Talk of Wilson County TX Historic Towns

by Barbara J. Wood
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Painting a portrait of Miss Polley
Katherine Goldberg shared this writing in the May 2016 "The Polley Association" Newsletter. Katherine's words paint a true portrait of the beloved Miss Polley.
"When I visited Wilson County this past February for the Joseph H. Polley Hall of Honor Induction, I was fortunate enough to get to see the Polley property and visit the Polley family cemetery. As I sat in the cemetery at near sunset in the company of our ancestors, I looked up to the Polley Mansion, sitting just up the road. This grand home carries scars, but those scars tell stories. She has stood for over 165 years, bearing witness to the splendid heights of Texas pioneer society, and also the crushing lows of families broken apart and scattered. Through the years, she has been lovingly cared for, and also left for ruin. But a new day has dawned, and she is still there, scars and all, standing proud and ready for her revival. Within the Polley Association, we will support the restoration efforts as much as we are able, and we will continue to care for the hallowed ground at the Polley family cemetery which was so lovingly restored for our ancestors. "
Polley Mansion circa 1964
Perhaps the most extensive account of Mary's {Mary Bailey Polley} cooking skills was detailed in Joseph B. Polley's "Historical Reminiscences" article of 1 December 1907.  In the article, Polley had been recalling some of his most memorable Thanksgivings — 1850, when he was in New York living with his Uncle Jonathan; 1860, while he was in school in Alabama when Abraham Lincoln had just been elected and talk of secession was in the air; 1861, at his Confederate camp in Dumfries, Virginia; 1862, camping with the Confederate army in Fredericksburg, Virginia and "feasting" on bacon, bread, and coffee made out of parched rye; 1863, as his company was besieging Knoxville and the fare was bacon and cornbread; and 1864, when he was in the Howard Grove Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. However, by far the most memorable was Thanksgiving dinner at the Polley Whitehall Mansion, possibly the first Thanksgiving in the new house, in 1854. He unfolded the story thus:
"The next Thanksgiving dinner that occupies a place in our memory, was that of 1854. I was in Texas, down on the Cibolo, and there was a ham at one end of the table, a couple of wild turkeys at the other—a saddle of prime venison in the center, between it and the ham a pan of chicken pie, and between it and the turkeys a platter on which reposed half a dozen teal ducks. On a side table were the spare ribs from three hogs killed the day before, a large plate of stuffed sausage seasoned with whole pods of pepper, and an immense bowl of chittlings. Flanking these main dishes, were sweet potatoes, turnips, big hominy, butter, pickles (sweet and sour) and corn and wheat bread. Back behind in the kitchen, ready to be produced at the proper time, were pies and cakes and a pudding. Never a boy worked as hard and as willingly as we did in running errands for his mother and sisters and getting a feast ready—but alas, never a boy realized more comfort from anticipation, and less from actual eating, than fell to our lot. Because that morning, while wending our way to the store after the loaf sugar that was needed to round out the feast, we had scared a wild deer from its lair, and boylike, had given chase to it until a meddlesome cow got in the way of our steed and caused him to turn a somersault that sent his rider flying broadcast through the air until halted by a collision with the frozen ground—the result being half an hour of unconsciousness and a sprained thumb joint—the family doctor took alarm and put us on a diet of gruel. Ordinarily, there might have been enough remnants of the feast to give a fellow a square meal the next day, but it didn't happen so that day—the home folks numbering fully twenty-five, the guests as many more, and there being at least six boys by the name of Houston among the latter."
The menu for Thanksgiving dinner at the Polley Whitehall Mansion in 1854 certainly reflected the effort of a woman "gifted with unbounded energy." Regrettably, her son did not get to partake of the bounty.
In the rear of the main house, twenty-five feet back from the right side was the old kitchen.  It was connected with the house by a lattice-enclosed room, which was used as a summer dining room, and in which the cowboys were fed.  The kitchen was an extremely well built single room log cabin made of hand-hewn post oak logs.  Cooking was done on a large open fireplace.  
But not all was so dire.  The Polley home was known as a place of large gatherings and great joy.  Mrs. Polley was a wonderful woman, gifted with unbounded energy, of small stature, with a lively disposition, and never showing anger.  She was the first one up in t he morning and the last one to bed at night.  The supervision of the dairy, the management of the housekeeping, overseeing of the cooking for a large family, and in season, of a hoarde of hungry cowboys, the rearing of nine children, besides entertaining a constant strem of visitors, made her days full, indeed. (Courtesy of
(Mary Bailey Polley) She was probably the first woman in South Texas to own a sewing machine and an iron cooking stove.  In contrast to the daily marketing of the average housewife today, it is said that the Polley family only purchased groceries twice a year.  They were procured at Indianola (roughly 120 miles away), and transported over land by ox-drawn wagon.  As was the general rule in Texas up until the Civil War, flour was scarce, and hot biscuits were a Sunday morning treat.  Mrs. Polley excelled in preserving fruit, and was famous for her brandied peaches and cream, buttermilk, biscuits, baked hams, fried chicken, and  game dinners.
(Courtesy of
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A.H. Polley tells how he turned the Western Trail...
A. H. POLLEY, known the cattle world over as Hub Polley of Austin, Texas, talks as unconcernedly about the filibustering and colonization eras; the Texas revolution and establishment of the Republic, as of present affairs of State. And with reason; for Jean Lafitte's dare-deviltry in defying the embargo act the failure of Long's invasion, the freebooters, and smugglers infested coast regions, were as much discussed in his childhood home as are the latest scientific discoveries, or airplane records in our own today. And the name of Polley is inalienably allied with Texas independence from the first faint whisper to the victory on San Jacinto's battlefield.
The parents of young Joe Polley had, upon learning that Moses Austin had made application for a colonization land grant from the Mexican Government in the province called Texas, resolved that when the time was ripe they would be among the first to make the journey. It was, therefore, with genuine regret that they learned of Austin's death, June 10, 1821. Not only for the loss of a man of outstanding qualities and character, but for the removal of such a signal leader. In addition to this was the personal discomforture entailed by the disarrangement of plans for participating in a novel journey and an adventurous undertaking, together with the relinquishment of the alluring prospect of acquiring land by reciting the colonist' s oath, the title to 640 acres of land, with an extra 160 acres for each child in the family and eighty for each slave brought for location.
But the scales turned the following August when word was conveyed to them by Stephen F. Austin, to hold themselves in readiness for colonization at an early date, for by intercession, on the part of one, Baron de Bastrop with Governor Martinez, the grant had been obtained and that it was his purpose to carry out, in detail, the plans of his beloved father. He, also, stated that the Mexican colonization law had so changed that the head of each colonist family would obtain 4,605 acres of land instead of the promised 640, with a settlement of 1,476 acres on every unmarried man, upon location. A further proviso accompanied it stating that owners of mills or other public utility buildings should receive additional acreage. Town lots upon which to erect business buildings were to be given and all taxation withheld for a period of six years.
The grant selected by Austin, lay directly south of the San Antonio road, between the San Jacinto and Lavaca Rivers, a most productive and desirable area, which to reach involved a long and tiresome journey as those who made it could testify. But one that was teeming with interest, unusual situations and novel experiences. New babies were born en route, the train halting temporarily until the attendant physician smilingly announced to the joyful parents that they were now entitled to another 160 acres of Texas land. Marriages were solemnized, brides bedecked in orange blossoms and wedding veils; their dressing rooms covered wagons, the bridal altar nature's own, wayside greenery forming a pastoral setting and the violin bow singing across the strings to the soft thrum of banjo accompaniment, as the minister spoke the solemn, "I now pronounce you man and wife." And sorrow also walked along, as more than one new made grave gave silent testimony.
Having arrived at Austin's grant of ten leagues of land, young Joe's father was accorded a headright, while he must needs content himself with a single man's allotment. Right bravely did the colonists attack the frontier problems confronting them and with such combined and concentrated effort that twelve months of time showed a wonderful development.
Early in the year of 1822 the parents of charming Mary Bailey, who later was wooed and won by young Joseph Polley, joined the group of colonists. To Mr. Bailey was also given a headright, in the assignment of which a mistake was made and Austin having assured himself that such was the case, sent a letter to Bailey stating it would be necessary for him to move to another tract. That letter, today, occupies a prominent place in the historical annals of Texas, framed as it is and hung on the bloodstained walls of the Alamo.
In April of that year, Austin having successfully established a goodly number of his required 300 colonists, took occasion to report to officials in San Antonio; whereupon he was informed that because of an unexpected revolution in Mexico it was necessary for him to go to Mexico City and ascertain his exact power of control in the colony and also to obtain a renewal of his grant. A most disconcerting requirement, coming at a very inopportune time, for new colonists were daily expected by boat and it seemed absolutely essential that he be on the ground to receive and locate them. But, realizing the necessity for expediency, he appointed Josiah Bell, a recent colonist, to supervise in his absence, of supposedly a month or so. He was astonished upon arriving in Mexico City, to find the country in such a state of upheaval that a stay of more than a year was required for the consummation of his business. But he left with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel to command militia and make war against all Indians attacking the colony. A wise provision, since in his absence the expected shiploads of settlers having arrived, with no definite instruction as to specific location, had camped temporarily on the Colorado River, only to be attacked and robbed of all their stores by the Carancahus Indians. This raid had occasioned such fear and dissatisfaction that many of the colonists had moved to other locations. But with Austin's return they came hurrying back. New settlers arrived and notwithstanding that from 1821 to 1824 Mexico was ruled by four different kinds of government, the 300 families required to make the Austin grant safe were successfully located before 1825.
"But there were two of the colonists upon whom neither revolutions nor mutinies registered any effect, Joseph H. and Mary Bailey Polley. Too joyously happy were they in their newfound married life to give time, or ear, to matters of discontent, and thus did they remain on their colony claim until 1847, when, with their little ones, they moved from Brazoria County down on the Cibola Creek, thirty miles cast of San Antonio, where they founded and stocked a large ranch with 1,500 cattle. It would have been a somewhat difficult task to have outlined the grazing limits, since the creek was the dividing line between Bexar and Guadalupe Counties, governed by the law of the open range, with the nearest neighbor twenty miles away. The town of Sutherland Springs was then unborn and it was a wild land. The West was filled with dangers on every hand.
"Soon after my father moved to the Cibola, a man moved in and built a sort of rock fort, as a protection from Indians, who were riding every full moon and watching their chance for deviltry at all times. I was just a little shaver at the time so what I tell you of redskins will naturally be disconnected and the things that most impressed me at the time they occurred. The first of these was when the Indians stole every horse and mule father had, leaving him no alternative but to herd his cattle on the open range on foot, until he could buy more. Not an easy job in a new country with so few people, but the loss was scarcely considered by my parents, since we were left unharmed.
"Shortly after the raid a young man came galloping up on a beautiful white horse, its shoulders and flanks dripping with blood from his constant spurring to outdistance the Indians in pursuit and who must have been so few in number that they were afraid to follow him to the house and risk an outnumbered fight. The blacks washed the blood off, fed, curried, watered and rubbed the animal, then made him a good bed on which to rest when he had finished eating. I was highly interested in those proceedings and even more so I listening to their conversation about what they would do in such a predicament, never dreaming they would soon have an opportunity of proving it.
"An immense mustang grape grew within a few hundred yards of our house and when the grapes began to ripen mother sent two of our negro men to gather them so she could preserve and make jelly of them. While they were busy at this some Indians slipped up on them and got between them and the house. They jumped on their horses but could not get anywhere, for a dash either direction found the redskins right after them. Each of them carried what was called a machete, a big long knife, and one of them pulled his and made a run for the house. Strange to say, the Indians did not attempt to kill him, preferring, I suppose, to take him alive, which they did by roping him. While this was in progress the other one, who was riding a faster horse, dashed up the creek, crossed it and made it home. We never knew what happened to the man they captured but when mother sent again for grapes a well-armed guard went along to protect the pickers.
"I was just 10 years old when the Indians made their last attack and depredation in our country. There was a large band of them and they were out to kill and do every other kind of meanness they could, including driving off all of the live stock. Ten miles above us on the Cibola they murdered a black woman and coming on down five miles they killed Jewett McGee, the son of a Presbyterian preacher. Father had built a big two-story rock house in 1854, the largest building in all of that section, and when the folks in the settlement, for it was fairly well settled then, heard of the Indian devilment and the route they were taking, they all hurried to our house.
"We had moved into it before it was completed, but there was plenty of room and we were glad to have our neighbors with us. It was the best opportunity we children ever had for a real playfest and I remember how rebellious we were because our mothers would not let us play in the yard. After a long wait we heard the band had passed within three or four miles of us. Just after they got by, a newcomer, from Missouri, who owned a fine blooded bay horse, came and told father and the neighbor men about it and they got things ready immediately to follow them, Colonel Wyatt, in command, was tendered the fine horse as a mount and they made good time, reading signs easily and feeling sure of successfully overtaking them, when it began raining and washing out the traces so that it was difficult to follow their route. But they persevered until in crossing the San Antonio River it was discovered that their store of powder had become watersoaked. Of course that put an end to all of their plans and they were forced to abandon pursuit.
"In 1854 John James of San Antonio drove a herd of cattle to California and father sold him 150 head of the cattle. I was only 9 years old, but keen to drive, and father permitted me to go as far as Caswell, where our delivery was to be made. It was scary times all right, for Indians were everywhere. One night we camped on the Leona and penned the herd because of a heavy fog that made it so easy for the Indians to creep up without us seeing them. We were afraid to drive further, although we were only a short distance from Caswell at the time. Next morning the fog still hung thick all around us and we did not turn the cattle out until it cleared up. About 9 o'clock it lifted so that we could distinguish objects in most every direction within a reasonable distance and we started the herd, making it to our point of delivery without seeing, or suffering any outrage from Indians. The buyer of the cattle held them right there until dark of the moon on account of what the boys told him about suspicious indications of Indians being on the watch for a chance to raid.
"From there we went to San Antonio, where I put up at the Plaza Hotel with the other cowboys and felt bigger than any of them did, as we took in the sights of the city after dark. I recollect well, that Bell Brothers, jewelers, were then located in an adobe building where they were melting silver to make teaspoons, to me a marvelous sight. If my memory serves me right, John H. James was the owner of the only two-story building in town at the time. James' first wife was my sister and when she died he married again and because it is such a rare occurrence I want right here to state that his second wife was just as good and kind to my parents and their family as my own sister could have been. Vint James is the only one of that family now living.
