Family and Descendants of Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States, known not just for his role in office but also for his military achievements. Despite his presidency being cut short, Taylor’s life and family have continued to capture interest.

In this article, we will explore Zachary Taylor’s family background and the lives of his descendants. We will look into his marriage, his children, and how his family’s legacy has woven through American history, touching on their personal achievements and contributions to society. This will set the stage for a deeper dive into the family tree and historical influence of one of America’s notable leaders.

Parents and Siblings of Zachary Taylor

Taylor's childhood home in Louisville, Kentucky


Zachary Taylor’s parents were Richard Taylor and Sarah Dabney Strother. Richard Taylor, born in 1744, was a prosperous planter and a respected officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He served under George Washington and played a crucial role in significant battles, which earned him a distinguished reputation. After the war, Richard became a significant figure in Kentucky, where he settled his family and continued his work as a planter.

Sarah Dabney Strother, born in 1760 in Virginia, came from a well-regarded family. She was known for her strong will and resilience, traits that she passed on to her children. Her upbringing in a socially and politically active family equipped her to manage the responsibilities of a large household and the challenges of frontier life.


Zachary Taylor was one of nine children, and his siblings played various roles in their community, each contributing in their own way to the family’s legacy. Here are some of his notable siblings:

  1. Hancock Taylor – Served as a surveyor and was involved in early explorations of Kentucky. His work helped to map and define territories for future settlements.
  2. William Dabney Strother Taylor – Managed family affairs and continued the work on the family plantation, ensuring the Taylors remained influential in local agriculture and politics.
  3. George Taylor – Participated in local politics and managed additional family lands. His contributions helped to stabilize the family’s economic status in Kentucky.
  4. Joseph Pannill Taylor – Followed in Zachary’s footsteps in the military, eventually reaching the rank of brigadier general in the United States Army. He served notably during the Mexican-American War.
  5. Elizabeth Lee Taylor – Known for her community involvement and support of her brothers’ military careers, contributing to the family’s social standing.
  6. Emily Richard Taylor – Maintained close ties with all her siblings, helping to keep the family connected through her correspondence and family gatherings.
  7. Sarah Bailey Taylor – Like her sisters, she played a crucial role in maintaining the social networks necessary for the family’s sustained prominence.
  8. Richard Taylor Jr. – Continued family traditions in agriculture and local politics, maintaining the Taylor presence in regional development.

The Taylor siblings were a product of their environment—hardy, resourceful, and deeply involved in the fabric of American growth during the early 19th century. Their collective efforts in military, political, and social spheres significantly impacted the areas they lived in and the nation’s history.

Marriage of Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor married Margaret Mackall Smith, a union that significantly shaped both his personal life and his career. The couple wed on June 21, 1810, in Louisville, Kentucky, and their marriage lasted until Taylor’s death in 1850. Margaret, often referred to as Peggy, was the daughter of Major Walter Smith, a Maryland planter and Revolutionary War veteran. This connection not only brought two prominent families together but also solidified Taylor’s social standing in early American society.

Margaret Mackall Smith

Portrait of Margaret "Peggy" Taylor

Margaret was born in 1788 in Calvert County, Maryland. She grew up in a family that valued education and civic duty, which prepared her well for the role of a military wife. As Zachary’s career in the U.S. Army took off, Margaret adeptly managed their household and the upbringing of their children, often under challenging conditions due to frequent relocations and Taylor’s prolonged absences during military campaigns.

Margaret was known for her strength and resilience, qualities that were indispensable as she navigated the responsibilities of raising their children largely on her own. The Taylors had three daughters and one son who survived to adulthood.

Supporting Zachary’s Career

Throughout Zachary Taylor’s military career and eventual presidency, Margaret was a steadfast supporter, though she preferred to remain out of the public eye, focusing instead on her family. Her management of family affairs allowed Taylor to dedicate himself fully to his military duties and later to the governance of the nation.

Margaret’s role as a military spouse was characterized by her ability to maintain a stable home life despite the uncertainties and moves that came with her husband’s assignments. Her resilience and adaptability were hallmarks of her personality, greatly influencing their children and helping to steer the family through the complexities of 19th-century American life.

Together, Zachary and Margaret’s partnership exemplified the challenges and responsibilities of early American military and political families, demonstrating a shared commitment to service and duty.

