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Re: William Polk & Margaret Taylor - New Info and Theories
Posted by: S.C. Connor (ID *****0179) Date: June 05, 2008 at 18:23:06
In Reply to: Re: William Polk & Margaret Taylor - New Info and Theories by Bill Polk of 2531

Bill, thanks for your thoughtful message replying to my post of May 27. The points you mentioned are just the sort of issues I was hoping to have a discussion of and I was very glad to see your message.

I would like to address the issue as to whether William Polk Dobson was the cousin of James K. Polk. William Polk Dobson, as you recall, was the son of William Dobson, sometimes called William “Carlyle” Dobson,* and Martha Polk.

I believe that once one comes to understand that there does in fact exist evidence for this relationship, then a person interested in getting closer to the truth of just how the early Polk families in America were actually constituted must seriously consider where Martha Polk Dobson fits into these families and what relationship she had to William & Margaret Taylor Polk.

I am aware that other Polk branches have made unsupported assertions as to being cousins of Ezekiel Polk and therefore President Polk, in particular the descendants of Capt. Charles Polk, son of Charles Polk the Indian trader, which assertions are described in Polk Family & Kinsmen. However, unlike that situation, in the case of William Polk Dobson there are specific described events connecting the two men, in which they are always described as “cousins,” and there are historic documents such as a family letter written in the 1800s and an old published newspaper article which support the historicity of these events.

And there are not only historic documents. There also exist physical mementos of these events which have been preserved in the Dobson family ever since the occurrence of those events.

The first such specific, described event I am aware of is a visit James K. Polk made to William Polk Dobson at “Dobson Hill,” his plantation in Surry County NC.** At this visit, James K. Polk shot a deer in the yard. The antlers of that deer were kept by William Polk Dobson and passed down and treasured by his descendants. As of 1956 the antlers were in the possession of the family of Dobson descendant Joseph Lindsay.***

The second event connecting the two men is that James K. Polk and William Polk Dobson together visited Andrew Jackson at the Hermitage. During this visit Jackson made a present to William Polk Dobson of a cane made of hickory wood with 13 knots. This cane was in turn passed down by William Polk Dobson to his eldest child and retained until 1912, when it was presented to a history museum for display. In connection with the description of this visit, James K. Polk is described as the cousin of William Polk Dobson.

Evidence of this second event goes all the way back to a time contemporaneous with the actual occurrence of the event. This can be seen by examining the following Dobson family letter dating from the 1880s.**** The walking stick refered to in the letter is the cane I mentioned above presented to William Polk Dobson by Andrew Jackson.

[BEGIN QUOTE]

Osbourne, Missouri
March 8, 1886

Dear Uncle Joe,

Forty years have come and gone since I last saw you....I have a walking stick, buckhorn handle, hickory, all intact, given to me by my mother four years ago before her death stating that it was Grandfather Dobson’s. I prized it and brought it to Missouri and gave it to Uncle Ned with request that it be returned to me at his death (which was done). I now hold it as an heirloom....Do you remember the stick? If so, can you give me the history of it? I remember Grandfather and James K. Polk visiting Old Hickory at the Hermitage...
       
Respectfully,
Ben Franklin

[END QUOTE]

The “Ben Franklin” who wrote this letter was Dr. Benjamin Franklin (b. 1830), the son of William Polk Dobson’s eldest child Ann “Nancy” Moore Dobson (b. 1803). Ann “Nancy” Moore Dobson married a man named Benjamin Franklin and settled in Tennessee. Their son, also named Benjamin Franklin, was a physician and a prominent politician in northwest Missouri. In other words, the man who wrote this letter was a grandson of William Polk Dobson.

The “Uncle Joe” referred to here was Joseph H. Dobson (b. 1825), my own lineal ancestor. Joseph Dobson was a lawyer and a prominent politician in North Carolina. Joseph H. Dobson had passed away in North Carolina a few months before this letter was sent, but obviously Dr. Franklin had not received that news by the time he wrote this letter.

