 2013 to possible, and would also be genealogical (our relatives sharing ancestors with Taylor ancestors). Through marriage there are likely to be links to many more presidents, especially the earlier ones. My efforts here were to try to prove or disprove the stated claim of relationship to Taylor, as it was with Polk.