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Marshall T. Polk

Marshall T. Polk

12th Treasurer; Years Served: 1877–1883

Tennessee County of Residence: Hardeman

Place of Birth: North Carolina

Date of Birth: May 15, 1831

Date of Death: February 29, 1884

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Treasurer's Reports: 1880-82, 1876-78


Marshall T. Polk was born on May 15, 1831 in North Carolina. He was the son of Marshall Tate Polk, Sr. and Laura Theresa Wilson. In January of 1856, he married Evelina McNeal Bills in Hardeman County. Over time, the couple had ten children. Their names were Edward, James, Mary, Laura, Eunice, Clara, Marshall Tate Polk III, Evelyn, Leonidas, and Thomas.

Treasurer Polk was a nephew of the late President James Knox Polk. He was a graduate of West Point and served four years on the frontier and afterward became a Captain in Cheatham’s division of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. In addition, he served on the staff of General Leonidas Polk, to whom he was also related. During the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, he lost a leg. After the war ended, Treasurer Polk lived on a farm near Bolivar, Tennessee.

While farming, he also was the publisher of the Bolivar Bulletin and served in that position until he was elected as the 12th State Treasurer in 1877. He held a high social position in Nashville and in the State, and was popular among all classes of people.

When his defalcation was discovered of embezzling $400,000 from the State on January 5, 1883, Treasurer Polk fled to Texas and was captured in San Antonio on January 7, 1883. He escaped the next day, however, and was recaptured and taken back to Nashville. He was lodged in jail, tried, convicted and sentenced. An appeal was given against his bondsmen for the amount of this defalcation.

On February 29, 1884, Marshall T. Polk died while engaged in conversation with his family. It was stated by the physician that attended to him that his death was the result of heart disease, which he had been troubled with for an extended period of time. He was buried in the Polk Cemetery in the community of Bolivar in Hardeman County, Tennessee.

Reference: Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, TN; “Ex-Treasurer Polk: His Return to the City from the Rio Grande,” Daily American, 14 January 1883, p. 3; “Marshall T. Polk, Jr.” Find a Grave. “Treasurer Polk: Particulars of His Capture Near Webb Station,” Daily American, 11 January 1883, p. 2; 1880 United States Federal Census; “Death of Ex Treasurer Polk, The New York Times, March 1, 1884.

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