Children of Zachary Taylor

Mary Elizabeth Bliss Taylor, acting first lady of the USA from 1849 to 1850

Zachary Taylor and his wife Margaret Mackall Smith had six children, though only four survived into adulthood. Each of their children experienced a unique upbringing, deeply influenced by their father’s military career and, eventually, his presidency. Here is a detailed look at each of the Taylor children:

Ann Mackall Taylor

  • Born: April 9, 1811
  • Died: December 2, 1875

Ann was the eldest of the Taylor children and lived a relatively private life compared to her siblings. She married Dr. Robert C. Wood, a surgeon in the U.S. Army, and had several children. Her life was marked by her dedication to her family and her father’s legacy.

Sarah Knox Taylor

  • Born: March 6, 1814
  • Died: September 15, 1835

Sarah Knox Taylor briefly stepped into the historical spotlight due to her marriage to Jefferson Davis, who would later become the President of the Confederate States of America. Tragically, she died of malaria just three months after her wedding, never seeing her husband’s rise to prominence.

Octavia Pannill Taylor

  • Born: 1816
  • Died: 1820

Octavia died in childhood, one of the two Taylor children who did not reach adulthood. Her early death was a sorrowful chapter in the Taylor family history.

Margaret Smith Taylor

  • Born: 1819
  • Died: 1820

Like her sister Octavia, Margaret died very young, also not surviving past infancy.

Mary Elizabeth Taylor

  • Born: April 20, 1824
  • Died: July 25, 1909

Commonly known as “Betty,” Mary Elizabeth was perhaps the most visible of Taylor’s children during his presidency. She assumed many First Lady duties because her mother, Margaret, preferred to remain out of the spotlight. Betty married Major William Wallace Smith Bliss, who was an assistant and private secretary to her father. After his death, she later remarried to Philip Pendleton Dandridge.

Richard Taylor

  • Born: January 27, 1826
  • Died: April 12, 1879

Richard pursued a military career and achieved the rank of lieutenant general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Following the war, he became a prominent figure in Louisiana politics and authored a memoir detailing his experiences.

The lives of Zachary Taylor’s children were intertwined with the major historical events of their time, reflecting both the personal and political challenges of 19th-century America. Each child, in their own way, contributed to and was shaped by the legacy of their father’s storied career.

Notable Descendants of Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor’s family continued to influence American history long after his presidency through several notable descendants who left their own marks on the nation’s cultural and political landscape. Here’s a look at some of the most prominent among them:

Richard “Dick” Taylor (1826-1879)

Richard Taylor, 1850

  • Relation: Youngest son of Zachary Taylor
  • Contributions: Richard Taylor was a significant figure in the American Civil War, serving as a Confederate general. After the war, he became a prominent political figure in Louisiana and an author, writing about his experiences in the war and his views on Reconstruction. His memoir, “Destruction and Reconstruction,” remains a valuable resource for understanding the Civil War and its aftermath from the Confederate perspective.

Sarah Knox Taylor Davis (1814-1835)

Sarah Knox Taylor Davis (1814-1835)

  • Relation: Daughter of Zachary Taylor
  • Contributions: While Sarah herself did not have a long life or career due to her early death, her marriage to Jefferson Davis is historically significant. Davis would go on to become the President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Sarah’s connection to Davis links the Taylor family directly to one of the most pivotal figures in American history.

Zachary Taylor Wood (1860-1915)

  • Relation: Grandson of Zachary Taylor
  • Contributions: Zachary T. Wood was a senior officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). His career was distinguished by his roles in law enforcement and administration in the Yukon Territory during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Stuart Taylor Wood (1889-1966)

  • Relation: Great-grandson of Zachary Taylor
  • Contributions: Following in the footsteps of his father, Stuart Taylor Wood served as the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from 1938 to 1951. His tenure is noted for modernizing the force and expanding its role in national security during World War II.

These descendants of Zachary Taylor illustrate how his family’s legacy extended into various fields, including military leadership, politics, and law enforcement, impacting both American and Canadian histories. Their lives reflect a continuation of the dedication to service that characterized President Taylor’s own career.


The legacy of Zachary Taylor extends beyond his tenure as a military leader and U.S. President through the significant contributions of his descendants. Each generation of Taylor’s family has played a role in shaping American history, from the Civil War to the development of national law enforcement in Canada. Their diverse impacts reflect the enduring influence of Taylor’s values of leadership and public service, showcasing a family deeply intertwined with the historical and cultural developments of North America.