"In 1862 at San Antonio I lined up with the Confederacy at the age of 17 years and served two years through "shot and shell, and war is hell" on the border. The spring of 1864 found me home again, where I worked the range for my father until I was 21.
"At that time father owned two ranches and when I had turned my majority year he appointed me manager of the west side of the San Antonio River. My nearest ranch neighbor was five miles away and the next one ten. There was no farming being done then to amount to anything . Everything was cattle and horses. I had a big outfit and a bigger job, but I handled it all by myself. But I hadn't any spare time in doing it. We owned about as many cattle at that time as anybody in the State. I remember the year of 1862 we branded more than 6,000 calves on the two ranches, not counting those on the range at rounding up time, and from then on the increase was enormous. It took everlasting keeping at it to keep up with all of the cattle, with the range reaching, it seemed then, from one side of Texas to the other. But I stayed on the job until 1871.
"Trail driving was running high then, and I decided I would give it one round if I was just 21 years old. Father told me to go to it if I felt I wanted to and I gathered a 1,000 beef cattle to start. Falling in with Frank Newsome from Goliad County, who had been up the previous year and was going again, I persuaded him to go along with me, or that is to drive in close proximity as the trail was an old story to him. And I drove that herd from Kansas County to Ablene. Kan., without so much as a stampede. I have always given the credit for that to Newsome, for he helped and guided me like a father and was one of the finest, cleanest men God ever made. He was familiar with every watering place, knew where we should camp and all such things that make for safety and meant a lot in handling cattle on a two or three months' drive, and saved a fellow a whole bunch of trouble.
"In almost every county we passed through, bill of sales to the cattle we drove, had to be produced when asked for by the officers, and Newsome was held up on it every time, while I got by with only one showing—at Denton, Texas. Never could figure it out either, why they let me go on without molestation and bothered him, unless it was because I was so young and full of pep and determination that they took it for granted that I knew what I was about. It has always been a mystery to me for there never was a straighter, better man than Frank Newsome and he was much older than myself. I reckon it was just a happen so and that it might have been the exact opposite the next trip.
"I forgot to say, awhile ago, that I was married the year before I made that drive, to Miss Belle Beverly, daughter of Judge Beverly of Dodge City, known to the trail drivers as one of the firm of Wright & Beverly owners of the largest dry goods and clothing store in Dodge City. We began our home making in Karnes County near the Beverly homestead. But Belle had promised her mother, and mine, to divide time staying with them in my absence. I was not uneasy about her safety while I was away, but I was young, high strung and very much in love with my wife; so when we reached Abilene I turned the cattle over to Judge Beverly to sell for me and I took the back trail. That trip then, was no twelve hour affair either, I want you to know; for we went by train to New Orleans, thence by boat to Galveston, from there by rail again to Columbus and finally by four-horse stage to San Antonio. Nor was my journey completed then, for I rode horseback to our Cibola ranch, having a hunch that my wife would be with my parents about that time, only to find when I got there that she was at Mrs. Beverly's twenty-five miles further on, and I didn't mark any time in making that distance I am telling you.
"I stayed home and worked our cattle then until the spring of 1872, then I put another trail herd, expecting to take it up myself. But having the chance to sell at a fair price I did it.
"The railroad was then under way between Victoria and Cuero and it struck me that by taking a bunch of horses down there and making a contract to get out railroad ties I would make some good money. But, as sometimes happens, it was a costly experiment. I lost more than I made and went back home a sadder and wiser man. Most of the settlers then had begun to give farming a trial and I decided that if they could succeed at it I could, too, or at least make a showing. So I pitched in and made a good crop, selling at a fair price the year 1873. But the following year was a complete crop failure and I can not say that I was half as sorry as I should have been, for no cowman takes to farming like a duck to water, and it is generally a sort of 'hafto' proposition when they tackle it.
"I lined up with Sebastian Bell in the cattle business again and felt better satisfied. My agreement with him was that I should come out and help gather a herd of cattle, do the driving, he paying me wages while I was about it. Then, in the spring we were to sell and divide profits fifty-fifty. I rounded up quite a good-sized herd, put it in the pasture to winter and in the spring I went down on the King Ranch intending to work the range back and bring in all I found wearing our brand. When I got hack I found Bell had rounded up all of the cattle I had put into the pasture, sold them and met me with the suggestion that I gather another herd for my share. I told him there was nothing doing; to pay me my wages and buy my horses and I would go hack the way I came. It was done and I left his employ just that way.
"George West had a bunch of wild, bad brush cattle that he wanted to sell and I went to San Antonio to arrange for money to buy them. While there I met Tobe Odom, who, after hearing my plan, said: 'Huh, there is no one man on earth that can handle those cattle in one herd. They are paying good prices at Austin now. Suppose we contract them a hundred or two hundred at a time, sell them and make some real money.' I agreed to that, but it so happened that we could not do any contracting, and I, after spending what money I had trying, decided that it began to look like farming for me again. However, I made one trip up the trail—the year of 1875 that was, came back home and went to working my own stock. Then in the spring of 1876 I sold my ranch and farm and went to Floresville and turned merchant.
"Early in the year of 1877 I went to San Antonio to stock up on store supplies, and, having a few minutes of leisure one day, I went around to a friend's office to say hello to him. He greeted me with, 'Hub Polley, the very man we are looking for. ' With that he introduced me to a Mr. Frasier, saying 'You are looking for a man to take charge of your herd on that trail drive. This is the one right here and you could not find a better or more reliable one in the world.' Frasier was a Scotchman, a sort of quiet-like kind of man, and he said: 'Mr. Polley, let's go and have a glass of beer.' While we were drinking he said again: 'Will you take my cattle up for me?' I replied, 'Well, I will if you wil l pay me for it. I have been done so much lately that I am sort of dubious about taking a job any more and my mercantile business is going pretty fair now.' He answered me with, 'I will pay you $125 a month and furnish everything. If that will be satisfactory to you, we will go right over to the bank and I will identify you so you can get what money you will need for supplies.' I said 'That suits me fine. ' When we walked into the bank first one and another of the officers and employes began shaking my hand and talking to me, and Frasier, standing around watching them, finally came to me and said: 'By gracious, they know you a blamed sight better than they do me. I guess you won't need any identification here.' Right then he put things entirely in my hands, saying, 'Polley, you go right ahead and take full charge. The outfit and chuck wagon are ready whenever you are. We have a few cattle, but you will have to buy more, a quantity sufficient to make up a good, strong herd. I will bring you the cash to pay for them, for you will have to have it in dealing with Mexicans. They will not take checks.'
"I went hack to Floresville and put the proposition before my wife. She thought like I did, that it was best that I should accept it, so I straightened out the business, hurried back and went right out to looking up and buying cattle. When I needed money to pay for them Frasier was right with it, 'Johnny on the spot. ' I remember one time he gave me a $1,000 bill and I had to carry the thing around in my pocket a month or so before I could get rid of it.
"Finally I had 2,500 head together and I took the outfit and drove them through to Dodge City, where I made delivery and settled up with Frasier, who said to me: 'Hub, I will put up the money if you will go to Texas, buy up a herd and trail it up here. We will sell it and divide profits. How does that suit you?' I said 'I like the idea.'
"I thought over Frasier's offer and knowing him to be strictly on the square, as well as feeling a little flattered by the confidence imposed in me; and the lee-way he gave men in handling his cattle. I told him that I would take him up on his proposition. I came back home and starting to buying right then and the fall of '77 we had fine grass so cattle came through in good shape. I bought all of that winter and when spring came I had 2,500 cattle on hand.
"There were two brothers, named Brothers, who wanted to go along with me when I started my buying in Mexico. They were in the same business and did not know Mexicans as well as I did. I told them I would be glad to have them. I put $5,000 in silver and $1,000 in gold into some boxes and set them in the wagon. The gold was for custom money for if we brought cattle across the Rio Grande it required gold to do it. Then with $3,000 in currency in my pocket to pay for my purchases I started down into Mexico. Brothers put his money in his wagon, something like $9,000 in silver, perhaps a few hundred more. Anyhow we had together somewhere around $19,000 or $20,000 along with us. When we reached the cattle country I contracted for some cattle and went to buy some horses over in another section, leaving a Mexican in charge of the cattle to put a good taste in the mouths of the others around about there. When I returned he said to me, 'Some men came while you were gone and offered the owners of the cattle more money than you were to pay for them so they have agreed that you can not have them.' Knowing Mexicans like I did, I felt pretty sure that it was a frame-up, so I said nothing much back to him. But I told Brothers that we would stay 'round a spell and see what came of it. The third night after that I noticed that both the Mexicans and cattle were gone and I said to the boys, 'I smell a mouse. We are in the middle of a bad fix or my name is not Hub Polley. Those rascals are planning to raid us, knowing that we have a lot of money. We could put up a pretty stiff fight but I believe the best thing for us to do with our two outfits is to hitch up, get out by daybreak in the morning, make for Corpus Christi and put our money in the bank."
"They agreed that it was a good plan and we acted upon it. I rode with the wagon to within two day's drive of Corpus Christi. Then I came back to see what had happened to the few cattle that I had bought and paid for. When I rode up to the place where I had been camped I found that by thwarting the devilish plans of those scoundrels I could buy all of the cattle I wanted. Moreover that I could get all of the money necessary to swing a deal and give checks for it. There was a Mexican at Paloma running a store, from whom I had bought 150 cattle, who was so gracious to me that he told me he would stand good for any amount I needed until I could go over to Rancher Davis and get it.
"When I started to get the money at Rancher Davis I took a Mexican along that was a pretty square sort of fellow. He said, 'We had better not leave here until after dark. We are being watched and I don't know what might happen.' I took his word for it and when night came we mounted our horses and struck out. About midnight we came to a little draw and being tired and sleepy I said. 'We will pull down into that thick mesquite brush and sleep awhile.' Next morning, the Mexican awoke me with, 'Look yonder.' I roused up and not far away from us there lay five or six Mexicans sound asleep. They followed us and not finding where we went, they lay down to sleep until morning. 'We had better keep quiet and get away as soon as we can,' said my man. Again I took his advice and we made a quick get-away to the store of the Mexican where I made my headquarters for those whom I owed to come and get their pay. After that I bought 1,000 cattle more and knowing that I could get all that I heeded in Live Oak County to finish out my herd, I left it with them. Glad enough I was to be dealing with sure enough cattle men on my native soil once again I tell you.
"I bought 1,500 more head, then hit the trail for Kansas with my 2,500. At Fort Griffin I received a letter from Frasier in which he told me that he had sold the herd at Adobe Walls, on the Canadian River, to Bates and Beall of the Turkey Track ranch. Then followed directions telling me how to get there. I followed the instructions exactly and the road he specified led me to Adobe Walls, where Charlie Goodnight ranched. There I met him for the first time. He told me that it was thirty-five miles farther to Bates and Bealls' place, to follow the next intersecting road and it would lead me there. I did as he said and shortly wound up there and delivered the cattle.
"Frasier met me and after we had settled up our business we left for Dodge City together. There, after talking things over with my father-in-law, Judge Beverly, I decided that maybe it would be more profitable for me to move up there. I wrote my wife and told her to be ready when I came for her for we must hurry back. When I got to Texas she was not only ready but had everything shaped up for an immediate journey and we were on our way right now. The trip was uneventful and quickly made, for those days of slow transportation, and when we arrived I found my job already cut out and waiting for me—a fellow wanted me to hold 3,000 head of cattle there to fatten. Late that fall he took them off of my hands and I stayed at home with my folks until the next spring.
"Next day 1,200 more came in. We counted them out and again I wrote a check in payment, at Evans' instruction. This done, we consolidated the herds and Evans said. 'You hold them until I get somebody else to do it.' I herded them around there about a week and one day he said, 'Look out a good place to hold these cattle, Hub; I will find somebody before long to take care of them.' That was in June. I found the place, all right, took care of them and waited to see when I was ever going to get back on that 'easy job' Evans promised me. About in October Evans came to me and said, 'Hub, we want to establish camp on the Wichita and I want you to lead out with this herd and select the place for winter headquarters.' It was a 100-mile drive, with no settlements to obstruct the way, so I struck a bee line west, hit the Wichita and pitched camp. Next morning I took two of the boys and went up the river looking for a permanent camping place. About twenty-five miles farther upstream we found it and I sent word by a man to Fort Reno that I had established a camp and they could send on the other cattle. We went into winter quarters with 10,000 beef cattle right there. It was as fine a grazing place as one could want, grass was good and the cattle came through in fine shape.
"Our men were employed all of the time during the winter to drive the beeves to Fort Reno and Anadarko; delivery was to be made twice a month to the Indians there. Sometimes the cattle were delivered to the Sac and Fox agencies, also to Fort Sill. Believe me, I was one busy man, for I had to be on hand at every delivery made, to stand by the side of the agent as each animal was weighed out and see that the weights were correct. Some job, when you stop to consider how many cattle we turned in that season. But those Indians thought I was just about the correct thing to stay with them like that and see that they were not cheated in weight.
"Our contract with the Government did not expire until June, 1880, but long before that time I had a telegram from a man named Healy, asking me if I would go to Padre Island in Texas, gather a herd of cattle there and drive them to Kansas. I replied that I would if I could get away and would take the contract at $150 per month. Putting it up to my company, they said that if I would come to St. Louis and put the books into shape they would let me off to make the trip.
"I was to meet Healy in Kansas City, just 250 miles from Dodge City, where my wife was, whom I had not seen in six months, and, would you believe it, right there I waited a whole week for that man to meet me. When he finally showed up he said, 'I have got to go down through Missouri and you can go on up to Dodge while I am gone. I will meet you in a few days in St. Louis.' I did not need any urging and started on the trip that very day. But having the impression that he would not be away but a few days, I only stayed with my family two days before going back to shape up my books and be ready to start when he was. I finished my work and put in another ten days waiting on Healy and thinking what an idiot I was to leave my loved ones so soon when I might have had such a nice visit with them. But I had a delightful stay, with that exception, for old Captain Evans, formerly of Gonzales, Texas, showed me one fine time.
