Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser
There are various versions of when the county was formed, and all of them are listed in the order of their appearance.
The county was first settled in 1810 by Tennesseans, and was organized in 1834 and named in honor of President James K. Polk. (--Campbell's New Atlas of Missouri, 1874, p. 67.)
Polk County was organized in March, 1835, but its present limits were not established until 1845. The Osages and Delawares were the occupants in 1832-33, when the Gunters, Jamiesons, Benjamin Looney and other pioneers came in. (--A Reminiscent History of the Ozark Region, Goodspeed, 1894, p. 27.)
The first settlers came from Tennessee in 1820; of these there is little trace and no authoritative records of others until several years later. The Sac River in the southwest part of the county received the first immigration. There, in 1830, Martha, wife of J. H. M. Smith, wove the first cloth in a crude loom. In 1832 Aaron Ruyle had a cabin, and in 1835 he set out the first fruit trees; John S. Lemmon put up a saw and gristmill about the same time. In 1832-33, the first settlements were made near Bolivar ... Polk County was named in honor of James K. Polk, afterward President and was created by the act of the General Assembly of March 13, 1835.
The territory of the new county was taken from Greene and Laclede Counties. As its boundaries were defined by the General Assembly in the act of March 20th, following, its area was nearly three times what it is at present, and included nearly all of the present Dallas County, and portions of Hickory, St. Clair, Cedar and Webster Counties. It was reduced to its present dimensions in 1845. ...
A log court house was built in 1835. In 1841, this was replaced by a two-story brick building, which is yet occupied (1901). (--Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, Conrad, Vol. 5, pp. 183-184.)
The first settlements were made as early as 1820, by emigrants from Tennessee, although the county was not organized until March 13, 1835, up to which time it had formed a part of Greene County. It was named in honor of James K. Polk, of Tennessee. The first court was held September 7, 1835, at Bolivar, Charles H. Allen presiding, and Joseph English, sheriff.
John S. Phelps, of Springfield, was the first attorney admitted to practice in the court, his signature bearing date of August 7, 1837. (--Gazetteer of Missouri, Campbell, 1874, p. 451.)
Polk County was organized March 13, 1835. John P. Campbell, an early settler in Polk County was a second cousin of James K. Polk, and he suggested that it be named Polk. Polk was at this time a member of Congress and was elected President in 1844. (--"How Missouri Streams, Cities, Etc., Were Named," David W. Eaton, from The Missouri Historical Review, p. 342.)
James Knox Polk of Tennessee was only a Congressman when Polk County was named for him, but was perhaps more popular then in Missouri than after his unexpected election to the Presidency ten years later. (--Our Storehouse of Missouri Place Names, Ramsay, pp. 52-53.)
The Polk County Court met for the first time February 9, 1835, at Donald M. Stockton's house, five miles southeast of Bolivar ... Having convened the second day, the court proceeded to divide the county into three townships: Washington, Marion, and Jackson.
Polk County adopted the township organization by a vote in November, 1872, under which much of the business formerly devolving on the county court is now (1889) under the jurisdiction of township officials ... (State of Missouri, History of Polk Co., Goodspeed, 1889, p. 295.)
David Hartley was the first who located permanently in Benton Township. This township was created May 16, 1838. (--Ibid: pp. 279, 290.)
Apparently it was near Brighton, in Looney Township. Hugh Boyd lived in Township 32, Range 22, in 1837 and 1838. Later on, he lived in Township 31, Range 21, in 1844. This township borders on Greene County. It is the township south of Pleasant Hope, (Mooney Township). (--Ibid: pp. 279, 280.)
Some of the Campbell's, Dunnegan's and others were the first settlers of Campbell Township, which was formed from portions of Jefferson and Madison Townships.
This, the most recently organized township in the county was created August 5, 1886 ... The boundaries of Madison and Jefferson were changed by the creation of this territory or township. (--Ibid: pp. 279, 294.)
In 1859 some of the citizens of Polk County effected an organization for the purpose of holding a fair, which was held in the fall of that year on the Moses P. Hart place, near Bolivar. It was not repeated the following year, and the organization passed out of existence. Another similar organization was effected in 1871, with Thomas Higginbotham as president, A. H. Underwood, secretary, and C. Bushnell, treasurer, and in the fall of that year gave a fair ... A small fairground was enclosed, and some improvements were made; but the success of the fair did not warrant its repetition.
