Polley Family History & Genealogy

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  • David 1.2%
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John Brassfield FATHER AND SON DEAD

J. C. Polley and Charles Polley

Murdered by M. Davenport and wife at Pine Knoll
(Transcription of an article in the St. Paul Daily Globe
September 27, 1886: page 1, Column 1)
Davenport Gives Himself Up and is in Jail at Brainard.
Mrs. Davenport's Story
A Shocking Tragedy
(Special to the Globe)


Aitkin, Minnesota, Sept. 20. This community was thrown into the wildest excitement this morning by the report, which proved to be well-founded, of the killing of J. C. Polley and his son, Charles Polley, by M. Davenport and wife, who reside some six miles from Aitkin, at Pine Knoll in Cass County. As soon as word was received of the terrible calamity, Dr. C. Graves left for the scene of the wounded men, while Sheriff Markham and a posse started for the scene of the shooting to arrest the murderers. Arriving at Davenport's house, Sheriff Markham searched the premises but found no trace of Davenport, who, it was learned, left at 11 A. M. for Brainard, it is supposed, to give himself up and secure a lawyer.

Sheriff Markham took Mrs. Davenport into custody and lodged her in jail. He conveyed her to Brainerd at 8:30 P. M. to deliver her to the custody of Crow Wing county officials, in whose Jurisdiction the case is.

The scene at the home of the murdered man and his son was one long to remembered by those who witnessed it. Stretched upon a bed in their once happy home, lay the father and son cold and pulseless in death; while about them were the wife and mother, sister and daughters, son and brother, wailing out their grief.

At about 8 o'clock in the morning, J. C. Polley and Charles Polley the son, the unfortunate victims of the Davenport's vengeance, accompanied by Michael Wise and Thomas Sullivan, having their teams, went to the farm of M. Davenport to assist E. J. McLaughlin, who purchased Davenport's farm last spring, to remove his crop. Sullivan had loaded his team and started. While the Polleys and Wise were loading their wagons with potatoes, Mrs. Davenport came out and ORDERED THEM OFF THE PREMISES. J. C. Polley, who was sitting on a pile of potatoes, replied that he had business there and would not go. In a moment or two a shot was heard and Polley fell, shot through the abdomen, from the door of Davenport's house, some ten rods distant, by Mrs. Davenport, who immediately closed the door and went in as soon as she had fired the fatal shot. McLaughlin, Wise and Charles Polley, seeing the old man wounded, put him in the wagon and started to leave with the young man holding his father's head in his lap, while kneeling in the wagon. When same 50 rods from the house, young Polley suddenly threw up his hands, exclaiming, ''My God! I'm shot." and fell over dead, shot thru the right shoulder, the ball lodging somewhere near the heart, where it still remains. How many shots were fired after the first shot? It is impossible to tell, so intense was the excitement. J. C. Polley lived to reach home, something like a mile distant, but expired in his wife's arms almost immediately after.

The scene of the tragedy was visited by hundreds of people during the afternoon and numerous threats were made of lynching Davenport, but as he is probably out of reach of here, no danger of the kind need be apprehended.

Between Polley and Davenport bad blood had long existed and the tragic sequel of today was not wholly unexpected by the people of the village who were fully conversant with the state of things. McLaughlin, who had employed the deceased and others to help him move the crop he had raised, traded property in Duluth last spring for his property in Pine Knoll, and the relinquishment of a house that adjoined Davenport's, who occupied the McLaughlin property in Duluth. This summer he become tired of this bargain, and having secured the relinquishment, which had not yet been filed at the land office by McLaughlin on account of his wife's sister having stolen it out of McLaughlins trunk, he some weeks since returned to Pine Knoll, and finally succeeded in forcing McLaughlin to trade back, agreeing to let him have the crop he had raised. Later he refused to permit him to remove it, and it was while assisting him, as before stated that the Polleys met their death.

