Family and Descendants of Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor was born to prominent farm parents Richard Taylor and Sarah Dabney Strother in Virginia on November 24, 1784. Richard and Sarah had eight children: Hancock, William, George, Elizabeth, Joseph, Sarah, Emily, and Richard. They grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, in their maternal grandfather, William Strother’s Hare Forest Farm.

Margaret Mackall Smith Taylor

Portrait of Margaret Mackall Smith

Margaret Smith, also known as Peggy Smith, was born in Calvert County, Maryland. She was the daughter of Ann Mackall and Walter Smith. Her father served as a Major during the Revolutionary War.

Young Peggy met Lieutenant Zachary Taylor in 1809 when she visited her sister in Kentucky. They fell in love and were married on June 21, 1810. She tended the farm Zachary’s father gave to them as a wedding present.

She gave birth to their first baby on the farm; however, her husband was assigned to a remote garrison along the western frontier. The couple had eight children, where two of their daughters died at a young age in 1820 due to a deadly fever.

Zachary Taylor’s military career brought their family in different military installations in unsettled areas. Peggy was very patient to manage their home despite the lack of comfort she had in her youth. She was also able to send her children to prominent schools in the East.

All three surviving daughters of the couple married soldiers; even their son served as a commander in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.

In 1848, Peggy disapproved of her husband’s presidential nomination of the Whig Party. She prayed for his defeat; however, Zachary Taylor was inaugurated, and she had no choice but to move to Washington, D.C., with him. Peggy avoided public appearances and delegated her daughter, Betty Bliss, as the White House hostess and other social gatherings. Many speculated that she was elusive because she smoked a pipe.

After Zachary Taylor died on July 9, 1850, her health deteriorated rapidly, and she lived with her daughters until she died in 1852 in Betty’s home. She was buried beside her husband in the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky.

Anne Margaret Mackall Taylor Wood

Anne was the eldest daughter of Zachary Taylor and Margaret Taylor. She was born on April 9, 1811, in Jefferson County, Kentucky. She was married to an army surgeon, Robert Crooke Wood, on September 20, 1829. They had four children. She died in December 1875 at the age of 64.

Sarah Knox Taylor Davis

Portrait of Sarah Knox Taylor

Sarah was born on March 6, 1814, in Indiana. She was the second daughter of Zachary Taylor and Margaret Taylor and grew up on different military posts and forts. Her household nickname was “Knoxie.”

When she was only 17, she knew and fell in love with Jefferson Davis. Her father admired Jefferson for his military skills more than being the romantic partner of his daughter. He opposed their relationship because he understands the struggle of being married to career soldiers and wanted Sarah to be far from army life. Jefferson Davis retired from the armed forces to marry Sarah.

When she turned 21, she married Jefferson on June 17, 1835, in Louisville, Kentucky. She died three months after her marriage due to malaria on September 15, 1835.

Mary Elizabeth Taylor Bliss

portrait of Mary Elizabeth Taylor Bliss

Mary Elizabeth or Betty was born on April 20, 1824, in Louisville, Kentucky. She assumed the role of the official hostess as her mother refused to appear publicly. She received many commendations for her diligence in performing required duties at the age of 25.

She was acquainted with notable men and women because they were fascinated by her beautiful character. Many considered her invitation as a high honor.

Betty married William Wallace Smith Bliss in 1848. William Bliss was an army officer who served with her father. When her father died, Betty and her husband accompanied her widowed mother, Margaret, until her death. A year after, her husband William Bliss passed away when he was only 29 due to yellow fever.

She married Philip Pendleton Dandridge on February 11, 1858. Betty died on July 25, 1909, at the age of 85, and was the only surviving child of Zachary Taylor.

Richard Taylor

Portrait of Richard Taylor

Richard “Dick” Taylor was born on January 27, 1826, in Kentucky. His sisters nicknamed him, “Dick.” He attended Harvard College in Cambridge; however, he finished his college degree at Yale in 1845.

He often visits his father in Matamoros, a Mexican town; reports say that he voluntarily served as aide-de-camp in 1846. Dick served in the American Civil War for the Confederate States Army as a Brigadier Commander in Virginia.

He inherited a large sugar cane plantation in Louisiana after his father’s sudden death in 1850.

Dick married Louise Marie Myrthe Bringier on February 10, 1851. She was a daughter of a wealthy French Creole matriarch Aglae Bringier. In 1856, his plantation was struck with the freeze, which ruined his crop and was in debt. He was financially aided by his mother-in-law to solve his financial crisis.

He then entered local politics in 1855 in the Louisiana State Senate until 1861.

After the war, his home was destroyed; that is why his family moved to New Orleans. He lived there until 1875 when his wife died. Together with his three daughters, they relocated to Virginia and traveled to Washington, D.C., and New York City. He wrote his memoir, and it served as one of the most credited reports of the American Civil War.

When he was in his political ally’s home in New York, Dick died on April 12, 1879, due to dropsy and was buried in New Orleans.