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The Seed Of Sally Good'n

The Seed Of Sally Good'n: A Black Family of Arkansas, 1833-1953

Ruth Polk Patterson
Copyright Date: 1985
Edition: 1
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Seed Of Sally Good'n
    Book Description:

    Spencer Polk was born of an African-Indian slave woman known as Sally, and her master, Taylor Polk, a descendant of one of America's first families and one of the earliest white settlers in the Arkansas Territory. A favored slave, Spencer Polk became a prosperous farmer and landowner in southwestern Arkansas and the founder of a numerous and energetic family. Since emancipation the family homestead he built on Muddy Fork Creek has housed succeeding generations and has drawn back those who sought their fortunes elsewhere. In this new paperback edition, Ruth Polk Patterson, a granddaughter of Spencer Polk who was born and raised in the log house he built, traces the life of Polk and his family from his birth in 1833 to the present generation. The skillful blending of folklore, history, and personal insight makesThe Seed of Sally Good'nan excellent contribution to the long neglected history of middle-class African Americans.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4913-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  6. 1. Crooked Marks on the Landscape
    (pp. 1-10)

    As one travels north today on Highway 369 from Nashville, the seat of Howard County, Arkansas, the modern blacktop road belies the time when only a narrow wagon path led from Nashville to the community of Muddy Fork, the site of the Spencer Polk homestead. Only three decades ago, as recently as 1953, this was still a little-traveled road that twisted through dense forests of pine, oak, and sweetgum, groped its way from the crossroads where 369 intersects Highway 24, and struggled northward to what early land surveys showed as Township 7 South, Range 27 West of the Fifth Principal...

  7. 2. The Wilds
    (pp. 11-21)

    Spencer Polk was born in 1833. His tombstone, still standing in the cemetery at Muddy Fork, attests to the dates of his birth and death. From historical records, both oral and written, we learn that he was born in Montgomery County near the county seat, Mt. Ida. Just how he happened to be born there and the facts of his lineage are intriguing. To delineate the history of his parentage and early life, it is necessary to look at the “farthest back” person in his life, as Alex Haley has suggested.¹

    The road is long from County Donegal in Ireland,...

  8. 3. The First Remove
    (pp. 22-29)

    By the time Spencer Polk reached adolescence, the Taylor Polk family was fully settled in the Ouachita Valley community around Norman. The village was small and the Polks were among the most prosperous settlers. Caddo Township became a part of the newly formed Montgomery County in 1842 and Taylor Polk by then had a well-established plantation system in this charming but isolated setting. He was paying taxes on forty acres of land¹ and no doubt cultivated much more. A close examination of tax records shows that the amount of land a settler owned, occupied, and farmed was often much more...

  9. 4. Oh, Give Me Land
    (pp. 30-43)

    It was sometime during the 1860s that Spencer Polk acquired land and erected his own homestead. Documentary evidence, combined with oral history, makes it possible to determine the origin of the house and farm, although exact dates are not available for construction of the house. Oral reports on the origin of the first log house are conflicting. Some of his descendants maintain that Spencer told them the house was built by slaves, though he may have meant former slaves, or freedmen. One relative insists that the house was built in the 1870s.¹ There is, however, strong circumstantial evidence that it...

  10. 5. Within and Without the Veil
    (pp. 44-57)

    Spencer Polk represents both the unique and the exemplary in the annals of Arkansas history. His uniqueness is illuminated by several characteristics, including his genealogical background, his physical traits, his personal character, and his accomplishments as a member of a developing community in early Arkansas. At the same time, Spencer Polk can stand as a model for many Americans who have been just ordinary men and women struggling to establish a home, to make a decent living, and to raise a family by working hard and using the natural resources of the land. His background, though different from others in...

  11. 6. One Seed Becomes a Singing Tree
    (pp. 58-88)

    The main themes of family legends handed down by the descendants of Spencer Polk centered around the Taylor Polk family and Spencer himself. The overriding ethos in the black Polk family was pride in the family bloodline that reached back, through Spencer, to Taylor Polk, a white man. The knowledge that Spencer’s lineage placed him in one of America’s leading white pioneer families was the substance that kept the legend alive. The Polk family, after all, had given the country a president, and that was something. To carry the name of Polk itself was considered an honor beyond all other...

  12. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. 7. African Survivals and Scottish Airs
    (pp. 89-115)

    Traditions and folk customs in the Spencer Polk family represent a blending of cultures from Africa and Europe. The Scotch-Irish influence on the black Polks was demonstrated in many of their beliefs and customs, and it can be logically assumed that those traditions and folkways that cannot be shown to have had a European origin must have originated among the slave population or the Cherokee. Indian people. Except for Spencer’s and his brothers’ early years with their mother Sally, there was little or no continued or widespread contact between the Polk slaves and the Cherokees. Moreover, there is no evidence...

  14. 8. The Last Remove
    (pp. 116-128)

    The dissolution of the Spencer Polk homestead at Muddy Fork can be attributed to several factors. First, one must consider the change in social conditions in the Muddy Fork community followingPlessyvs.Ferguson,the Supreme Court decision that sanctioned separation of the races. The attitudes of egalitarianism between black and white residents of the community diminished, and some degree of veiled antagonism and animosity toward blacks flourished among the poorer class of whites. This change is evident in the numerous newspaper accounts of violence perpetrated against blacks from 1900 through 1930. In reporting these incidents, local newspapers were extremely...

  15. 9. For Generations to Come
    (pp. 129-140)

    The descendants of the slave Sally and her master, Taylor Polk, have now reached the seventh generation. Four of these generations lived in the house at Muddy Fork built by Spencer Polk and occupied by his children and his children’s children. Spencer’s son Arthur represented the longest surviving descendant to carry forward the Polk name, and he was also the last to occupy the homestead at Muddy Fork. Arthur also produced the largest number of immediate descendants of Spencer and Ellen Polk. All of Arthur’s children except the last two grew to adolescence or adulthood at Muddy Fork. The following...

  16. 10. Archeology and Artifact
    (pp. 141-154)

    Today, as one crosses the modern concrete bridge that spans the Muddy Fork Creek, the gentle rise of a hillside comes into view. If it is springtime, the hillside is still covered with yellow daffodils and jonquils. In spring and summer, japonica and crepe myrtle bushes still blush invitingly deep pink to butterflies and wild honeybees. Above the many-colored flowers, thick growths of poplars, brushbrooni bushes, English dogwood, and wild honeysuckle suggest that this ancient garden was once a place of human habitation. If one stops to examine the site more closely, vestiges of architecture reveal themselves. Two piles of...

  17. Appendix
    (pp. 155-160)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 161-170)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 171-174)
  20. Index
    (pp. 175-182)