Monday, November 12, 2007

Brig. Gen. Thomas Polk (1732-1793)

About 1750, Thomas Polk came with his father and mother, William and Margaret (Taylor) Polk, and at least some of his brothers and sisters, to the Yadkin country in the western part of the province of North Carolina. There are many Polk family histories that state Thomas arrived in North Carolina alone, showing up at the door of the Thomas Spratt family with nothing but a knapsack on his back. [Thomas Spratt is written up in the History of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina as being the first white man to cross the Yadkin River in a wheeled vehicle. The Spratt home was the site of the first court held in Mecklenburg County.] The Spratts had been one of the first families in the area, settling on Sugar Creek, a branch of the Catawba River, a few miles south of the present town of Charlotte near the South Carolina line. Most of the settlers of that area came south from Pennsylvania or northern Virginia, and the majority were Scots-Irish. With Abraham Alexander and John Frohock, Thomas Polk bought 360 acres of land from Britain's Lord Augustus Selwyn. The land lay where future downtown Charlotte, North Carolina would flourish. Thomas Polk married Susanna Spratt in 1755, one of his early host's numerous daughters.
In the 1770s, as conflicts grew between settlers and the British, Thomas Polk became commander of the local militia. He was one of twenty-seven men who signed documents in 1775 that pronounced their freedom from British rule. The "Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence" and the "Mecklenburg Resolves" would remain the source of controversy for many years.
In 1776 Polk was appointed Colonel of the "Minute Men" (with Adam Alexander as Lieutenant Colonel), and then was appointed Colonel of the Fourth Regiment of the Continental troops following the Provincial Congress that same year. Though advanced in years, he served throughout the Revolution, and at retirement Thomas Polk was made a Brigadier General. His service to the country was recognized by Gen. Nathanael Greene and other leaders, and Polk was rewarded with numerous land grants in (what is now) Tennessee for himself and his heirs.
Thomas Polk would become great-uncle to James Knox Polk, eleventh President of the United States.