When arrested Mrs. Davenport pretended not to know of the death of their victims and said that it was not murder as they had been warned to leave. She was unmoved and walked into the jail with a smile upon her face, having remarked that she was glad that Polley was dead.

J. C. Polley was an early pioneer at Pine Knoll and was a highly successful farmer. He was 63 years of age and leaves a wife and a large family of children, some of who are married. He was a man of passionate temper but an honest and honorable citizen. He resided in Aitkin Township, of which he was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and was highly regarded. Charles Polley, his son, was 19 years old was well known to all, having attended school in the village for a number of years. The bitter feud existing between Polley Sr. and Davenport was shared more or less by the son, but his tragic death, holding his dying father in his arms, without any act of hostility, toward Davenport, fills the community with the most profound sorrow.

A MURDERER IS ARRESTED

Brainerd (Special to the Globe) Sept. 28, 1886

M. Davenport, the murderer of Charles Polley near Aitkin, arrived here at 8:00 and went at once to Flemming, his lawyer, who took him at once to the county jail where he was promptly locked up. He claims to have shot both J. C. Polley and Charles Polley, his son. Sheriff Markham arrived on the 8:30 train from Aitkin with Mrs. Davenport, who was also locked up.

To the Globe representative on the train she claimed that when she ordered J, C. Polley off their premises, he not only refused to go but called her vile names and struck her in the breast, which her husband saw and was very angry and soon she heard a shot and Polley fell. She claims that a number of shots were fired at the house after Polley was shot. She said she did not have a gun in her hands at all during the day. Cleland Polley, next older brother of Charles, arrived from St. Cloud where he is attending the Normal School on the 9:35 train and went to Aitkin accompanied by a brother-in-law on a freight. He is overwhelmed with grief at the cruel murder of his father and brother.
Jun 30, 2003 · Reply
John Brassfield Memories of Elizabeth Polley Hacking Powell

My grandmother Polley and her sister lived on farms nearer Mankato, Minn. than New Ulm. One day a horseman warned them to speed to the fort in Mankato. Both families put kids in wagons drawn by oxen and started. Grandma had a large pan of bread ready to put into loaves. She put this into the wagon with kids and bedding. This bread, baked in the open-air fire was the greater part of their food for several days.

After the skirmish with the Indians and everything burnable was gone, scouts were sent out to ascertain when people could safely leave the fort. My great uncle, George Porter, was one of these scouts. None of this group ever returned.

In this printed article telling where the Indians were tried for murder, several of them were condemned to hang. The hanging in Mankato was attended by the families of the murdered scouts. Great Aunt Lide was there, wife of George Porter. She said, "'Twas one of my happiest hours. They had killed my husband and burned our home."

At the farm, the grain harvest had just begun. When the Polleys and great Aunt Lide returned, the crop was burned off clean and a smoking pile of ashes in their cellars was all that remained.

After a wandering period, Grandfather Polley took his family to Aitkin, Minn., He bought some government land; the deed being signed by President Lincoln. Later, Aunt Lide came to the new town of Aitkin. She took in washing and, being the only nurse in town she earned her livelihood and raised her four children.

Grandfather built up his farm (320 acres, I think, and when I was there in 1950-5 he was still known by some old-timers and their children for having supplied the town with vegetables, and, better still, for bringing blooded cattle to his farm. He bought two cows and a bull from Minnesota's well-known stock farm at St. Cloud. I don't know how they got to St. Cloud but my father and grandfather walked all the way back to the farm at Aitkin leading these beasts; the bull with a ring in his nose for safety in leading. Within my memory, father had a large herd of blooded cattle on the original farm.

In summer, four men milked and my mother made cheese every day. Father had made the cheese press to hold a 20 to 50 pound cheese. These were hauled in ox-pulled wagons to town to the store where they supplied all of us with shoes etc. to start school in the fall.