The “Uncle Ned” referred to here was Edward “Ned” Moore Dobson (b. 1812), a son of William Polk Dobson. Ned Dobson settled in Platte County MO and died there in January 1883.

Given the type of sources we typically deal with in documenting family history, it is hard to imagine a better source proving the historicity of the specific described event, the visit by James K. Polk and his cousin William Polk Dobson to Andrew Jackson at which a cane was presented to William Polk Dobson. Here we have the letter writer himself, who was alive at the time the event occurred, stating that he personally “remembers” the visit by the two men. This takes us back to a source contemporaneous with the actual event itself, which I believe probably occurred in 1844.

The letter writer was young when the event he remembered occurred, yet he certainly knew enough to know that the cane handed down to his mother had real historical significance and to request the older generation, to whom the event at the time it occurred undoubtedly had much more meaning, to set forth the history of it.

That someone did indeed provide the history of the cane to Dr. Franklin is evident because when the cane was donated to a museum years later by the Franklin family, the history was then described. This fact of this donation was recorded in newspapers at the time:

[BEGIN QUOTE]
The Nashville Banner (Tennessee), July 18, 1912*****

KNOTTED CANE JACKSON RELIC

Stick cut to defy superstition given to Missouri Historical Society
Handed down with its history through hands of several generations

The Missouri Historical Society of St. Louis is to add to its collection of mementos of early days a cane, a relic of Andrew Jackson’s first candidacy for presidency in 1828, says the St. Louis Republic. The walking stick formerly was owned by Benjamin Hill Franklin of 1411 West Sixteenth Street, Kansas City. It is at present in the possession of Mrs. Benjamin Franklin of St. Louis. She has offered the relic to the Historical Society. The stick was cut by General Jackson’s own hands from the grove of hickory wich surrounded the Hermitage, the farm of the General twelve miles from Nashville. The General gave a dinner to several distinguished friends who called upon him, among whom were James Knox Polk, the Governor of Tennessee, and the brilliant and eloquent orator, William Dobson of North Carolina. During the dinner conversation it was discovered that there were just thirteen letters in the name of each, Dobson, Polk and Jackson. Reference was made to the stange fatality that is usually supposed to attend that unlucky number, but the General did not partake of the popular superstition. He did not believe that his political star, so bright at that time, would grow dim. He said he would cut a hickory stick with exactly thirteen knots on it. The limb with thirteen knots was found and the General surmounted it with a piece of buckhorn from a deer he had killed.

When the stick was finished, it was presented to William Dobson who was to retain it during his life and then commit it to the care of some descendant of Dobson’s. His idea was to perpetuate it so long as there was a member of the Dobson family on earth. The history of the stick was also to accompany it when it left Mr. Dobson’s possession. Several years later it came into the possession of a Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Dr. Franklin was a physician and politician of Northwest Missouri. He died at Cameron. He was the grandson of William P. Dobson and succeeded in the direct line to the relic. Then it came into the hands of William Hill Franklin. Dobson and Polk were cousins and were associated as friends and political allies...

William Dobson was a silver tongued orator. He was known as a brilliant lawyer and one of the most eloquent and effective stump speakers of the South. To him was generally credited the nomination of James K. Polk for the Presidency, the main issue at that time being the annexation of Texas.

Lewis Case and James Buchanan were the two foremost candidates before the convention. Then James K. Polk was brought forward as a “dark horse.” Mr. Dobson was an expansionist and seconded the nomination of Mr. Polk in a powerful speech in which he promised that if the convention would nominate Mr. Polk and the country elect him, ‘not only would Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and all of California be annexed to the United States, but!’—surveying the vast delegation present and making a circuit with his hand, as if to circumscribe the globe—‘all the territory that Government can lay hands on.’ Polk was elected and all that Mr. Dobson promised was obtained during Polk’s administration.
[END QUOTE]

