Polk County (1855)

Written By North Carolina History Project


Formed out of Henderson and Rutherford counties, Polk County was established in 1855.  It had almost been established eight years earlier, but an 1847 act establishing the county was repealed in 1848.  The demarcated land was given back to Henderson and Rutherford.  An 1855 act, with almost the same wording, was passed, however.  The almost 238 mile county had been finally established.  Until 1903, there remained among some residents a few disputes regarding the boundary between Henderson and Polk. 


The county’s namesake is not James K. Polk, a North Carolina native and the eleventh president of the United States.  It is Colonel William Polk, a North Carolinian and Revolutionary War hero who survived Valley Forge and fought the British and Tories in numerous battles, including Germantown, Brandywine, and Eutaw Springs.  He was wounded in all three. When the war ended, he was only twenty-two years old.


The county seat of Polk County is Columbus—the namesake is Dr. William Columbus, one of the forerunners in establishing the county.   The county’s current population is 19,226 (a 2006 estimate).