Polk County became Florida’s 39th County on February 8, 1861.

Centrally located between Tampa and Orlando, Polk County offers a wide variety of entertainment, beautiful scenery and perfect weather.

Polk County was named after the 11th president of the United States, James Knox Polk. James Knox Polk was the first U.S. President to govern Florida as a state for a full presidential term. Polk County was established by the state government in 1861 on the eve of the American Civil War. Bartow is the county seat and was named in honor of Francis S. Bartow, the first Confederate officer to die in the American Civil War. Bartow was originally known as Fort Blount but changed names in a move to honor Francis S. Bartow, one of the first fallen heroes of the Confederacy. Polk County wasn’t the only county to honor him thou, there were several towns and counties in the South that changed their name to Bartow. The first courthouse built in Bartow was constructed in 1867. By 1884, The South Florida Railroad company had developed the railroad to the point where it had reached from Sanford to Tampa. This made it possible for people to travel across the area quicker. By 1910, Polk County had over 37,000 residents!!!

Lakeland is the largest city in the County and Lake Wales is the center of population for the county. The 2010 Census put the county’s population at over 600,000! Did you know that Winter Haven was home to the first Publix supermarket circa 1930 and Lakeland is where Publix’s Corporate Offices are located?

Polk County, because of the size and location, actually borders nine other Counties! Hillsborough, Manatee, Orange, Osceola, Hardee, Lake, Okeechobee, Highlands, Sumnter and Pasco Counties. The largest industries in Polk’s economy have been phosphate mining, agriculture, and tourism. Citrus plays a huge role in Polk County’s economy. We produce some of the best citrus in the world right here in Polk County, Florida. Phosphate rock was first shipped into Polk County around 1888 for fertilizer and has continued to play a major role in our economy.

Because of Florida’s sunny climate and beautiful surroundings, Polk County is also known for being a perfect location to visit. Tourists come from all over to visit our attractions and entertainment. A few of these places are such as; Legoland, Fantasy of Flight, Bok Tower, Sun N Fun, Frank Lloyd Wright Architectural buildings, The Lakeland Center, Ramon Theatre and our hundreds of annual events.

For additional information on the history of Polk County, Florida, visit these great sites:

If you have any information or pictures on the history of Polk County that you would like to share, Contact us and we would love to provide it to the residents and visitors of Polk County, Florida.

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