The author of the book from which I quoted this article speculated that the time of the meeting with Jackson described in this newspaper report was wrong, and that it was more likely in 1844 when a number of prominent Democrats****** and supporters of Jackson and Polk attended a meeting at the Hermitage in which Jackson suggested to Polk for the first time that he might be a candidate for President. I agree with that author on this point, and the newspaper report probably should have referred to the meeting having occurred during the candidacy of James K. Polk and not the candidacy of Andrew Jackson. That it was at this later time must be correct, because Dr. Franklin in the letter I quoted above “remembered” the visit occurring. As to whether William Polk Dobson at the 1844 convention in Baltimore played the catalyzing role suggested in the article, or was just one of a number of Democrat politicians from North Carolina who attended and spoke in favor of Polk at the convention, I cannot say. For present purposes I cite this as evidence supporting the relationship between William Polk Dobson and James K. Polk.

The newspaper report quoted above also refers to the third specific, described event connecting the two men – the participation by William Polk Dobson in the 1844 Democrat Convention at Baltimore as a part of the North Carolina delegation, and his speaking on Polk’s behalf.

A fourth specific event described in our family history is that James K. Polk sent to William Polk Dobson three Currier prints – one portraying Vice President Dallas, the second portraying thirteen presidents including James K. Polk and a third portraying Polk and Dallas together. These three prints as of 1956 were in the possession of Dobson descendant Anna L. Dobson.*******

A common thread in all of these described events is that James K. Polk is consistently referred to as William Polk Dobson’s “cousin.”

I note that while these specific events may be rather insignificant in the public doings of figures like President Jackson and President Polk, it is not surprising to see these kinds of things preserved in a family history and passed down to descendants.

Given the evidence described above, in my view an objective person would seriously consider, and might reasonably think it likely, that the two men were cousins. The evidence does not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that William Polk Dobson and James K. Polk were in fact cousins. For example, one might imagine that the two men, having political dealings with each other, and in light of the connection of both men to Polk families, jokingly refered to each other as “cousins” and William Polk Dobson never let his children in on the joke. I think such a possibility quite unlikely, however.

If we are to dismiss this evidence out of hand, are we to believe the antlers were a hoax and the Dobson family has long treasured these for no reason at all? The cane too, just a tremendous hoax perpetrated not only on Dobson descendants but on a history museum and newspapers? The letter in which a Dobson descendant states that he “remembered” AT THE TIME the visit by the two men to Andrew Jackson? This, too we are to believe is a fabrication?

I believe there is a clear inference from these materials, especially the 1886 letter, that the assertion that the two men were cousins goes back to the time William Polk Dobson and his children were living. It would be contrary to everything known about these men that they would falsely claim a family relationship to James K. Polk. Are we to believe men like William Polk Dobson, his son Joseph Dobson and his grandson Dr. Benjamin Franklin fabricated this connection? These were serious men, and each of these three men was a prominent politician. The history of William Polk Dobson is well known. The “Uncle Joe” of the letter (his son Joseph H. Dobson) was also a man of the highest reputation. One historian writing in 1900 said of him “Joseph Dobson was a lawyer of fine talent, an honored member of the bar, was representative in both branches of the legislature, a true patriot and a wise statesman.”********

In that day, pretending to a false connection to someone like James K. Polk would have been a serious scandal. It may be hard for those not familiar with the history of the American South to understand, but at that time honor and character had a great deal more meaning than they have today. A political opponent who learned of such a falsehood could use it to devastating effect.

If the evidence for the relationship between James K. Polk and William Polk Dobson were nothing more than just a bald assertion, I would understand some people not considering it seriously. However, with these specific instances supported by old documents such as an ancient family letter and this nearly 100-year-old newspaper article, with physical mementos such as the walking stick, the antlers and the prints, which have been reverently passed down from generation to generation and in the instance of the cane, actually contributed to a museum, I believe someone aware of the evidence who nevertheless dismisses out of hand the possibility of a cousinal relationship is the one being unreasonable.

I understand how those intellectually and emotionally invested in the old Polk genealogies might resist taking on board information which would suggest the incompleteness of what they have become used to. If one takes the possible existence of a cousinal relationship seriously, then someone interested in a complete and accurate family history of William & Margaret Taylor Polk has to move beyond the comfortable old genealogies, and some might wish to turn their faces away from that.

