The Polley Family
In 1820, Joseph Henry Polley made his first trip to Texas along with Moses Austin who had secured a vast tract of land in Spanish Mexico to be settled by Anglo families. He returned a year later with Moses' son, Stephen F. Austin, to claim the land and begin settlement. After obtaining his own land grant, Joseph H. Polley married Mary Augusta Bailey, daughter of James Britton Bailey and Edith Smith, a pioneer family that arrived to Texas in 1818 (predating the Austin land grants).
Joseph and Mary were married three times: a civil ceremony in 1823, and Protestant ceremony in 1826, and a Catholic ceremony in 1831, highlighting the religious and geographic difficulties facing the early Texas settlers. Together, the Polley's had 9 children in the Brazoria district of Austin's Old 300 settlement (two more would follow after the family moved west). Joseph H. Polley was the first sheriff in Austin's colony and he helped to escort families in the Runaway Scrape during the Texas war for independence.
In 1847, the family moved to a tract of land on the Cibolo Creek in what is now Wilson County (formerly Guadalupe Co.). There, the Polley's built a grand homestead complete with a large, two-story home that still stands today. The Polley family reached prominence in the area, always hosting visitors, including Robert E. Lee and John Bell Hood. Polley grew various crops, including cotton at times, but he was primarily a cattle rancher, with one of the larger holdings in Texas cattle ranch history.
The Civil War brought tough times for the family, but the Polley's endured. Joseph and Mary Polley, along with their nine surviving children, and many, many descendants serve as characters in an incredible family saga, full of proud highs and devastating lows, as storied as the great state of Texas that they called home.
Resources for Further Research
Joseph H. Polley
Texas State Historical Association - Handbook of Texas Online
The Polley Family Papers
Dolph Briscoe Center for American History - University of Texas at Austin
Joseph H. Polley Papers
Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo, San Antonio, Texas