The Polk County Agricultural and Mechanical Society was legally authorized November 15, 1887, its capital stock to be $5,000, most of which has been paid in (1889). The original officers were: T. H. B. Dunnegan, president; J. G. Simpson, secretary; H. L. Cary, treasurer ...
The stock show of that year had been held in the Clark Grove, west of the city; but, this place being not altogether desirable, the society, soon after its incorporation, purchased about forty acres in the northwest part of the city which has been fenced in as a permanent fairgrounds. A half-mile race track has been provided and an exposition building 90 by 90 feet, and a grandstand, with a seating capacity of more than 1,000 has been erected, besides other necessary buildings. The first annual fair of the society was held September 19, 20, 21 and 22, 1888, and proved a financial success. The officers of this organization were the same as listed above ... (--Ibid: pp. 308, 309.)
John A. Strain, father of Samuel D. Strain, county assessor (1888) of Polk County, was born in Washington Co., Tenn., in 1804 ... He moved to Dade County, Mo., in 1842, soon afterward to Polk Co., and rebuilt the old Davis Mill, which is one of the oldest mills in this section of the county. (--Ibid: p. 701.)
It was in Jefferson Township. George W. Kelly made the first settlement. (--Ibid: p. 279.)
Flint Prairie was about 20 miles northeast of Bolivar in 1858. (--Mrs. C. F. Ammerman (Betty) has a newspaper clipping on this item.)
Frog Pond was 2 miles west of Pleasant Hope. (--Ibid: Newspaper, April, 1900.)
The post-office was established in January, 1901. It was called Klondike in 1898. (--Ibid.)
Among the early pioneers of Greene Township were John Jump, Stewart and John Burns, who were soldiers in the War of 1812-1814. Mr. Burns lived to a very advanced age, and was long revered as the oldest man in the township. The township was created May 16, 1838. (--State of Missouri, History of Polk Co., pp. 279, 290.)
The first grist-mill was built on the Sac River, near Hickory Grove in 1835 ... The first sawed boards were cut out with the once familiar "whip-saw." A log was placed on elevated bearings, and the saw was passed through it lengthwise by a man above and another below, after the manner of using the cross-cut saw. The early saw mills were primitive affairs, of which John S. Lemmon built the first on the Sac River in 1835. Other saw and grist-mills were erected, until, in 1862, there were four of the former and ten of the latter. (--Ibid: p. 274.)
May 10, 1836, Jackson Township was erected ... May 15, 1838, the bounds of Jackson Township were redefined ...
Jackson Township was early settled. Isaac Looney was among its pioneers; also the families of the Potters and Mitchells. In the early history of the county, Orleans (q. v.) on the Sac River, was quite a trading-post, and the name of the town was familiar throughout the Southwest, but for many years past there have remained but few reminders of its former prominence. (--Ibid: pp. 277, 278, 288, 289.)
A township by this name was created May 16, 1838. (--Ibid: p. 290.)
The last settled part of the county was Jefferson Township. George W. Kelly made the first settlement at Dry Fork on the Bolivar and Warsaw Road. This township was created February 11, 1860. (--Ibid: pp. 293, 297.)
Johnson Township was not settled as early as the central and eastern parts of the county. James Human, the pioneer, located at the "Big Spring" where Humansville now is, in 1834, and died in 1875. Shortly after him came several others, among them Rev. Daniel R. Murphey (sic). James or "Judge" Human, as he was known, emigrated from Illinois ... Rev. Mr. Murphey, who also died in 1875, was a minister of the Baptist Church, well known throughout the county for more than forty years. (--State of Missouri, History of Polk Co., 1889, p. 278.)
Looney Township was the first settled part of the county. Benjamin Looneu, for whom it was named, located there in 1833 and died in 1875 ... The township was, in every essential respect, the pioneer township of the county. There the first cloth was woven, the first school was opened, the first sermon was preached, the first orchard was planted, and the first mills were built; and at Brighton, in the latter part of 1857, was established the first telegraph office in Southwest Missouri, on the line of the Overland Mail Route. (--Ibid: pp. 276, 277.)
Among the first settlers in Madison Township was S. H. Bunch. ... The general occupation of this part of the county was by no means early, and as late as 1857 the township could boast of but one school-house, which also did service as a church when its use was so required. The old town of New Market, (q. v.), laid out by William Campbell, once had an active trade, which was diverted to Orleans when that now half-forgotten town was built near by, and New Market is not now known on any map of the county. (--Ibid: p. 278.)
The first building was erected in 1832 or 1833, by Gustave Gunter, who afterward sold his improvement to Edward Keeling ... In the southwest part of Three Mounds Prairie, at Hickory Point, William Jameson opened the first retail store in the county.
