Polk and Yeatman Family Papers, 1773-1915

Creator: Polk Family. Yeatman Family

Collection number: 606

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Abstract: Prominent members of the Polk and Yeatman family of North Carolina and Tennessee included William Polk (1758-1834), land speculator and North Carolina federal internal revenue supervisor; his son Lucius Junius (1802-1870) and grandson Will, planters of Maury County, Tenn.; Lucius’s son-in-law Henry Clay Yeatman (d. 1910), Nashville lawyer and Confederate colonel; and Yeatman’s stepfather John Bell (1797-1869), Nashville lawyer, Whig leader, United States representative (1827-1839), United States senator (1847-1859), and Constitutional Union Party presidential candidate (1860). The collection includes personal and business papers of three generations of the Polk and Yeatman family of North Carolina and Tennessee. Materials through the 1830s are chiefly letters and legal papers of William Polk of Raleigh, dealing with his widespread land speculation in North Carolina and Tennessee and his position as federal internal revenue supervisor for North Carolina. There are also, particularly in the 1820s, items relating to the treatment of slaves on North Carolina plantations. Papers from the 1830s through the 1890s relate mainly to the Maury County, Tenn., cotton plantations of Lucius Junius and Will Polk, including some items about the treatment of slaves; to Henry Clay Yeatman’s law practice; and, particularly 1840-1861, to the political and personal life of John Bell. A letter each from Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk are included. Later materials relate to various enterprises in which Polk family members were involved, including a dry goods store and livestock firms. There is much family correspondence, especially after 1861, and scattered business and personal items of members of the related Hawkins, Devereux, and Rayner families. The Addition of May 2009 consists of an 1827 autographed letter from William Polk to the Adjutant General of the United States Army concerning the absence of his son, Leonidas Polk, and the possible delay of the latter’s acceptance of his appointment as Brevet Second Lieutenant of Artillery.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: In Subseries 1.1 (Correspondence: 1773-1883), Folder 7 contains a letter dated 2 April 1820 describing the punishment of enslaved people. Letters from  17 July 1820 and 16 January 1822 (folder 8) discusses the sale of property and slaves. In Folder 8, A letter from 22 May 1822 discusses the suspected poisoning of a family by 7 or 8 of the enslaved people on their plantation.