Father talked some Indian so the Indians came to him for help. In the fall they brought sacks of cranberries and piled them up in the yard; and then wild rice. (Am not sure which came first) When he had a full load, he hauled them to town. I do not know how he settled with the Indians but all year round, especially in winter, the Indians; with a one pony drawn cart came and carried off hay, flour and often sugar. So he fed them and their ponies.

Elizabeth Polley's memories of life on the farm in Aitkin county. She was eleven years old when they moved to Grand Rapids, Minn. in 1894.

She had a wonderful ability to keep track of family members and friends. She told us many incidents, which I promptly forgot. In later years I would write to her and ask her to write out some of her experiences but she wasn't interested.

One time she sent me a letter with a map she had drawn of the farm on the Mississippi River and the ferry. I don't have it so I must have sent it back to her to have her correct it because it was clearly upside down. This is her answer;

"I came out from Aitkin as we always did and crossed the river on the ferry and on up to the house and on down around the field, so why shouldn't I begin at the top of the paper? I do well to go in forewards, so why try to go in backwards?"

"The bank in front of the yard was high but went down to a wide, sandy beach in front of the barnyard; about a block of beach, then the bank began to rise again. The ferry was at the far end of the flat beach so teams drove across and onto the ferry, which was pulled across on a wire cable. This cable wound onto a wide pulley on our side. This was anchored on the far side to a tree. Our father made everything for the deal; planned it, put it up and it worked so well that some years later, the community got him to plan, work on and boss another ferry some two miles farther down river, nearer Aitkin. So people quit coming to our place and sometimes paying us 10¢ to get across the river. If a lone traveler came along and the boat was on the wrong side of the river, he came down to us and we paddled him over in our skiff and sometimes he gave us a nickle.

In summer, the log drive came down the river. A group of loggers came with river covered with logs. They lived in a floating house, or wanigan, and would tie to one of the trees back of this sandy beach. They bought their vegetables from papa and paid him in sacks of brown sugar and dried fruit.

"How well I can now see a row of custard pies sitting on a railing along the side of the wanigan. These pies had plenty of "raisins". 0f course, there were flies swarming around; they were everywhere. Mosquitos'. You never saw such swarms. All beds had cheesecloth nets, a tie at each corner holding them up and another in the center. We sure learned to be careful not to pull them down, as under the screen was the only time we could be free of mosquitoes. If one of them began to buzz inside we had to light the lamp and catch him or them put out the light and lie down again and I guess to sleep. These screens were not cooling; in fact, they increased the heat considerably. Imagine a hot summer with the mosquitos buzzing!

A flood in Aitkin July, 1972 brought back memories of old times to Beth. She told about an earlier flood:

" The Polleys moved from the farm in Aitkin on March 3rd in 1896, when Beth was 11 and Margaret was one year old, both birthdays being the 3rd of March. About two years before that, Papa and Barney slopped to the barnyard to feed and milk the cattle. After that flood, our farm (known as Pine Knoll) got lower and we used a boat to go to a neighbor a mile away. All this land that was flooded was planted to corn and oats and raised such a crop that the threshers marveled at the bushels of oats. The corn was used to fatten the pigs.

My father cleared some 40 acres across the river and left a grove of large maples back of the field. In the spring, he tapped these trees and we kids lugged the maple sap home and cooked it to make maple sugar and syrup. (Just another Job for Mama.) On this tract he raised corn and when it was shocked in the fall he set traps and caught coons. In summer, Grace and I picked wild raspberries. In fact, it was here that we met our big black bear getting his fill of berries.
Feb 22, 2004 · Reply
John Brassfield This is a copy of an article in the St. Paul Daily Globe of Sept. 27. 1886
page 1 Column 1

FATHER AND SON DEAD

J. C. Polley and Charles Polley Murdered
by M. Davenport and wife at
Pine Knoll

Davenport Gives Himself Up and is in Jail
at Brainard. Mrs. Davenport's Story

A Shocking Tragedy (Special to the Globe)