"We left the day following Healy's return, by train to Galveston, from there by boat to Indianola and the next day, after landing, I took a sailboat to Corpus Christi and made a deal for sixty head of horses; then went to Padre Island to begin work. Having previously arranged for supplies to be delivered, I was somewhat surprised when I arrived with my outfit to find nothing to eat. But no provisions were in sight, nor any boat, either. We were hungry, having done without dinner, so we started on a foraging trip, or perhaps I should have said on one of investigation. Anyhow, we came up with a fellow bathing sea gull eggs and we bought enough for our supper. Now, gull eggs, eaten without salt or bread, could be improved upon, no doubt of that, but we ate them ravenously for all of that, though I can not say much for their filling qualities when eaten that way. Alongabout midnight I heard a boat land and, later a cargo being docked, or at least that was what it sounded like. This, in turn, was followed by somebody bringing something into our camp and I got up to inquire about it and was told that it was the man with our supplies. Asking why he was so late about getting them to us, the reply was, 'I wait for wind enough to sail the boat.' News to me, that was, although if I had given a minute to figuring it out when I was so worried about supper time doubtless I would have felt less uneasiness about the possibility of doing without breakfast. I was familiar with the hurricane deck of a buckskin cow pony, all right, but running a sailboat was entirely out of my line.
"We had a good breakfast and then came the problem of how to get those cattle off of that island to the mainland. Rounding them up and getting them shapeu to move was the first job, and then we figured out a plan to get them ashore. We waited until low tide every day and by driving 400 or 500 at a time across to the pasture I had secured about thirty miles away, we finally put them all over. Then branding was in order. With that accomplished, the chuck wagon provisioned and all of the other details attended to, we were off on the home run, meaning the cattle trail.
"Things went as smoothly as could be expected until the cattle became accustomed to constant driving. We found our first obstacle the Nueces River, which was out of banks. There we waited a month for it to recede with seemingly no prospect of its doing so before spring. So we pitched in and swam it which I would never have done had I foreseen that which occurred. That is that we would lose six good saddle horses and forty head of cattle by doing it. Yes, sir, that is exactly what happened. You see, the water was so high that the tops of the trees on its banks just showed enough of their tops above the water for the cattle to get caught in the branches and lodge there so they could not get out. In that way forty head were drowned, together with the horses mentioned. That left a pretty bad taste in my mouth and I resolved to write the owner about what to do in such crises should occasion arise again en route.
"It rained on us pretty nearly every day until we reached Fort Griffin, and there we found the ground as bare of grass as a floor. I knew the herd should be pushed on but I found a letter from Healy telling me to wait until he came to meet me. I wrote him the condition of the country, that there was no grazing for the herd and so on, but that would hold, subject to his orders. Finally I received a reply saying, 'Stop the cattle there until I come.' And there I stopped them, some of them for good, too, for they were poor to begin with. They were famine-stricken at the end of that ten days' wait, with nothing more to eat than was to be found in an open road. When he got there and I showed him how the cattle looked and the condition of the range, he smiled and said. "They will be all right, cattle can live anywhere.' No cowman at all, did not know hte ABC's of the cattle business. But my instructions was to hold them close.
"Realizing that cold weather was at hand and that those cattle had to have some shelter or they would all die, I made a drive of two days and when we got to the Canadian it was frozen over. It was the 15th day of November and a blinding snowstorm had set in. I was between the devil and the deep sea,' for I knew if in crossing the cattle over the river the ice should happen to break under their weight it meant they would all drown or freeze, on the other hand they would starve and freeze if they were not crossed so they could have the protection the brakes and canyons afforded. Considering it seriously from both sides of the question, I decided the least risk would be in crossing; so over they went, as it happened without breaking the ice. I deployed them in and around the canyons, where, despite the snow, they could get quite a little picking, and when that storm was over 600 head of them had frozen to death. Again I lost horses, too, an even half dozen.
"I found that Doc Day had gone into winter quarters on that side of the Canadian and I arranged with him to winter and deliver what cattle were left in the spring to Healy. He afterward told me that he got an even 500 head of the original herd at the spring roundup. They were so poor and it was such terribly cold weather, they died by the dozens. But I have always believed that if Healy had let me go on with them across the river instead of waiting for him that ten days at Fort Griffin, with no grazing for the herd, that he would have gotten most of the 1,280 head that I crossed over when it was so bitter cold. Anyhow, that made the most interesting drive I ever made, if it was the most disastrous.
"I bought another herd and trailed it from Clay County to Dodge City for a man by the name of Moore. That winter I stayed at home for a change and the spring of '81 Wright and Beverly Texas as Fort Griffin and drum the trail for them, in other words be a traveling salesman for supplies from the store in Dodge City, that being the last trading point en route north . I did it and when I got back to Dodge City here came a letter from Conrad, a supply dealer at Fort Griffin, who had moved to Albany on account of the railroad building in there and he wanted me to do the same kind of work for him. I accepted his proposition and worked it again from both ends of the trail, for Conrad in Texas and Wright and Beverly in Kansas, and made a good thing out of it for myself as well as the merchants I represented.
"The following June I came back to Texas to the old home ranch to see mother, for I was lonesome and blue, having lost my wife three years previous. Cattle were at their peak then and I went partners with brother Walter, bought heavily and went broke. Mother had left the old home and was dividing time between her children's hearth-stones, but she said, 'son I want to go back to the place where my children were born and where most of my life has been spent with my family.' I said, 'well, mother you come right on and we will go together. I know I can farm enough to make a living for us until I get on my feet financially again.' And we went. The old negro that I told you about in the beginning, who was cornered by the Indians at tha Mustang grapevine and who made it back to the house, had married a good negro cook and housekeeper and with them to do the work we got along nicely. But lonesome! I never was in a place that seemed like it was sa nearly haunted as that old home. Memories stalked in every room, phantom faces looking across the table and ghostly figures sat around the fire place until I just could not stand it. There was a neighbor who lived near by with a charming daughter and I took to going over there to enliven the evenings, for mother, strange to say did not feel the depression that I did, nor the lack of company either. Well the long and short of it was that it was not long until I brought that sweet girl home for my wife and for the three years mother lived, thereafter, her own daughter could not have been kinder nor better to her than was my wife.
"In 1878 there was such a furore created about cattle trailing through Kansas to market that the 'nesters' were on the warpath about Western cattle passing through and howling like mad for the route to be changed so they would not be molested in this way. The Dodge City folks, subscribed $1,500 and $600 more was added to that at Medicine Lodge to pay someone to turn the trail route and prevent trouble, and how it was I never knew, but I was selected as the one best fitted for the job. I began going to Reno to see the Indian agent about a route I had in mind. But he would not listen to anything I said about it. Instead he demanded that we cross the Cimarron River three times in order to make the change we wanted to.
"At Medicine Lodge lived a fellow from Texas, who said that, he knew my people there and then, he added, 'I have got that $600 right here in the bank and you will get every cent of it as soon as the cattle are traveling the new route.' I was anxious to get at it, and, being assured of the money, I hired a man who was familiar with country to help me. The first herd to come by was driven by Gid Guthrie. I met him on the Wichita River on the return trip from my conference with the pesky Indian Agent at Reno. Knowing that all men like to feel that they amount to something when a crisis is at hand, I began at once to impress Gid with his importance to me in the changing of that trail, and I was not hypocritical about it, either. I knew that he was a good friend of mine, and I also knew that after one herd had taken the new trail it would be easier to get the second one to do it.
"With that in view I told him how glad I was, and I meant it, that he was the first to come by and help me map out the new route and so on, all of the time confident from the look on his face that he had no notion of taking any new path with his herd. At last we came to where the turn was to be made, me talking as hard as I could, with all of the assurance I could put into my voice that what I asked would be done. Gid was silent as the grave, with his face as inexpressive as stone. When it came time to swing the cattle he said, 'Polley, if any other man under heaven asked me to do this I would absolutely refuse. Do you understand? I am doing it for you, and I do not give a hang about it, excepting that you want me to do it.' I felt pretty good when I saw those cattle take that new route and heard old Gid' s declaration. I tell you it takes a sureenough, honest-to-goodness, dyed-in-the-wool friend to do what he did for me that day. The next herd went after his without much trouble and we did not have a great deal of grouching from anybody about the change. Not half as much as we heard from the 'nesters' on the old route. But I stayed right there at the turn on the Cimarron until enough herds had passed to make it plain for all that way and to show them just when and where the cattle were to turn.
"I had paid the man who led the first herd over the turn, John Moseley was his name, $600. Then Sam Kyger, who counted as correctly as I ever saw it done in the open, was given a steady job with me. And when we got things going so that all herds traveled the new trail I divided what money I had left with him, which was just $300. And believe me, or not, never a cent more did either of us see of all of that $2,100 subscription. But we turned the trail; no doubt of that.
"I was pretty sore over losing out on my trail contract, for it was hard work, but I never was a grouch, so I let it go at that and hired to Hunter Newman & Co., of St. Louis, who had a contract to deliver beef to the Indians. They had turned the business over to Jess Evans to get it going straight. He, being in Dodge City at the time, told me to take charge of the whole thing, buying, delivery and all. Well when we got to Reno we discovered that Hunter had already employed a man to do all that. So Jess said, 'Polley, I will give you a better job, not so much work, and not quite as much cash, but a darned sight easier to do, and that is keeping the books, acting as cashier, paymaster for the hands, doing the buying, in fact, attending to everything in a business way connected with the contract. That sounded all right, so I consented to it. The next morning Jess came to me and said, 'Hub, will you take charge of the 2,000 head of cattle that we have here now just temporarily, you know?' Of course, I said I would and we counted out the 2,000 head. He wanted me to give a check for money to pay for them. I refused. He argued that it was my place to do it and it ended that I did.
"That old rock homestead is still standing and I guess it is in as good repair as any house could be that was built seventy-five years ago. Sutherland Springs is a good-sized town now and all of the once open range is crossed with barbed-wire fences, highways, railroads, telegraph and telephone lines and every other mark of progress. But I can shut my eyes and see it as I knew it best, and open range on which grazed thousands of cattle, and in the midst of it that big old rock house, a home for everybody that drew rein and a hearty handshake and welcome greeting for both friends and strangers. Times have changed, comforts have given place to luxuries which we accept as a matter of course and enjoy and appreciate, perhaps, all the more when we look back to when we were fortunate to have all the necessities of life.
"I have had what the newspapers call a checkered career, but am still well and strong and perhaps enjoy life more than a lot of folks who came into the world after I did, who have never known any hardship greater than to eat three good meals a day and sleep twelve hours every night of their lives that they were not having a days and they gave Texas some fine, dependable citizens, among whom are the good time elsewhere. Pioneer privations did one thing among many others for us. It taught us to appreciate blessings, to be grateful for the good things that come our way, to accept the less pleasant experiences and never to say die where principle and right were involved. They were good members of the Old-Time Trail Drivers' Association. The trail drivers are representative men of their day and I am glad that I am enrolled in an organization that unsurpassed in what it stands for. The men who put the cattle industry of Texas on the map and created a world-wide demand for Longhorn cattle.
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Quilt panels help tell the story
Dr. Creech admires quilt panels from "The Enslaved People of the J. H. Polley Plantation, Whitehall, Sutherland Springs, Texas 1836-1865," exhibit on permanent display at the Sutherland Springs Museum in Sutherland Springs.
Dr. Creech has authorized her writings to be presented on Talk of Wilson County TX Historic Towns. Thank you Melinda Creech!
The Enslaved People of the J. H. Polley Plantation, Whitehall, Sutherland Springs, Texas.
1836-1865--Theresa McCloud Moore
Josephine Golson in Bailey's Light records that Theresa McCloud was one of the slaves that gained their freedom from J. H. Polley. I have not been able to determine when or how J. H. Polley acquired Theresa McCloud. We do know, according to Census Records that she was born in Texas.
Possibly she is one of the persons referred to in this excerpt from J. H. Polley's estate:"Whereas my daughters Mary A. Baylor and Susan R. Henderson having each one negro girl slave in their possession belonging to my Estate, it is my will and desire that each of my said daughters retain the possession of the negro girl now in her custody...Should either of my daughters who are now single marry before the first distribution of my is my will and I direct that she or they...shall receive three hundred head of stock cattle and ten head  of horses...and further direct..she shall be entitled to receive into her possession one negro girl belonging to the Estate. It is my will and desire that my negro slaves Theresa and Anna shall be allowed to choose a master or mistress as they may elect among my children...providing that they shall not be at liberty to choose the same person for a master or mistress and provided that Theresa shall be entitled to the first choice" (January 10, 1862; Filed March 30, 1869).
There is evidence that Theresa was enslaved to Susan Rebecca Polley, and that she did go with her when Susan married Connally Henderson on 3 August 1858. Connally left to fight in the Civil War and was killed  at the Battle of Gaines Mill, 27 June 1862. When he left for the War, I think Susan and Theresa returned to the Polley Plantation.
Theresa Moore married on 25 December 1867 in LaGrange, Texas. She wrote a letter to Mary Bailey Polley, 4 February 1869, asking her to keep in touch because she missed the family and their "home by the Springs." The letter indicates that Theresa had recently married and had a baby, Walter Aaron, four months earlier, She describes Walter as sickly. He does not appear in the 1870 Census. She and her husband had moved to Fayette County, rented for a year, and then bought some land for $400. Her husband's name was Aaron Levi Moore. Census records indicate that in 1870 she was living with her husband and two children in 1870.
The 1880 Census indicates that she and her husband and her children had moved a few miles away to Ledbetter, Texas.
By 1888 Aaron Levi Moore is living at 612 Comal St. in Austin in a nice house. He is a carpenter. An Historical Outline of the Negro in Travis County, August 1940, by the Class of Negro History of Samuel Huston College, edited by J. Mason Brewer list him as a carpenter in 1888, 1889, and 1901. It is possible that he was involved in building projects at the University of Texas.
One of Theresa's sons, John R, Moore, attended Meharry College in Nashville, the first Black college for doctors. He graduated in 1894 and became a physician on the west side of San Antonio, 813 1/2 W. Commerce St.
Terisa McCloud Moore (1837-1887), a Colored female, married to Aaron Lewis Moore (1838-1915), is listed on the death certificate of her son, John R. Moore (1880-1937), a doctor. Aaron Lewis Moore's death certificate does not list his wife's name, but they are both buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Austin, Texas.
I have just received a copy of the letter written 4 February 1869 from Theresa Moore to "Dear Mistress," Mary Polley from the Briscoe Center for American History at Austin. Here are scans of the letter and a transcription. I was very impressed by Teresa's handwriting, articulation, and grammar, as well as the emotion and personal nature of the content. I wonder if Susan Polley Henderson taught her how to read and write.
Feb 4, 1869
Dear Mistress
