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Heritage \ People \ James G. Birney \ Old Kentucky Newspapers \

The Polks
Contributed by Bryant of Danville, KY (March 2003)

The Kentucky Advocate - Tuesday, January 17, 1893



Stirring Events in the Early History of Danville --
Hard Struggles for the Cause of Morality and Freedom.


To the Editor of Advocate:

Seeing in your Saturday's issue excerpts from the Olive Branch, published and edited by J. J. Polk, and, knowing that most editors "would rather be right than President," we will, with your kind permission, make a few statements concerning said items and the editor of said paper.

Clement Polk, who married a Birney lived with J. J. Polk in Danville, but had no connection with the paper. My father, J. J. Polk, used often to relate how on the day of Clement's marriage, James G. Birney presented them with a bill of sale of eight valuable negroes. Clements approaching the open fine, laid the bill upon it and notified the negroes of their freedom. The Polk brothers were reared in that faith, their mother having emancipated her slaves at her death. Clement soon moved to Springfield, Ill., and began to publish and edit an Agricultural paper. He and his wife died and left a family of small children of which an aunt raised two, and my father two. J. J. Polk married Miss Tod, of Lexington, Ky., from which place he came to Danville in 1826, and purchased the Olive Branch from Edmund Shipp, a Jacksonian Democrat. My father, being a Clay man, espoused his cause and the paper advocated colonization with gradual emancipation. After 7 years he sold the paper to S. S. Dismukes and bought a book store. Then in 1833 came that great scourge, the cholera. My father did nothing but visit the sick, administer medicine, (the doctor's sick or fled), and pray with the dying; he had been both class leader and exhorter in the Methodist church. Soon after the scourge passed an incident occurred which place him again in the editorial chair. James G. Birney employed Dismukes to publish an Abolition paper.

The populace were so incensed at the project that they appointed a day on which to destroy the press and drive both editor and printer from the town. On the appointed morning people assembled, but before the mob could organize my father called on Dismukes for the key to the office, he not having paid the purchase money; he complied, and my father entering, issued a card informing the multitude that he was once more editor and proprietor of the Olive Branch. The crowd dispersed quietly and Danville was spared a disagreeable mob and perhaps bloodshed. He only published it then fifteen months, as his labors as editor, book and drug merchant were too arduous. He then became a local preacher, moved to the country, studied medicine, attended lectures, and moved to Perryville in 1840, where he enjoyed a large practice until the evening of life, and his son, Dr. W. T. Polk, succeeded him. Having been a zealous temperance advocate in Lexington, he became in Danville, a Washingtonian "Son of Temperance" and subsequently a "Son of Morality." He continued his temperance efforts in Perrysville, speaking, writing and organizing temperance societies, having for his ultimate object, the closing of the saloons. His efforts were crowned when on a visit to Frankfort a local option clause was inserted in our town charter. He was always a Christian humanitarian in the best and broadest sense of the word, worked, wrote, prayed, spent time, money, health and all he possessed for the benefit of his fellowmen -- had "a charity that thinketh no evil," made good for evil the rule of his life -- a sufferer from a dreadful cough, no murmur ever passed his lips. Instead his converse abounded in pure anecdote, poetical illustration and above all Biblical quotations. "He served his generation after God's will and fell on sleep" on May 23, 1881. His children and children's children arise and call him blessed, and cherish the high character of his works and life as a goodly heritage.

E. Bell Polk.

Note: The comment that James G. Birney presented Clements Polk with slaves, is corrected in next article.

Old Kentucky 1893 Articles
Some Very Old Papers
The Polks
Local History, No. V
Local History, No. VI
James G. Birney, No. VII
James G. Birney, No. VIII
James G. Birney, No. IX
James G. Birney, No. X
People Referenced
Birney, James G.
Dismukes, S.S.
Polk, Clement
Polk, E.B.
Polk, J.J.
Polk, W.T. (Dr.)
Shipp, Edmund
Todd, Miss.
Subjects Referenced
Abolition paper
Danville, KY
Frankfort, KY
Jacksonian Democrat
Lexington, KY
Methodist church
Perryville, KY
Son of Morality
Son of Temperance
Springfield, IL

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