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POLK COUNTY BEGINNINGS
Founded 8 February 1861 | County Seat: Bartow | Largest City: Lakeland
Polk County became Florida's 39th county on February 8, 1861, when the State of Florida divided Hillsborough County into eastern and western halves. The eastern half was named Polk, in honor of the 11th President of the United States, James Knox Polk. Following the Civil War, the county commission established the county seat on 120 acres donated in the central part of the county. Bartow, the county seat, was named after Francis S. Bartow, a confederate Colonel from Georgia who was the first confederate officer to die in battle during the first battle of the Civil War. Fort Blount, as Bartow was then known, in a move to honor one of the first fallen heroes of the Confederacy, was one of several towns and counties in the South that changed their name to Bartow. The first courthouse built in Bartow was constructed in 1867. It was replaced twice, in 1884 and in 1908. As the third courthouse to stand on the site, the present structure houses the Polk County Historical Museum and Genealogical Library in 1914. That bond issue was considerable for those days, and allowed for 9-foot-wide roads to start from Bartow to Mulberry, Lake Wales, Fort Meade, Winter Haven, Lakeland and Auburndale. According to historical reports, then-county commission clerk W. S. Wev had the idea of erecting an arch over every paved road at its entrance to Polk County, proclaiming that the motorist was about to enter "Imperial Polk County." The name has since remained.
Populated PlacesAuburndale | Bartow | Davenport | Dundee | Eagle Lake | Meade | Frostproof | Haines City
Highland Park | Hillcrest Heights | Lake Alfred | Lake Hamilton | Lakeland | Lake Wales | Mulberry
Polk City | Winter Haven
Unincorporated PlacesBabson Park | Brewster | Combee Settlement | Crooked Lake Park | Crystal Lake | Cypress Gardens
Fussels Corner | Gibsonia | Highland City | Homeland | Inwood | Jan Phyl Village | Kathleen | Lakeland Highlands | Loughman | Medulla | Nalcrest | Pittsburg | Poinciana | Wahneta | Waverly | Willow Oak | Winston Oak.
At that time, Hillsborough County was a sprawling area that included what is now Pinellas, Polk, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee and Highlands Counties, most of Glades County, and part of Lee County. Despite its size, Hillsborough's population was only 836, not including soldiers or Native Americans.
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