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Polk's Folly: An American Family History

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Polk's Folly is William Polk's captivating investigation of his impressive family tree and of the broader American tale it narrates. Growing up in Texas in the late 1930s, listening to his grandmother's memories of her childhood amidst the Civil War, Polk became fascinated by tales of his family's engagement in monumental moments of our nation's history. Beginning when Robe Polk's Folly is William Polk's captivating investigation of his impressive family tree and of the broader American tale it narrates. Growing up in Texas in the late 1930s, listening to his grandmother's memories of her childhood amidst the Civil War, Polk became fascinated by tales of his family's engagement in monumental moments of our nation's history. Beginning when Robert Pollok fled Ireland in the 1680s, Polk's saga includes an Indian trader, an early drafter of the Declaration of Independence, one of our greatest presidents, heroes and rascals on both sides of the Civil War, Indian fighters, a World War I diplomat, and Polk's own brother, a journalist who reported on the Nuremberg Trials. Full of stunning detail and based on primary historical documents, Polk's Folly is a grand American chronicle that allows history to include the lives that made it happen.


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Polk's Folly is William Polk's captivating investigation of his impressive family tree and of the broader American tale it narrates. Growing up in Texas in the late 1930s, listening to his grandmother's memories of her childhood amidst the Civil War, Polk became fascinated by tales of his family's engagement in monumental moments of our nation's history. Beginning when Robe Polk's Folly is William Polk's captivating investigation of his impressive family tree and of the broader American tale it narrates. Growing up in Texas in the late 1930s, listening to his grandmother's memories of her childhood amidst the Civil War, Polk became fascinated by tales of his family's engagement in monumental moments of our nation's history. Beginning when Robert Pollok fled Ireland in the 1680s, Polk's saga includes an Indian trader, an early drafter of the Declaration of Independence, one of our greatest presidents, heroes and rascals on both sides of the Civil War, Indian fighters, a World War I diplomat, and Polk's own brother, a journalist who reported on the Nuremberg Trials. Full of stunning detail and based on primary historical documents, Polk's Folly is a grand American chronicle that allows history to include the lives that made it happen.

30 review for Polk's Folly: An American Family History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    Most of us who know much about our family history think that we have some great stories to tell, and we're probably right. But in this case, William Polk not only has some great stories, but he has the writing necessary to tell them well. From the original colonial ancestor Robert Polk, newly arrived from fighting the English in Scotland and Ireland, to the North Carolina branch who served during the Revolutionary War, to the ranchers on the Wild West, the Confederate general and the aviation pi Most of us who know much about our family history think that we have some great stories to tell, and we're probably right. But in this case, William Polk not only has some great stories, but he has the writing necessary to tell them well. From the original colonial ancestor Robert Polk, newly arrived from fighting the English in Scotland and Ireland, to the North Carolina branch who served during the Revolutionary War, to the ranchers on the Wild West, the Confederate general and the aviation pioneer, there really are some great stories in here, covering every major movement in American history. I did get a little bogged down now and then, especially during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. I didn't really have too much trouble keeping the names straight, but a few more maps would have really helped with tracing the military movements. Not too many pictures, but I enjoyed the ones that were there. If you enjoy genealogy or American history, I think you'd like this book. 3.5 stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Janice Shull

    The author might have titled his book, The Greatest Family You Have Never Heard Of. Not quite, for surely everyone knows a Polk or two, including President James K. Polk. Yet, this family history is much more than the collection of stories of family members important only to other people named Polk. Tracing the family’s ancestry back to 1066, the author begins the real story of the Polks with the decision of Robert Bruce Pollok, a Scots-Irish officer in Cromwell’s army, to leave the dangers of w The author might have titled his book, The Greatest Family You Have Never Heard Of. Not quite, for surely everyone knows a Polk or two, including President James K. Polk. Yet, this family history is much more than the collection of stories of family members important only to other people named Polk. Tracing the family’s ancestry back to 1066, the author begins the real story of the Polks with the decision of Robert Bruce Pollok, a Scots-Irish officer in Cromwell’s army, to leave the dangers of war-torn Ireland and seek a better life in America. He and his wife Magdalen arrived in the Chesapeake Bay in 1680 and from their poor piece of swampland, called “Polk’s Folly” by the locals, grew a family which represents the essence of the White narrative of American history. The author makes good use of family stories passed on to him by his grandmother to depict the sweep of events across a continent and even the globe over three centuries.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bill Fornes