After I began to take seriously the cousinal relationship between the two men, after further research I eventually arrived at the conclusion described in my May 27 posting, that the theory that best fits all of the evidence, taken as a whole, is that James Polk/Pollock of Hopewell Twp was the father of Martha Polk Dobson and the eldest son of William & Margaret Taylor Polk, who had settled west of Carlisle and stayed behind when the rest of the family went south. A question that then was naturally raised in my mind was, “how did Martha Polk Dobson become close to her Uncle Ezekiel Polk, such that the descendants kept in touch and remained close down to the day of William Polk Dobson and James K. Polk?"

Considering everything known about these families, I think it likely played out as follows.

I believe it was made clear to the children of James Polk/Pollock that the plantation of their father was not to be divided among the children but would instead pass to John, who likely was the eldest son. This was indeed reflected in the will of James Polk/Pollock.

James’ other sons then pursued other directions. By the mid-1760s William had married the daughter of an established Eastern Shore family and settled in that area. Robert Polk had become a mariner and was owner of the sloop Ginger.

I think son James may well have decided to pursue opportunities in Carolina near his other Polk relatives and perhaps his sister Martha Polk Dobson and her husband William Dobson went down at this time as well (and the group may have included Jean Polk Hindman and her husband). I would put this as likely having occurred in the late-1760s.

If these people settled not far from Charlotte town, then of course they would have been part of the greater Polk family and known well Thomas, Charles, Ezekiel, etc. and their families at family barbecues, holiday gatherings, church functions, etc.

This would have changed in 1772 and 1773. While the death of James sometime in the spring or summer of 1772 may have been a surprise to his family, the death of his son John probably shortly after his will was written in October 1772 must have come as a complete shock. Under his will, John left the plantation to James, and James, if he had indeed moved to Carolina, would almost certainly have given up his probably rude cabin and few cleared acres to go back and take over the operations of the long-established 250-acre plantation back in Hopewell Twp. It may have taken a while to find James, inform him of events, bring him back and sorts things out, as letters testamentary were not granted to James under his father’s will until May 1773 (and were granted to James under his brother’s will in June 1774).

Bill, I have found a reference to a James Polk living in a direction east of Charlotte town during this period. I would like to ask you if you have any information on this man and whom he might be. Perhaps this is a complete red herring, and I can eliminate him from further investigation as my James Polk based on information you have. The reference is in “Anson County, North Carolina: Abstracts of Early Records” by May Wilson McBee and is in the list of land grants:

Hildreth, David #2842 – 19 May 1772 – Rocky River
Hildreth, James #2843 – 19 May 1772 – adj. Jas. L. Polk

According to Hildreth genealogical materials, these men were brothers, and one might think the two land grants issued on the same day would be near each other.

So here we have a James L. Polk, obviously an adult seated on his own land, in Anson County in May 1772. There is a James Polk said to be the son of Thomas Polk (son of William & Margaret Taylor Polk) and who appears as a little twig at the end of Thomas Polk’s branch on the 1849 Polk “Tree,” but this James L. Polk is clearly too old to be that James. None of the other siblings of Thomas Polk there in Carolina are said to have had a son James, and in any event this James L. Polk would likely be too old to be such a son anyway. If you or anyone might have information on the identity of this James L. Polk such that I can eliminate him from consideration as my James Polk, son of James Polk/Pollock of Hopewell Twp., I would ask you to please check and let me know.

So perhaps James Polk, son of James Polk/Pollock settled somewhere not far from Charlotte, perhaps near Rocky River. And perhaps during this time William & Martha Polk Dobson also settled somewhere in that area (perhaps near Waxhaw which would be consistent with the Dobson family tradition). At some point in the 1770s, said to be 1771 but which may have been 1773 or 1774, William & Martha Polk Dobson moved to a location east of the Moravian settlement at Salem which eventually became known as Dobson’s Crossroads and they operated the Dobson Tavern there for many years.

