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Historic Cemetery
The President James K. Polk State Historic Site
Pineville, North Carolina

A visual story with interactive features documenting the history, relocation, archaeology and continued preservation of the cemetery.

Updated May 2024

 In 1979, the Department of Transportation conducted a survey of the future path of the 485 outer loop in order to identify sites of historical significance. While the Polk cemetery was saved, most sites noted on the survey were not preserved. 

In March of 1988, Archaeologist Tom Padget wrote to Bob Pearson at the Department of Transportation and recommended swift relocation of the cemetery. While the cemetery did not meet the criteria for placement on the National Register of Historic Places, Padgett deemed it worthy of saving due to the presence of Maria Polk’s grave, the grandmother of President James K Polk, along with other relatives of the late President. Site manager at the time, Joyce White along with archeologist Jack Wilson, were instrumental in providing a location to re-inter the cemetery at the President James K. Polk State Historic Site, now the present location of the Polk cemetery.      


Once the DOT determined to preserve and relocate the cemetery, state officials commissioned UNC Charlotte’s Archaeology Department to coordinate the exhumation and reinternment. In December of 1988, archaeologist, and now famous author, Kathy J. Reichs led the relocation effort of the Polk Family Cemetery to its present location at JKP State Historic Site. While the remains were in poor condition, Reichs identified 101 individual graves and successfully documented and reinterred each burial and the remaining grave markers. 

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