Marion Township was re-bounded May 16, 1838 ... Feb. 17, 1840, additional territory was attached. (--Ibid: pp. 277, 279.)
A new post-office between Polk and Sentinel Prairie in English school district. Elias Wicker was postmaster, and had a general store. (--Bolivar Free Press, Aug. 3, 1899, supplied by Mrs. C. F. (Betty) Ammerman.)
John Mooney, William Patterson, and others were among the earliest settlers in Mooney Township, which derived its name from the first named ... May 1, 1838, the county court decreed that Mooney Township be organized. (--State of Missouri, History of Polk Co., pp. 277, 289.)
Pleasant Hope is the main village of this township. (--New Atlas of Missouri, Campbell, 1874, Map #26.)
Frog Pond was a community 2 miles west of Pleasant Hope. (--Newspaper Clipping, April, 1900, supplied by Mrs. C. F. (Betty) Ammerman.)
Morgan Township was erected May 10, 1836 ... Elections were ordered to be held, the same day ... May 15, 1838, Morgan Township was re-bounded. (--State of Missouri, History of Polk Co., pp. 288, 289.)
The first school was opened at New Market, ca. 1835, by Ezra Hamer. It might have been later than 1835. (--Ibid: p. 275.)
Samuel D. Strain (see Davis Mill) came to Missouri from Tennessee with his parents when he was ten years of age, grew to manhood in Polk Co., and assisted his father in the mill until January, 1861, when he enlisted in Company F, Enrolled Missouri Militia, and served about three years ... Following the close of the war he returned home ... and in 1868 bought the old Orleans Mill in partnership with B. D. Rice. In 1880 he engaged in mercantile pursuits at Orleans, but in 1882, sold the store, and did not resume business again until 1885, when he continued until 1887. After that he transferred his mercantile business to Sharon, a station on the Gulf Railroad, 3 miles southwest of Orleans ... Mr. Strain was appointed postmaster at Orleans about 1871, serving in that capacity until February, 1889, when he was succeeded by D. M. Strain. Orleans is one of the oldest post-offices in the county, being established some time in the 1830's.
Orleans, in Jackson Township, on the Little Sac River 12 miles southwest of Bolivar and four miles from Wishart, was founded early in the history of this section, and once gave promise, which never reached fruition, of becoming one of the leading towns of Southwest Missouri. The causes which led to the cessation of its progress are elsewhere stated. It was one of the earliest post-offices in Polk Co. Here is located one of the earliest grist-mills in this part of the State, which was bought by Samuel D. Strain and D. B. Rice in 1869, and later came into the ownership of S. D. Strain and brother. Mr. Strain, in boyhood, in the old Davis Mill, which he later bought and rebuilt about 1845. A store was opened at Orleans by Mr. Strain in 1880. He sold out in 1882, but re-entered trade at this point in 1885, and continued until in 1887, when he removed his business to Sharon. (--Ibid: pp. 308, 701, 702.)
February 15, 1836, it was ordered by the court that "there be a township laid off in the northwest part of Polk Co. ... to be known as Sac Township ... James G. Human's house was designated as the place for holding elections. (--Ibid: pp. 287, 288.)
Sharon or Gulf Post-Office
The name was changed to Eudora. (--Theses by Robert Lee Myers, 1930.)
February 16, 1836, it was ordered that ... Shelby Township be erected; elections to be held at the house of James G. Human. (--State of Missouri, History of Polk Co., p. 288.)
Three Mound Prairie
This Prairie is in Looney Township. One of the first schools in the county was established here in 1835. Karlin was a thriving town here ca. 50 years ago; it has virtually disappeared. (--Ibid: p. 275.)
Twenty-Five Mile Prairie
This Prairie, northwest of Bolivar is partly in Hickory Co. (--New Atlas of Missouri, Campbell, Map #26.)
Van Buren Township
Van Buren Township was created May 16, 1838. (--Ibid: p. 289.)
On February 26, 1836, the county court established the boundaries of Washington Township ... New boundaries were established, May 16, 1838. (--Ibid: pp. 288, 289.)
May 4, 1841, the county court established the boundaries of Benton, Madison and Marion Townships as they were re-defined in 1845, and stand today, re-bounded Jackson, Mooney and Greene Townships and created Tyler and Jackson Townships.
March 5, 1873, the township lines of Greene, Jefferson, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Benton, Mooney, Looney and Jackson were re-established. (--Ibid: pp. 291, 293.)
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