    Read 100 pages. Couldn't get into it. Read 100 pages. Couldn't get into it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Johns

    Must read for President James K. Polk fanciers (like myself!) This well-written history book not only details the compelling story of the Polk clan but also gives the reader many small insights into the life of our emerging republic of the last three centuries. You'll time-travel from small beginnings on the shores of the Chesapeake, down to the hill country of North Carolina, through the Cumberland Gap to Tennessee and onward to the rawboned plains of Texas. Many interesting stories here which Must read for President James K. Polk fanciers (like myself!) This well-written history book not only details the compelling story of the Polk clan but also gives the reader many small insights into the life of our emerging republic of the last three centuries. You'll time-travel from small beginnings on the shores of the Chesapeake, down to the hill country of North Carolina, through the Cumberland Gap to Tennessee and onward to the rawboned plains of Texas. Many interesting stories here which you will want to read before making your own history trek to Polk's family home in Columbia, TN. When in Columbia don't miss a brief visit to its local graveyard to see the memorial markers for JKP's parents. (President James K. Polk's remains are buried at the state capitol in Nashville.)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Becki

    I really loved reading this book on my ancestors Robert Bruce Polk and Magdalen Tasker. I feel very thankful I was given the opportunity to come to know the history of this branch through this book that I may not have known otherwise from Robert Bruce Polk on down to the contemporary cousins, and yes President Polk. There are a lot of distinguished citizens that come out of this line that are talked about in the book. It seems a lot of research has been done to produce this book. Other members o I really loved reading this book on my ancestors Robert Bruce Polk and Magdalen Tasker. I feel very thankful I was given the opportunity to come to know the history of this branch through this book that I may not have known otherwise from Robert Bruce Polk on down to the contemporary cousins, and yes President Polk. There are a lot of distinguished citizens that come out of this line that are talked about in the book. It seems a lot of research has been done to produce this book. Other members of my family have also enjoyed reading this book. Nice pictures! Very, very interesting!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Here's what I liked about the book - I thought it was a really great idea for the author to track his family's life through the history of America, and it is a truly remarkable family including a US President; Leonidas K. Polk, the fighting Bishop; and a prominent correspondent. The downside is that in the areas of history I know a little better, the author showed a lack of understanding or made overly broad generalizations, so while it's interesting to get insights on different parts of America Here's what I liked about the book - I thought it was a really great idea for the author to track his family's life through the history of America, and it is a truly remarkable family including a US President; Leonidas K. Polk, the fighting Bishop; and a prominent correspondent. The downside is that in the areas of history I know a little better, the author showed a lack of understanding or made overly broad generalizations, so while it's interesting to get insights on different parts of America/American history, it's tough to know how accurate it is at times.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Russ Adcox

    Very interesting read that covers broad periods of American history. I liked they way he interwove the story of his family with larger descriptions of the time periods. And, since we live in Maury County (the home of James K Polk) and our house sits in the the shadow of St. John's Church, Hamilton Place, Rattle & Snap, etc (homes of George, Lucius, Leonidas, etc), I really enjoyed all the insight into local history. Very interesting read that covers broad periods of American history. I liked they way he interwove the story of his family with larger descriptions of the time periods. And, since we live in Maury County (the home of James K Polk) and our house sits in the the shadow of St. John's Church, Hamilton Place, Rattle & Snap, etc (homes of George, Lucius, Leonidas, etc), I really enjoyed all the insight into local history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    David

    A history of one of the most storied and oldest American families...and to think I'm a member of that family. A history of one of the most storied and oldest American families...and to think I'm a member of that family.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rogers Hartmann

    I loved reading about my family history.

  10. 5 out of 5

    books

  11. 5 out of 5

    James

  12. 4 out of 5

    Markham Pyle

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pburgh

  14. 5 out of 5

    John

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dallynusa

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bridget Smith

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brad

  18. 5 out of 5

    Morris Massre

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brulatt

  20. 4 out of 5

    John Hood

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tim A.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mark Palm

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  24. 4 out of 5

    Doug

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura Schrillo

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jane

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ali

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nita

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robin Fosler

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