How Every American President Died


James K. Polk not only had the unfortunate and painful fate of dying of cholera, but also of having a body that never seemed to rest. Polk retired after one term in 1848, according to the Miller Center. Retirement did not sit well with Polk since in 1849, only months after leaving office, he contracted cholera while on tour in New Orleans. He died on July 15, 1849 at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 53.

Because Polk had died of cholera, his remains began a very unpresidential journey. The Washington Post reports that, in accordance with the procedure applicable to cholera cases at the time, he was thrown into a mass grave in the city of Nashville cemetery. This was presumably to contain the disease, but Polk’s wishes were eventually respected after a year: Polk’s family exhumed the remains and moved them to a plot on the grounds of Polk Place, as the former president l originally stipulated.

The burial, however, only lasted a few decades, as in 1893 the family sold the property and Polk – along with his late wife – were once again dug up and moved to the grounds of the Tennessee capitol in a rather isolated place. Once again the former president was laid to rest, but in 2017 a push was made to exhume the body again. The intention was to move him back to his ancestor’s home – where the Polk Museum is located – in Columbia, Tennessee, to a larger grave, although that effort failed.


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