          Why in the world don't you write to me I have written to you once or twice but have never received an answer I some times think you are mad at me the reason you don't write to me but I dont know that I have ever done any thing to cause you to be offended at me if I have I am ignorant of it and also sorry if such is the case which I hope is not I have also written to Miss Adel Miss Hattie and Miss Adelia you all owe me a letter I wrote last Mistress I do want to see you so much and as soon as my husband can make it convenient to leave home I intend to try to go and see you we are living on our own place this year and have a good deal of improvements to make Last year my husband rented so this year we move to our own home My husband paid four hundred dollars for it It has
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Some improvements on it  a dwelling house with two rooms and a gallery kitchen smoke house and corn-crib He has to repare all the field fence I have a very pretty shade in the yard of china trees We have been here just a month to day I feel so glad to think that we are on our own place and to add to my happiness I have a sweet little babe will be four months old the th16 of this month He is not a healthy child and of course has been of great trouble to us We call him Walter Aaron My health has not been very good until here of late have had a rising on my breast and I don't sukle out of but one and that is my right breast I am just getting so I feel like myself again Is Miss Susan still living with you Has Pollie and [Gollie] grown much I expect they have forgotten all about me that there ever was such a being in excistance How is Miss Augusta and family Are they still living at the Springs yet Lollie and
[Page 3]
Belger are almost grown I expect Is Miss Hattie still at home yet How is her little babe Tell her she must answer my letter and tell me all the news as she promised to do Tell her that I have been looking for it a long time Tell Miss Adell she owes me a letter and also Miss Adelia I would also like to get one from Miss Susan In fact I would be pleased to receive one from any of the family Is Aunt Annie and Uncle Cato Celia Lizzie Bill and Elic still living on the place yet If so give them my best respects and tell them they must write to me and Matilda and her family where are they Mistress Where is De. Houston Are they living in San Antonio yet or over at they place I wrote to Callie some time ago but have never got one word from them Don't know whether she is dead or live It looks like I cant hear a word from that part of the country It appears like every body out that way has stop writing to me
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From some cause but I cant tell what unless it is because I am married If that be the case I am just as proud to hear from my friends now as ever I was in my life Say to Miss Adel that I have never had a chance to get them pink seed for her yet Mistress please answer my letter right away for it is almost a year since I have heard a word from home and I do want to hear from you all so bad I think Miss Susan might write to me for she promised to do so In this letter I send [Gollie] some painting to go round her panties I have not anything to send Pollie this time Tell her I will send her some thing next time I write Tell Johney he must write to me and let me see how fast he is learning and tell him that I have one of the prettiest little babies he ever saw Give my love to Walter and tell him that I have not forgotten him I must close give my love to all inquiring friends and accept a share for yourself
                                                                        From Theresa Moore
An interesting find at the 'Frontier Times Museum'
Polley Mansion aka Whitehall shares an interesting find at the " Frontier Times Museum ".  If you are ever at the Frontier Times Museum in Bandera, TX, check out this 32 inch screwdriver used during the building of Whitehall/Polley Mansion. 
The screwdriver was mentioned in the 1942 Frontier Times magazine.
The Enslaved People of the J. H. Polley Plantation, Whitehall, Sutherland Springs, Texas--Cato Morgan
Written by Dr. Melinda Creech
Cato Morgan, born in North or South Carolina around 1812, was purchased by J. H. Polley on 22 September 1836 from James Reed. Morgan and Reed were slave traders that bought slaves in New Orleans at the St. Louis Hotel. Morgan and Reed brought the enslaved people by ship to Velasco, and then shipped them up the Brazos to Brazoria to be sold to Austin's Colony (1) .
Cato was a trusted servant of the Polleys. J. B. Polley in his "Historical Reminiscences" writes that Cato "was recognized among his fellow darkeys as 'Ole Marster's favorright.'" Cato was an authority around the plantation. He was privileged to carry a shotgun and was considered a fairly good marksman. Cato accompanied Polley on many of his cattle drives. J. B. Polley recorded an episode of Cato picking mustang grapes for Mrs. Polley to make preserves and being attacked by Indians. He also mentioned that Cato was a grown slave in 1858 in one of his "Historical Reminiscences." (2)
Josephine Golson in Bailey's Light writes: "Cato had married one of the Negro women of a neighboring stockman, so Polley bought the woman and her young son, as he did not think it just to separate mother and child." Perhaps this son is Bill Perkins. Golson lists Bill as one of the enslaved persons that was freed by Mr. Polley. She writes that five children were born to Cato and Melinda, but only lists four—Alex, Bill, Celia, and Elizabeth. Perhaps there was another child that died (3). Cato Morgan and Melinda Perkins (freedwoman) were officially married on 2 January 1867. Slaves were not allowed to be married legally before 1866.
After the news of the emancipation came to Texas, J. H. Polley made a legal agreement with James Bailey, Reuben Robinson, Cato Morgan, Burrell Montgomery, Theodore Henderson, and Albert Nious to employ them as servants until December 1865.
It seems that Melinda and Cato may have separated sometime between 1867 and 1873. 
Cato Morgan was married again in 1873 to Rachel Wash, whose husband Solomon had died. On October 16, 1973, Cato was married to Rachel Wash by R. M. Currie and witnessed by H. Stephenson. Rachel brought her own children to the marriage, and Cato and Rachel had one child together, Joe Cato Morgan.
In the 1880 census Cato (65) was living with Rachel (45) with three stepchildren: Orange Wash (14), Anne Wash (13), and Murray Wash (9), and a son, Joe Cato Morgan (6).
In the 1880 Census. the Morgans were listed immediately before the entry for Mary Bailey Polley, indicating that they were neighbors.
Cato Morgan, along with Charles Stevenson, made purchases of land to establish a freedom colony on the west side of the Cibolo Creek.
A few years before Mrs. Mary Bailey Polley died, she sold 5 acres of the original land purchase to their longest enslaved person, Cato Morgan, for $1. Descendants of Cato Morgan are still living on property adjoining the Polley's land.
This newspaper clipping of an obituary of Cato Morgan was found among the Burges-Jefferson Family Papers, at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. It was probably written by J. B. Polley and published in the Western Chronicle.
*****Faithful Unto Death
Once more death has claimed one of the pioneers of Wilson County. Cato Morgan, who came with his old master, J. H. Polley, now deceased, to the county in 1847, died at his home on the Cibolo on the night of Sept 21st, at the advanced age of 77. Few better men, white or black, have ever gone to that "bourne from whence no traveler returns." As a slave he was always faithful and trustworthy and was with several expeditions after Indians in early days; as a freedman, his course was such as to win him the respect of all who knew him and the love and confidence of the family he had served for nearly forty years. He had been in ill health for the last year, but had so improved as to ride about and warrant his faithful wife to leave him at home with the youngest boy, some 13 years old. All alone, with the boy last Sunday night he ate his supper and sank into a slumber which knew no waking. The boy found him at daylight dead. Apparently there had been no struggle and the good old man had died as he had lived, quietly. Let us drop a tear over his grave and remember him as one having a white heart beneath a black skin.*****
Apart from the completely derogatory last line, the obituary represents high praise and noble sentiment directed toward a good and well-lived life.
Blacks celebrated Juneteenth in 1912 at Morgan Park, on the Cibolo, a few miles above Sutherland Springs, which may have been named in honor of Cato Morgan. Morgan Park has not yet been located.
Stake House
This was the stake house the Polleys lived in as the big house was built. It may have been located near the Cibolo Creek. ~ Robin Broughton Muschalek
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Polley Cookhouse
POLLEY COOKHOUSE... It was (is) a single pen, V-notched, one room cookhouse used to prepare and cook food for the big house. It has a large fireplace that we found food bone scraps buried about three feet deep. There used to be a lattice walkway from the cookhouse to the big house. We aren't sure of the date but it is shown in the background in the Sarah Anne Hardinge painting from 1855. The pitch used to be taller (we can see evidence in the chimney). We aren't sure why it was lowered. There are cedar shingles beneath the tin roof of the cookhouse. There is not evidence of chinking between the logs so it is believed that slats of wood (some are still visible) covered the gabs between the logs. ~ Robin Broughton Muschalek 
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About the Polley Mansion
Have you ever wondered as to how many hands this sweet old plantation mansion has belonged?  
In 1847, construction began on the Polley Mansion after Jospeh Henry Polley purchased the land on the Cibolo Creek from his son-in-law, John James.
In 1869, following the death of the family matriarch, the Polley Mansion passed into the hands of the Polley sons, none of whom wished to live in the home.  Abner Hubbard Polley was recorded as suggesting that the home may have been inhabited by spirits, but there is no other supporting evidence of other-worldly inhabitants.
In 1904, the Polley sons sold the Mansion to Lou Rinda Polley.
In 1907, the Mansion was sold to Wilson Country Commissioner, E. W. BIllings.
In 1917, the Mansion was sold to Charles Moehrig.
In 1922 the Mansion was sold to Judge C. A. Goeth.  Some renovations were undertaken during his ownership.
In 1946, the house was bought by Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Linne, who undertook extensive efforts to improve the home. They made the Polley Mansion a very comfortable place to live for many years.  Oscar Linne passed away in 1988, followed by his wife in 1990.  The Linne's had no children, so the home passed to their nephews.
In 1990, the nephews sold the home to Buddy Hemby and Steve Keeland, La Vernia real estate  professionals. 
In 1993, the Polley Mansion was bought by Mr. and Mrs. Mark Collins. 
In 2015, the Polley Mansion was bought by Keith and Robin Muschalek. It had fallen into severe disrepair, but the new owners  set about restoring it. That renovation has proved a massive undertaking, but for Robin, a retired school teacher, and Keith, a retired army colonel, the Polley Mansion has become a passion. [Information credit to Polley Assoc. 
{April 28, 1936 Photograph by Arthur W.  Stewart (WPA)}
Lucy and the Indians
LUCY AND THE INDIANS    ...    on the Elam Plantation. The term "plantation" is deeply imprinted on the American psyche. It conjures up visions of grand plantation houses like Oak Alley in Louisiana or the Milford Plantation in South Carolina. These grand houses were the product of the "peculiar" institution that generated tremendous wealth from large numbers of slaves engaged in producing cotton.
Some claim that the Shirley plantation of Virginia is the oldest, dating back to 1638. Construction of the grand residential structure at the Shirley plantation began in 1723 and was completed in 1738. The grand plantation homes of the old south were built over a long period of time as great wealth was accumulated.
"Plantations" along the Cibolo in Bexar County Texas were created no earlier than fifteen years before the Civil War began in 1861. Not having accumulated wealth, most planters built primitive log or picket structures when they first arrived. The march of time spared few of these structures, most succumbed to rot, insects and neglect.
The best example of a plantation home along the Cibolo is the Joseph H. Polley home called Whitehall near Sutherland Springs Texas. According to local historians, it was built between 1847 and 1853. It is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is designated as an Historic Texas Landmark.
During the 1840s and 1850s, the planters along the Cibolo struggled against the elements to grow their crops. They also struggled against the political realities to bring plantation model of operation to the frontier they called "Western Texas".
According to U. S. Census Slave Schedules, during the period 1845 and 1860, over 600 African slaves were brought to the Cibolo Valley.
Before the arrival of the planters, for untold times, the lands along the Cibolo were hunting grounds for tribes of Native Americans. In the 18th century they became the grazing lands for ranches that supported the Spanish missions along the San Antonio River.
Historians believe that the Cibolo Valley was the grazing land for Rancho de Paistle (Moss); named for the moss that hangs from the branches of massive oaks along the Cibolo. Rancho Paistle supported Mission Concepcion near San Antonio.
Historic places along the Cibolo and San Antonio River such as El Fuerte del Cibolo, Rancho de las Cabras, and Rancho Flores bear testimony to conflict between certain Native Americans and the first European settlers. The Lipan Apaches and Comanches at irregular intervals came into the Cibolo Valley in force. Battles, skirmishes and raids were often the points of contact between these peoples who claimed the land along the Cibolo.
Joseph B. Polley who came into the Cibolo Valley in 1847 wrote:
"But as peaceful as the valley looked in 1847 and has since remained, there was an abundance of signs to prove that it had been the theater of many a fierce and sanguinary encounter between the Indians and white man, the Mexican and the American. At many places along the valley, now in the somber shade of mott or grove and again out in the open ground under the scorching heat of the sun lay the whitened bones of human beings — the skulls so widely scattered that one's horse frequently stumbled or shied at them, and the children of the first white settlers sometimes actually made playthings of them. To the negroes brought into the valley by their masters they were horrors to be given wide berth."
The last of these encounters between Native Americans and Europeans along the Cibolo, was reported in 1855. From the Davenport Ranch (near present day Selma) to Post Oak (now La Vernia) and Sutherland Springs, terror gripped the families of the planters. Reports were sent down the Cibolo that a party of over one hundred warriors was raiding along the Cibolo. As it was repeated, the "reported" numbers grew.
Raiding parties were a serious matter and often the planters would send their families to the protection of San Antonio about 25 miles away. However, communication at that time was as fast as the fastest horse and there was always fear that the vulnerable travelers to San Antonio might encounter the raiders on open ground. To add confusion, more often than not, these reported raids were "false alarms".
In her memoir, Mary Maverick the wife of Sam Maverick writes of this 1855 event. She was visiting the Cibolo plantation of a relative, Dr. Gray Jones Houston, located between La Vernia and Sutherland Springs, when rumors of the raiders was delivered:
"In the latter part of August, our whole family went down to visit the Houstons and to partake of a birthday dinner given to Joey Thompson.
...Wild rumors soon after the boys had gone to the effect that several hundred warriors had been seen not many miles from Dr. Houston's house. This was a new and startling turn. Dr. Houston's house was a large and substantial stone building, and the people from miles around crowded there. We fortified the house, and most of us kept awake the whole night. We dubbed the place in its fortified condition Sebastapol, which indicated our intention to defend ourselves to the last. But it all proved a mere scare of some frightened person..."
Events played out in a different fashion near Post Oak (now La Vernia) about five miles above the Houston plantation. The plantations of A.G. and Susan Goodloe, R. J. Floyd, R. W. Brahan, C. G. Napier, Erastus Beall and W. R. Elam were scattered north and west of the village.
It was late August 1855, all able bodied slaves were in the fields, bringing in the important cash crop – cotton. At that time there were no mechanically powered cotton gins in the area, so children and the elderly cleaned and removed the lint-covered seeds by hand. The work began at first light and ended when it was too dark to see the cotton bolls.
When not tending to the cotton crop, the slaves cleared trees and brush so more of the deep alluvial soils of the Cibolo could be put into cultivation. The area was comprised of a few cleared fields under cultivation surrounded by trees and brush.
With the exception of infants, all slaves performed an assigned task. Lucy, a young girl was assigned the task of carrying water and food to the workers in the field. Through the brush and down the rows of cotton, she would carry food and countless pails of water.
August 31 was a foggy morning. As Lucy crossed the fields with a pail of water, a mounted raiding party of warriors emerged from the brush and surrounded her. As they rode away, Lucy was left dead, the victim of their lances.
History does not tell us of Lucy's last name, there is no birth certificate, photos, or any records of kinship. All that is known is that Lucy's young and precious life ended on the Cibolo that August day in 1855 on the Elam plantation.
(Courtesy of "Lost Texas Roads" )
Fb img 1699029278243