Aitkin, Minnesota, Sept. 20. This community was thrown into the wildest excitement this morning by the report, which proved to be well-founded, of the killing of J. C. Polley and his son, Charles Polley, by M. Davenport and wife, who reside some six miles from Aitkin, at Pine Knoll in Cass County. As soon as word was received of the terrible calamity, Dr. C. Graves left for the scene of the wounded men, while Sheriff Markham and a posse started for scene of the shooting to arrest the murderers. Arriving at Davenport's house, Sheriff Markham searched the premices but found no trace of Davenport, who, it was learned, left at 11 A. M. for Brainard, it is supposed, to give himself up and secure a lawyer.

Sheriff Markham took Mrs. Davenport into custody and lodged her in jail. He conveyed her to Brainerd at 8:30 P. M. to deliver her to the custody of Crow Wing county officials, in whose Jurisdiction the case is.

The scene at the home of the murdered man and his son was one long to remembered by those who witnessed it. Stretched upon a bed in their once happy home, lay the father and son cold and pulseless in death; while about them were the wife and mother, sister and daughters, son and brother, wailing out their grief.

At about 8 o'clock in the morning, J. C. Polley and Charles Polley the son, the unfortunate victims of the Davenport's vengeance, accompanied by Michael Wise and Thomas Sullivan, having their teams, went to the farm of M. Davenport to assist E. J. McLaughlin, who purchased Davenport's farm last spring, to remove his crop. Sullivan had loaded his team and started. While the Polleys and Wise were loading their wagons with potatoes, Mrs. Davenport came out and ORDERED THEM OFF THE PREMISES. J. C. Polley, who was sitting on a pile of potatoes, replied that he had business there and would not go. In a moment or two a shot was heard and Polley fell, shot through the abdomen, from the door of Davenport's house, some ten rods distant, by Mrs. Davenport, who immediately closed the door and went in as soon as she had fired the fatal shot. McLaughlin, Wise and Charles Polley, seeing the old man wounded, put him in the wagon and started to leave with the young man holding his father's head in his lap, while kneeling in the wagon. When same 50 rods from the house, young Polley suddenly threw up his hands, exclaiming, ''My God! I'm shot." and fell over dead, shot thru the right shoulder, the ball lodging somewhere near the heart, where it still remains. How many shots were fired after the first shot? It is impossible to tell, so intense was the excitement. J. C. Polley lived to reach home, something like a mile distant, but expired in his wife's arms almost immediately after.

The scene of the tragedy was visited by hundreds of people during the afternoon and numerous threats were made of lynching Davenport, but as he is probably out of reach of here, no danger of the kind need be apprehended.

Between Polley and Davenport bad blood had long existed and the tragic sequel of today was not wholly unexpected by the people of the village who were fully conversant with the state of things. McLaughlin, who had employed the deceased and others to help him move the crop he had raised, traded property in Duluth last spring for his property in Pine Knoll, and the relinquishment of a house that adjoined Davenport's, who occupied the McLaughlin property in Duluth. This summer he become tired of this bargain, and having secured the relinquishment, which had not yet been filed at the land office by McLaughlin on account of his wife's sister having stolen it out of McLaughlins trunk, he some weeks since returned to Pine Knoll, and finally succeeded in forcing McLaughlin to trade back, agreeing to let him have the crop he had raised. Later he refused to permit him to remove it, and it was while assisting him, as before stated that the Polleys met their death.

When arrested Mrs. Davenport pretended not to know of the death of their victims and said that it was not murder as they had been warned to leave. She was unmoved and walked into the jail with a smile upon her face, having remarked that she was glad that Polley was dead.

J. C. Polley was an early pioneer at Pine Knoll and was a highly successfu1 farmer. He was 63 years of age and leaves a wife and a large family of children, some of who are married. He was a man of passionate temper but an honest and honorable citizen. He resided in Aitkin Township, of which he was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and was highly regarded. Charles Polley, his son, was 19 years old was well known to all, having attended school in the village for a number of years. The bitter feud existing between Polley Sr. and Davenport was shared more or less by the son, but his tragic death, holding his dying father in his arms, without any act of hostility, toward Davenport, fills the community with the most profound sorrow.

