Few family names are as well known as “Paulk” in Irwin County and surrounding areas. From Paulk Funeral Homes to Paulk Park to the many offices, stores, streets and dirt roads bearing the name Paulk, it would be difficult to travel to Irwin County and not meet a Paulk, or at least someone related to a Paulk. Many times, the question is asked, “Are you related to ‘so-and-so’ Paulk?” That question can be tough to answer as there are so many branches in the Paulk family tree. Ten generations in Irwin County – some with 8 or more children – make it hard to keep up!
The first Paulk to live in Irwin County was Micajah Paulk (1772-1847), who moved with his family soon after the creation of Irwin County in 1818. Four generations of Paulks later, Jacob Austin Paulk married Rachel Harper and began farming land from his wife’s family. Their son, Lott Paulk, married Rachel Vickers and built a home on that land in 1897. Lott and Rachel’s baby boy, Jacob Willis, was born and raised in that home. He and his wife, Judy, moved back to that home to continue the tradition of farming and raising a family.
Today, that land is known as Paulk Vineyards. Jacob Willis planted his first muscadine vine in 1970. Two of his sons, Gary and JW, Jr., grow muscadines as well, and have their own farming operations on and near that land.
His grandson, Chris, runs Muscadine Products Corporation, manufacturing products such as juices and dietary supplements from muscadines. Jacob Willis Paulk’s great-grandchildren are the sixth generation of Paulks on that land!
The legacy of the Paulk family is built on faith, family, and farming. They work hard to be good stewards of the land they are blessed to call home. Painted on the side of an old building on the farm is “I am the vine; you are the branches” – a constant reminder of their faith. Throughout history, Paulk family members have been pillars of the community. Today, they continue to strive for leadership, both on the farm and anywhere else they go.