Family gathered at cemetery for historical marker unveiling in 2006

Wilson County News | May 2006
By Nell Sutherland
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS — It is a tiny little resting place — less than one half acre. Only 10 gravesites are within its enclosure. Yet on Saturday, May 6, kith and kin from across the states will gather at the Polley Cemetery to renew family ties.
Recently designated as a Historic Texas Cemetery, a Texas State Historical Marker will be unveiled at the cemetery during a dedication ceremony on May 6 at 10:45 a.m. The cemetery is on C.R. 539, north of Sutherland Springs. In case of rain, the dedication ceremony will be held in the Immanuel Lutheran Church.
The history
Joseph Polley was born in New York, and came to Texas as one of the first colonists, arriving with Stephen F. Austin in Brazoria County. He married Mary Bailey in 1826 in a Protestant ceremony, and again in a Catholic ceremony in 1831 in accordance with an edict of the Mexican government. In fact, family tradition has it that they were actually married three times.
All their 11 children were born in Brazoria County, where Polley served as the first sheriff. He was appointed to escort the women and children retreating during the "Runaway Scrape" in 1836 during the battle for Texas Independence. Mary played a role in Texas history as well. She helped to mold the candles used by the first Texas Congress assembled at San Felipe de Austin in 1832.
The Polleys settled in what was then Guadalupe County in early 1847, selecting a site overlooking the Cibolo Creek near Sutherland Springs. Daughters Emeline and Sarah Adel were attending school in San Antonio. Future son-in-law John James, an area surveyor, discovered the Cibolo Valley. The Polleys first built a "stake house," of upended logs, where they lived for four years while a two-story mansion of locally quarried limestone was under construction.
Emeline and John James were married in August 1847. On Dec. 21, 1848, at the age of 17, Emeline died giving birth to a little girl. The infant, who was named after her mother, survived. The Polleys and the widower selected a site on which to establish a family cemetery on the opposite side of the road, and an enclosure was constructed from native stone to surround the grounds.
On July 28, 1850, little Emeline Elizabeth James, not quite 2 years old, was laid to rest beside her mother in the little cemetery. Four-year-old Mary Bailey Henderson, another grandchild, joined her aunt and cousin in 1865.
In March 1869, Joseph Polley was laid to rest at the age of 73, followed two months later by his daughter, Sarah Adel, who died of tuberculosis. Others interred in the cemetery during the 1870s included grandchildren Edith Houston, age 3; George Smith Houston, 4; Susan Fletcher Brooks, 1; and Joseph Henry Polley II, an infant great-grandchild. Survival was precarious for children in those frontier days of Texas.
The final burial in the little Polley Cemetery was that of Mary Augusta Polley, who died in 1888, at the age of 78. She was placed beside her husband. In her will, Mary requested that "one-half acre of land that would include the enclosed burying ground where my husband lies buried, shall not be sold, but shall remain forever as a burial place for members of my family."
Visitors are welcome to visit the little cemetery where Grandpa Joseph and Grandma Mary Polley rest in peace, watching over two daughters, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
COURTESY/ Wilson County News

Snow day at Polley Mansion 2021

Snow day 2021. I wonder if the Polleys ever experienced 8 degree winter days in 1847. Luckily by the time the house was completed around 1853 they had six fireplaces inside and one large cookhouse fireplace inside.

Polley Mansion/Whitehall ...

Robin Broughton Muschalek, an owner, updates:  "We are always thankful for old photos, memories, and artifacts that help tell the story of the people that are connected to Whitehall/Polley Mansion. Recently, Weldon McFarland donated precious items to the Sutherland Springs Historical Museum from his Sutherland family's collection.  I was able to snap a few pictures of his early 1900's photos of Joe Polley in Sutherland Springs."

