Chapter LII
History of Polk Township 

Polk was organized in 1857, being taken from Warsaw and Snyder. It is the twenty- first township; and was named for James K. Polk, eleventh president of the United States. It is one of the northern tier of townships, and adjoins the Elk county line; being bounded on the north by Elk county and Heath township, on the east by Snyder, on the south by Warsaw, and on the west by Warsaw and Heath.

Nearly the whole township is drained by the North Fork, which starts among the highlands at the Elk county line. One branch (Hetrick Run) runs to Shoffner’s Corners, where it curves slightly around the base of the uplands.

Geology.-- The Brookville coal is the principal bed yielding the best coal, but like all the seams in Polk, is small, averaging only about two feet in thickness. Ferriferous limestone is found in all parts of the township. It is a compact rock of excellent quality, easily quarried, and quick to calcine, and not very fossiliferous. It is quarried at a number of places in the township. Buhrstone iron ore is also found.

First Settlers. - The first settler who made any improvement in what is now Polk township, was Paul Vandevort, but he only remained a short time; then Frederick Hetrick, in 1838 settled on the farm now owned by Jacob McFadden, and cleared ,the land and made the first improvements there. He lived there for several years, and then removed to the west, where he died.

Philip Hetrick came to Polk township in 1842, and improved the large farm now owned by his son, Darius Hetrick. He, after some years, removed to the west, and is also dead.

Next came Isaac Nicholls in 1844 from Genesee county, N.Y. Then John Masters made the first improvements on the farm now owned by Shannon McFadden. John Lucas, in 1846, settled on the farm first cleared by Paul Vandevort, but he too sold out and removed to the west. John Dixon settled in what is now Polk township, in 1847. He was a son of John Dixon, one of the first settlers in the county, who is noticed elsewhere, and was born in Jefferson county in 1807, and has ever since resided within her borders. He has grown up with the county; has witnessed all the pioneer struggles, as well as all its future prosperity. Every native born citizen, every town and hamlet has grown up sunder his eye, and now, at the age of eighty years, he is still a hale, hearty man, and has for several years held the office of constable for Polk township, to which office he was re- elected at the spring election in 1887. He is able to walk from his home to Brookville, a distance of about fourteen miles. Although raised amid the toils and privations of pioneer life, and deprived of the advantages of education, as he informs us mat one term of school, at Indiana, where his father sent him when a boy in his teens, to attend school, and where he had to do chores for his board, was all the education he received, but he has read a great deal, and is well informed on all the topics of the day, while his penmanship is legible, and plain, remarkably so for a man of his age. Mr. Dixon is a prominent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, with which he united fifty- eight years ago.

In 1848 Jacob McFadden settled on the farm now owned by his son, Shan‘non McFadden. His family consisted of nine children, four of whom went into the army, and one died in the service.

Henry Shoffner came in February, 1849, from Redbank, Clarion county, and soon had one of the best farms in the township, and for many years his house was the haven to which all travelers through that region wended their way, and where they were sure to receive the best fare and treatment in his hospitable home. Mr. Shoffner was a straight forward, honest man, and for forty- six years a prominent member of the Albright, or Evangelical Church. He was the father of thirteen children. Mr. Shoffner has been dead about four years, but his aged and estimable widow is still living at the homestead, now owned by her son, Fulton Shoffner.

Others of the old settlers of Polk were Leonard Lockwood, who moved there in 1847, James K. Hoffman, John Plotner and John Nofsker in 1850, Amos T. Riegle, James Carnahan and Henry Wingert.

The first marriage in the township was Adam, a son of Frederick Hetrick, to Mariah, daughter of Philip Hettrick. The ceremony was performed by Darius Carrier, justice of the peace of Troy. The next was Mathew Wells, a little Irish man, and Delilah Nichols.

The first birth, of which there is any record, was Rebecca, daughter of John Dixon, born in 1848.

The first deaths were Rebecca, aged two years, and James, aged six, children of John Dixon, who died of dysentery, in August, 1850, then a daughter of Philip Hetrick, and one of Jacob McFadden, the next, and first adult to die in the township, was "Mother Black," who died suddenly at a prayer- meeting, just as she had finished giving her testimony for Christ - the last words she spoke.

The first grave- yard, and the one now in use, is situated on a rising portion of ground, near the Zion Church, on the farm of Shannon McFadden. The ground was set apart for the purpose by his father, Jacob McFadden, who then owned the farm.

