Born in Calvert County, Maryland, on September 21, 1788, the daughter of Walter Smith, a prosperous Maryland planter and veteran officer of the American Revolution, and Ann Mackall-Smith, “Peggy” was raised amid refinement and wealth. While visiting her sister in Kentucky in 1809, she was introduced to Lieutenant Zachary Taylor, then home on leave, by Dr. Alexander Duke. Taylor, aged 25, married Peggy Smith, aged 21, on June 21, 1810, at the home of the bride’s sister, Mrs. Mary Chew, near Louisville, Kentucky. Their marriage appears to have been a happy one. A devout Episcopalian, Mrs. Taylor prayed regularly for her soldier husband. She became somewhat reclusive because, it is said, she had promised God to give up the pleasures of society if her husband returned safely from war.
With the rise in Taylor’s political career, his wife literally prayed for his defeat, for she dreaded the personal consequences of his becoming president. By the time she became First Lady, the hardships of following her husband from fort to fort and the birth of several children had taken their toll. A semi-invalid, she remained in seclusion on the second floor of the White House, leaving the duties of official hostess to her daughter Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Taylor. On the sudden death of the president, her health deteriorated rapidly. She died two years later, on August 14, 1852, at Pascagoula, Mississippi. She was buried next to her husband near Louisville, Kentucky.
- September, 21, 1788
- Calvert County, Maryland
- August, 14, 1852
- Pascagoula, Mississippi
- Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
- Louisville, Kentucky