An old Wilson County mansion

An old Wilson County mansion has witnessed decades of Texas history.  Driving south along County Road 539 below Seguin, through rolling spring-green pasture land softened by stands of oak, mesquite and hackberry, you come over a rise and notice off to the left a stately mansion of tan-colored sandstone trimmed in white. With a spacious front yard enclosed by a white picket fence and shaded by majestic oaks, with Texas and American flags flying out front, the old house is an attention-getter, to be sure.
Called Whitehall, the two-story structure was built in the late 1840s by a native New Yorker named Joseph Henry Polley, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old 300. Robin and Keith Muschalek bought it in 2015. Keith, a retired Army colonel and native Texan, and Robin, a former teacher who lived in upstate New York as a youngster, are happily restoring their antebellum mansion to its former glory.
Ask Robin if it's haunted, and she'll cover her eyes, stifle a giggle and say she doesn't want to talk about ghosts, even though — or maybe because — she knows about Polley descendants alluding to "haints" in the house in correspondence more than a century old. She and Keith live in La Vernia but work on restoring the house at all hours of the day and night; they've never received a visitation, they told me.
Let's say there is a Whitehall apparition, one who has enjoyed relaxing down through the decades in one of the comfortable rocking chairs on the spacious veranda. From that roadside vantage point, the ghostly shade would have a front-row seat on the cavalcade of Texas history, from the early days of statehood through cattle drives, the Civil War, Emancipation and Reconstruction, the discovery of oil — down through the decades to a recent tragedy nearby that horrified the nation. (The man who killed 25 members of the First Baptist Church of nearby Sutherland Springs met his end a few miles north of the house.)
Polley was born in Whitehall, N.Y., in 1795 and served as a 15-year-old army teamster in the War of 1812. He was one of the first 22 immigrants to follow Austin to Texas in 1821. He was the first sheriff of Austin's colony, and in the Runaway Scrape in the spring of 1836, he was assigned to watch over women and children fleeing Santa Anna's troops.
In 1847, Polley and his wife, Mary Augusta Bailey Polley, moved from their home in Brazoria County to a site on a knoll overlooking the Cibolo Valley, about two miles north of Sutherland Springs, in what was then Guadalupe County (now Wilson County). They were the first settlers in an area still raided by Indians.
While the Polleys lived in a temporary "stake house" on the property, a team of 20 slaves quarried hardened sandstone from nearby Elm Creek for the walls of the new house and crushed mussel shells from the creek for lime to mix mortar.
Joseph Polley's brother, John Polley, drew up the blueprints for the house, using the family home in Whitehall, N.Y., as inspiration. He also purchased doors, sashes, cabinetry, window panes and furnishings in New York for his brother's new home and had them shipped to the port at Indianola. Ox carts hauled the material to the frontier site.
The house contains eight high-ceilinged rooms, with two grand hallways. Both interior and exterior walls are of solid stone, 18 inches thick. Six open-pit fireplaces heated the home.
The woodwork is cypress timber hauled in ox-drawn wagons from sawmills near Bandera, about 90 miles to the west. In the attic, the Muschaleks showed me rafters joined together with square nails and cypress pins. The structure is as sturdy as when it was built.
The house was completed by 1854, and the large Polley family (11 children in all) moved in. By that time Joseph Polley was in the process of accumulating vast holdings of land and cattle. Shortly before the war he owned 150,000 head, more than any rancher in Texas with the exception of the King Ranch. Mary Polley managed the large household.
Despite being a slaveholder, Joseph Polley was a reluctant supporter of the Confederacy. His son, Joseph Benjamin Polley, became a corporal in Company F of the 4th Texas Infantry, which fought under Col. John Bell Hood and Gen. Robert E. Lee. The younger Polley saw action at Gaines Mill, Second Manassas, Antietam and Gettysburg and had to have a wounded foot amputated in 1864. He would go on to write A Soldier's Letters to Charming Nellie, published in 1908, and Hood's Texas Brigade, 1910.
In February, 1861, Lee may, or may not, have sat down at a desk in an upstairs bedroom and written his last letter from Texas. "We do like to keep this story alive," Keith says, "in case we come across evidence someday."
The war wrought financial ruin on the Polleys. Joseph Polley received a pardon from President Andrew Johnson but was unable to rebuild the family's fortunes before his death in 1869.
Mary Polley turned Whitehall into a boarding house after her husband's death, catering to the many visitors who came to nearby Sutherland Springs — the Saratoga of the South — to take the cure in the sulphur waters of Cibolo Creek. She lived until 1888.
The mansion stayed in the Polley family until 1907, when it was sold to a Wilson County commissioner. Patillo Higgins of Spindletop fame showed up in the area in 1923; oil was discovered on the property in 1955.
A succession of owners kept Whitehall in relatively good shape until the early 1990s, when an owner who had it for 25 years allowed it to fall into ruin. By the time the Muschaleks bought it in 2015, the roof had blown off, windows were broken out and what Keith calls "an avalanche of barn swallows" were living in the house.
Keith, who grew up in Pasadena, had passed by the mansion for years on family trips to his grandparents' house in Yorktown. "I didn't know what it was," he told me last week. "I thought maybe it was an old dance hall."
Robin spent a portion of her childhood in upstate New York, not An old mansion near Seguin has witnessed decades of Texas history
The Muschaleks are thinking they'll probably make the house available as a venue for weddings, parties and events related to its rich history. They thought about living in the house but decided not to. They know that Abner Hubbard "Hub" Polley, son of Joseph and Mary, refused to live in the family home because, he wrote, it was inhabited by "haints."
His letter, they assured me, had nothing to do with their decision. I believed them — until they told me about the rocking chair on the veranda that started mysteriously rocking all by itself the other day.
COURTESY / Joe Holley (Native Texan Joe Holley is a former editorial page editor and columnist for newspapers in San Antonio and San Diego and a staff writer for The Washington Post. He has been a regular contributor to Texas Monthly and Columbia Journalism. Joe is author of 'Sutherland Springs: God, Guns, and Hope in a Small Texas Town,' )

The Polley Pianos

One of the first purchases of the Sutherland Springs Historical Museum was a Beatty Rosewood Square Grand Piano, which now stands in the Polley Room at the museum. The piano had stood in the Polley Whitehall Mansion while Oscar and Esther Linne owned the building. They had purchased many antiques to display in the historic home, hoping that it would continue to serve as a record of nineteenth-century Texas history. They had heard about the Polley's piano, and bought a similar one to grace the house. 
The piano was the highlight of many of the tours and parties that were given by the Linne's, who owned the Polley Mansion from 1946-1990. 
However, when Oscar and Esther died the land, the house, and the contents of the house were divided between nieces and nephews, since the Linnes themselves had no children. The furnishings of the house were to be sold quickly, with the remainder being shipped to Michigan, where the Linne's niece had an antique store. Some folks already interested in beginning a museum in Sutherland Springs acted quickly to raise the funds to purchase the piano, along with a "Ta-Bed," a unique piece of furniture that combined a table and a bed.
Because the Sutherland Springs Historical Museum had not already established itself as a non-profit organization, the purchase was made through the Sutherland Springs Civic Club Volunteer Fire Department. The money was raised and the piano was purchased for $1474.00 in August of 1990.
Joseph and Mary Polley purchased their piano, a Rosewood Piano Forte, made by Smith Atheron & Co. on May 5, 1859 for $275.00.
The piano came with a two year guarantee —which was a good thing. The Polleys lived on the wild frontier of Texas in 1859. They bought the piano from New York City, with Joseph Polley's brother, Jonathan acting, as a go-between. Jonathan reported his success to his brother on 7 May 1859—"I was 2 or 3 days looking around examining furniture I was in a number of different piano warehouse with Adolphus to assist me and this was much the best bargain I could get it is a $400 Piano but there is considerable competition and you will see I bought at a great reduction."
The piano had to be shipped from New York to Lavaca, Texas, where it was received on 25 July 1859 by the Forbes & McGee Shipping Company. The piano and its shipping container weighed 789 pounds. This massive package then had to be carted by a team of oxen from the coast to the Polley's house on the Cibolo. The receipt lists the names of the haulers, written in their own hand—Fredrich Manz, Gustavo Ziller, and G. Shulz. In a letter to her daughters, who are in boarding school in Seguin, on 23 May, Mrs. Polley assures them that the piano would be there by July—
"I expect you would like to hear something about the Music box. It's on the way by this time and the rest of the things, sofa, chairs, carpet, two rocking chairs will all be on by July. "
The beautiful Rosewood Square Grand Piano is one of the few pieces of the Polley's furniture that survives. 
Zoe Carrington Polley, daughter of Walter Webster and Ada Amanda Wyatt Polley, inherited the piano from her grandmother, Mary Polley, wife of Joseph Polley. Zoe passed away in 1986 at the of ninety-nine. She bequeathed the piano to her granddaughter, Diane Perry, who lives in California, where the piano now resides.
COURTESY/Dr. Melinda Creech, Curator SSHM

Baileys and Polleys Among Earliest Texans

Baileys and Polleys Among Earliest Texans Edward M. Golson, in San Antonio Express.
With the Centennial celebration now an assured fact, it is of
interest to dig up old papers and find some records of those who were the pioneers and first helped to make our state such a great commonwealth.
Joseph H. Polley, a native of New York State, one of the original 300 colonists who came with Stephen F. Austin to Texas. However, he joined first Moses Austin, coming to Texas in 1818 and returning with him to Missouri, after which he joined, in 1821, Stephen F. Austin's colony. Joseph H. Polley's wife was one of those who made candles for the sitting of the first Texas Congress, which assembled at San Felipe de Austin. The mould used is now in the section of the Conservation Society Exhibits of the Witte Museum. San Felipe de Austin was famous as the richest townsite per capita in Texas. It was founded in 1824 and passed through boom periods with their disastrous aftermaths. Once a teaming center of river commerce all its importance died out while its founders negotiated with the Mexican Government but revived to unprecedented prosperity, only to be burned to the ground by its citizens to escape capture by Santa Anna and his marauders in 1836. Joseph H. Polley and Mary Bailey were married by an Alcalde in 1823, but in accordance with an edict issued by the Mexican government, to be landowners they had to be married by a priest. The enactment of this ceremony entitled each of the children of Joseph H. Polley to a headright of a section of land consisting of 640 acres. At the time of the re-marriage 30 couples went through the same ceremony which was performed by a priest. The marriage certificate of 1831, printed in Latin, is in the possession of Mrs. Josephine Polley Golson of San Antonio, Texas, and reads: "Ego infrascriptus Pastor Parochialis Colone de Austin:
nee non ominums advenarum Vicarius Generalis Papalis et Episcopali authoritate in regionibus Texarum respectu dispensatioms praemunitus; omnibus quibus interest certioro:  omnibus quibus interest certioro: Joseph H. Polley et Mariam Bailey rite et recte in matrimonium conjectus esse; qui quidem duous liberos in nexibus politicie habitos deckaravere et declarant hoe sacramento ominimodo legitomos esse, eorum que Haeredes. Datum haece duedecimod dies mensis Julii anno vero nostra Salutis 1831. Michael Muldoon." After the marriage Joseph Polley received the headrights for his children. After Texas became independent, a growing family and increasing herds of cattle determined him to move farther west, where he could find larger pasturage. He purchased a large tract in the 40's on the Cibolo and erected about two miles from Sutherland Springs a substantial rock building which passing through the century mark stands today in
excellent state of preservation. It is probably one of the best preserved mansions of slavery days in this part of Texas. Not only the two-story, 10 room house with its wide open fireplace, stone partition walls 18 inches thick, the woodwork made of cypress hauled from distant sawmills, but also the log cabin kitchen made out of postoak logs. Joseph H. Polley was a close personal friend of Gen. Robert E. Lee, who visited the Polley home many times and joined in the festivities and social functions for which the Polley home was renown. During the depredations committed by Mexicans over 16,000 head of cattle were killed and stolen from the herds of Polley.
Among the affidavits attached to the claims for loss of more than 16,000 head of cattle which are now under consideration by the United States and Mexican claims commission there are several sworn to by eye-witnesses, among them two of Polley's former slaves and still living who testified that Polley owned over 150,000 head of cattle and was next to King, the largest cattle owner in the State. Among the heirs interested in this claim and living are Mrs. Jesse Tiner, Mrs. Hubbard Polley, Mrs. S. G. Garrett, Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Edward M. Golson. It is interesting to observe, in the union of the
Bailey and Polley families that James B. Bailey was the first captain of the militia organized by Austin's colony while Joseph H.Polley was the first sheriff appointed by Stephen F. Austin.
Courtesy/Farm and Ranch Texas& Handbook of Texas Online


By Nell Sutherland
WCN Correspondent
Wilson County News, May 2006
It is a tiny little resting place — less than one half acre. Only 10 gravesites are within its enclosure. Yet on Saturday, May 6, 2006,  kith and kin from across the states will gather at the Polley Cemetery to renew family ties.
Recently designated as a Historic Texas Cemetery, a Texas State Historical Marker will be unveiled at the cemetery during a dedication ceremony on May 6, 2006,  at 10:45 a.m. The cemetery is on C.R. 539, north of Sutherland Springs. In case of rain, the dedication ceremony will be held in the Immanuel Lutheran Church.
Joseph Polley was born in New York, and came to Texas as one of the first colonists, arriving with Stephen F. Austin in Brazoria County. He married Mary Bailey in 1826 in a Protestant ceremony, and again in a Catholic ceremony in 1831 in accordance with an edict of the Mexican government. In fact, family tradition has it that they were actually married three times.
All their 11 children were born in Brazoria County, where Polley served as the first sheriff. He was appointed to escort the women and children retreating during the "Runaway Scrape" in 1836 during the battle for Texas Independence. Mary played a role in Texas history as well. She helped to mold the candles used by the first Texas Congress assembled at San Felipe de Austin in 1832.
The Polleys settled in what was then Guadalupe County in early 1847, selecting a site overlooking the Cibolo Creek near Sutherland Springs. Daughters Emeline and Sarah Adel were attending school in San Antonio. Future son-in-law John James, an area surveyor, discovered the Cibolo Valley. The Polleys first built a "stake house," of upended logs, where they lived for four years while a two-story mansion of locally quarried limestone was under construction.
Emeline and John James were married in August 1847. On Dec. 21, 1848, at the age of 17, Emeline died giving birth to a little girl. The infant, who was named after her mother, survived. The Polleys and the widower selected a site on which to establish a family cemetery on the opposite side of the road, and an enclosure was constructed from native stone to surround the grounds.
On July 28, 1850, little Emeline Elizabeth James, not quite 2 years old, was laid to rest beside her mother in the little cemetery. Four-year-old Mary Bailey Henderson, another grandchild, joined her aunt and cousin in 1865.
In March 1869, Joseph Polley was laid to rest at the age of 73, followed two months later by his daughter, Sarah Adel, who died of tuberculosis. Others interred in the cemetery during the 1870s included grandchildren Edith Houston, age 3; George Smith Houston, 4; Susan Fletcher Brooks, 1; and Joseph Henry Polley II, an infant great-grandchild. Survival was precarious for children in those frontier days of Texas.
The final burial in the little Polley Cemetery was that of Mary Augusta Polley, who died in 1888, at the age of 78. She was placed beside her husband. In her will, Mary requested that "one-half acre of land that would include the enclosed burying ground where my husband lies buried, shall not be sold, but shall remain forever as a burial place for members of my family."
Visitors are welcome to visit the little cemetery where Grandpa Joseph and Grandma Mary Polley rest in peace, watching over two daughters, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.  Please contact Robin Broughton Muschalek for permission.
COURTESY/ Wilson County News   Article written by Columnist Nell Sutherland of the Wilson County News.

