HISTORY OF ROCKDALE, MILAM COUNTY, TEXAS
By Leonard Kubiak, Texas Historian and Long Time Resident of the Rockdale Area
ROCKDALE AREA BULLETIN BOARD
Received the following email from Ted McBurnett:
I do so much enjoy reading about your museum and looking at the web page. I am at the age when it is time to pack up a few things and put them in the right place (73). A few quilts and photographs of the family farms in Rockdale and Sharp. and other memorabilia.
My grandmother's family (John Davis) lived in Rockdale since around 1830 and my grandfather's family (Benjamin McBurnett) had a farm near Sharp. I spent many years visiting the area as a kid. I just wanted to encourage you and let you know that I appreciate your work. I graduated from Baylor and worked as an historian for the National Park Service for many years. I have lived in Key West now for 40 years and my aunt Johnny Ruth McBurnett is in a rest home in the Rockdale area. Keep up your valuable work and know that there are invisible people out there that wish you the best!
March 27, 2011
As many of you are aware, we lost Dan and Dorothy Jenkins of Minerva and their son Jake, of Dickens, Texas near Lubbock. Dan, Dorothy and Jake died Sunday, March 27, 2011 in a plane crash near Dickens, TX. Funeral Services for Dan, Dorothy, and Jake Jenkins will be held Saturday at 2PM in Rockdale High School Auditorium. Visitation will be Friday from 5-8PM at Phillips and Luckey Funeral Home. Survivors include:
Jason Jenkins and wife Lisa of Brenham
Rhonda Jenkins of Dickens
Eli, Maggie Mae, and Ella Rose Jenkins, all of Dickens
Zachary and Samuel Jenkins of Brenham
RD Jenkins of Rockdale
Joan Wiede and husband Jim of Minerva
Clyde Hargrove and wife Barbara of Sharp
Check out photos of the Rockdale Class of 1959 50th Reunion celebration recently held in Rockdale.
Rockdale Class of 1959 website
Send me your Rockdale area stories,old Rockdale photos, and email inquiries and I'll add them to the webpage.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is 512 630-4619
HISTORY OF ROCKDALE, MILAM COUNTY, TEXAS
The area around the central Texas region that came to be known as Rockdale is part of the Post Oak Belt, a
rectangular strip of land composed of clay, sand, and sandstone and covered with post oak trees that extends
from down near present day Bastrop up through Lee, Milam, and Robertson counties.
As with much
of the central Texas region, the area was initially part of a shallow sea and during the ice ages became the
seashore of Texas. Around 10,000 years ago, the Paleo people their way on foot from Asia across the Region
that is now the Bering Sea. With a massive amount of water frozen at the poles, the Bering sea became a land
bridge for perhaps a thousand years. These ancient settlers followed the herds of wooly mammoths as they
crossed the land bridge near present-day Alaska and headed southward.
By the 1500's, the Rockdale region was home to several nomatic Indian tribes including the Yeagues, the Huecos, the
caddos, the Apaches, and Tonkawas. A popular San Gabriel River Crossing just a few miles northwest of Rockdale is now open to the public through a business venture know as Apache Pass.
SPANISH EXPLORATION OF ROCKDALE AREA(1700's)
European exploration near what would become the town of Rockdale began in
the early 1700's. Fr. Isidro Felix de Espinosa and Domingo Ramón crossed the San Gabriel and Little rivers in
1716, when the Spanish sent expeditions to hold Texas against the possibility of French settlement. The Spanish
also established several missions along the San Gabriel River, in an effort to Christianize the Indians in the region:
San Francisco Xavier de Horcasitas, which was built in 1746, and San Ildefonso and Nuestra Señora de la
Candelaria, which were built in 1749.
A Texas historic marker that stands overlooking the mission site reads, "Established by Franciscan missionaries in 1749 with the hope of civilizing and
christianizing the Coco, Mayeye, Orcoquiza, Karankawa, and other tribes of
Indians. The martyrdom of Padre Jose Ganzabal and the circumstances
connected therewith caused the departure of the Indians and the friars and the
removal of this mission to the San Marcos River in 1755. Reestablished in 1762
on the San Saba River for the conversion of the Lipan Apaches with the new
name of Mission Santa Cruz de San Saba".
