by John T. Marck
First Lady: 1849 to 1850
Wife of President Zachary Taylor
Born: September 21, 1788 Died: August 18, 1852
Margaret Smith was born at St. Leonard's in Calvert County, Maryland, the daughter of Richard and Ann Mackall Smith. When Margaret was twenty-one, she visited her sister Mary Chew at her plantation in Kentucky, near Louisville. It was here that she met a young Lieutenant named Zachary Taylor, who was stationed there in the Army. They married on June 21, 1810, and lived on the plantation his father built on Beargrass Creek, outside Louisville. For many years they traveled back and forth between their home and military outposts. Finally, they were stationed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and it was there that they settled into what would be their permanent home, on the army post, in a house previously owned by the former commandant. They experienced hardships, having two of their children die of malaria.
In 1849, her husband, Zachary was elected President, and they moved into the White House. Margaret, or Peggy as she was called, lived very privately in the White House, acting as though it was her own home. When visitors came to the White House, she assumed they were only there to see the President, so she never displayed herself. Instead, she would entertain her own friends and guests to private dinner parties, in much the manner she acted in her own home. Not being interested in the duties of an official hostess, Peggy appointed her daughter Betty to this position, who handled the responsibility well.
Peggy had endured many hardships throughout her life, but her final grief came from her husband's unexpected death in 1850, after just sixteen months as President. Her husband's death broke her spirit and her will to live. Peggy died on August 18, 1852 at the home of her daughter Betty, in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Copyright © 1990-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. From The First Ladies of the Unites States by John T. Marck.