Digging into the past

By Jeff Valcher |Wilson County News | March 2018
As the historic Polley Mansion north of Sutherland Springs is gradually restored to its former glory, some experts have come out to take advantage of this opportunity to uncover a little more about Texas' history.
On the morning of March 10, archaeologists were busy hauling boxes and setting up equipment outside the mansion's back door.
Dr. Todd Ahlman, head of Texas State University's archeology department, issued commands and divvied up the workload among the 10 volunteers, and the group set to work uncovering any underground secrets held by this 167-year-old cultural landmark.
Ahlman's main focus for the past 30 years has been historic archaeology — as opposed to prehistoric archaeology — which is focused on artifacts from after the arrival of European settlers. Much of the colonization in this area was done by the Spanish, he said, so the Polley plantation — established by one of the first "Old 300" settlers in the region, Joe Polley — is a relatively unique site.
"There aren't a lot of plantations in Central Texas — especially cotton plantations like this," Ahlman said.
The main focus of this particular dig was the kitchen behind the main residence, where slaves had once prepared food for the Polley family. He hoped the search would cast light on how the family lived, what they were buying, and what they ate.
The group had marked off several 1-meter-square sections of land inside and around the structure with string and began to carefully scoop the dirt into their dustpans. The dirt was then passed through a screen to catch anything of value.
"A lot of these houses had exterior kitchens due to the heat in the summer," Ahlman said, as we continued around the back of the building.
He bent down near the rear wall and grabbed a handful of dirt. After sifting through it with his fingers, he produced a few tiny white pieces of ceramic, or "white ware," as he called it, that were likely from a plate or other serving dish. Another scoop of his hand produced a bit of rusted nail.
It's a wonder there's any metal left on the place.
On a cold winter day this past January, 52 amateur metal detectors and 12 archaeologists descended on the property with their equipment to search for metallic artifacts. The final tally: 300 specimens ready to be bagged and labeled.
Candlesticks, forks, horseshoes, assorted pieces of tack, shotgun shells, old farm equipment, toy soldiers, musket balls, and a British button estimated to have been worn in 1823 were among the finds that will be sent to Ahlman's department for dating and cataloging.
"With historic artifacts, we have books that tell us how old things are," he said, contrasting these items with prehistoric artifacts, such as arrowheads and stone tools.
Back inside the kitchen structure, a couple of volunteers were busy digging with their trowels in the center of the room. Ahlman crossed to the fireplace and picked up a few bones that had been uncovered by the property's owners, Keith and Robin Muschalek, while removing old flooring.
This is a bird ... Here's a fish vertebrae ... See how they were chopped?" he said, pointing to where a cook's knife had once been more than a century ago. "One of the main things about archaeology is we want to know where things come in context, rather than just finding stuff."

Walking through the halls of history

By Jeff Valcher |Wilson County News | August 31, 2016
Three miles up F.M. 539 from U.S. 87 in Sutherland Springs, an old, two-story residence looms up on the right, whose heyday appears to have long since come and gone. During the last decade, in particular, the historic house had fallen into a severely dilapidated state.
Almost a century after the construction of Floresville's Rancho de las Cabras in the 1750s, Joe Polley was breaking ground on his new residence, 2 miles north of old Sutherland Springs. Polley and his wife, Mary, had been part of Stephen F. Austin's "Old Three Hundred" — the first American colonists to settle in the newly independent Mexico's territory in 1821. Their home was a showplace in its day, and attracted visitors such as Robert E. Lee.
Now, more than a century and a half later, construction has begun once again at the Polley Mansion. The new owners, Keith and Robin Muschalek, purchased the estate last November and happily gave me a tour recently of this historic site. 
We walked past the Greek Revival columns on the front porch into a large hallway running the length of the house. "I don't know if Robert E. Lee danced, but he would have danced right here," Keith said.
The 1965 Texas Landmark plaque that adorns the front of the house states this was where Lee, who led the Army of the Confederacy during the Civil War, wrote his last letter from Texas during one of several visits.
The first room on the tour contained Joe Polley's whiskey locker set into the wall. Whiskey features in a popular legend about the fireplace in the room. It was said that the contractor who put in the Polleys' fireplaces had demanded a jug of whiskey every Saturday in addition to his weekly salary. Failure to receive his liquor stipend one week led him to plug up this chimney's flue. It wasn't until the 1940s that the mystery of the smoky fireplace was solved — and cleared.
In the next room, the floorboards were ripped up, exposing the hand-hewn joists running throughout the house. Keith is trying to retain as many original features as possible. We headed upstairs and out onto the front balcony.
"It is the prettiest view I've ever seen," Robin said as we looked out across F.M. 539. A vast expanse of tree-lined fields slopes downward past the Cibolo Creek to the roofs of La Vernia. Before the days of barbed-wire fences, Polley's cattle — around 150,000, it was said — roamed this landscape from San Antonio to Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande.
"The floods of '98," Keith said, pointing across the road, "that house probably had water in it. This house has never flooded in 170 years."
Ascending another flight of stairs, we entered the attic, where we were able to see the wooden pegs used in lieu of nails and screws to secure the ceiling joists and the 18-inch-thick stone walls. Even the mortar speaks to the history of the area.
This was a working plantation," Keith said. "[Joseph Polley] had about 20 to 21 slaves. When they were building this house, the slaves would go to the [Cibolo] creek and collect all the mussel shells, crush them, and make the mortar."
We carefully made our way across the ceiling joists to a trapdoor in the roof. This would have served two purposes, Keith said. Pails of water could be brought through to put out roof fires. It also allowed someone to climb up to serve as a lookout for hostile Indians in the area.
Every room seems to have a story attached to it, so it was no surprise that the house was placed on Preservation Texas' 2016 most endangered list last February.
Restoration of the mansion is set to pick up speed this September, with the Muschaleks moving into the area for good from their last home in Virginia, another state heavy with its own history.
Keith credits his father, Robert, in particular, for first instilling within him an appreciation of the past. A native of nearby Yorktown who wrote a book about the area, the elder Muschalek passed away two months ago, shortly after he and his wife, Estella, helped Keith and Robin purchase the Polley Mansion.
"He was totally positive about this place, the more he read about it," Keith said. "He was sick, but he would come out here and watch us fix it up."
The next incarnation of the Polley Mansion is starting to take shape in the minds of its new owners.
"I want it to be more like a community gathering place," Robin said. "Something where people could come use it, see it, enjoy it."
This was a working plantation," Keith said. "[Joseph Polley] had about 20 to 21 slaves. When they were building this house, the slaves would go to the [Cibolo] creek and collect all the mussel shells, crush them, and make the mortar."
We carefully made our way across the ceiling joists to a trapdoor in the roof. This would have served two purposes, Keith said. Pails of water could be brought through to put out roof fires. It also allowed someone to climb up to serve as a lookout for hostile Indians in the area.
Every room seems to have a story attached to it, so it was no surprise that the house was placed on Preservation Texas' 2016 most endangered list last February.
Restoration of the mansion is set to pick up speed this September, with the Muschaleks moving into the area for good from their last home in Virginia, another state heavy with its own history.
Keith credits his father, Robert, in particular, for first instilling within him an appreciation of the past. A native of nearby Yorktown who wrote a book about the area, the elder Muschalek passed away two months ago, shortly after he and his wife, Estella, helped Keith and Robin purchase the Polley Mansion.
"He was totally positive about this place, the more he read about it," Keith said. "He was sick, but he would come out here and watch us fix it up."
The next incarnation of the Polley Mansion is starting to take shape in the minds of its new owners.
"I want it to be more like a community gathering place," Robin said. "Something where people could come use it, see it, enjoy it."
More importantly, the house will also serve as a place where future generations of Texans can come and experience their history firsthand, according to the Muschaleks.
"This is where the kids will come for field trips," Keith said. "By coming here, we can talk about from 1821 through the Civil War and Reconstruction. This is where they get their Texas history."
The Polley Mansion, also known as Whitehall, has had a number of owners.
•1851: Completed by Joseph and Mary Polley
•1904: Joseph's sons sell the house to Lou Rinda Polley
•1907: The house is sold to Wilson County Commissioner E.W. Billings
•1917: Charles Moehrig buys the house
•1922: Judge C.A. Goeth buys the house; some renovations follow
•1946: Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Linne buy the mansion and restore it to grandeur, opening the home to the public for events
•1988-90: Oscar Linne dies in 1988, and his wife, in 1990. Their nephews sell the property to real estate professionals Buddy Hemby and Steve Keeland.
•1993: Mr. and Mrs. Mark Collins buy the mansion
•2015: Keith and Robin Muschalek purchase the mansion. Renovations are under way to restore it to its former glory.
Note: The Polley family cemetery across F.M. 539 from the mansion has remained in the family's ownership and is a registered historic site.


..... When you work on a historic property, you never know what you'll find.  In July 2020, the Muschaleks found 'treasures' beneath Polley Mansion floors
JULY 2020
Last week, Keith and Robin Muschalek, who own the historic Polley Mansion — also known as Whitehall — on F.M. 539 near La Vernia, were repairing the floor of the main hallway of the house.
"As we pulled up original 1800s floorboards and crawled through the narrow space — OK, my retired Army colonel spouse did that part," Robin said, "treasures were found as if time stood still."
What had they discovered?
Piles of whittled sticks, stone chips, eating utensils, leather items, pieces of glassware, metal tools, and more!
"Could these all be from the builders of Whitehall in 1847-55?" Robin speculated, as she posted the finds to the Polley Mansion Facebook page.
Community members reading her post wondered and speculated right along with the Muschaleks.
Some of the whittled sticks have pointed ends and holes in them. They could be plumb bobs, or plummets, according to Amy Price. Plummets are weights, used with string or line as a vertical reference by builders.
Pieces of glassware also were revealed during the hallway floor repairs at the Polley Mansion on F.M. 539, including a bottleneck and stopper!
Some of the wooden items may be stick shuttles or bobbins, used for weaving.
Leonard Weyel suggests that some of the sticks resemble atlatls, bows, and other Native American tools.
Eating utensils and other metal objects also were recovered, along with wooden spools for thread, tools, and even some gaming pieces — a domino, a marble, and a checker!
Among the leather items are straps and belts, a child's shoe, and a long, thin "sleeve," that may be a scabbard or sheath for a cutting implement.
Also under the floorboards were several tree stumps and some glass pieces, including a bottleneck and its stopper — a rare find. The base of a green bottle has pontil marks, that can help the Muschaleks age the glassware. The pontil mark, or scar, reveals that the glass piece was blown, and not manufactured.
Next time you're doing some home repairs, pay attention. There might be treasures hiding under your floorboards, too!
COURTESY/ La Vernia News  written by Nannette Kilbey-Smith  in JULY 2020

