An e-mail from David Friedly noted that an 1839 map of Union County showed Polk as located “around Owltown.” His question to me was “Have you heard of Polk in Union County?”
I had not heard of a Polk in Union County, but curiosity got the better of me and I began a search to see if I could find authentic references. Knowing that a post office usually designated a place, named either for the first person approved to be postmaster or for another significant person, I checked out the post office history of Union County, using the wonderful Heritage of Union County, Georgia, 1832-1994, Sketches of Union County History. Volume 2 (1978) and census and other records.
Interestingly, I found that there was a Polk post office, but founded later than the 1839 map listing to which Mr. Friedly referred. The mystery of why a place was named Polk and whether it was in Owltown still remained unanswered.
Then I found this important bit of information. Of the 1800’s militia districts formed in Union County, Owltown (GMD # 1409) was the last district to be designated. It was carved out of portions of Arkaquah, Coosa and Choestoe. The addition of Owltown District was signed into law by Ordinary William Colwell on April 4, 1887.
The next step was to try to locate a Polk Post Office in Union. That was not hard to do. Looking at the list of post offices in Owltown District, only three were listed: Laura founded February 5, 1892; Otto, founded May 14, 1898; and Edmund founded March 11, 1905. No Polk there on record.
The Coosa Post Office was the first to be officially established in the new Union County, started On July 19, 1833 with Arthur Gilbert as postmaster. It was near the county seat of Blairsville, and ran until September 17, 1834. No post office seems to have existed in Union County until the old Coosa, under postmaster Charles R. Gibbs was granted a name change to Blairsville on February 9, 1835. There was no post office named Polk in the Coosa District.
Then to the Choestoe Militia District post office listings, and the origin of Polk was immediately evident. The very first post office in that district was named Polk, with the first postmaster John Butt, Sr. on February 20, 1844.
Why was it named Polk? Evidently not for the first postmaster. A guess is that it may have been to honor James Polk, eleventh president of the United States who was running for the country’s highest office and had been governor of the nearby state of Tennessee. Polk was not in the nation’s highest office when Polk post office was formed in 1844. Polk was elected and served one term, from 1845-1849. His platform of westward expansion, annexation of Texas and the Oregon Territory, the tariff, immigration policy and agrarianism might have appealed to Mr. Butt. Maybe he wanted to honor this “dark horse” candidate from Tennessee by naming the first post office in the Choestoe District for him.
Succeeding postmasters and their dates of appointment at the Polk post office were Francis (Frank) Collins, November 5, 1845; Robert F. Lemmands, May 28, 1846; John Butt, Sr. (for the second time), September 13, 1847; and Joseph F. England, June 30, 1851. While Joseph England was postmaster, he requested that the name be changed to Choestoe. This was granted on September 25, 1851. So Polk became Choestoe.
To answer the question posed by David Friedly: “Where was Polk in Union County?” I did some more speculation based on facts. Knowing that the post office changed locations with the appointment of a new postmaster, and that the office was either in a portion of the home or store owned by the postmaster, I surmised that the location could have been somewhere in the midst of Choestoe, a large district.
The second postmaster was Francis Collins, son of one of the first Choestoe settlers, Thompson Collins and wife Celia Self Collins. This Collins family was listed in the first census (1834) of Union County and owned broad acreages along Town Creek and the Nottely River in Choestoe. I could not easily find Mr. Lemmands who served for little more than a year. But the Joseph F. England was a neighbor to Francis Collins and his family had also settled early in Choestoe. He was the one who requested the name change from Polk to Choestoe.
[Next week: Continuing a look at early post offices.]
c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Mar. 24, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.