Sydney "Simmie" Rydolph


December 8, 1908 - March 7, 2006
Role: Support Job
Nicknames: Simmie

Simmie was born down in Lewis' Bend, the freedman community on the banks of the San’tone River. He is the son of Robert Rydolph and Evelyn Hamilton Rydolph. The Rydolphs, led by Pete Rydolph, were one of the very few African American families who had substantial ranch holdings in the Texas Coastal Bend. For reasons not entirely clear, but likely precipitated by being born out of wedlock, he was ostracized by the Rydolph family. In his later years he chose to go by the name of Simmie Polk. He is the grandson of Anderson Tillman, a slave brought to the Seabourn (Seabron) Lewis Plantation before the Civil War. His grandfather talked about driving an ox cart from Indianola to Goliad and then to Mexico. Indianola was a thriving port city with many African Americans from Virginia settling there. After the storm in 1886 destroyed the city, many of the blacks relocated to Lewis' Bend. “It was the center, the mother of all the rest of the settlements around here. They came from Indianola after that storm and here’s where they settled, in Lewis’ Bend. It was the center of everything.” Simmie tried ranch work under Chris West a little, and also with Louis Power on the O'Connor Duke Ranch, but it wasn’t to his liking. “If you didn’t have it in you, there was no way you could cowboy. I never was no cowboy. The rest of these boys loved it, and they couldn’t wait to get on a horse. They had fun, just like they say.” Simmie, after realizing he was not cowhand material, went to California and worked in the war industry building Liberty ships. He then opened a dry cleaning shop and spent most of his life in California until returning to Refugio where he lived out his days. Along with K. J. Oliver, his good friend, Simmie was instrumental in bringing desegregation to Refugio and the surrounding area. In

Introduction to Simmie Rydolph

Louise S. O'Connor
00:03:24
Voice of Simmie Rydolph
00:02:04
SR – The Tillman's came from Virginia; Rydolph's did, too. And they landed at Indianola. Old man Anderson Tillman was my grandfather on my mother's side. You know Indianola was destroyed. All those people that came from Virginia, it was quite of a seaport town, Indianola were till that storm destroyed it. And then quite a few black people drifted up the spurs of Lewis' Bend. My grandfather, he used to talk all the time about driving an ox cart from Indianola to Goliad, and from that to Old Mexico and hauling freight. And that's when he located into Lewis' Bend in the 1870s – something like that. And they named it after …now I asked around about that because I don't know which I heard that somebody said it was named after white. But it wasn't. Lewis was a black man. A family you remember Old Man Jack Lewis, well his father is the one that that Bend was named after.
L.V. Terrel - Lewis' Bend.
SR – Lewis' Bend. My grandfather talked quite a bit about it because Lewis' Bend was quite a booming place. And those cowboys, yes…all those cowboys because you take those Lott's, and the Tillman's, they were all cowboys. See, there used to be Old Man Paul Lott.
Baily Shaw - That's right.
SR – And my grandfather, Old Man Andy Tillman. Some of…a family of Terrell's lived in there.
Baily Shaw - I knew Andy well.
SR – Lewis' family…Lewis' lived in there. The Youngblood's lived in Lewis' Bend. Now I'll tell you out at Welder's Ranch, you know the Herron's…old man. They was Mr. Welder's cowboys…mean cowboys. Bush Herron, Tobias Herron and all those… Well they all originated out of Lewis' Bend. Well, I tell you, as near as I can remember, that was just about considered the birth place of the black people in that area.