POLK, NANCY MARIE MCDONALD (1840 ~ 1938). Confederate widow Nancy Marie McDonald Polk was born February 14, 1840 in Hamburg, Hardin County, Tennessee, to Daniel M. and Mary Henley McDonald. She was the eighth of eleven children. Polk grew up in Tennessee and married William Edward Polk, the son of Levi Moore and Susan Taylor Polk, on August 13, 1861.
The week after their marriage, William Edward Polk, along with his brothers and cousins, joined the 34th Tennessee Regiment at Knoxville. The 34th saw limited action until Chickamauga and the Battle for Atlanta. A week after Chickamauga, William Edward Polk was captured and sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois. He was paroled in Maryland and is said to have walked home to Tennessee.
Nine months after their marriage and her husband's enlistment, Nancy Polk gave birth to the couple's first child, William D. He was born April 25, 1862, in Hardin County, Tennessee.
According to family lore, the farm where the Polks lived was a few miles south of the Shiloh battlefield in South Central Tennessee. The Battle of Shiloh was fought the week before William D. Polk's birth and it is said the Confederate Army advanced and then retreated across the family's front lawn.
In a newspaper article published in 1938, Nancy Polk said that she could hear the sounds of the battle close to her farm. According to the newspaper article, "to feed hundreds of troops that paused at the Polk home, Mrs. Polk kept her table set at all hours and with the assistance of her Negroes, cooked for 12 hours a day..." and "...livestock was stolen from their farm by invading northern soldiers who drove off the cows and hogs, and killed chickens which they broiled on her lawn."
The article states further that "the constant roar of guns left an imprint on the mind of the aged pioneer whose wish is that 'there would never be any more war.' [The death of her 22-year-old grandson in France 1918 in World War I must have reinforced that wish]" Quotes taken from article titled "Mrs. Nancy Marie Polk Born on Valentines Is to Observe Her 98th Birthday Monday," February 1938 interview published in the Sweetwater, Texas, newspaper.
After the War, Nancy and William Edward Polk moved to Texas and settled in Kosse, Limestone County, around 1878. They followed William Edward Polk's brother, Ezekiel Daniel Polk, from Mississippi. The family moved to Texas with a three-week old baby and arrived three and a half months later on Christmas Eve. Polk's husband died within a few years of his arrival in Texas (January 6, 1883), and was buried in the family cemetery in Kosse. She was left to finish raising their seven children alone.
Toward the end of her life, Polk lived with her youngest daughter, Arthen or Atha, in Sweetwater, Texas. Unable to care for her any further, Polk's family had her entered in the Confederate Women's Home in Austin. She died seven months later at the age of ninety-eight and was buried at the Texas State Cemetery.
Information was provided by great great grandchildren Brandon Polk and Betty DuBose Hamilton from Polk Family Supplement One (Conway, AR: Oldbuck Press, Inc., 1981, 1992), a family genealogy compiled by Emory Murphy and supplemented by Texas State Cemetery file materials.