Jose Policarpio "Polly" Rodriguez
A Tejano Son of Texas
Jose Policarpio “Polly” Rodriguez was born in 1829 in present day Zaragoza, Mexico, 35 miles west of Eagle Pass, Texas. In 1840, Polly’s family moved to San Antonio and settled on San Pedro Creek and later on the Medina River. In 1842, at the age of 11, Polly was apprenticed as a “Gunsmith” to James Goodman of San Antonio.
By 1845, Polly began surveying with frontier surveyors such as John James and Richard Howard. In 1849, he helped lead the now famous “Whiting/Smith Expedition” from San Antonio to El Paso. The General of the U.S. Army of Texas made him Head Guide from 1852-1861. He also served with 2nd Cavalry under Robert E. Lee and Albert Sydney Johnston. Polly became a nationally renowned scout and in 1858 was awarded a “Presidential Citation”.
In 1861, at the start of the Civil War, Polly became a Texas Ranger. He served with Capt. B. Mitchell’s “Bandera Home Guardes” and was a member of Co. K Minutemen. At the end of the War, Polly was elected Justice of the Peace and County Commissioner of Bandera County. Also, during this time he amassed over 4,000 acres and had over 100 horses, 250 sheep and other livestock and crops.
In the late 1870s, Polly experienced “an awakening” that changed his life and included a conversion. In 1877, he became a licensed Methodist “Circuit-Rider”. Polly’s circuit encompassed Texas and parts of Mexico. In 1882, Polly finished building a limestone Chapel (known as Polly’s Chapel). This chapel still stands today and is a registered Texas Landmark.
He was married twice, first to Nicolasa Arocha in 1852, with whom he had five children and then, in 1903, to Anastasia Salinas, who bore him four children. Jose Policarpio “Polly” Rodriguez died on March 22, 1914, in Poteet, Texas. Polly’s life is a story of true courage and the indomitable spirit of Texas, its early pioneering days, its development and future.
In 1845, Jose Policarpio “Polly” Rodriguez began surveying with frontier surveyors such as John James and Richard Howard who had taught him the trade. In 1849, at the age of nineteen, his first military service began by leading the now famous “Whiting/Smith Expedition”. This “Government Road” became the critical link between Texas and San Diego California.
Then, in 1851, General Persifor Smith, appointed Polly Head Guide, Scout and Interpreter for the army. Smith’s mission in Texas was to build a number of forts stretching from Eagle Pass to Ft Worth Texas. Polly’s role was to aid in the selection of sites for these forts. In addition, he gave valuable Indian reconnaissance and intelligence to the general.
In 1855, the new 2nd Calvary arrived to garrison the new forts. They were led by Col. Albert Sydney Johnston. Polly was then re-deployed to Camp Verde in the Hill Country. Of the many engagements from this fort, the most documented is an 1858 “Hot-Pursuit” of Apaches. Polly had led a detachment into a fire-fight with the enemy and exhibited uncommon valor and gallantry. The same year a “Presidential Citation” was issued to this combat unit.
Then, at the beginning of the Civil war, Polly was offered a officers commission by both the North and South but declined. Fortunately, for Polly, the state instituted the “Texas Rangers” to patrol the frontier as the forts were now no longer garrisoned. Polly was 31 years old when he joined the ranger force and began another part of his military record to serve Texas.
Texas Ranger Service
In 1861, at the beginning of the Civil war, all the U.S. Calvary forces had left all the frontier forts, and thereby left settlers unprotected. As a result, the great state of Texas, instituted the Frontier Forces, ie “Texas Rangers”. More than ten ranging companies were established to protect the entire Texas frontier. This became an incredible challenge for the men who rode with a star.
Although, Polly had served with the U.S. Army for almost twelve years, he chose to remain in Bandera and his home town. Subsequently, the CSA offered him a Captain’s commission, which he declined. Later, he joined the Blanden Mitchell “Bandera Home Guardes”. Mitchell was a local horse rancher on the Medina River and was well respected. It was widely known that Polly was an expert scout, guide and Indian fighter. As a result, Polly was immediately sought to bring his expert military combat skills to bear on the force. It is also known they patrolled far and wide and especially during “Hot-Pursuits”.
“Polly’s Ranger record, listed at the Adjutant General’s Offce, denotes service from 1861 to 1865 with the ”Bandera Home Guardes”. Many times during this period, engagements against hostile Indians and outlaws took place. Then from 1865 to 1874 “Polly” served with Lt. Robert Ballintine’s “Co. K Minutemen” from Bandera County. It is also important to note, that Polly was often in command of ranger units that patrolled the frontier and gave “hot-pursuit”. Polly’s service was stead-fast, honorable and an unselfish contribution to the security of the community and state of Texas.
J.P. “Polly” Rodriguez was born in 1829 and grew up on his father’s ranch in Zaragoza, Coahuila y Texas. He was taught all about horses, longhorns and ranching duties by his older brothers, uncles and grandfathers. Also, he was taught the art of survival in the frontier and how to be independent and self reliant.
By the age of twenty, he had apprenticed as a gunsmith, trained as a surveyor and had served as a scout and guide for the US Army throughout Texas. In 1855, he was posted to Camp Verde in Kerr County. While on a military mission to retrieve lost camels from the fort, he discovered the Privilege Creek Valley and vowed to purchase land there.
In 1855, Jose Policarpio “Polly” Rodriguez purchased 350 acres of land in the valley from Judge John James. Ultimately, he began the J.P. Rodriguez Settlement, built a two story limestone home known as the Fort and assembled over 4,000 acres for his ranching interests. He was known to be an excellent judge and manager of horses and livestock and regularly sold his stock to the military and community. Polly’s stock won first place prizes at the annual San Antonio International Livestock Show for several years in a row.