History of Polk County, Tennessee


Located in the southeastern most corner of Tennessee, Polk County is bounded by the states of Georgia to the south and North Carolina to the east and by the Tennessee Counties of McMinn and Monroe to the north and Bradley to the west. Polk County contains three distinct geographic regions. The western third contains rich farmland, the eastern third is poorer agriculturally, but was rich in copper deposits and the center consists of mountains that divide the east and west portions of the county physically, economically and politically. Sources on the general history of Polk County are primarily by local historians and the local historical society. Two topics of interest that have been researched more by outsiders are post World War II election violence and the environmental damage caused by copper smelting. There are many resources on the geology of the Copper Basin, but that subject is beyond the scope of this Pathfinder.

Introductory Text: 

Parish, Thurman. The Old Home Place: Faces and Places in the Mountains of Polk County, Tennessee Before There Was a Cherokee National Forest. Benton, TN: Polk County Publishing, 1994. Originally published as The History of the Ocoee Ranger District, an internal Document for the Cherokee National Forest, (No date given). APP COLL F443. P7 P37 1994.

Davidson, Bill and Harold Twitty. “Terror in Tennessee.” Collier’s, 8 September 1951. pp 16-17, 65. ASU Periodicals/Oversize

Quinn, M. -L. “Industry and Environment in the Appalachian Copper Basin, 1890-1930.” Technology and Culture, 34: 3 pp. 575-612 (1993), http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0040-165X%28199307%2934%3A3%3C575%3AIAEITA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-C

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

Highly Relevant:

  • Copper industry and trade—Tennessee—Ducktown--History
  • Ducktown (Tenn.)--History
  • Ducktown (Tenn.)—Newspapers
  • Ducktown Strike—1939
  • Historic buildings—Tennessee--Polk County
  • Mines and Mineral resources—Tennessee—Ducktown Area
  • Mountain life--Tennessee -- Polk County
  • Pioneers – Tennessee--Polk County
  • Polk County (Tenn.)—Militia—History--20th century--Registers
  • Polk County (Tenn.)—Militia—History--19th century--Registers
  • Polk County (Tenn.)--Genealogy
  • Polk County (Tenn.)--History
  • Polk County (Tenn.)--Biography
  • Polk County (Tenn.)--History
  • Raht, Julius Eckhardt, 1826-1879

Also relevant:

  • Cherokee Indians
  • Copper industry and trade--Tennessee
  • Copper mines and mining—Tennessee---History
  • Copper Mining—United States—Appalachian Region
  • Copper Ores—United States—Appalachian Region
  • Guerillas—Appalachian Region
  • History—19th Century
  • United States—History—Civil War, 1861-1865
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Copper
  • Mining—General (Non-Coal)
  • Cherokee Indians—History
  • Paddling
  • Tennessee--History
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • F 443
  • F 444
  • HD 9539
  • QE 78
  • TN 153

Barclay, Robert E. Ducktown Back in Raht’s Time. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1946. Reprinted 1974 by White Wing Publishing of Cleveland, TN. ASU COLL HD9539. C7 U535

The History of Polk County Tennessee 1839-1999. Lillard, Roy G. and Marion Bailey Presswood, eds. Benton, TN: Polk County Historical and Genealogical Society, 1999. APP COLL Oversize F 443. P7 L54 1999.

Polk County Scrapbook: 150 years of memories. Benton: Polk County News, 1989. APP COLL F443. P7 P67 1989 v.1.

Walker, R., T. Dunn and A. Kisselburg. “A Short History of Copper Mining,” in Touching Home, ed. K. Thompson, Orlando, FL: Daniels Publishers, 1976, 124-129. APP COLL F292. F2 T68 1976

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Nashville: Tennessee Historical Society, 1998. Online version Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2002. http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net
Contains the following relevant entries: Ezzel, Patricia Bernard “Burra Burra Copper Company,” pp.104-105. West, Carroll Van “Ducktown Basin Museum,” p. 263. Fickle, James E. “Mining,” pp. 628-629. Presswood, Marion B. “Julius E. Raht,” 764-765. Presswood, Marion B. “Polk County,” pp. 738-739.A hard copy of this work is available in the Appalachian Collection. Page numbers indicated are for that volume. APP COLL F436. T525


“Polk County in General.” Tennessee State Library and Archives. http://www.state.tn.us/tsla/history/bibliographies/bibpolk.htm

Abstracts and Indices: 

WorldCat (search for “Ducktown” or “Copper Basin” or “copper mining” or “Polk County Tennessee”)

JSTOR (search for “Ducktown” or “Copper Basin” or “copper mining” or “Polk County Tennessee”)


Quarterly: Polk County Historical and Genealogical Society. V. 1-13, 1995-2007. (V 1-11, 1995-2005 are bound) APP COLL F443. P7 P65

Quinn, M. –L. “The Appalachian Mountains’ Copper Basin and the Concept of Environmental Susceptibility,” Environmental Management 15: 2 pp. 179-194. (1991) http://0-springerlink.metapress.com.wncln.wncln.org/content/g8432wh888378616/?p=cdca34d87969429f8c9fd10faa750791&pi=3


Copper Basin High School; Humanities Class Project. “Our Community: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” Contains individual pages created by local high school students on county history, environment, culture, people, economy, and recreation. http://www.copperbasinhighschool.com/community.html

Tennessee State Library and Archives. “Bibliography of Tennessee Local History Sources-Polk County.” http://www.state.tn.us/tsla/history/bibliographies/bibpolk.htm

Other Sources: 

Lemond, Thomas A. The Good Government League and Polk County (Tennessee) Politics, 1946-1965. Vanderbilt University Master’s Thesis, 1970. Available through interlibrary loan from Vanderbilt University. D 24. V35 L45.

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Kathy B. Comer, 27 November 2007