James Polk somehow disappears between June 1774 when he is granted letters under his brother’s will and the time in April 1775 (I mistakenly typed 1777 in my May 27 posting) when his brothers Robert and William were issued a warrant for the Hopewell Twp plantation. I had assumed James must have died in the interim, but I have found the name James Pollock on a muster roll of Capt. William Peebles’ company at Flat Bush in the Battle of Long Island. Capt William Peebles is buried in the cemetery at Big Spring Presbyterian Church in Hopewell Twp and there was a Peebles plantation in Hopewell Twp about one mile from the Polk/Pollock plantation. Since Captains typically raised their companies from their own area, it seems a strong possibility that this James Pollock was from Hopewell Twp, and I have found no evidence of any other Pollock/Polk family in this time period in Hopewell Twp. Capt Peebles’ company was decimated in that battle, and both the Captain and the First Lieutenant were lost. James survived the battle and appears on a muster roll in the immediate aftermath. On a subsequent muster roll a few days later, James is listed (along with a number of other men) as too ill to muster. So perhaps James for some reason transferred rights to the plantation to his brothers, and then later died in the course of the war.

There is another possibility I will mention as to how the family of Martha Polk Dobson might have bonded with the family of Ezekiel Polk and the other Polks of Mecklenburg. You may recall that in the 1844 presidential election a slander was published by political opponents of James K. Polk to the effect that his grandfather Ezekiel had sympathized with the tories in the Revolutionary War. The friends of James K. Polk collected statements from men who knew his grandfather in order to counter the slander. Some of these statements were reproduced in The American Historical Magazine, Vol III, April 1898. On page 171 we find the statement of a Mr. George Alexander:

[BEGIN QUOTE]
Panola County, Mississippi
March 25, 1840

I was acquainted with Col. Ezekiel Polk from the time he came to Mecklenburg County, from South Carolina. I have always understood that he was an officer in the South Carolina rangers, together with Col. William Polk, who was an officer under his uncle, Col. Ezekiel Polk. This regiment of rangers performed a campaign and dispersed the tories at Rayburn Creek, where Col William Polk was wounded. This was called the Snow Campaign. After this, Col. Ezekiel Polk (and also Col. William Polk, as soon as he could be brought with safety, not having recovered from his wounds) removed to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, I think about the year 1778. There my personal acquaintance commenced with him, it being also an intimate one. From my knowledge he stood high among the citizens of Mecklenburg County. He then farmed in Mecklenburg County, and accumulated property there. When Cornwallis overrun the country in 1780, and came to Charlotte, after Gates’ defeat, there were no regular organized troops in the field, and the country was overrun. It was my understanding that to save his property from destruction, he, together with others, took protection from Cornwallis. When Cornwallis left for the south, he (Ezekiel Polk) removed his property from Cornwallis’ protection, a part of which was taken by Cornwallis’ troops when he (Ezekiel Polk) was crossing the Yadkin. He went from there to Pennsylvania, and returned in the summer of 1781. That he was a tory, or acted in any wise with the British, I consider a slander against him, and to be false. He stood high among the citizens of Mecklenburg County.

GEO. ALEXANDER
[END QUOTE]

So in this statement we learn the interesting fact that Ezekiel, presumaby with his family, went back to Pennsylvania when Cornwallis invaded North Carolina. We know other Polks and William Dobson (who commanded a Surry county militia company) were under arms. Recall how bleak the situation looked for our forebears at this time. Cornwallis and his army appeared likely to crush the resistance before him, which consisted mostly of mere militia. I wonder whether Ezekiel did not take other Polk family women and children, and perhaps Martha Polk Dobson and her young son, back to Pennsylvania as well.

So where in Pennsylvania did Ezekiel return to? If we believe the old Polk genealogies there were no Polks of this family left in Pennsylvania. But if we consider the information and theory I have offered, there was the plantation of James Polk/Pollock of Hopewell Twp. and the plantation of Robert Pollock of Sherman’s Valley********* north of Carlisle. Now at this time the Hopewell Twp plantation was under lease to a man named Merritt. However, the family of Robert Pollock, to the best of my knowledge, was living there at his plantation. This, to my mind, is the most likely candidate for where Ezekiel Polk, and perhaps Martha Polk Dobson as well, returned to at this time. Recall that of this group, Martha Polk Dobson would have known Robert Pollock the best, her husband William Dobson (and perhaps herself as well) having lived adjacent to him for some period of time. Of course, during the long and stressful trip and sojourn in Pennsylvania we would expect the families to have become quite close.

