L. L. Polk, Agricultural Reformer

An image of L. L. Polk in a 1926 issue of The Progressive Farmer. Image from the N.C. Museum of HistoryOn April 24, 1837, Leonidas LaFayette Polk, founder of The Progressive Farmer and president of the National Farmers’ Alliance, was born in Anson County.

Polk attended Davidson College and served in the Confederate army before advocating for farmers’ rights. In 1877, he was named the state’s first agriculture commissioner by Gov. Zebulon B. Vance.

After founding The Progressive Farmer, one of the nation’s oldest and most widely read agricultural periodicals in 1886, Polk used the publication to promote the creation of a land grant university, separate from the University of North Carolina. In1889, his vision became a reality when what is now N.C. State opened. He also used the Farmer to advocate for the creation what is now Meredith College, founded in 1891.

After helping found the Farmers’ Alliance in North Carolina and assuming a high position in it, Polk became a leader of the new Populist Party, which soon gained strength in the South and the West. He quickly became the Populists’ presidential nominee, but died in June 1892 before the general election.

In 1995, Polk’s house, a two-story gingerbread Gothic structure, was purchased by the Leonidas L. Polk House Foundation and moved to its present location on North Blount Street in Raleigh.

Other related resources:

  • Historical photos of agriculture from the State Archives

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