Disease and unfriendly Indians caused the Spanish to abandon the Rockdale area sites in
the mid-1750s. The Tonkawa Indians, who numbered in the thousands, were generally friendly toward missionaries in the eighteenth and settlers in
the early nineteenth centuries, but the nearby Apaches and Comanches presented a constant threat. The Tonkawa nation in what became Milam County included the following tribes: the Rancheria Grande, the Yojuane, the Mayeye, and the Ervipiame.
The Yojuane tribe, like most of the native american tribes, were a mobile tribe frequently moving their camps between the Colorado River of modern day Travis County and the Brazos River and points in-between. Many of these tribes followed the buffalo herds which provided much of their food, clothing and shelter needs.
Comanches Moved into the Rockdale Region in the early 1800's and remained a threat to white settlement in the region until the 1840's.
Early-Day Settlement of the Rockdale Region
In the 1820's through the 1870's, small numbers of hearty settlers found their way to the region that was to
become Rockdale. However, until the coming of the railroad in 1873, population in the Rockdale area was very sparce.
A few settlements sprang up in what is now Milam County before the Civil War era. These included the Gay Hill settlement, the Hamilton Chapel settlement, the Salty settlement, Lexington, Caldwell, Cameron
Davilla, Georgetown and Belton. Lexington was the largest of the pre-civil war settlements with some 150
There were no improved roads and the major public road in the area ran from
Lexington to Davilla and northward to Belton. This road
had no bridges over the streams, except a rickety old toll bridge across Brushy Creek at
the old Henderson Crossing.
The only available transportation in the Rockdale region prior to 1870 was by horseback, horse or oxen drawn drawn wagons, horse-drawn stage coaches, and now and then a horse-drawn
buggy. The country was almost a wilderness; the land except small farms, was unfenced,
and for the most part, was very fertile, grew heavy crops of wild grasses, and supported
many Texas cattle and horses, and much wild game. The country was thinly settled, with
a few farmers settled along the streams, who had poor houses
usually built of logs, and sometimes with lumber, hauled by ox-wagons from Bryan, the
then nearest railroad town. The farmers gained a livelihood by their scanty crops, their
grass-fed livestock, and the wild game, which abounded in the country.
Hamilton Chapel (1866)
Another settlement in the Rockdale area was Hamilton Chapel located 3-miles southwest of present day Rockdale adjacent to the John T. Kubiak farm.
A few hearty settlers moved into the region before the Civil War. However, the formal settlement, named for John W. Hamilton who donated the land for the combination Methodist church and school and cemetery, was established in 1877.
The Hamilton Chappel Cemetery is the final resting place of several war veterans and one of the old 300 settlers from pre-republic days.
The old Hamilton Chapel School House
The school remained in use until 1939 when it was consolidated with the Rockdale Public Schools.
The John Hamilton home is currently located on the farm owned by Leonard Kubiak of Rockdale and being restored.
Gay Hill Settlement (1870)
Just to the northeast of the Rockdale area was the Gay Hill settlement established around the end of the Civil War. In 1870, a one-room school house
existed and by 1896, they had a post office. The early settlers of Gay Hill community were mostly of German descent: John Timmerman, Sr., George Doss, Sr., Fritz Stolte, William and Julius Henke, Joseph Brown, Otto Praesel, Fritz Dornhoefer, Fritz Voss, Fritz Helmeke, Carl Pieser and Joseph Pelzel (decendents of these early-day settlers still live in the area).
Mr. Fritz Voss donated the land for a one-room, one-teacher school in the 1870, which was then District No. 26. The first trustees were J. C. King, T. J. Eiland and H. J. Alford.
A decorated World War II veteran, Alfred L. Gest (June 8, 1915 — July 9, 2001)lived in the Gay Hill community until his death on July 9, 2001.
Mr. Gest, a lifelong resident of Milam County, was born in the Bushdale community near Rockdale,worked as a carpenter, rancher and farmer. Alfred Guest received two Bronze Stars while serving in Okinawa during World War II.
Another early-day Gay Hill resident was Frank H. Timmerman, who died on July 11, 2006 at the age of 82. Frank Timmerman was born Sept. 29, 1923 in the Gay Hill Community to John and Emily (Dockall) Timmerman. He married Jo O’Quin in Nov. 1973.
Mr. Timmerman worked as a chemist for Diamond Shamrock and later purchased Tim’s Hardware and Lumber in Thrall before he retired to tend to his cattle.
Frank was a veteran of World War II and served in the United States Navy.