S.C. Connor

______________________________
*What you have read on the internet as to the origins of William “Carlyle” Dobson is unsourced nonsense. (As an aside, I have not found a single historical document that refers to William Dobson as having a middle name Carlyle, so I prefer to refer to him as William Dobson, although I don’t mind referring to him occasionally with “Carlyle” in quotes when I wish to distinguish him from William Polk Dobson or other William Dobsons. Perhaps he indeed had a middle name Carlyle. On the other hand it is not implausible to wonder if some reference to him as being of the Carlisle area of Pennsylvania at a certain point in time was garbled by someone in a later generation and ended up as a reference to his middle name.)

I have researched the Dobson family tradition that has been handed down and have tried to carefully identify and separate out what was handed down versus later assumptions and embellishments. The core of what was handed down and preserved in the family tradition I identify as the following: There were six Dobson brothers, including William, who came to America from Ireland and settled in York. The family in Ireland was of English ethnicity and had lived there for about 100 years. William lived for some unspecified period of time in or near Waxhaw. William acquired land in Surry County NC where he began to operate a tavern at what came to be known as Dobson’s Crossroads and is now the center of Kernersville NC (the histories of Kernersville put this date at 1771 but I have not seen an original source for that date). His son William Polk Dobson was the cousin and political ally of James K. Polk.

A discussion and analysis of the evidence as to the origins and life of the William Dobson who married Martha Polk is for another time and place and is beyond the scope of the Polk forum. However, I shall at least explain how I believe the false “Knox” connection as to his wife you raised has come about. The family tradition I outlined above, as to which when I started seriously researching the Dobson family I was highly skeptical, I was surprised over time to slowly come to believe is in fact generally true. However, as I have mentioned, false assumptions and embellishments have crept into the family tradition. One of these is that the York where the Dobson brothers settled was York, South Carolina. I have come to believe this was in fact York County, Pennsylvania. This mistaken reference to South Carolina is understandable for people who were born and raised in North Carolina and, I believe, led to speculation about his having arrived via the port of Charleston SC.

Another mistake, in my view, was the embellishment that William Polk Dobson and James K. Polk were not merely cousins, but “first cousins.” This also is an understandable mistake, but is false. Someone at some point in time, aware of the detailed and credible evidence of the relationship between William Polk Dobson and James K. Polk, but doing no serious research on the question, and assuming the “first cousin” and not mere “cousin” relationship, jumped to the obvious conclusion that the wife of William “Carlyle” Dobson and the mother of William Polk Dobson must therefore have been a sister of one of James K. Polk’s parents.

James K. Polk’s parents were Samuel Polk (the son of Ezekiel Polk) and Jane Knox (the daughter of Capt. James Knox of Iredell County NC). So someone simply invented either a “Jane Polk” sister to Samuel Polk who married William Dobson (there was in fact a sister Jane Maria Polk (b. 1798) who married a man named Walker) or a “Martha Knox” sister to Jane Knox or combined these fabrications into a “Jane Knox Polk.”

I know that Martha, the wife of William “Carlyle” Dobson was born in 1749 (or the end of 1748). This is because she was 70 years old at her death in 1819. (Raleigh Register and North Carolina Gazette, Friday, December 17, 1819, at p. 3: "DIED, In Stokes County, on the 24th Nov. last, Mrs. Martha Dobson, in the 71st year of her age, after a long illness, which she bore with exemplary fortitude, and a pious resignation to the will of her Maker.") There can be no doubt that the Martha Dobson whose death was so reported was the same Martha Dobson who was the wife of William “Carlyle” Dobson because a similar death notice published in the Raleigh Minerva on December 10, 1819 noted that she passed away “at her own house on Shepherd's Hill.” I know from other sources that William “Carlyle” Dobson’s plantation, where he lived in later years after selling the Dobson Tavern, was on Sheppard Hill in Stokes county.

