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Charles Polk

Gov. Charles Polk

  • January 16, 1827 - January 19, 1830
    May 9, 1836 - January 17, 1837
  • Federalist
  • November 15, 1788
  • October 27, 1857
  • Delaware
  • Married Mary Elizabeth Purnell; nine children
  • Succeeded


CHARLES POLK was born near Bridgeville, Delaware, on November 15, 1788. He was educated in a classical school in Lewes, and studied law with Kensey Johns. He never practiced law, but instead became a successful farmer in Kent County, where he owned more than 1,000 acres of land. Polk entered politics in 1814, as a member and speaker of the Delaware House of Representatives, a position he was reelected to in 1815 and 1817. He also served in the Delaware State Senate in 1824. On October 3, 1826, he was elected Delaware’s 19th governor, and on January 16, 1827, he was sworn into office. During his tenure, the federal tariff of 1828 was constituted, and a public school system was founded. Also, the summit viaduct over the canal at the Buck Tavern was completed, and the initial phase of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal began. Polk finished his term on January 19, 1830, and continued to stay active in public service. He served as president to the 1831 Delaware Constitutional Convention, and was elected in 1834 to the Delaware State Senate again serving as president in 1836. Before finishing his term, Governor Caleb P. Bennett passed away on May 9, 1836, and Polk who was president of the senate at the time, assumed the duties of the governorship. Governor Polk served in this capacity until January 17, 1837. After finishing his second gubernatorial term, Polk served as Kent County’s register of wills, serving from 1843 to 1848, and in 1849 was appointed Wilmington’s collector of the port, a position he held until 1853. He also was appointed in August 1857 to serve as commissioner-judge of the Delaware Supreme Court. Governor Charles Polk died on October 27, 1857, and is buried at the Presbyterian Cemetery in Dover.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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