Salty Settlement (1870)
The community of Salty was established in 1870 just a few miles east of Hamilton Chapel. This settlement got it's name from the Salty creek flowing nearby. In 1871 a new church Methodist Church was built on land donated by Joseph and Sarah Frasure. The first trustees were Saaburn Stiles, Meblor Cropper, Whittington Ford, James Frasure and John Thomson.
The Texas Historical Marker at the site of the Salty settlement reads:
"Settled in 1860s; named for Salty Creek, cattle licks. Joseph and Sarah Frasure gave site for Methodist Church, 1871. Earliest burial in cemetery was in 1875. Community had school by 1878. Violence erupted in area in 1880s over barbed wire fencing. Salty was designated a voting precinct in 1886. Mail service was initiated 1897. Settlement had telephones, stores, a barber shop, at least three doctors. About 1900 the Annual Salty Singing Convention was founded by A. J. Jackson. This institution remains, although stores and the school were closed in the 1940s".
THE FOUNDING OF ROCKDALE (July 15,1874)
In 1873, the International & Great
Northern Railroad acquired right-of-way in Milam County and the 400 acre town site that would later be named Rockdale was surveyed out into thirty-five blocks of lots. Specific strips of land on both sides
of the railroad track were marked off solely for the passenger depot and construction of freight warehouses and holding pens for freight and cattle pickup and deliveries of supplies by the railroad company. Lots in the business section of the new town went on sale in late 1873 and the town was booming by the following year.
While the new frontier town in Milam County was being called Rockdale as early as February of 1874, the town was not officially dedicated by the railroad until July 15, 1874. Most historians recognize that date as the official establishment of Rockdale. Rockdale was described as a wild and wooly town with three banks, 50 to 60 merchants and lots of saloons!
HOW ROCKDALE GOT IT'S NAME
There are many accounts of how Rockdale got it's name but the most commonly accepted one is that a Mrs. B.F. Ackerman, traveling by horseback down the old wagon trail to Cameron, saw a rock formation looking down over a dale some two miles north of present-day Rockdale. She climbed up the rock formation to get a look at the end of the railroad line and there coined the term, Rockdale!!
Her husband, B.F. Ackerman, had been
one of the key individuals that sold land to the railroad to layout a new town. When it came time to officially name the town, the railroad delegated the task to Mrs. Ackerman who came up with the name Rockdale after a large rock she had seen north of the town. When the railroad dedicated the town, it was officially named Rockdale.
Famous rock between Rockdale and Cameron that gave Mrs. B.F. Ackerman of Cameron the idea for the new town of Rockdale. Mrs. Ackerman was allowed to name the town since her husband had sold part of the land for the new town.
However, the version I like best was printed in the Rockdale Reporter a few years ago. The gist of the story was that Roy Rogers and Dale Evans came to the area and a loose rock from one of the nearby rock formations almost hit Dale Evans causing Roy to exclaim, "Look out for that Rock, Dale!"
The first Rockdale I & GN train depot,constructed in the 1873-1874 timeframe, was a wooden structure located at the foot of Ackerman and Milam streets that served as a combination passenger and freight station. When the first steam locomotive puffed into the new settlement, a crowd of onlookers had already gathered at the tracks to catch a glimpse of the iron horse!
End of the line for I & GN Engine and crew that came to Rockdale in 1874. It would be the end of the line for another two years when the tracks were finally completed into Austin
While Rockdale remained the railhead, the International Railroad operated a turntable which allowed the train engines to turn around once they arrived in Rockdale. The turntable was operated by six men who rotated the device to point the engine back to the east.
By the 1876/77 timeframe, the railroad was extended to Round Rouck and then Austin.
The onlookers came by wagon, horse and buggy, cart, and by horseback from as far away as Belton and Austin. This was an exciting event for the area farmers that now had a convenient way to get their products to market. New businesses came to Rockdale betting on the prosperity that a railway center would bring to the wild new town.
Saloons soon sprang up to serve and entertain the cowboys that were bringing in their herds to ship to market by rail.
Cattle Herds were driven from surrounding counties to Rockdale and placed in holding pens for shipment to market by rail. The presence of large numbers of cowboys and saloons made for a wide open town with shootings and lawlessness running rampant. A June 1874 newspaper article indicated that as many as twn cattle cars would leave Rockdale on a daily basis bound for St. Louis.
Building construction could be seen all across the new town. The business district attracted dry goods businesses, general merchandise stores, bankers, brick masons, carpenters, photographers, and sawmills, brick kilns, and lumber yards to supply building materials for the bustling new town. The local brick kilns produced as many as two million bricks annually.
