Maury County, in Middle Tennessee, possesses some of the richest farmland in the state. In the pre-Civil War era, the city of Columbia was an important political and cultural center and housed the home and law office of James K. Polk, prior to his election as President of the United States in 1844. The city and county were also home to large enslaved population, mostly engaged in plantation agriculture on a vast scale. The environs of Columbia still bear the names of some of the plantation districts, such as Ashwood and Mt. Pleasant. Many individuals on these huge self-sufficient plantations developed artisan and mechanics skills that proved useful in the post-Emancipation period when communities constructed churches and schools to serve a large population of freedmen and women.