A MURDERER IS ARRESTED

Brainerd (Special to the Globe) Sept. 28, 1886

M. Davenport, the murderer of Charles Polley near Aitkin, arrived here at 8:00 and went at once to Flemming, his lawyer, who took him at once to the county jail where he was promptly locked up. He claims to have shot both J. C. Polley and Charles Polley, his son. Sheriff Markham arrived on the 8:30 train from Aitkin with Mrs. Davenport, who was also locked up.

To the Globe representative on the train she claimed that when she ordered J, C. Polley off their premises, he not only refused to go but called her vile names and struck her in the breast, which her husband saw and was very angry and soon she heard a shot and Polley fell. She claims that a number of shots were fired at the house after Polley was shot. She said she did not have a gun in her hands at all during the day. Cleland Polley, next older brother of Charles, arrived from St. Cloud where he is attending the Normal School on the 9:35 train and went to Aitkin accompanied by a brother-in-law on a freight. He is overwhelmed with grief at the cruel murder of his father and brother.
Feb 22, 2004 · Reply
Mark Polley Circumstances Surrounding the Death of
Sgt. Maj. G. F. Polley
PETERSBURG, VIRGINIA JUNE 20, 1864


photo credit Mass. Commandery, M.O.L.L.U.S. and U.S.A.M.H.I.
June 16th, the regiment crossed the James River at Wilcox’s Landing. Marched 25 miles toward Petersburg on the 27th, then assigned to picket duty.
On the 18th, saw the last engagement with the enemy. As the second line behind Wheaton’s Brigade, advanced through the Confederate works, gaining about a half mile. Seven men wounded, including Colonel Parsons. He was hit in the chest, but his life was saved by his steel match case. There were a half dozen bullet holes through his clothing and hat. Late in the day they were removed from the battle line, moved to the rear awaiting orders to return home.
“Some hard-tack was brought up after the battle and delivered to the men, and most of them lay down and went to sleep. When I awoke, Sergeant-Major George F. Polly handed me the top of a cracker box on which was written his name and “Killed June--, 1864,” and wanted me to fill in the date as he knew he was going to be killed, and not going home with the boys. I laughed at him and told him that after dark we were going back, and I should take him to a safe place to sleep. I took them back behind all the general’s quarters and in the rear of a safe line of works, stacked muskets, and had a good night’s sound sleep. During the night a rude gallows was erected, on which a negro was to be hung at 8 o’clock. The next morning (June 20 Ed.) I visited Gen. Niell and was talking with him when the enemy opened with 20 pound shot, thinking we were going to hang one of their spies. Gen. Niell said to me, “Get your orders and look after your regiment.” I went up to headquarters to get my orders and immediately reported to the regiment, where I found Polly watching the shells from the guns, and as I came up I joined him. The regiment was under cover. As we were watching the shells, one struck Polly and tore him all to pieces. I leaned down and said, “Polly, have you anything to say?” “Nothing except to attend to my request.” I gave the order “By the right Flank” to get the boys away from the shelling. A flag of truce was sent out to inform the enemy that a negro was to be hung who had insulted a white woman the day before; they stopped firing. We then marched back and saw the negro hung.”
We buried Polly at City Point next day. The chaplain made some remarks and a detail of the soldiers of his own company fired three volleys over his grave. We placed the board, which he had lettered, to mark the spot where he is buried. It was most sad after he had gone through the campaign and got ready to go home, to be killed in that way. He was a great favorite with the regiment and his death cast a gloom over us all on our homeward trip.” *Parsons paper for the Loyal Legion*.
It would seem that Parsons was using some literary license. The man being hung was William Johnson, an African-American soldier, on the charge of attempted rape. Polley had re- enlisted, in December, been home on furlough, received his bounty, but not his commission to his new regiment, which was en route. Newell states that Polley had burned the cracker box grave marker to make his morning coffee, and was buried at City Point.
