San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

September 18th, 2009
LBJ Museum San Marcos exhibit celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month


When the Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum of San Marcos celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month with a reception and public opening of the visiting exhibit “A Tejano Son of Texas” exhibit on Diez Y Seis, the connection will be stronger than just the location.

The exhibit tells the story of legendary Texas pioneer Jose Policarpio “Polly” Rodriguez’s life, family and legacy, beginning with his birth to José Antonio and Encarnación (Sánchez) Rodríguez in Zaragoza, Coahuila, Mexico (35 miles west of the site of present-day Eagle Pass, Texas), on Jan. 26, 1829. It follows his new life in San Antonio in the 1840s as a gunsmith and hunter, on to his career as a scout and guide for the U.S. military, his career as a Texas Ranger during the Civil War, rancher, justice of the peace and eventually as a Methodist minister. He died in the nearby town of Poteet on March 22, 1914.
“Polly” Rodriguez, as a circuit-riding Methodist preacher, actually had his first traveling assignment in San Marcos during the late 1800s. A true pioneering evangelist, he was one of the first Hispanic Methodists preachers in Texas. He had been converted from Catholicism to Methodism and was granted a license to preach in 1878.

The traveling exhibit, which features eight free-standing panels plus selected artifacts, is from San Antonio-based which has a multidiscipline collection of works associated with its primary objective of history, research, publishing and communications. Its mission is to create an awareness and education about the diverse contributions of early Texas Tejano pioneers and to tell the true stories of their lives and legacies. President Rudi R. Rodriguez, a direct descendent of “Polly” Rodriguez, will participate in the opening program.

The public is invited to the opening festivities, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009, at the museum, located at 131 N. Guadalupe St. on the courthouse square in downtown San Marcos. The exhibit will be up through October 15, 2009.

“Polly” Rodríguez’s family was one of means and well educated. In 1841, the family moved to San Antonio where the elder Rodríguez worked as a gunsmith for three years. He was employed as a surveyor for some years and worked in the Texas Hill Country.

At the age of 13, Policarpo Rodriguez was apprenticed as a gunsmith to James Goodman of San Antonio. In 1849, then 20 years old, he 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 Feb.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 difficult travel conditions and Indian attacks, the Whiting party chose a more direct route back to San Antonio and arrived there on May 25. The return route, laid out with the help of Rodríguez, became the principal westward road to El Paso. The expedition established Rodríguez’s reputation as a reliable scout, and he continued to serve the government in that capacity until 1861.

In 1856, he was transferred to Camp Verde in Kerr County, and two years later he purchased 360 acres of land on Privilege Creek in Bandera County where 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 and Texas Rangers.

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. In 1989 a fictionalized account of Polly Rodriguez’s life was published as the novel Poli, by Jay Neugeboren.
The museum’s display of the traveling exhibit was made possible by a grant from the San Marcos Minority Tourism Development Board.

Activities will begin with music provided by the San Marcos Mariachi Academy under the leadership of Frank De Leon at 6:30 p.m. De Leon will conduct a “mini-workshop” and historical presentation, along with his group’s performance. Light refreshments will be served.

Diez Y Seis – the 16th of September – heralds Mexico’s hard-fought-for independence from Spain that was finally obtained in 1821. Sept. 16, 1810, was the date when a priest named Father Miguel Hidalgo
y Costilla started the revolt against the Spanish that would eventually bring freedom for Mexico, which included present-day Texas.

The museum’s permanent and rotating exhibits, educational tours and special events have brought a unique cultural experience to San Marcos, welcoming a number of visiting university classes, local private schools and public school groups from the area and even as far away as Houston.

Collaborations and partnerships with Texas State, the Texas Historical Commission and various civic and cultural organizations have helped to foster an increased interest in local tourism development, historic preservation, and the legacy of Lyndon Johnson.

For more information, contact Museum Director Scott Jordan at 512-353-3300 or e-mail Jordan at


Email Email | Print Print


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.