There were also blacksmiths, livery stables, harness makers, and wheelwrights to serve the transportation needs of the settlers of the new frontier town.
EARLY DAY ROCKDALE SETTLERS
Among the early settlers was
B. Loewenstein, Sr. who moved to Rockdale with his wife, Carrie, from Colorado County. Mr. Loewenstein opened a dry goods and grocery business in 1873; later he established the Rockdale Brick Works and helped build many of the downtown brick buildings in the business district.
Other early-day businessmen included
Joseph Loewenstein and George Walter who formed a partnership and went into business in the booming little settlement. In 1875, Benjamin bought-out
the partnership interests of George Walter and the business thereafter was known as B. Loewenstein & Brother
until that relationship dissolved in 1895. B. Loewenstein & Brother handled dry goods, clothing, boots, shoes, and
groceries on a cash only basis. The business occupied a double-front, two-story brick house located at the
corners of Bell and Ackerman Streets and employed up to ten clerks.
Other early-day Rockdale settlers were
Daniel (b. 1795) and Precilla Boatwright (b. 1803) Gilleland
who were were members of Austin's Old Three Hundred colony. The couple and their
infant daughter, along with relatives in the Kuykendall and Boatwright families,
left their homes in Arkansas Territory and arrived in Texas in December 1821.
By 1847 they had settled in present Milam County and were among the first to settle in Rockdale in 1873. Six of their sons served in the Confederate army.
Daniel Gilleland was instrumental in the growth of the Methodist Church in
One of the early photos of Rockdale taken after the Mundine Hotel had burned in 1888. The photo is taken from the current site of the I & GN depot looking north on Main Street. Gaither and Tanner on the left was a dry goods store that later became McVoys Grocery and Feed. The domed building on the left was the original Rockdale State Bank. Note the heavy horse and wagon traffic near the train depot and total absence of automobiles.
Hotel Wolf, located near the I&GN Passenger Depot, kept a carriage ready to meet every train. The Hotel Wolf site is the present location of Wolf Park. The Mundine hotel, located across the street on the site of the presnt-day McVoys Feed Store, was built in 1880 and burned down in 1888.
By 1878, the railroad was doing a brisk business hauling in timbers and supplies from east Texas and hauling cattle, brick, cotton seed oil and cotton bales on the return trip.
Rockdale's Brick Yard and Oil Mill
Brick and Cotton Seed Oil were important products in Rockdale's frontier economy.
ROCKDALE BECOMES AN INCORPORATED CITY (1874)
In May of 1874, Rockdale had enought citizens to call for an incorporation meeting as authorized under the texas election code. On May 8, 1874, the vote on incorporation passed for the Town of Rockdale by a majority. The first mayor of Rockdale was Alfred A. Burck. The name was changed to the City of Rockdale in 1875.
Downtown Scene in Early-Day Rockdale
Early day I & GN passenger train
CHURCHES IN EARLY DAY ROCKDALE
Early on, churches were at the forefront of the new settlement. According to the historic marker at the First Baptist Church, "The community of Rockdale sprang up around a railroad camp in 1873. The Rev. B. B. Baxter arrived in 1874 and established a Baptist Church with 18 charter members. The Rev. Mr. Baxter conducted services in a room above a dry goods store shared with other denominations."
Historical Marker in Front of the First Baptist Church on Green Street
A Texas historical marker at the Episcopal church (Green and Davilla) indicates that church was founded in 1876,"Earliest Episcopal services in Rockdale were held in 1875 in a store, where
other faiths also worshiped. On Dec. 19, 1876, Bishop Alexander Gregg
organized St. Thomas Mission, and in 1879 this site was bought with funds
given by the Solon Joynes family. A frame chapel-- preserved as nave, chancel,
and sanctuary in the present edifice-- was built in 1880".
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church
The Catholic Church in Rockdale was founded in the 1870’s as Catholic families began settling in the Rockdale area and surrounding communities. Mr. Leo Strelsky and Mr. Anton Wolf were primarily responsible for early progress and Father John Lauth, C.S.C., served as missionary at the time. Through the efforts and sacrifices of these settlers, a wooden, frame church was built in 1880, dedicated to St. Joseph the Worker, on land purchased and donated by the Strelsky brothers. It was located at the corner of East Bell and San Gabriel Streets in Rockdale which has continued to remain the church site.
