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Welcome to Polk County
 
 
County Information
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
As of 2000, the population was 483,924. The U.S. Census Bureau 2006 estimates the county population to be 561,606. The county seat is Bartow. Its largest city is Lakeland. The center of population of Florida is located in the city of Lake Wales.

Cities in Polk County include Auburndale, Babson Park, Bartow, Combee Settlement, Crooked Lake Park, Crystal Lake, Cypress Gardens, Davenport, Dundee, Eagle Lake, Fort Meade, Frostproof, Fussels Corner, Gibsonia, Haines, Highland City, Highland Park, Hillcrest Heights, Inwood, Jan Phyl Village, Kathleen, Lake Alfred, Lake Hamilton, Lake Wales, Lakeland, Lakeland Highlands, Loughman, Medulla, Mulberry, Polk City, Wahneta, Waverly, Willow Oak, Winston and Winter Haven.

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  County Demographics  
 
 
     
 
 
  As of the census of 2000, there were 483,924 people, 187,233 households, and 132,373 families residing in the county. The population density was 258 people per square mile (100/km). There were 226,376 housing units at an average density of 121 per square mile (47/km). The racial makeup of the county was 79.58% White, 13.54% Black or African American, 0.38% Native American, 0.93% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.82% from other races, and 1.71% from two or more races. 9.49% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. In 2000 only 37% of county residents lived in incorporated metropolitan areas.

There were 187,233 households, of which 29.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.40% were married couples living together, 12.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.30% were non-families. 24.10% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.10% have someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the county the population was spread out, with 24.40% under the age of 18, 8.30% from 18 to 24, 26.40% from 25 to 44, 22.50% from 45 to 64, and 18.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 96.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $36,036, and the median income for a family was $41,442. Males had a median income of $31,396, versus $22,406 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,302. 12.90% of the population and 9.40% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 19.10% were under the age of 18 and 8.10% were 65 or older.
 
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
 
  County History  
 
 
     
 
 
  The first people to call Polk County home arrived close to 12,000 years ago during the last ice age as the first paleo-indians arrived on the peninsula of Florida as they followed big game southward.[4][5] By this time, the peninsula had gone through several expansions and contractions; at times the peninsula was much wider than it is today, while at other times it was almost entirely submerged with only a few small islands above sea level. These first paleo-indians were nomadic hunter/gatherers who did not establish any permanent settlers and they eventually gave way to the "archaic people" who were the ancestors of the Indians who came in contact with the Spaniards when they arrived on the peninsula. These Indians thrived on the peninsula and it is estimated that there were over 250,000 in 1492 when Columbus set sail for the New World. As was common elsewhere, the Indians' contact with Europeans had a devastating effect on the Indians. Small Pox, Measles and other diseases the Indians had no immunity for caused widespread epidemic and death.[5][6] Those who had not succumbed to diseases such as Small Pox or Yellow Fever were either killed or enslaved. Eventually the remnants of these tribes would merge together with Creek Indians who arrived from the north and become the Seminole Indian tribe. Within a few hundred years, nearly the entire pre-columbian population of Polk County had been wiped out. The remnants of these Indians joined with renegade Creek Indians from Georgia and The Carolinas to form the Seminole Indian Tribe.

For around 250 years after Ponce De Leon arrived on the peninsula, the Spanish ruled Florida. In the late 17th century, Florida went through an unstable period in which the French and British ruled the peninsula. After the American Revolution, the peninsula briefly reverted back to Spanish rule. In 1819, Florida became a U.S. territory as a result of the Adams-Onis Treaty.

Polk County became Florida's 39th county on February 8, 1861, when the State of Florida divided Hillsborough County into eastern and western halves. The eastern half was named Polk, in honor of the 11th President of the United States, James Knox Polk. Polk was sworn in as president on the day after Florida's March 3, 1845 statehood.

Following the Civil War, the county commission established the county seat on 120 acres (0.49 km) donated in the central part of the county. Bartow, the county seat, was named after Francis S. Bartow, a confederate Colonel from Georgia who was the first confederate officer to die in battle during the first battle of the Civil War. Colonel Bartow was buried in Savannah, GA with military honors, and promoted posthumously to the rank of brigadier general. Fort Blount, as Bartow was then known, in a move to honor one of the first fallen heroes of the Confederacy, was one of several towns and counties in the South that changed their name to Bartow. The first courthouse built in Bartow was constructed in 1867. It was replaced twice, in 1884 and in 1908. As the third courthouse to stand on the site, the present structure houses the Polk County Historical Museum and Genealogical Library.

 

 
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
     
     
 
 
 

 

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