A letter to Joseph H. Polley 1835

A posted 1835 letter cover sent from White Hall, New York to Joseph H. Polley of Sutherland Springs Texas.   (Private collection)
In 1847 Polley moved from his home on the Brazos River in Brazoria County, which he had called "Whitehall" in honor of his birthplace. He selected a site for his new home on the small knoll overlooking Cibolo Creek about three miles north of old Sutherland Springs, in what was then Guadalupe County (established 1846) and is now Wilson County (established 1860). [The northeast section of Wilson County was previously a southeast section of Guadalupe County.]
(Historic Farm & Ranch Complexes)
The area we know today as Wilson County was a part of Bexar County and the county seat was in San Antonio, Texas. In 1855 Dr. John Sutherland of Sutherland Springs and a veteran of the Texas Revolution, sent petitions to the Texas Legislature asking this body to form a new county from portions of Bexar and Karnes counties. The act to create said county was approved by the Texas State Legislature on February 13, 1860. It was named Wilson County after James Wilson, an Englishman who came to Texas in the 1830s. He survived the ill-fated Mier Expedition and became a state senator. ( Wilson County Historical Society

Hall of honor inducts Wilson County pioneer

Wilson County Texas celebrated the anniversary of Texas statehood two days early by recognizing one of its early settlers.
During a brief Feb. 17, 2016 ceremony at the Wilson County Courthouse, Joseph Henry Polley was inducted into the First Pioneers and Leaders of the State of Texas Hall of Honor.
Polley, born in 1795, was a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Texas War for Independence. He moved to Wilson County in 1847 and built a home in Sutherland Springs, where he lived until he died in 1869. The house, which Polley named Whitehall, is undergoing restoration by its current owner, Keith Muschalek.
Six direct descendants of Polley attended the ceremony, which included a presentation by Dennis Kulvicki, president of the State of Texas Anniversary Remembrance Day Foundation.
Kulvicki said the foundation carries out the intent of state legislation passed in 1999 to celebrate Feb. 19, the anniversary of the date Texas became a state, with appropriate patriotic ceremonies.
"My job is to inspire our young people," Kulvicki said, explaining that the organization also serves "to motivate young people to explore and discover the state's founders."
Kulvicki, an El Paso resident, said some of his ancestors are buried in the Fairview Cemetery west of Floresville, and some of his wife's ancestors may have known Joseph Henry Polley.
According to Wilson County Historical Society member Shirley Grammer, Polley owned lands in an arc from Corpus Christi north to Llano County and west to Medina County, raising cattle and growing cotton.
Grammer noted that Polley sponsored schools in Seguin and Sutherland Springs. His home became a social center, and guests included Robert E. Lee and John B. Hood.
After Polley's death, he was buried in the family cemetery on F.M. 539.
"Polley played a distinctive role in the history of Texas," Kulvicki said.
COURTESY /  Wilson County News  Article written by Gregory Ripps

Historical Reminiscences

Conducted By J. B. Polley, Floresville, Texas

On July 12, 1908 the San Antonio (TX) Daily Express published a letter from Dr. Sam Burroughs of Buffalo, Texas (formerly Private Burroughs) of the 1st Texas Infantry about his intense memories of the Battle of Gettysburg and the charge by Hood's Texas Brigade on the Devil's Den and Little Round Top and how a Federal Sniper was dealt with later that evening. 
I believe this letter (article) hasn't been seen by many since it was published almost 113 years ago.
Daily Express
July 12, 1908
Historical Reminiscences
Conducted By J. B. Polley, Floresville, Texas
  We listened to so many stories of the war that we have forgotten the half of them. Next time we go to a reunion we will carry along a recording phonograph and when the old boys get in a reminiscent mood have it in a fix to catch the stories. Two of these we remember well enough to repeat. They were related by Dr. Sam E. Burroughs of Buffalo. At the time the incidents occurred he was a 20-year-old boy, and as "wild and wooly" a chap as ever vegetated in the piney woods. Now he is a leading physician and surgeon in East Texas.
  The first incident occurred at the beginning of the second day's battle at Gettysburg. To the First Texas Regiment had been given by Mrs. Wigfall a beautiful Lone Star flag, made from her wedding dress. When St. Andrew's cross was adopted as the battle flag of the Confederacy the unfolding of State flags in action was prohibited. Nevertheless, the First Texas carried along with it the Lone Star flag. Its bearer was a young fellow, under 20, whose name has escaped our memory, but it was never unfolded in battle after the order mentioned was issued until the battle at Gettysburg. There, while the Texas Brigade was forming in line of battle, a Federal battery got its range and began to play upon it. One of the round shots fired wounded several men of the First Texas and when, passing on, swept the head off of Ham Lloyd of Company F of the Fourth Texas.
   "Just as this occurred," said Dr. Burroughs, "I saw the bearer of the Lone Star flag, begin to pull off the oil cloth case that protected it. Having completed the task he stuffed the case into his haversack and then commenced unrolling the flag."
  "What are you doing that for?" I asked, don't you know it's against orders to show but the one flag and that our battleflag?"
  "Yes, I know what the orders are as well as anybody" he replied; "but orders be d----d in a case like this; I am going to straddle the gun that fired that shot and wave the Lone Star flag over it or die a trying."
  "At that moment Hood came in front of the brigade and a dozen voices shouted: "Have that fence pulled down, General, and we'll take that infernal battery."
  Hood ordered a detail to level the fence and in less than ten minutes the battery was captured, and that little dare devil bearer of the Lone Star sat astride of the gun which had fired the shot mentioned, waving his flag and yelling loud enough to be heard above the roar of cannon.
  In another twenty minutes the First Texas was engaged in the fierce and sometimes hand-to-hand struggle that occurred in the Devil's Den. During the progress of the fight there about a dozen of us forged far to the front and finally secured a commanding position high up on the side of Little Round Top.
  Here we commenced shooting at everything Federal that came into view. It was not a one-sided performance though, for some of the Federals on the field had as much grit as the Confederates, and while we drove them as long as we moved forward, they came to a halt when we did and began firing at us. But we did not mind them as much as we did the determination and good aim of some far-off Yankee whose location for a long time we could not fix. The gun he used made a report like a small cannon, and the balls from it wounded two or three men.
  Long and close watching revealed the fact that he was concealed in the branches of a tall oak tree, fully half a mile distant, and standing in the open. The puffs of smoke from his rifle appeared to proceed from a limb on the south side of the trunk, and, thinking to put an end to his game, our little squad waited until he fired, and then poured a volley into the south side of the tree top. The return shot came immediately and demonstrated plainly that we had done no damage. A second time we took aim and pulled the trigger, only to be replied to by another puff of smoke out of the treetop and the whistle of a bullet dangerously close to our ears. Then an Alabamian, 20 yards or more off to our right, gave us the hint we needed. He cried out:
  "Say Texans, you'uns ar' lettin' that are plaguey sharpshooter fool yer. He don't stay on the limb whar he shoots from. The moment he pulls the trigger he jumps for the body of the tree. Eff yer'll all center on that yer'll shorely git him."
  And "shortly git him" we did. One of our boys shoved his hat well above the big rock sheltering his body. The sharpshooter fired at it, and just a second later we sent a volley of bullets into the treetop, this time, however, aiming so as to scalp the trunk of the tree in which our enemy was lodged, and had the satisfaction of seeing the fellow's body come tumbling to the ground.
  "You got him that time, Johnny," sang out a Yankee that was nearer by.
  "We shorely did, "answered one of our party. We saw him drop, and we heerd im' strike the ground, damn him."
  These little amenities exchanged with the enemy, we looked into our rear and saw, far down the hill below us, that our main force was making a change of position that would leave us entirely unsupported and subject to capture. That was the signal to us for an immediate retreat, and I don't mind acknowledging that it was precipitate. It couldn't have been otherwise, for not only was our flight downhill, but it was hastened by the bullets of the enemy. I know that I went with the velocity of a shell just out of the cannon's mouth – so fast, indeed, that I could distinctly hear the thunder of the air as it rushed together behind me to fill the vacuum my body left.
  "This is the first time I ever heard a Texas Brigade man admit he did any running," observed a veteran of the Trans-Mississippi Department who had been listening, open-mouthed, to the story.
  That is due to the modesty of the members of the brigade," said Dr. Burroughs. We never boast of our bravest deeds – we let others tell them. But just as a pointer to you, my friend, I would gently remark that it often requires more courage to get out of a hot place than to get into it. Facing and fighting an enemy, one is nerved and simulated by an excitement and the desire to kill and win that is entirely absent when one is running from him. To know when to stand or go forward and when to retreat is generalship of the highest order. The poet says:
  "In all the trade of war no feat, Is nobler than a brave retreat."
  When your enemy surrounds you, or get the drop on you, you'd be a fool not to surrender; but when, by taking no more risks than you encountered while moving forward, there is a chance for you to escape death and capture, if you are a true soldier you'll run every time. Many of the bravest men in the Federal and Confederate armies were shot in the back while endeavoring to escape capture. It was in this way that one-armed Gen. Phil Kearney of the Federal Army was killed at Chantilly a few days after the Battle of Second Manassas. He galloped up to a line of our skirmishers after nightfall, thinking they were his own men. Apprised of his mistake, and unwilling to surrender, he wheeled his horse around, and, bending his body forward, went off at full speed. But he had not gone 100 feet before a ball struck him squarely in the anus and killed him dead, without leaving a mark or a drop of blood on his exterior body. Falling from his horse, the remains lay there until General Lee came and reorganized it.
  "You have killed the bravest man in America, boys," he said. Then he gave directions to have the body guarded and returned under a flag of truce to the Federal Army.
COURTESY / Civil War Texas ( Joe Owen Civil War Author)

J.B. Polley and Hood's Texas Brigade

J.B. Polley and Hood's Texas Brigade ... The enduring fame of General John Bell Hood's Texas brigade in Civil War history was due in large part to a soldier of the Fourth Texas Infantry Regiment, Quarter Master Sergeant Joseph Benjamin (J. B.) Polley. He was born near Bailey's Prairie, Brazoria County, Texas, on October 27, 1840, the sixth of eleven children of Joseph Henry and Mary (Bailey) Polley. His family had historical Texas roots. His father Joseph Henry Polley a native of New York, first came to Texas with pioneer Moses Austin in 1819 and returned with Stephen F. Austin in 1821 as one of the Old Three Hundred colonists. In 1847 the Polley family moved to a farm on Cibolo Creek about thirty miles east of San Antonio.

In 1861 Polley graduated from Florence Wesleyan University at Florence, Alabama, and returned to Texas to enlist in Company F of the Fourth Texas Infantry, one of the regiments of the famed Hood's Texas Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia.   Sergeant Polley fought in many of the major battles the brigade was in. He received a head wound at the battle of Gaines Mills in 1862, and lost his right foot at the battle of Darbytown Road near Richmond on October 7, 1864.

After returning to Texas at the end of the war, he was admitted to the Texas bar in 1868 and established a law practice until 1876, when he moved to Floresville. In 1866 he married Mattie LeGette, and the couple had four children. Polley was elected commander of the Texas Division of the United Confederate Veterans. He was an active member and leader of Hood's Texas Brigade Association made up of the former soldiers of the brigade. For several years he wrote weekly articles for the San Antonio Express titled "Historical Reminiscences" about Hood's Texas Brigade and other Confederate brigades, leaders, soldiers and battles.

Polley's first Civil War book, A Soldier's Letters to Charming Nellie (1908), is controversial as it has been suspected over the years to be a largely fictional correspondence rather than the authentic Civil War letter cycle which he claimed to be. There is no authenticated woman named "Nellie" that he knew. He was commissioned by the Hood's Texas Brigade Association to write Hood's Texas Brigade: Its Marches, Its Battles, Its Achievements (1910), and is considered one of the classics of Civil War literature. Polley was also a frequent contributor to Confederate Veteran. He attended the yearly Hood's Texas Brigade Association reunions up until shortly before his death. He died on February 2, 1918 in Floresville, Texas and is buried in the city cemetery.

J. B. Polley kept the history and fame of Hood's Texas Brigade alive throughout the years. His desire to keep the brigade's achievements and history alive has been largely successful. He would be pleased and proud to know that the brigade's history is well known in American and Civil War History.
COURTESY / Joe Owen, Civil War Author
Fb img 1625101718577

Joseph Benjamin "J. B." Polley

His family were Texas pioneers, Mom and Dad. He was a lawyer and a judge after the war and also was the historian of Hood's Texas Brigade he wrote two books, "Hood's Texas Brigade: Its Marches, Its Battles, Its Achievements," which was the first authorized history of the brigade. He also wrote, "Letters To Charming Nellie," his semi-fictional account of the war. He wrote to the San Antonio Daily Express for about 10 years in a weekly column of Hood's Brigade, Confederate Texas, Texas Republic and the Indian Wars. He and his wife lived in Floresville Wilson County Texas and are buried there.
COURTESY / Civil War Texas


By  Keith Muschalek  & Robin Broughton Muschalek

The front rails are complete! We removed the rotted rails six years ago and completed them today. They weren't on the house in 1855 but an 1889 photo shows the porch with the rails. (Reader Owen Lowak  asks who knows what the red things are sitting on the steps?)

Polley Mansion