The county was formed from Cherokee land in 1836 but wasn't opened for settlement until 1840 or so just after the forced Removal, the Trail of Tears. Although there were several families who moved onto any available land to later claim it as occupant enterer when the grants were allotted. They were able to sell their land elsewhere and claim land in this area for pennies an acre.
Polk County is very difficult to research. There have been three fires that destroyed almost all the early records.
Fortunately, Polk County has Mrs. Marian Presswood. She is President of the Historical and Genealogical Society, editor of their newsletter and volunteers there 3 day each week. The web site for the PCHGS is located at
Location, hours and other info are on this site. They offer books, copies of the newsletter and other items. Two book that are available and recommended are JoAnn Finnell's Cemetery listings. She did a great job on this. Roy Lillard's History of Polk County is invaluable as are the PCHGS journals...which are indexed on the polk2 site linked below.
Polk Co. also has a wonderful weekly newspaper that is history oriented. The Polk County News Citizens Advance houses quite a bit of genealogical and historical infomation. They are in possession of and offer copies of the Sudie Clemmer Collection which is a series of genealogical works for many Polk families. They also offer a long list of community histories and much other information.
They offer an online order service for many of the articles.
One thing one can never do when researching eastern Polk County is to ignore the Copper Mining industry. Beginning in the mid 1850's the copper mines brought in a very large number of families to work in the mines. Almost every family in the Copper Basin, including Fannin Co., Georgia was involved somehow in the industry. The high's and low's of mining were very influential on the families in the area. One such low was the 1878 legal wrangling which resulted in a wagon train removing westward into Colorado. One of the best resources to learn more is, of course, the Historical Society.
Today, much of Polk County land is owned and managed by Cherokee National Forest.