Since Martha, the wife of William “Carlyle” Dobson, was born in 1749, it is impossible for her to be a son of Ezekiel Polk and sister to Samuel Polk (the father of James K. Polk) because her supposed father Ezekiel Polk was himself born in 1747 (or even as early as 1737 if someone, as I do, harbors doubt as to Ezekiel’s truthfulness when he wrote out his birthdate to be carved on his own gravestone). For Ezekiel to father a child at the age of one would be even more precocious than, as some Polk histories would have it, Ezekiel at the age of two (or five) bidding farewell to his mother and father in 1750 (or 1753) and starting out for the wilds of the Carolina frontier with his grown brothers Thomas and Charles.

Similarly, we must also rule out the possibility that William Dobson’s wife Martha, born 1749, was the daughter of Capt. James Knox of Iredell County, himself thought to be born about 1752 and whose son Robert was born Aug 18, 1774 and daughter Jane, the wife of the president, was born 1776 according to genealogies I have seen.

William “Carlyle” Dobson was a prominent person in his part of North Carolina: he operated the Dobson Tavern at Dobson’s Crossroads; he was a Justice of the Peace in Surry County (and later Stokes County which was formed from a part of Surry County) for many years; and he was a Captain of the militia of Surry County during the Revolutionary War. There are many references to him, including a number relating to his wife, in the historical record in documents such as deeds, wills, the minutes of court proceedings and military records. Every reference I have discovered to his wife in these records is to a woman named Martha. Every single one. There is not a single reference to a Jane or to any other name for his wife. William Polk Dobson and his wife, Mary (Polly) Hughes (the daughter of Capt. John Hughes of the VA Continental Line and his wife Anne Moore) had many children: Ann Moore Dobson (1803), Martha Polk Dobson (1805), John Hughes Dobson (1807), William Baker Dobson (1810 – was Baker the real middle name of William “Carlyle” Dobson”?), twins Henry Hughes Dobson & Edward Moore Dobson (1812), Matthew Hughes Dobson (1815), Leander Hughes Dobson (1817), twins Archelaus Hughes Dobson & Mary Hughes Dobson (1819), Letitia Hughes Dobson (1822) and Joseph H. (Hughes?) Dobson (1825). Anyone familiar with the genealogy of the Dobson and Hughes families will recognize that every one of these children was named for a grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle or other relative. So where is a reference to Jane? Where is a reference to Knox? There is none. An analysis of the names of the children of Henry Baker Dobson reveals the same result, no “Jane” or “Knox.” I further note that when William “Carlyle” Dobson died, he had many grandchildren. But only two were singled out for mention in his will: Martha Polk Dobson, the daughter of his son Henry Baker Dobson, and Martha Polk Dobson, the daughter of his son William Polk Dobson. Note that both of these girls were named in honor of his beloved wife Martha.

The evidence is conclusive that William “Carlyle” Dobson’s wife, and William Polk Dobson’s mother, was a woman named Martha Polk. The idea that his wife was named Jane or was a Martha Knox or a Jane Polk or a Jane Knox Polk or a sister of Samuel Polk or a sister of Jane Knox is a fabrication for which no one has ever offered the first shred of evidence, nor can they.

I have researched the origins of William and Martha Polk Dobson extensively in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. I can tell you that the only viable possibility for which there is any evidence I have discovered for the parents of Martha Polk born 1749 who married William Dobson (and regardless of any connection with James K. Polk) is James & Margaret Pollock/Polk of Hopewell Township, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

** This visit is described in “The Story of Rockford” by Lucy Hamlin Houck (1972, revised and republished 2000), p. 15.

*** According to an unpublished 1956 Dobson family history prepared by Anna L. Dobson.

**** The text of the letter is quoted from “The Story of Rockford” at p 15.

***** The text of the newspaper report is quoted from “The Story of Rockford” at pp. 15-17. I was told that a Dobson relative who contacted the museum in recent years to inquire about the cane was told that some years ago a branch of the Dobson family requested that the museum return the cane to them, and it was. Who in particular obtained the cane, I don’t know.

