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MC 00013 Guide to the Polk Family Papers, 1850-1961

This collection is divided into three principal series:
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The Polk Family and Friends papers contain materials relating to the Turrentine family of Hillsborough, North Carolina. James (b. 1803) and Margaret (b. 1813) Turrentine had seven children at the time of the 1850 census; James was employed as the sheriff of Hillsborough at that time. Included in the collection is a book entitled Flowers of Loveliness, which belonged to Margaret (b. 1836), the Turrentine's daughter. It contains poems and messages from friends and her sister Emeline. Also included in the Turrentine materials is a note by an anonymous author regarding the Civil War career of Margaret's brother William G. Turrentine (b. 1845). The Family and Friends series also contains materials belonging to Polk's daughter Juanita (Nita) Polk Denmark, namely three received letters and her entry application for the 1881 North Carolina State Fair.
[Half Box 1, Folder 1] Turrentine Family, 1853-1865
[Half Box 1, Folder 2] Juanita Polk Denmark, 1881-1888
The Leonidas Lafayette Polk Personal Materials series contains collected newspaper articles, recipes, and miscellaneous items. The four newspaper articles date from 1907, 1920, 1958, and 1961. Highlights of miscellaneous items include an 1857 receipt to or from a member of Sarah Pamela Gaddy Polk's family; an entry for the North Carolina state fair; and a card for shipping cotton bales belonging to Leonidas Lafayette Polk to Baltimore, Maryland.
[Half Box 1, Folder 3] Collected Newspaper Articles, 1907-1961
[Half Box 1, Folder 4] Recipes, circa 1890-circa 1930
[Half Box 1, Folder 5] Miscellaneous Items, circa 1850-circa 1920
The Leonidas Lafayette Polk Professional Materials series is divided into writings and a booklet entitled "Col. Leonidas Lafayette Polk." Writings contains articles advocating for the establishment of a North Carolina State Department of Agriculture and discussing cotton production in the South. While one article can be attributed to Polk, a question of authorship remains with the other works. The booklet is a printing of an address given by Clarence Poe, editor of The Progressive Farmer, given 1926 July 28 at the dedication of Polk Hall at North Carolina College of Agriculture and Engineering. It details Polk's role in establishing the College.
[Half Box 1, Folder 6] Writings, 1876-1877
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[Half Box 1, Folder 7] Booklet: "Col. Leonidas Lafayette Polk,", 1926
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Polk Family


0.25 Linear feet 1 box

General Physical Description note

1 box


For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Special Collections Research Center Reference Staff external link.



Acquisitions Information

Gift of Mrs. George Dunlap, 1926 (Accession 1926-0001) and gift of Mrs. J. S. Burch, 1974 September 16 (Accession 1974-0001). Additional gift made by D. H. Library Collection Development and Organization, 1977 September 7.


Processed by: Caitlin Donnelly;machine-readable finding aid created by: Caitlin Donnelly

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains material relating to the personal and professional life of Leonidas Lafayette Polk as well as documents belonging to his family member and friends. The collection contains correspondence, newspaper articles, recipes, printed booklets, typed manuscripts, and a nineteenth-century memory book. The bulk of the materials date from 1850 to 1926.

Biographical Note

The Polk family of North Carolina includes Leonidas Lafayette Polk, who was born in Anson County, North Carolina, on 24 April 1837, the son of farmer Andrew and Serena Autry Polk. Orphaned at age fourteen, Polk spent four years residing with relatives before entering Davidson College in the fall semester of 1855. Within ten months he had taken all available courses in science and agriculture. He returned to Anson County to operate several business ventures and farm family land using slaves inherited from his father. On 23 September 1857, Polk married Sarah Pamela Gaddy, the daughter of an Anson County planter. The Polks had seven children, one son who died in infancy and six daughters.

Polk held several positions in North Carolina government. He was elected to the state legislature in 1860 and 1864, served as a colonel with two North Carolina regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War, and attended the state constitutional convention in 1865. Beginning in the 1870s, Polk began advocating for the creation of a state Department of Agriculture. When such a department was established in 1877, he became its first commissioner, a position he held until 1880.

Polk's lengthy political career was coupled with an extensive career in journalism. In April 1874 he established the weekly Ansonian, which featured farm and local news and sponsored farmers' clubs. Polk was also the founder and first editor of The Progressive Farmer (1886), which instructed Southern farmers on better agricultural methods. Polk also served as editor of the Raleigh News, which consolidated with the Observer to form the News and Observer, between 1880 and 1881.

Throughout his career, Polk was interested in North Carolina educational institutions. He organized state farmers to lobby for an agricultural college and joined the Watauga Club in sponsoring legislation that established the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, which became North Carolina State University, in 1887. Subsequently, Polk was recruited to assist with the establishment of a Baptist college for women. While a vital participant in this effort, Polk died prior to the 1899 opening of the Baptist Female University, later Meredith College.

Polk also remained interested agriculture during his career. Between 1887 and 1889, Polk was three times elected president of the Interstate Farmers' Association of eleven Southern states. At the 1889 conference, several farmers' organizations consolidated to form the Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union (National Farmers' Alliance) and elected Polk its President. He was later twice re-elected. Due to his resulting power in national politics, Polk was widely expected to be the presidential nominee of the new People's Party in the 1892 national election. He died, however, on June 11, just months before the party's national convention.

Access to Collection

This collection is open for research; access requires at least 24 hours advance notice.

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Special Collections Research Center
Box 7111
Raleigh, NC, 27695-7111


(919) 515-2273


(919) 513-1787

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Polk Family Papers, MC 13, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC

Access to Collection

The nature of the NCSU Libraries' Special Collections means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The NCSU Libraries claims only physical ownership of most Special Collections materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

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