Other Early-Day Rockdale Area Churches
The Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, organized in 1872 , and Fellowship
Baptist Church, formed about 1877 in Minerva merged in 1895 to
form Mount Zion Baptist Church.
Another early-day church was the First Christian Church which was organized in 1887 and served by the Rev. A. J. Bush, Sr. , a Civil War veteran.
Rockdale gets a Major Hotel (1880)
In 1881, a major hotel business came to Rockdale. John Mundine of Lexington built a three-story
brick hotel on the corner of Main and Railroad streets.
Three story Mundine Hotel that opened in Rockdale in 1881 on the corner where McVoys Feed Store is currently located. Tragically, this hotel burned in 1888 killing 12 people (shown in the old photo).
The Mundine hotel
opened in 1881 under the management of Mrs. W. A. Brooks and soon became the social center of the town.
But on June 8, 1888, the Mundine Hotel was destroyed by the most disastrous fire in Milam County. That fire
was also the most tragic, as twelve people including Mrs. Brooks and her four children lost their lives.
Jim Cannon Store built on the site of the old Mundine Hotel. Later this building housed the Gaither and Tanner Dry Goods and later the McVoy Grocery and Feed Business.
ROCKDALE GETS ANOTHER RAILROAD (1891)
In 1891, the Rockdale San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad completed its line from Cameron south to Aransas Pass and Rockdale now had east west and north south railway lines.
Painting of the Rockdale San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad Depot.
Cotton industry boomed in Rockdale with the coming of the railroad.
ROCKDALE GETS A NEW I&GN DEPOT
Around the turn of the century, Rockdale continued to grow and the I & GN Railroad prospered creating the need for new depot facilities. A new passenger depot with red brick exterior and cupola was constructed at the corner of Main and Milam streets (about a block west of the original wooden depot structure).
The freight depot and platform was built west of the new passenger depot and also had a red brick exterior.
font color=white>Rockdale's International and Great Northern Railroad Passenger Depot was built in 1906 and restored a hundred years later.
In 1925, the I & GN railroad lines and facilities were leased by the Missouri Pacific (MoPac) and operated as a division of the Missouri Pacific until March of 1956 when the I&GN Railroad was purchased by the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company.
Missouri Pacific (MoPac) Train Logos. MoPac leased the I & GN Railroad in 1925, then purchased the railroad in 1956.
ROCKDALE MASONIC LODGE FOUNDED in 1875
Just one year after Rockdale came into existence the Masonic Lodge of Rockdale #414, AF & AM received its charter. As the first and oldest organization in Rockdale, it set the standard for community involvement.
OLD ROCKDALE CITY CEMETERY
Just across the tracks near the old train depot is Rockdale's old city cemetery built on 2-1/2 acres donated by the Texas Land Company (who handled the land business for the railroad). The cemetery was started in 1874 after Rockdale became an incorporated town.
This old cemetery is maintained by the city.
For more information, see Rockdale Old City Cemetery Page
ROCKDALE's JEWISH CEMETERY (1878)
The Jewish Cemetery is at the back/southeast corner behind the Old City Cemetery at Mulberry Street surrounded by a wrought iron fence, with headstones carved in Hebrew. This portion of the cemetery was established by the Hebrew Benevolent Society in 1878 and contains such names as Block, Cohen, Cohn, Collins, Crown, Emsheimer, Goldsticker, Kestenbaum, Loewenstein, Malsch, Philipson, Rosenfield, and Steinburg.
For more information, see Rockdale Jewish Cemetery History and Listing
ROCKDALE'S IOFF CEMETERY(early 1880s)
In the early 1880's, a new cemetery was established by the International Organization of Odd Fellows (IOOF). Today, this historic cemetery is also maintained by the City of Rockdale.
The Rockdale IOOF Cemetery, located on the Bushdale road at the northern city limits of Rockdale, was founded by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) History
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is an organization founded on the North American Continent in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 26, 1819 when Thomas Wildey and four members of the Order from England instituted Washington Lodge No. 1.
Odd Fellowship became the first national fraternity to include both men and women when it adopted the beautiful Rebekah Degree on September 20, 1851. This degree is based on the teachings found in the Holy Bible, and was written by the Honorable Schuyler Colfax who was Vice President of the United States during the period 1868-1873.
Odd Fellows and Rebekahs were also the first fraternal organization to establish homes for our senior members and for orphaned children.