****** That William Dobson was a prominent Democrat leader in North Carolina politics there can be no doubt. He served as a senator in Raleigh during most of the decade of the 1830s through to the mid 1840s. He had also served stints as a senator in the 1820s and was elected a representative as early as 1814. Senator “Bill Dobson” features prominently in a vignette, poking fun at life at the legislature in Raleigh in earlier years, published in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1863 by humorist H.E. Taliaferro. When Surry County was split into Surry and Yadkin Counties, Surry County named its new county seat “Dobson” in honor of William Polk Dobson.

******* From the 1956 Dobson family history by Anna L. Dobson.

******** “Foot Prints on the Sands of Time: A History of Southwestern Virginia and Northwestern North Carolina,” by Dr. A.B. Cox (Sparta N.C. 1900)

********* As you know I am also considering the possibility that Robert Pollock of Sherman’s Valley was not the brother, but rather a cousin or other relative of James Pollock/Polk of Hopewell Twp. I am therefore looking at the sons of Thomas Polk (son of Robert & Grace Gullett Polk), who as you know I believe is likely William Polk (who married Margaret Taylor)’s brother. I note that in the 1750 tax lists of Chester County, in West Nantmeal Township, appear the names Samuel Pollock and Joseph Pollock. My first reaction was to think these might be children of one or more of the three Polk brothers who came into Octoraro Creek in 1727. But then I became aware of the genealogies of Thomas Polk who married first Lurvinah “Vier” Johns and then two later wives. In that genealogy it has Thomas Polk marrying Lurvinah “Vier” Johns in 1722/3 in Cecil County, and then later, NOT settling in South Carolina with the Welsh Baptists at the time Thomas Polk applied for land there in 1737, but rather living in Dorchester County for a while and then later moving to West Nantmeal Twp., Chester County, which happened to be near another large settlement of Welsh Baptists. So these Samuel Pollock and Joseph Pollock who appear in the 1750 tax list appear to be children of Thomas & Vier Johns Polk. Also among the children of Thomas & Vier Johns Polk is a ROBERT POLK born January 11, 1724/5. According to this genealogy, this Robert Polk married an Anna White on December 26, 1746 and died on May 10, 1777. I would like to explore how certain the information on this Robert Polk is and whether the information is reliable enough to exclude him from possibility as the Robert Pollock found in Sherman’s Valley no later than 1755. The version of the Thomas Polk genealogy I have seen here http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~haunpolk/haun/haug83.htm and another version on your website http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/p/o/l/Billy-F-Polk/GENE14-0003.html#CHILD8 has very specific dates for the births of Thomas Polk’s children in Dorchester and Chester Counties, suggesting that someone had access to information such as church records or family bibles. The endnotes in your version refer to genealogies prepared by a Billy Browning Kennedy and by the late Burney Parker. Do you have any knowledge of the underlying original source material for these specific dates and places?

This genealogy also contains the very interesting data that Grace Gullett Polk, who as you know according to my theory would be the mother of William Polk who married Margaret Taylor, died on December 27, 1741 in Lancaster County PA. As you know, in 1741 Lancaster County included the area that later became Cumberland County (including where Carlisle was later located), and this raises the possibility that William Polk’s mother Grace Gullett Polk may have been living with William & Margaret Taylor Polk when she died. Thomas, judging by the place of his marriage and births of his children, appeared to be settled in Chester County, not Lancaster County at this time of his mother’s death. This of course conforms perfectly with my theory on this family so I would very much like to know the underlying original source material for that date and place, namely December 27, 1741 in Lancaster County PA. The endnotes in your version of this genealogy refer to genealogies prepared by a Billy Browning Kennedy and a Ralph J. Polk, Jr. Bill, do you have any information as to the original source material for this date and place?


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