Thomas Polk, one of the earliest settlers of Mecklenburg County, was a trained surveyor, a prosperous planter, and a local leader. He was a Justice of the Peace, member of the Assembly and founder of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. In both peace and war he was a military commander and civic leader.
In the early 1750s Thomas Polk, along with his parents, brothers and sisters, came down the great trading path from Pennsylvania to settle Anson County in the Royal Colony of North Carolina. He soon acquired land, met and married Susannah Spratt, and settled down to raise a family.
He was elected to the Colonial Assembly several times. He was elected Captain of his Militia company and later Colonel commanding the County Militia.
In 1775, as war clouds gathered, Polk called the meeting which adopted the famed Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, which he read from the courthouse steps. Late in 1775 Polk led the Mecklenburg Militia to suppress active loyalists in South Carolina where his son William was wounded – the first blood spilled south of Lexington, Massachusetts. In 1776 when the Continental Congress called for troops from all of the Colonies to serve under General George Washington to oppose the British Army, Polk was among the first to answer the call and was named Colonel of the Fourth North Carolina Regiment of the Continental Line.
He served with distinction in the battle of Brandywine, organized the evacuation of Philadelphia and spent part of that hard winter at Valley Forge. In 1777, as the British were approaching Philadelphia, Col. Thomas Polk was given the honor of commanding a detachment to move the heavy baggage out of Philadelphia to keep it from falling into British hands. They also carried all of the city’s bells which the British would have melted down and cast as cannons. One of these bells, the Town Bell or State House Bell, came later to be known as the Liberty Bell and has been a symbol of the July 4th 1776 Declaration of Independence ever since.
After the war, until his death in 1794, Polk continued to execute his civic duties and to acquire property, becoming one of the richest men in this part of the state.
Thomas and Susannah Polk are buried together in old Settlers Cemetery in uptown Charlotte, surrounded by their children and grandchildren.