On a recent trip to the Petersburg National Park, Fred Polley of the modern Mass. 10th and great-grand nephew of Sgt. Maj. Polley had the opportunity to view the scene. The Jordan house cellar hole is on the grounds of the visitor’s center. A dead tree marks the approximate spot where the gallows were erected. Fred has several family treasures, including George F. Polley’s sword, commission, and other memorabilia. Apparently, at some later date, Sgt.Maj. Polley’s remains were disinterred and brought home to Hinsdale, New Hampshire, where his remains share a plot with his cousin Albert, who also died in the war, at the Pine Grove Cemetery.
Note: Sgt. Maj. George F. Polley is likely a descendant of the George Polley of Massachusetts from whom my family line is descended. Let me explain. In the early 1600’s John Polley, born 1592 in England, came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony with his wife, Margaret also born in England, and their son, George. Arriving about eight years later from England was Edward & Joanna (Sargent) Winn along with their daughter, Elizabeth. George Polley was born in about 1625 and Elizabeth Winn in about 1629; both in England. When George and Elizabeth came of age they married, 21May1649, and raised a large family in Massachusetts. Many interesting facts concerning their lives have been discover, including the will of George Polley. The youngest or second to the youngest (depending upon differing records) was Edward, born in 1669.
After George died on 22Dec1683 and Elizabeth on 2May1695, Edward moved to the area of Portsmouth, NH. Reportedly Edward moved there to live near an unidentified older brother had already moved there earlier. It must have been there that Edward married Mary Merrow Woolett. Some reports indicate their first child, named Edward as well, was born in 1700 in Virginia. This is apparently assumed due to the Polleys moving to Virginia while the baby Edward was still an infant. There are some accounts saying young Edward was born in 1699 in New Hampshire. This seems more accurate. As already stated, the young Polley family moved, finally settling in what is now Pittsylvania County, Virginia in the dawn of the 18th century.
Our line, Polleys of Kentucky and Ohio, came in this line: John Polley 1 (from England), George Polley (1st born in America), Edward Polley 1, Edward Polley 2, David Polley 1, John Polley 2, David Polley 2 (moved to Lewis County, Kentucky with his wife, Nancy Ford Polley), John Polley 3, John Polley 4, William Henry Polley, Harry Polley, William Earl Polley, and Mark Douglas Polley.
Sgt. Maj. George F. Polley was reentered some time after he was killed in the final moments of the Civil War, in his home area of Hinsdale, NH. It seems likely, and even probable, George is the descendant of the unidentified son of George and Elizabeth Polley who moved to New Hampshire before our ancestor, Edward2, went there to be with this brother. It seems likely that Sgt. Maj. George is the great or great-great grandson of George and Elizabeth.
I do not know about weather or not any Polleys from this line served in the military after the Civil War, although it is likely they did. I do know many Polleys had a long history of military service from the Civil War and back. David Polley 2, and other brothers, fought in the War of 1812 and in various Indian skirmishes. John Polley 2 fought in the Revolutionary War, as did other members of his extended family. Andrew (Drury) Polley died in one of the last battles of the Revolution, the Battle of Blue Licks, near Maysville, Kentucky. His name appears on the monument there. The original George Polley, and/or his son also named George, fought in the almost forgotten King Philip’s War. This was a war against the Indians by the British and settlers. Nearly 1,000 settlers lost their lives as well as countless Indians.
An interesting footnote to this is that at least four US presidents and one vice president are descended from the Winn/Polley line: Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover, George Herbert Walker Bush, George Walker Bush, and Richard (Dick) Cheney.
For a picture of Sgt. Maj. George F. Polley, see the photo section.
May 13, 2006 · Reply