For more information on the IOOF Cemetery, go to the following page.
Rockdale IOOF Cemetery Listing
Rockdale Schools Established (1874)
In 1874, a few weeks after the l&GN Railroad reached Rockdale, the first school in the town was organized by Miss Milly Roby. Miss Roby taught for six months, and though realizing the lack of educational advantages, she was finally forced to give up on account of poor patronage.
It was not until the following fall that an attempt was made to reorganize the first school. Miss Maggie Hall who had taught in Bryan, opened a private school in one small upper room of a house located where the Matson home now stands. She taught her little school for the nine months term of 1874-75.
The town had been incorporated, and the citizens decided it was time they should have the benefits of the public schools that had been secured for Texas under Governor 0. M. Roberts. The council appointed a board of trustees consisting of Dr. W. A. Brooks, R. H. Hicks, Rev. J. H. Stribling, A.- E. Fullenwider, Dr. A. C. Walker, Rev. W. E. Copeland, with E. M. Scarbrough (Mayor Ex-Officio) chairman—a strong group of pioneers.
Rockdale Public School System Founded in 1880
An old abandoned storehouse at the corner of Cameron and Green Streets was appropriated, and the public school of Rockdale was launched. Miss Maggie Hall had a small desk at the front of the room, while W. Wyatt, who was principal, had a small platform at the rear of the room. Mr. Wyatt's only recommendations were that he was a Confederate soldier and he could "wallop" the boys.
However, One term for Mr. Wyatt was enough for the board, so Mr. Brickhouse was elected principal.
At the beginning of the next term, Miss Hall resigned and built a small schoolhouse where she conducted a private school for girls. Mr. Brickhouse taught alone in the old building, which amounted to a boy's school, as most of the girls attended Miss Hall's school. At the close of the term Miss Hall accepted the council's offer to rent her school as a public school. She was made principal.
School attendance was growing rapidly. The trustees rented a larger building, the old Brooks Hotel. The school grew under G. W. Rainwater as principal and Miss Ella Meekin as teacher.
In two years, the hotel was sold to J. L. Lockett and the school moved to the Methodist Church.
It was Feb. 5, 1883, that the first offficial board of trustees was elected by the people. On the board were A. E. Fullenwider, R. H. Hicks, C. H. Coffleld, James H. Hill, Sr., Ben Loewenstein, Sr., Rev. J. H. Stribling and Rev. W. E. Coupland.
1888 Rockdale High Graduate
The following article taken from The Daily Morning News, Sunday, November 20, 1960:
1888 Dlploma Given
ROCKDALE, Texas (Sp.)—A diploma of graduation from Rockdale High School, dated 1888, was received this week by Mrs. Ida Jo Marshall, high school librarian, with the request that it be placed among the historical collection in the library of the new high school building.
The large, 72-year-old diploma, was issued to Arthur Loper and carried the signatures of superintendent J. W. Clark, and the first regularly elected school board, previous boards having been appointive.
The first public school class to graduate was in 1886, and the next in 1888. Arthur Loper,member of an early day Rockdale family, died recently in Houston where he had lived for many years.
In 1888, $10,000 worth of bonds were issued and plans laid for a modern brick building to be built on a hill known as College Hill. A big celebration was held when it opened. J. W. Clark was elected superintendent, with a principal and a fine staff of teachers. Mr. Clark moved away in 1890, when F.L. Norton replaced him for the next nine years.
Then C. E. Brennan became head of the schools. His modern ideas appealed to only a few, and Mr. Clark was recalled. He served until 1910.
Other superintendents were C. G. Green, G. L. Marshall, J. M. Hodges, G. C. Green (the second time), A. W. Franklin, J. C. Wilkerson, S. P. Conn, S. C. Miles, C. M. Selman, W. C. Grissom, and J. M. Moorman, who came to Rockdale in 1955.
Superintendent JM Moorman (photo taken in 1959)
Rockdale School Board (1958-1959)
1958-1959 School Board Members include:
TOP ROW; L-R: W.T. Scurlock, President, Henry Tyler, Dr. J.T. Richards,
2ND ROW: L-R; Brice Crow (secretary), W.H. Holliman, Johnny Ralston
BOTTOM ROW: M.C. Perry.
New Rockdale School Built in 1922
In 1922 a new modern $75,000 brick building was constructed.
Rockdale High (built in 1922).
