Star Tracks: Monday, May 16, 2016 42 years, 2,191 covers and 55,436 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- Donald Trump on Alicia Machado's Miss Universe Reign: 'I Saved Her Job'
- Read the Cover Story: Brad & Angelina Split After 12 Years: It's Over
- José Fernández's Pregnant Girlfriend Maria Arias Makes First Public Appearance Since His Death at Memorial Service
- Utah Man Allegedly Held Teen in Shed For Six Weeks, Forcing Her to Perform Sex Acts for Food and Water
- Two Minnesota Sisters Found Dead on Vacation in the Seychelles
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- July 01, 1991
- Vol. 35
- No. 25
Digging Up Zach
Too Late to Round Up the Usual Suspects, a Writer Claims President Taylor Was Murdered
Historians blame Taylor's death, at age 65 on July 9,1850, on an intestinal disorder brought on by overlarge helpings of cherries and ice milk after a steamy Fourth of July celebration. Bui Clara Rising, author of In the Season of the Wild Rose, a 1986 historical novel about a Confederate general, has sketched a darker scenario. She suspects someone put arsenic in his food. If she's right, Taylor, not Abraham Lincoln, would go down in history as the first American President to be assassinated.
A spunky mother of four and grandmother of six, Rising, 57, picked up hints of foul play last year after beginning research on a historical novel about Taylor. "The more I read about his death, the stranger it sounded," she says. "Zachary Taylor had survived the Seminole and Black Hawk wars. He had fought the British and the Mexicans. Lord, he had suffered through more than a hot day in Washington and a stomachache." His symptoms, she noted, were consistent with arsenic poisoning. And she theorized that his support for bringing California and New Mexico into the union as free states could have given proslavery fanatics a motive to do him in.
To exhume Taylor's body, Rising first had to gain permission from some of his descendants. "Clara presented a good case," says Helene Rufty, 29, a great-great-great-great-granddaughter from Winston-Salem. With the relatives' okay, Rising submitted her research to Jefferson County, Ky., coroner Dr. Richard Greathouse, who signed the exhumation order. "I realized I have a possible homicide," he says.
Historians remain skeptical. "She doesn't have a shred of evidence pointing to any single murderer," says Elbert Smith, author of The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore. Smith and other historians suggest that the real culprits may have been Taylor's physicians, who unintentionally worsened his condition with potions containing quinine, mercury and opium.
But Rising expects to have the last word when hair, nail and bone samples collected at the coroner's office are analyzed this week. And after Taylor's remains were returned to their resting place accompanied by a military honor guard, she was fatigued but satisfied. "What held me together was that I was doing it for Zachary," Rising says. "Whatever the outcome, we will have the truth."
CIVIA TAMARKIN in Louisville
- Civia Tamarkin.
September 28, 2016
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!