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Charles G. Downing

RODRÍGUEZ, JOSÉ POLICARPO (1829–1914). José Policarpo (Polly) Rodríguez, scout and minister, was born at Zaragoza, Coahuila, Mexico (thirty-five miles west of the site of present-day Eagle Pass, Texas), on January 26, 1829, the son of José Antonio and Encarnación (Sánchez) Rodríguez. The Rodríguez family was of means and well educated. In 1841 the family moved to San Antonio, Texas, where the elder Rodríguez worked as a gunsmith for three years. He was employed as a surveyor for some years and worked in the Hill Country of Texas. In 1849 the twenty-year-old Policarpo was hired as a scout for the Whiting and Smith expedition, a government-contracted venture charged with establishing a westward road from San Antonio to El Paso. The expedition left Fredericksburg on February 21 of that year, reached Presidio del Norte on March 25, proceeded north along the Rio Grande, and finally reached El Paso on April 11. Since the last leg of the journey was marked by exceedingly difficult traveling conditions and Indian attacks, the Whiting party chose a more direct route back to San Antonio and arrived there on May 25. This latter route, laid out with the invaluable help of Rodríguez, became the principal westward road to El Paso. The expedition also established Rodríguez's reputation as a reliable scout, and he continued to serve the government in this capacity until 1861. In 1856 he was transferred to Camp Verde in Kerr County, and two years later he purchased 360 acres of land in Bandera County on Privilege Creek. There he built his home and ranch. During the Civil War, Rodríguez refused a commission in the C.S.A. and served as a private in the Bandera Home Guards. He was converted from Catholicism to Methodism and was granted a license to preach in 1878. In 1882 Rodríguez built on his land a small chapel, known as Polly's Chapel, where he acted as minister. He also donated land and oversaw construction of a one-room schoolhouse. Late in life he published his autobiography, The Old Guide (1897). He was married twice, first to Nicolasa Arocha, with whom he had five children, and then, in 1903, to Anastacia Salinas, who bore him four children. Rodríguez died on March 22, 1914, in Poteet, Texas. In 1989 a fictionalized account of his life was published as the novel Poli, by Jay Neugeboren.

J. Marvin Hunter, Pioneer History of Bandera County (Bandera, Texas: Hunter's Printing, 1922). Texas Surveyors Association Historical Committee, Three Dollars Per Mile: Accounts of Early Surveying in Texas (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1981).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Charles G. Downing, "RODRIGUEZ, JOSE POLICARPO," accessed May 29, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fro52.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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