Henry Clay Oak, Raleigh
The marker consists of an unfinished granite block with an arched top and two bronze plaques.
The upper plaque with the inscription denoting the spot Henry Clay wrote his famous “Raleigh
Letter” has a serpentine shaped top and includes the symbol for the Daughters of the American
Revolution. The lower plaque denotes the site as historic property.
Images: Bronze plaques
Upper plaque: HENRY CLAY OAK / HENRY CLAY, ON A VISIT TO THIS CITY, WROTE / THE
FAMOUS RALEIGH LETTER, APRIL 14, 1844, / OPPOSING THE ANNEXATION OF TEXAS. MANY /
AUTHORITIES BELIEVE THAT THIS STATEMENT / COST HIM THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF
1844. / ACCORDING TO TRADITION CLAY WROTE THE LETTER / WHILE SITTING UNDER THIS OAK
TREE, IN THE YARD / OF COLONEL WILLIAM POLK, AT WHOSE HOME HE / WAS A GUEST. /
ERECTED BY COLONEL POLK CHAPTER / D.A.R. / 1939
Lower plaque: RALEIGH / HISTORIC PROPERTY / THE HENRY CLAY OAK / CIRCA 1650
City of Raleigh
October 20, 1939
35.784670 , -78.636770 View in Geobrowse
"Colonel Polk Chapter to Unveil Marker Beneath Henry Clay Oak,” The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), October 20, 1939
Associated Press. "Raleigh to Lose Old Oak Tree," The Dispatch [Lexington, N.C.], September 25, 1991, (accessed November 10, 2015) Link
Clay, Henry. Papers Volume 10. University of Kentucky Press, 1959, p. 41-46. [Clay's letter to the Editors of the Washington Daily National Intelligencer from Raleigh, April 17, 1844.]
Morris, John. “Memorializing a Magnificent Oak and the 'Great Pacificator',” Goodnight Raleigh, http://goodnightraleigh.com/, March 27, 2009, (accessed November 11, 2021) Link
Murray, Elizabeth Reid. 2006. "Henry Clay Oak," NCpedia.org, (accessed July 27, 2013) Link
North Carolina State Department of Archives and History. The North Carolina Historical Review Volume XXXVI, No. 1 (January 1960). Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Historical Commission, 5, (accessed July 27, 2013) Link
“Henry Clay Oak,” The Historical Maker Database, HMdb.org, (accessed November 11, 2015) Link
“Unveiling Ceremony Is Followed by Tea,” The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), October 21, 1939
Colonel Polk Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution
A Whig presidential candidate Henry Clay is claimed to have penned his famous "Raleigh Letter,"
while sitting under an oak tree that once stood at this site. The letter supposedly cost him the
presidential election of 1844. The widely read letter opposed annexation of Texas and
predicted a war with Mexico. The tree, thought to be between 200 and 300 years old, was so
diseased that it was destroyed on October 9, 1991.
[Additional information from NCpedia editors at the State Library of North Carolina: This person enslaved and owned other people. Many Black and African people, their descendants, and some others were enslaved in the United States until the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in 1865. It was common for wealthy landowners, entrepreneurs, politicians, institutions, and others to enslave people and use enslaved labor during this period. To read more about the enslavement and transportation of African people to North Carolina, visit https://aahc.nc.gov/programs/africa-carolina-0. To read more about slavery and its history in North Carolina, visit https://www.ncpedia.org/slavery. - Government and Heritage Library, 2023.]
The marker is located on the north side of East North Street just to the west of the intersection with North Blount Street in Raleigh, NC. The marker is just off the sidewalk on the southwest corner of an empty lot where the William Polk House once stood. It is on the same side of the street and near the Andrews-Duncan House historic property located at 407 N. Blount Street but a photo from 1965 shows a house since removed between the marker and the Andrews-Duncan house.
The memorial marker stands on the grass just off the sidewalk.