Both Joseph Henry Polley and the house he built in the 1850s grabbed state-level attention last week.
Local officials and history enthusiasts joined Polley descendants at the Wilson County Courthouse Feb. 17 to celebrate the settler’s induction into the First Pioneers and Leaders of the State of Texas Hall of Honor.
The next day, Preservation Texas announced the inclusion of the Polley house in its list of Texas’ Most Endangered Places.
The organization publicizes a list annually to draw attention to places of cultural, historical, and architectural significance that are in risk of being lost. Besides attempting to rally Texans to save them, Preservation provides direct support as well.
Wilson County Historical Society member Shirley Grammer nominated the Polley house for the endangered list, and attended the Preservation Texas Summit in Austin where the announcement was made.
“I was so happy!” Grammer exclaimed. “It was one of 14 places selected from across Texas.”
Although only one Polley descendant was able to attend the announcement, six Polley descendants attended the Feb. 17 hall of fame induction, at which time Grammer shared highlights from their ancestor’s life.
Polley was born in 1795 and took part in the War of 1812 before moving to Texas and playing a role in its war for independence. He settled in Wilson County in 1847 and built his house near Sutherland Springs. The house, which Polley named Whitehall, became a social center, and guests included Robert E. Lee and John B. Hood. The same house, where Polley resided until his death in 1869, is undergoing restoration by its current owner, Keith Muschalek.
Grammer said Polley raised cattle and grew cotton, owning lands in an arc from Corpus Christi north to Llano County and west to Medina County. He also sponsored schools in Seguin and Sutherland Springs. Polley is buried in the family cemetery on F.M. 539.
Dennis Kulvicki, president of the State of Texas Anniversary Remembrance Day Foundation, said it is important to honor Texas pioneers and leaders on or near Feb. 19, the anniversary of the date Texas became a state.
“My job is to inspire our young people,” Kulvicki said, explaining that his organization tries to motivate young people to explore and discover the state’s founders.
“Polley played a distinctive role in the history of Texas,” Kulvicki said.
Anyone with carpentry or painting skills and some time is asked to help with restoration work on the front porch of the Polley house the weekend of Feb. 27 and 28.
The carpentry work will be done Saturday; the painting, on Sunday. Tree and bush trimming and general cleanup will take place both days.
Volunteers are asked to bring hand tools, air-nailers, paint brushes, and scrapers, if they have them. An air compressor, miter saw, and table saw will be provided.
Plastic bags and a metal dumpster will be on hand for the cleanup.
In case of rain, the project will be moved to March 5 and 6. To sign up, call 571-606-3385 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.