On November 4, 2017, Polley descendants from around the country gathered at Whitehall to celebrate our shared heritage and learn more about our ancestors that called the Polley Mansion ‘home.’ We began the gathering on the previous night at the Power Plant Grill in Seguin, Texas, a converted old power mill overlooking the beautiful Guadalupe River. It was wonderful to reconnect with familiar faces and to meet new cousins that have a shared interest in our family history.
Saturday morning began on the front lawn of the Polley Mansion with Texas History Professor and author, Paul Spellman giving us a brief account of the ‘Old 300’ families of Stephen F. Austin’s colony and also an overview of the life of teamsters in the War of 1812 (a position held by Joseph Henry Polley). Interestingly, many of the teamsters, or supply cart drivers, served for very short terms, often numbering in the days, instead of months or years. Professor Spellman was followed by our Polley Association President, Katherine Goldberg, who gave an account of the Bailey and Polley families in Texas from their arrival, up through the Polley children and their families. Much of this history was woven together as she worked to compile an extensive family tree, encompassing all members descended from Joseph Henry and Mary Bailey Polley (which was on display in the mansion’s great hall).
After a short break, we all adjourned to the rear of the Polley Mansion, where Adam and Lola Polley, descendents through the Mary Augusta Polley Baylor line, renewed their wedding vows, with Keith Muschalek, owner of the Polley Mansion, officiating. It was a lovely ceremony and it was so nice to be a part of a joyous celebration at Whitehall, a place once known as the social hub of the community in the mid-1800’s.
At lunch, while we enjoyed a fine example of local Texas bar-b-que, we took a moment to recognize our Polley family members in attendance. We had Polley descendants from age 3 to age 95 in attendance, and folks travelled to Wilson County, Texas from as far away as Nevada and California in the west, and Maryland and Florida on the East Coast. We were also treated to a guest appearance by the lovely Ms. Hannah New Spivey, a great granddaughter of Joseph and Mary Bailey Polley, and the last in her generation, who celebrated her 107th birthday the following week.
We took a moment to honor our own Shirley Grammer with the first ever ‘Joseph Polley Paine Excellence in History Award’ for her dedication to tracking down and recording the history and legacy of the Polley family. As I am sure most of you know, if you have a Polley question, Shirley will either know the answer, or know the correct direction to point you. There is also now a wonderful tree planted at the Polley Mansion in honor of Shirley and John Grammer for their contributions to the Polley family legacy.
Following lunch, Keith Muschalek spoke about how he and Robin came to own the Polley Mansion, and he provided us with a description of the extensive work they have undertaken to restore the beautiful stone structure. It is such a joy to hear Keith talk about Whitehall and the Polley history with the same enthusiasm and respect that all Polley Association members have for this shared history. We then had time to wander the property and hear about the history of each room from the local Junior Historians, led by their sponsor Tambria Read.
Once everyone had toured the home properly, we gathered for a memorial ceremony for the family members we have lost since our last gathering. Sisters, Melinda Kilian and Melissa Lingwall read the names of our loved ones and said a few words of remembrance. This was followed by a walk to the Polley Cemetery across the road from the mansion. Sara Pantin said a few words of tribute to our eleven Polley ancestors who are buried in the family cemetery. We rounded out our cemetery stops with the Sutherland Springs Cemetery, where sisters Candy and Tammy Tiner spoke about their ancestor, Susan Rebecca Polley Henderson Brooks, and Todd Polley and his daughter Dawsha Polley spoke about their ancestor Mary Augusta Polley Baylor.
As the sun set on a beautiful and joy-filled day, we gathered at local restaurant, The Den, in La Vernia to continue the conversations and time together with cousins.
On Sunday, November 5th, those who were still in town, gathered at the Sebastopol House in Seguin, Texas. The Sebastopol House is the childhood home of Mattie LeGette, who would go on to marry Joseph Benjamin Polley after he returned from the Civil War. The tour of the very unique limecrete structure was highly enjoyable and a worthwhile stop if you are ever in the area.
If the mark of a good reunion is that you can’t wait to gather again sometime soon, then I think this was a GREAT Polley family reunion. We will certainly not wait another 10 years for the next one.
For more photos of the 2017 Polley Family Reunion, click over to the Event Gallery. To be notified of future Polley family gatherings, join the Polley Association! We would love to have you! All members receive the yearly newsletter and invitations to all Polley Association events.