Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


March 12, 2013

Random Thoughts: A woman who lived by her beliefs

CROSSVILLE — Tomorrow is the 150th anniversary of Casey Jones' birthday. The folks in Jackson, TN, are planning a celebration. They have never forgotten their hero and keep him alive at the Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum.


Sarah Childress Polk was Tennessee’s second “first lady” of the United States. Eight years younger than her husband James K. Polk, whom she married in 1824, she was the taller of the couple and had the same capacity for hard work.      

James K. Polk was Tennessee’s 11th president of the United States. On a cold, rainy day he was sworn in as the youngest man to date, age 49, to hold the office. Sarah stood holding a fan which had been given to her. An umbrella would have been more appropriate. As John Quincy Adams remarked later, “The address was given to a large audience of umbrellas.”

Polk was a short man who always had his nose to the grindstone. His wife, though taller, had no appetite for worldly pleasures and they made a perfect couple in temperament.

Sarah had been raised a strict Calvinist. She did not dance, play cards or drink. When the Polks appeared at the Inaugural Ball all dancing stopped. The band played Hail to the Chief and after a brief appearance the Polks left and dancing resumed. Because she was the daughter of a prosperous merchant, Sarah wore expensive clothes but always in good taste. Her gown that night was a magazine blue velvet with a deeply fringed cape.

Preceding them in the White House were the fun loving Tylers. Rumor had it that they had left the place in a mess from all their entertaining. Sarah handled the problem with diplomacy. She interviewed several decorators and then announced the public rooms would receive some repair. As for the private rooms nothing would be done. If they were good enough for the Tylers they were fine for the Polks.

Two evenings each week the Polks received visitors informally because the president believed the people needed time with their leader. In his diary he noted he found these receptions pleasant and this schedule freed up the other evenings so he could work on business.

And work he did, late into the night.  He had declared publicly that he would serve one term and he would spend those four years on territorial expansion and reducing tariffs. Often he turned to Sarah to do the reading of papers that crossed his desk.

Sarah banned dancing and the serving of spirits in the White House. The couple would not accept expensive gifts and Sarah refused to accept flowers from the federal conservatory because she thought the public would think she had special privileges.

A woman who lived by her beliefs Sarah never hesitated to act. To get to Washington for the inauguration the Polks went by steamer up the Ohio River. They docked at Louisville on Saturday because of a bad storm. Sunday morn a band came aboard and started playing music for the passengers. Sarah asked that it be stopped because it was the Sabbath and the music stopped. Polk said, “Sarah directs all domestic affairs, and she thinks it is domestic.”           

As promised the Polks returned to Nashville at the end of four years and on June 15, 1849 the workaholic James Polk died there at age 53. Sarah surrounded herself by mementoes and made Polk Place a living museum. She was held in high esteem in Nashville and each New Year’s Day the Tennessee legislature called on her. She died in 1891 at age 88.

In 1893 following the sale of the Polk home the Polk Tomb was moved to the northeast lawn of the Capitol where it remains.

Text Only
  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

  • Tidbits: Make the best of your road trip

    I didn’t care for road trips when I was young. It was so confining to have to sit in the back seat, staring out the window for hour after hour, hayfield after hayfield. And when you’re a kid, time doesn’t pass like it does when you get a little older. Just the trip from Jamestown, TN, to Crossville, roughly 30 miles, felt like an eternity!

    July 14, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Biased climate agenda will cost trillions

    For anyone who has been educated in the history of science and scientific method, this whole issue of “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” is an embarrassing and painful exercise.

    July 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Time for an oil change

    The land of Iraq, earlier known as Mesopotamia, has a long history going back to Neanderthal times some 60,000 years ago. Later, around 10,000 years ago, it became the site for some of the most important developments in human history: the invention of the wheel, planting of cereal crops, the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture. Today it is recognized as one of the cradles of civilization.

    July 8, 2014

  • We the People: American women, be informed and vote

    Voting for today’s Republican Party and its Tea Party members, means you are voting against more than most realize.  This is especially true for women.

    July 8, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014