The oldest inhabitants in the township now living are John Dixon, aged eighty years, his wife, aged seventy- five; Jacob K. Huffman, eighty, and his wife, eighty- one; Jacob McFadden and his wife are both about seventy- five; Mrs. Plotner (widow of John Plotner), is seventy- six, and John Clover, sixty- five.

The pine timber has nearly all been cut off with the exception of a small amount on the west side of Elk Run, on the north side of the township. There is considerable hemlock, sugar maple, and oak yet standing. On the land owned by Wainwright & Bryant, there has been a large amount of timber cut within the last two years. These logs are put into the North Fork and then "driven" to the company’s mills, at Nicholson, on the Low Grade road, where they are manufactured. There is a large amount of hemlock bark also taken out of Polk each season. Since the decline of the lumber trade, the citizens of the township have turned their attention to agriculture, and the farms are beginning to show the renewed activity, so that Polk will soon rank with any of the other townships in this respect. The fruit raised is also of a superior quality, and much attention is paid to its culture.

Among the best farms in the township are those of Scott Smith, John Shoffner, Fulton Shoffner, Jesse Huffman, Sylvester Davis, Jacob McFadden, Darius Hettrick, Jared Jones, J. K. Huffman, John Snyder, C. Longwell, and Shannon McFadden.

The first store was started about i866, by Sylvester Davis, who was appointed postmaster about the same time, and still holds the position. J.R. McFadden also started a store in 1879, at Blowtown; is still engaged there in general merchandising. The other store in the township is that of Newton Webster, at Mundorff.

There are two post- offices in the township - Schoffner’s Corners and Mundorff.

The first saw- mill was built in 1844 by Philip Hettrick, on Hetrick’s Run, a branch of the North Fork. There is only one mill now in the township - that of Darius Hettrick, built in 1865 at "Blowtown," near the site where his father’s mill was first erected. It is a good water- mill, and cuts a large amount of boards each season.

Elections. - The first election was, held in Polk township, February 23, 1852, at which the following persons were elected:

Justices of the peace, Samuel Cochran, Frederick Hetrick; constable, Steven Hetrick; supervisors, Philip Hetrick, Amos Riegle; auditors, Samuel Cochran, John Plottner, James K. Huffman; assessor, Samuel Cochran; assistant assessors, Thomas Allison, James K. Huffman; school directors, Frederick Hetrick, Nathaniel Clark, John Smith, John Snyder, Jacob McFadden, Amos T. Reigle; town clerk, Nathaniel Clark; judge of election, Samuel. Cochran; inspectors, Francis Allison, John Plottner.

The election held February 15, 1887, resulted in the following persons being elected:

Constable, John Dixon; supervisors, D.J. Plotner, Reese McFadden ; poor overseer, C.C. Longwell; tax collector, Jesse Hoffman; school directors,, John Webster, Alvin Hoffman; assessor, John Chamberlain; auditor, George Chamberlain; judge of election, Jared Jones; inspectors, H.M. McKillip, J.W. Plotner; town clerk, Ambrose Morrison.

The justices of the peace for Polk township are S. Davis and Newton Webster, and the previously elected members of the school board are F. Shoffner, John Leech, John Plotner, R. McFadden.

Taxables, Population, Assessments, and School Statistics. - The taxables in 1856 in Polk township numbered 35; 1863, 53; 1870, 84.

The population in 1860, according to the census, was 244; in 1870, 256; in 1880, 361.

The triennial statement of the commissioners of the county for i886 gives the real and personal property in Polk township as follows:

Number of acres seated, 7,924; value, $21,563; average per acre, $3.00. Number of acres unseated, 13,176; value, $42,952 ; average per acre, $3.00. Number of horses, 98; value, $2,660; average value, $27.00. Number of cows, 143; value, $1,348; average value, $9.00. Occupations, 37; value, $688; average, $19.00. Total valuation subject to county tax, $69,211. Money at interest, $1,046.

There were 5 schools in Polk township in 1886; average number of months taught, 5; number of male teachers, 2; female teachers, 3; average salary, $33.24; number of male scholars, 72; females, 59; average number attending school, 89; per cent of attendance, 81; cost per month, $1.44; 13 mills levied for school purposes, and 4 mills for building; total amount of tax levied, $1,121.24.

Source:  Page(s) 648-651, History of Jefferson County by Kate M. Scott. Syracuse, N.Y., D. Mason & Co., 1888.

Contributed by Nathan Zipfel for use by the Jefferson County Genealogy Project (

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