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A peek into Polk history

Published October 3, 2003

The historic Polk County courthouse, built in 1908 in the heart of Bartow, has been restored and houses the Polk County Historical Museum.

Professional exhibits explore the first Indian inhabitants, pioneers, political history, farming, agriculture, early town life, law enforcement and tourism of Polk County.

An antique bottle collection and arrowhead collection is on loan to the museum from Benjamin "Cotton" Walker. The 77-year-old has called Bartow his home since the 1920s and usually volunteers on Saturdays giving tours and telling stories.

Newspaper clippings, photos and other information about old Polk County are found within the courthouse.

A law enforcement exhibit on display until the end of October includes uniforms, weapons, photos of all Polk County sheriff's, badges, handcuffs and a jar of moonshine confiscated in 1951.

A Florida Cracker exhibit offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of early Central Florida when cattle roamed freely and cowboys cracked whips to round them up.

A list of Cracker remedies posted includes frying five frogs and applying to painful arthritic areas.

Agricultural tools and implements, photos of huge banana trees and land planted in pineapples take visitors back to the early 1900s.

The second floor showcases two restored courtrooms, and a gift shop and genealogical library on the first floor complete the museum.

Polk County Historical Museum

Where: 100 E Main St., Bartow. (863) 534-4386 Take State Road 60 east to Bartow; Business 60 becomes Main Street.

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday, Monday and holidays.

Cost: Free.

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