4th Grade Class Rockdale Elementary 1935 (Courtesy Frederick and Carter Newton)
New buildings have been added continuously, along with an expanded curriculum. In 1958, buildings were worth $1,800,000 plus the Aycock Negro School which was valued at $216,797. At this time professional personnel in the white schools numbered 50 which included 41 teachers. There were 14 teachers at Aycock School. Average daily attendance in grades 1 through 12 was 1,022 students in the white schools and 243 in the Aycock School. Eight buses carried 331 students to and from school, covering 425 miles each day on the 8 bus routes.
1956 tax valuations amounted to $19,025,010. The tax rate was $1.33 per $100 valuation. A total of S253,00D in taxes was collected that year. School budget for 1957-58 was $491,000. Bonds outstanding amounted to $1,699,000. Sharp Consolldation
In 1956, Rockdale High School offered 38 credits and was a member of the Southern Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges. The school district was comprised of 144 square miles.
MORE PHOTOS FROM ROCKDALE HIGH SCHOOL IN 1959
In 1959, Rockdale christened a new high school and brought in former Rockdale coach, J.M. Moorman as Rockdale Superintendent.
ROCKDALE HIGH SCHOOL FACULTY (1959)
Mrs. Joyce Bayless
English I and II
Mr. Raymond Birchfield
World History, Health,
Driver Ed, & Asst. Coach
Mrs. Nonnie Blackburn
Mrs. Maline Caraway
English III, IV
Mr. Gordon de Marrais
Industrial Arts, Gen. Math
Miss Nora Duncum
History and Government
Mr. Charles S. Finch
Science & Math
Mr. Wm. Grusendorf
High and Jr. Band
Miss Ruth Kirk
Mrs. Lois Knight
English & Spanish
Miss Margaret Lengert
Girl's Sports & PE
Mrs. Dorothy Luckey
Mrs. Ida Jo Marshall
Mr. Wannie Miller
Head Football Coach
Mrs. Nonnie Renfroe
Miss Helen Sparks
Business Arithmetic & World History
Mr. Albert Timmerman
Mrs. Irene Weydell
Mr. J.E. White
Biology & Gen. Science
Mrs. Dixie Davenport
Jr. High Math
& World History
The Rockdale Board of Trustees adopted a resolution the 22nd day of June, 1964, calling for an election to be held on July 11, 1964, in said district for the purpose of consolidating Rockdale and Sharp schools. Results of the election were favorable and the consolidation approved. The area of the Rockdale Independent School District then comprised 215 square miles.
The Rockdale Public Schools have added a modern Band Hall, Field House, Vocational Agriculture building, Vocational building to take care of the Building Trades and CVAE classes. The total costs of these buildings are as follows: Band Hall - $35,000, Vocational Agriculture Building - $43,000, Building Trades complex - $35,000 and a $42,000 Field House at the football field.
Present day values for replacement of all the School Plant is estimated at $3.3 million dollars.
MORE ROCKDALE TIGER SPORTS HISTORY
1959-District winning Football Coaches Miller and Birchfield sport smiles after the Rockdale Tigers won District for the first time in many decades. Subsequent Rockdale teams went on to play in State Championships.
1959 Tiger Cheerleaders, L-R: Polly Grubbs, Patsy Overturff, Janice Smith Kirkpatrick, Rita Magness, Willyne Lamb, and Patsy Menn. (photo taken in 1959)
1959 Rockdale Girls Basketball Team
59 Tigers Track Team. L-R: Harvey Holliman, Leroy Ellis, Dobbie Jenkins, Johnny Moorman, Bruce Holliman, Hal Stanislaw, Bill Scurlock, Pat Curtis, Edwin Freeman, Billy McBride, Captain Gene White, Jeff Rhodes, Captain Paul Jenkins, and Roberto Valverde. (photo taken in 1959)
59 Pep Squad.
59 Senior Officers. L-R: Gene White, President; Leanna Harris, Vice President; Rita Magness, Secretary; and Janice Smith Kirkpatrick, Reporter.
Shown Here is one of Rockdale's Winning Football teams from 1956 Coached by another Rockdale Legend, Ernie Lawrence. Back Row, L-R; Coach Charlie Martin, Unidentified, Johnny Moorman, Michael Whitley, Robert (Dobie) Jenkins, Robert Lee (Bobby) Bounds, Unidentified,Unidentified, Calvin Estepp, Unidentified, Coach Ernie Laurence; Second Row from Top; L-R: Unidentified, Unidentified,Paul Jenkins, Unidentified, Unidentified, Unidentified, James Douglas (Jake) Cloud, Lanier Angell, Unidentified, Unidentified,Bottom Row, L-R: Manager, Bobby Sides, Unidentified, Unidentified, Unidentified, Jerry Cogbil, Billy McBride, Unidentified, Unidentified, Leonard Kubiak, Jimmy Bartlett, Unidentified Manager. (Let me know if you can help with the unidentifieds!)
