Ezekiel Polk Teaches A President Politics

Ezekiel Polk Teaches A President Politics

Ezekiel Polk was an officer in the Continental Army and a pioneer of modern Tennessee.

Polk established his family on the frontier and future generations would be politically powerful in (what was then) the west for a long time. This most notably includes his grandson, James K. Polk.


Ezekiel Polk

In the early 1750’s, several members of the Polk family relocated from Pennsylvania to southwestern North Carolina. One of their sons was Ezekiel Polk.

After reaching maturity, Ezekiel married and purchased land just close to his siblings. However, when he was just 25, a survey was completed which declared that Polk actually lived in South Carolina.

This was a problem because Ezekiel had been working as a County Clerk. Seeing as he no longer technically lived in the same county, Polk was forced to give up the position.


Continental Army

Ezekiel began earning income as a soldier. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel in the South Carolina Militia which gave him enough income to continue raising his family.

When the American Revolutionary War began, Polk led his men in several skirmishes against local Loyalist factions. Additionally, he received election to the South Carolina Provincial Congress.

Polk’s most successful mission as a military leader was at the Battle of Reedy River where he beat an outfit of pro-British Cherokee Native Americans. Soon after, his regiment was absorbed by the Continental Army.


Taking Protection

Ezekiel never quite adapted to the life of a South Carolinian and by 1777 he resigned his command and brought his growing family back to North Carolina. Here he began farming and established a tavern.

Polk quickly became a leader in town and was chosen as a Justice of the Peace. Unfortunately, the British came to the area and set up camp not for from Ezekiel (actually, the headquarters was in the house of his brother, Thomas).

Polk ‘took protection’ from the Redcoats. This basically meant he bribe them to not interfere with his business, a common practice during the American Revolution. So common in fact that no one in town seemed to mind and he was soon thereafter elected sheriff.


Moving West

After the Revolutionary War concluded, Polk was granted a large tract of land in Tennessee as payment for his service in the Continental Army. Twenty years later, during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson (whom he supported) Ezekiel moved with much of his extended family to this land.

As the largest family in their new western Tennessee town, the Polks dominated the politics of the area.  Due to this, a young Andrew Jackson became well known to them.

One of these family members was Ezekiel’s grandson, James K. Polk, who more than forty years later would be elected as the 11th President of the United States.

It was in his grandfather’s house that the young James would learn much of his politics.  James would be a supporter and ally of Jackson throughout the years and the two would leave an important mark on the second (and even third) generation of American Government.

To learn about another Founder who’s offspring were Presidents (both son and great-grandson), try this article about Declaration signer Benjamin Harrison.

Since Ezekiel doesn’t have a biography, I’ve included an Amazon affiliate link below for ‘A Country of Vast Designs’ which is one of the books I’ve read about James K. Polk that I really enjoyed.

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