Restoring José Policarpio Rodriguez's legacy
By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor
Bandera County's beloved Polly's Chapel is undergoing a facelift - and more.
On Monday, June 18, members of the Polly Texas Pioneer Association, along with representatives from the Bandera County Chamber of Commerce, kicked off fundraising efforts with a ribbon cutting and informational session.
Events at Polly's Chapel always bode well for the county. The night before the ribbon cutting, a much-needed rainstorm splashed through the area. "And when we had our Christmas celebration it rained, too," someone recalled. So, what's good for Bandera County is better for Polly's Chapel.
According to Rudy Rodriguez, association vice chairman, the $50,000 goal has been nearly halfway met with the funds being used to restore timeworn windows and doors and ceiling. Woodworker Bob Reeves of Pipe Creek will oversee restoration efforts of the 1880s chapel.
Describing his vocation as "generational," Reeves has served as a long time handcrafter of wood in Bandera County.
In an interview, Reeves explained that he had based his designs on the original examples. "We wanted to capture the simple and elegant features of the original windows and doors," he said. Reeves added that his renderings had to be submitted to the Polly Texas Pioneer Association's architectural committee for approval.
"We want to purchase all materials for the restoration at one time so there will be no mixing and matching of woods," Reeves said. "When completed, the windows and doors will be constructed of white oak. Now they're a mixed bag of repairs."
First items slated for restoration are two windows, which "fits in with the fundraising efforts," Reeves said.
Additionally, proposed grounds landscaping will include a small prayer garden.
Addressing the crowd in the chapel after the ribbon cutting, Rudy Rodriguez said that large donors would be honored with plaques on windows, doors and the walls of the chapel.
"Restoring and preserving the legacy of José Policarpio "Polly" Rodriguez will help all the history of Bandera County," continued Rudy Rodriguez.
Fees association with use of the chapel for weddings and baptisms are earmarked to maintain the chapel and its grounds.
However, by "legacy," Rudy Rodriguez referred not only to the chapel, but also to future projects that will include preservation of ruins; restoration of a two-story limestone fort, a general store and a former one-room school, built in 1892 and located about two miles from the chapel; and continued maintenance of the nearby cemetery. "These historical buildings and areas serve as Polly's Texas footprints," he said.
Additionally, volunteers with the Polly Texas Pioneer Association will also provide on-site and outreach educational programs about this area's early pioneers and settlers.
Policarpio Rodriguez was one of Bandera and San Antonio's earliest settlers. He began construction of the charming chapel, located approximately 8.5 miles northeast of Bandera, in 1879. According to historical accounts, Rodriguez situated the building adjacent to the community crossroads on a small rise to take advantage of cooling southwestern breezes.
The lovely one-story chapel only measures 23-feet by 43-feet, but can seat 100 worshipers. In 1986, Polly's Chapel was registered the Texas Historical Commission in 1986 and became an official Texas Historical Landmark.
A successful rancher, Texas Ranger and justice of the peace, Rodriguez also established a small township along the banks of Privilege and Bear creeks. About 30 families lived in Polly, Texas, which included a post office, school and general store.
To assist with the fundraising efforts of the Polly Texas Pioneer Association to help preserve Tejano heritage and legacy in Bandera County, contact Aunt Flo Hopkins at 830-796-7383 or Anna Lunoff at 210-364-7096.
For more information on the restoration project of Polly's Chapel, visit
Pictured: It is believed that construction of the simple limestone chapel near Privilege Creek was conceived, designed and constructed by Bandera County's José Policarpio "Polly" Rodriguez.
The fundraising goal of $50,000 - set by the Polly Texas Pioneer Association to restore Polly's Chapel and surrounding grounds - has nearly halfway been met, according to Association Vice Chairman Rudy Rodriguez.
Descendants of José Policarpio "Polly" Rodriguez, from left, Albert Phillip Sierra, Albert Sierra and Becky Sierra, presented "Aunt" Flo Hopkins, chairman of the Polly Texas Pioneer Association, with a donation that will cover restoration of the chapel's double doors.