Trusten W. Polk was born on May 29, 1811 in Sussex County, Delaware to William Nutter Polk and Levinia Causey Polk. He was educated in public schools in Delaware and Maryland before graduating from Yale College in 1831. After studying law with James Rogers in Delaware, Polk established a successful law practice in St. Louis in 1835. Polk served as the city counselor of St. Louis, and in 1843 he was elected a delegate to the Missouri Constitutional Convention serving as chair of the Committee on Education. Polk embraced the proslavery and hard currency doctrines of the anti-Benton faction of the Missouri Democratic Party. His campaign in 1854 for the U.S. House of Representatives was unsuccessful. Polk defeated Thomas Hart Benton and R.C. Ewing in the 1856 gubernatorial race. He was sworn in as Missouri’s 12th governor on January 5, 1857. Eight days later the General Assembly chose him to succeed Missouri U.S. Senator Henry S. Geyer who had died. On February 27th, Governor Polk resigned and was succeeded by Lieutenant Governor Hancock Lee Jackson. A strong pro-Southern sympathizer, Senator Polk served in the U.S. Senate from March 4, 1857 until his expulsion from the Senate for disloyalty on January 10, 1862. During the Civil War, Polk first served as a colonel in the Missouri State Guard under the command of Confederate General Sterling Price. He was then named by Jefferson Davis as presiding judge of Trans-Mississippi Department in Arkansas and served in Arkansas from 1864 to 1865. Polk fled briefly with Sterling Price to Mexico. When the U.S. Supreme Court declared Missouri’s test oath for lawyers unconstitutional, Polk resumed his law practice in St. Louis. Trusten W. Polk died on April 16, 1876 in St. Louis and is interred in Bellefontaine Cemetery.
The Records (1856-1857) of Governor Trusten W. Polk (1811-1876) include appointment files (recommendations, supporting petitions, applications and employment requests) associated with the State Penitentiary system; and correspondence pertaining primarily to swamp lands, the Smithsonian Institution, Missouri State Guard supplies, the extradition of a convicted criminal to New York, and the boundary dispute with Kentucky over Wolf Island in the Mississippi River.
Rights and Reproductions
Copyright is in the public domain. Preferred citation: (Item description), (date); Trusten W. Polk, 1857; Office of Governor, Record Group 3.12; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.
How to Use This Collection
The official title lists dates of service from inauguration to end of term. Records (1856-1857) refer to the date range of materials included within the collection. All references to places are within the state of Missouri unless indicated, and county is specified when known. The spelling of proper names varies greatly. When correct spelling could not be determined the original spelling was retained. Officeholders are Missouri officials unless noted (U. S. Senator or U. S. Secretary of State). State Representatives are referred to as Representative. U. S. Representatives are noted with the title Congressman. Scanned images shown are the best available.
The collection finding aid provides information pertaining to additional Polk material held by the following institutions: Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg; Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library; and the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
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