Polly Toole, a slave of Maryville merchant
James M. Toole, is credited with saving extensive local records during
the Civil War. When James Toole fled southward during the war because of
threats from Union sympathizers, Polly remained in Maryville with his
mother, Elizabeth. In May 1864, Union soldiers took over the Blount
County courthouse for living quarters and evicted county officials.
Court minutes, estate records. marriage licenses, land transactions, tax
assessments and wills covering 70 years were moved by County Clerk W. L
Dearing to a store building owned by the Toole family across Main Street
from the courthouse. Three months later some 3,000 Confederate Cavalry,
commanded by Gen. Joe Wheeler, rode into Maryville and tried to retake
the courthouse. When musket fire failed to move the Union men, the
Confederates began burning buildings on both sides of the street to make
a path for cannon shots, and the store building was threatened. Polly
Toole took heroic action and managed to secure all records from the
building except tax assessments and a few miscellaneous papers. It is
not known how she managed to carry the heavy books or where she took
them for safekeeping. Court minutes of January 1865 show that Polly
Toole was awarded $20 for saving county and land records during
Wheeler's raid. She was later given an annual payment until her death,
at which time the county paid her burial expenses.
A statue of Pooly Toole has been sculptured by Joyce McCroskey and is located in the lobby of the Blount County Courthouse.
Polly Toole (1820-1879)
Blount County Courthouse - March 24, 2006 - Steve Speer