William J. Polk (July 9, 1758 - January 4, 1834)
|Relationship to the Speculation Lands:|
|Appointed by George Washington as the Supervisor of
Internal Revenue for the District of North Carolina in 1791, Polk was
Tench Coxe's subordinate in the Treasury Department and his ally in land
acquisition in North Carolina. Polk had been appointed in 1783 as the
Surveyor General of the "Middle District", (now Tennessee)
that was at the heart of the Cherokee land speculation activity. He
assisted Coxe by both selling land to him and also advertising land for
him. Polk was assisted by John Steele, North Carolina congressman and
comptroller of the state Treasury, who advised on other speculators and
on the quality of the speculative lands.
Polk offered to sell his lands in Mecklenburg County to Tench Coxe for 9 cents an acre with an agreement to purchase by October 12, 1798. In the Coxe Family Papers held in the Pennsylvania Historical Society, Polk writes to Coxe: "Purchased by Tench Coxe of Wm. Polk by proposal of July 3d. 1796: acceptance of 19th Sept. 1796: contract made and entered into on the 19th. Decemr. 1796. ratified and executed on or before 23d Jan. 1797." [In Cooke, Jacob E. Tench Coxe and the Early Republic, Chapel Hill: Univ. of NC Press, 1978.] Coxe never made good on the purchase and Polk then sued Coxe for non-payment for the 40,000 acres of Mecklenburg property and tried to secure Coxe's Rutherford County holdings in payment for the debt. It was this threat of suit that caused Coxe to seek a trust. Fearing he would loose his Rutherford lands he placed them in a land trust with William Tilghman, Richard Coxe, and Abraham Kintzing and probably Pierre Etienne Du Ponceau. Coxe claimed that the Mecklenburg property, upon inspection, was inferior and that led to his decision to decline to pay the proposed purchase price. Polk sued for breach of contract and after a prolonged battle he won his case in 1804 in a North Carolina court where he held influence.
Coxe's Mecklenburg debt was picked up by Antoine Rene Charles Mathurin de La Forest, a French diplomat, who purchased the debt in 1804. In another transfer of debt, La Forest was to be paid by Augustus Sacket who had picked up the Coxe mortgages. Sackett also defaulted on the $2,761 debt plus interest mortgage and the saga became ever more complex. The Polk court case and other legal squabbles left Coxe and Polk in litigation for some time and contributed to Coxe's some $65,700 debt in 1798.
|Born in Mecklenburg County, NC, William Polk served
in the Revolutionary war for some five years and emerged as a Lieutenant
Colonel in 1780. His service included his duty with Washington at Valley
Forge in 1776 and his escort of the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia to
Allentown in 1777. His heroism and service garnered a place in the
North Carolina Legislature in 1783 and appointment as the Surveyor
General of lands recently opened in the western part of the new state
(now Tennessee). While living in Davidson County he served in the NC
House of Commons and later in the Legislature as a representative from
Mecklenburg County. In 1791 Washington appointed him to the post of
Supervisor of Internal Revenue for the District of North Carolina. From
1790 to 1834 Polk was a Trustee of the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill and also served a President of the State Bank of North
Carolina (1811-1819). He reportedly held some 100,000 acres of land in
what is now Tennessee. In 1847 Polk County was named for William Polk.
Polk County was formed from portions of Henderson and Rutherford
As a bank trustee, a land speculator, and a politician, his interests were much the same as those with whom he became entangled in the Speculation Lands.
|Warwick, Rick. "The Probate Records of Col.William
J. Polk, from the Williamson County Archives," in Historic Maury.
Vol. XXXVIII, No.1., March 2002.
United States Congress. House Report of the committee, to whom were referred, on the nineteenth of January last, a petition of Memucan Hunt and others [microform] : addressed to the General Assembly of the state of North Carolina : also, sundry resolutions of the said Assembly, respecting a claim of the petitioners, for the value of certain lands in the state of Tennessee, held under grants from the state of North Carolina, prior to the cession of the said lands to the United States. [Washington, DC: s.n.], 1802.