Founder of Tejano settlement was known for a life of adventure

Policarpio ‘Polly’ Rodriguez went from rugged frontiersman to preacher

POLLY, Texas – The chapel, a schoolhouse and a family cemetery are all that remain of Polly, Texas, southeast of Bandera, a settlement of about 30 Tejano pioneers and their families founded in the mid-1850′s by Policarpio “Polly” Rodriguez.

Yet by then, Rudi Rodriguez, a San Antonio businessman, said his ancestor had led a life of adventure as a rugged frontiersman in what was then the wild frontier of the Texas Hill Country.

“He was larger than life,” Rodriguez said.

Growing up watching TV westerns, Rodriguez said, compared to Polly, “Roy Rogers didn’t cut it.”

If anything, Rodriguez said Polly was more like James Bowie, Davy Crockett and Kit Carson, “rolled into one.”

He said Polly’s father and grandfather were frontiersmen as well in the Mexican state of Coahuila.

Yet, he said Polly was much more than an Army scout and guide known for taking on mountain lions, bears and hostile Indians.

Rodriguez said Polly went on to become a justice of the peace, a county judge, county commissioner, surveyor, rancher, and a Texas Ranger.

He said it was during his time in Camp Verde helping oversee the U.S Army’s Great Camel Experiment that Polly’s life took a different turn.

When some of the camels took off, Rodriguez said Polly used his tracking skills to find them along a creek.

But Polly also saw lush native grasses for foraging and grazing and an abundant source of water.

“For him it was paradise,” Rodriguez said. “He was determined to purchase some of it and begin his ranch.”

In all, he said Polly acquired 4,000 acres, part of which became the first Tejano pioneer settlement in the Texas Hill Country.

Many of those early ranching families, he said, were among the Tejanos who no longer felt comfortable living in San Antonio after the fall of the Alamo.

The most distinctive feature out there is Polly’s Peak, the tallest in Bandera County.

Although Polly, Texas, thrived for a time, Rodriguez said by the end of the 19th century, subsistence farming in small rural communities became harder and harder.

He said with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing and service industries began to grow in San Antonio.

Rodriguez said the jobs they offered “provided a magnet to persons in small towns to seek out their futures.”

World War II also drafted young men and women to work, he said, spelling the beginning of the end for small towns like Polly.

But there is still an active Polly Texas Pioneer Association.

As for Polly himself, Rodriguez said during the last half of Polly’s life, “The word of the Lord came to him. He has an epiphany.”

He said Polly left the Catholic faith and became a Methodist, and eventually a circuit preacher going from town to town.

After that, Rodriguez said Polly met and married his second wife, a much younger woman who gave him four sons.

Yet in 1914 at the age of 85, the man who had braved harsh environments in his early life died of pneumonia.

Rodriguez said Polly was unprepared for a blue norther while taking coats and blankets to a family with none.

He said that speaks to who Polly Rodriguez was, as described on his headstone, “By nature, strong, fearless, daring, by grace an apostle to his people.”

His descendant said he believes Polly’s spirit has fueled his love of Tejano history. Rodriguez is the founder of, and he was instrumental in Tejano Moments, a series of historical vignettes, with KSAT reporter Erica Hernandez. Both were recently honored by the Texas Historical Commission.

About the Authors

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.

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