Mrs. Fisher E. Simmons - "Miss Polly"
Her name on the Hall of Fame plaque reads “Mrs. Fisher E. Simmons,” but deep in the heart of Cajun country, she simply went by the name “Miss Polly.”
Pauline Sill “Polly” McIlhenny Simmons was born July 22, 1902, on Avery Island, Louisiana, to Edward Avery McIlhenny and Mary Givens Matthews. Her paternal grandfather, Edmund McIlhenny, invented Tabasco brand pepper sauce around 1868, and her father ran the pepper sauce business, organized as McIlhenny Company, from 1898 until his death in 1949.
Polly’s experiences with horses are not those typically associated with the familiar cowboys on American Quarter Horses. She told stories of herding Brahman cattle through thickly vegetated brush and getting bucked off green horses that did not think too highly of wading through the rear-whacking bamboo stalks.
In the 1950s one of Polly’s sons served as captain of a military school polo team at Culver Military Institute, and on his return to Avery Island joined a local polo team. He was always on the lookout for good polo ponies, and Polly bought a roan stallion, Blue Mills by Bunky Phillips, for him. It was through her son’s involvement with this team that Polly became familiar with the American Quarter Horse. She became a fan of the versatile breed and began to purchase, show and race Quarter Horses. At one time she owned as many as 100 horses, which she stabled in locations both on and off the island.
Quarter Horses were a great source of enjoyment for Polly. One of her widely known horses was Te Ellen, a palomino ROM cutting mare shown extensively in the South and Southwest by Ed Dugas. Quality in her mares resulted in success in halter shows and performance classes, before she turned her attention to the race track.
Polly eventually joined the Board of Directors of Evangeline Downs race track later becoming a member of the Board of Directors of Delta Downs race track in Vinton, Louisiana. In fact, Polly played a major role in the founding of Delta Downs. During racing season, she made the 250-mile round trip each weekend to visit the Vinton track. She devoted so much of her energy to racing at Delta Downs that a room and a race – the “Miss Polly Handicap” – was named in her honor.
Polly was active in the American Quarter Horse Association, holding various offices within the organization. In 1968, Polly became the fifth woman director of AQHA; she was given the title of AQHA Honorary Vice President in 1976. She also served on the public information committee.
In addition to her work with horses, Polly ran Jungle Gardens, a plant nursery and tourism destination on Avery Island. The 300 acres were dedicated to the preservation of the island’s natural beauty.
Polly was the wife of Fisher E. Simmons, Sr. and the mother of three sons, Fisher Simmons Jr., Edward McIlhenny “Ned” Simmons, and William M. “Bill” Simmons. Miss Polly died April 11, 1980, at the age of 77.
Want to learn more about Miss Polly? Purchase a "The Bold & Beautiful: Trailblazing Women of the American Quarter Horse" companion book from Quarter Horse Outfitters to learn more about the stories and history of the 12 women in the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.