Texans have never been shy about sharing our proud history, and with the opening of the brand new San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site and Museum, we have another great resource to do just that!
The museum is situated in the town of San Felipe, Texas, just north of Sealy (west of Houston) off I-10. The museum provides excellent parking and facilities for your visit...and visit you should! They held a grand opening ceremony on April 27, 2018 that was very well attended by all of the important representatives and dedicated individuals who made this museum possible, along with a great number of Old 300 descendants and Texas history enthusiasts.
The museum chronicles the life of the unofficial capital in Stephen F. Austin's colony. San Felipe de Austin was established by Austin himself as the primary location for his work of allocating land grants and overseeing the health and success of his colony. Austin famously brought 300 families to Texas to settle on land granted to him by the Mexican government, and San Felipe de Austin was the major urban hub in that colony.
After their marriage, our very own Joseph and Mary Polley moved to San Felipe de Austin and established a household there. Joseph Henry Polley was a teamster (operated an oxen-driven wagon), and carpenter in the town. The Polley's were some of the earlier inhabitants, and Joseph's skills were integral for building the town up out of the bare prairie along the Brazos River.
The Polley's first child, Mary Augusta Polley, was born in San Felipe de Austin shortly before the family moved back to Bell's Landing in the Brazoria District. The family left San Felipe de Austin before the town's heyday, a time when Gail Borden (later the inventor of sweetened condensed milk) ran the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper out of San Felipe and William Barrett Travis operated his law office in town.
The website for the Historic Site has an excellent 2D map that you can explore to find where Joseph and Mary Polley lived between 1826 and 1828 (Hint: They were lots 532 and 569 by the Brazos River).
San Felipe de Austin was a prominent meeting place during the Texas Revolution, however, as Texian forces retreated after the fall of the Alamo, San Felipe de Austin was evacuated and burned in what is known as the Runaway Scrape. This prevented the town from falling into the hands of the Mexican Army. The destruction also prevented the site from being a viable town in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution, and thus, San Felipe de Austin is one of the lesser known sites of great significance in Texas colonial history. This new museum aims to focus our attention in on the significant role played by this once thriving town, and they are doing a magnificent job of it.
Along with a life-size replica of a log cabin inside the museum, there is also a giant interactive touch screen map that you can tap to find out about different locations in the town. There is a printing press, and an amazing model map of the town in an outdoor courtyard that you can walk around to find out more about the people and places that made San Felipe de Austin such a prominent colonial Texas town.
I highly encourage you to visit when you are in the area. And if you pick up a museum guide in the gift shop, you will find a little mention and photo of our Joseph Henry Polley inside.
San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site and Museum
220 2nd St., San Felipe, TX 77473