JT Leach, Willard Backhaus, Carter Newton and unknown player (Courtesy Frederick and Carter Newton)
Jim Moorman, Rockdale Football Coach (1940). In 1959, Moorman was Superintendent of Rockdale Schools.
Rockdale Tigers (1940)
Rockdale Tigers (1930)
1925 Rockdale Tigers
Another early-day business in Rockdale was established by
H. P. Hale and Company of Hearne which became one of the strongest mercantile establishments in Central
Rockdale Business District in the Early Days.
Benjamin Loewenstein became President and a member of the Board of Directors of the
First National Bank of Rockdale, which he helped to organize in the 1880's. Benjamin was also a stockholder in
the Rockdale Cotton Platform Company and established the Rockdale Brick Works that was producing some
2-million bricks per year. By 1893, the Loewenstein brothers had built seven brick business buildings as well as a
number of brick homes.
Joseph Loewenstein was a member of the Board of Aldermen for seven years while Benjamin served several
years on the School Board, became a postmaster and remained as a public school trustee for more than
Early Day Rockdale Bakery. Baked goods were delivered by horse-drawn buggy.
Rockdale Flood of 1885
The following is one citizen's eye witness account of the flood of 1885.
In the Rockdale flood of 1885, a small cabin near the west prong of Ham Branch, washed and floated down
stream, and lodged in the spill-way under the dump of the railroad, and so obstructed this
spill-way, that the water could not pass freely enough. The rain continued, and the water
backed over the valley from Scarbrough Street to the foot of the hill where the school
building stood. This flooded all the residences in that part of the town, and endangered
the lives of the residents there. Rockdale had a lawyer citizen, who had his home, and
lived in a grove of large oak trees, a short distance west of the main channel of Ham
Branch and on Bell Street. His home was in the flood. As soon as the citizens on higher
ground learned of this distress, they quickly organized rescue parties, and in the dense
darkness hurriedly waded and swam through the muddy waters of Ham Branch,
searching for those in distress, and as the rescue party passed west along Bell Street, this
lawyer shouted to them from one of his tree tops, "Take care of the women and children I
am safe." Lawyers are sometimes wanting in real courage and genuine bravery. All of the
victims were rescued that night, and when the water receded, it was found that it had
caused heavy property damage but no lives were lost. Soon after this, the cabin was
removed from the spillway, under the railroad, and shortly afterwards the railroad
company enlarged the spillway under its dump, and we have not since had a disasterous
flood on Ham Branch.
Prominent Citizens of Rockdale in 1890
The following list of early-day Rockdale residents came from a petetion signed in the early 1890's and sent to the
Governor of Texas. This is particularly interesting in that it gives the occupation of many of the Rockdale
P. Langmoor Cashier 1st N.B.
R. H. Hicks Merchant
E. G. Simms Farmer
N. L. Bullock Bookkeeper
R. L. Hale Bookkeeper
C. H. Coffield Real Estate
Coffield was President of Rockdale Improvement Company in 1893 (water and electric services); he was also
President of The Rockdale Mining and Manufacturing Company
Ed Gesecke Druggist
J. F. Coffield Merchant
R. C. Wallis M.D.
D. R. Wallis M.D.
J. Loewenstein Merchant
As early as 1873 Joseph Lowenstein and his brother (both from Prussia) operated a store in
A. G. Isaacs M.D.
T. M. Haynes Druggist
J. H. Wilson M.D.
A. C. Walker M.D.
William R. Kennard M.D.
Thomas A. Pope M.D.
W. B. Woody Sec'y Rockdale Mfg. Co.
Max Winterbez Bookkeeper
J. H. Burnet Fire Insurance Agent
B. B. Baxter Cotton Buyer
T. B. Kemp Merchant
T. B. Kemp operated T. B. Kemp and Company, a Rockdale store--in 1888 Kemp's store burned in a fire that
also destroyed the post office and hotel--eleven people died in the fire
J. P. Hale Merchant
J. G. Brown
G. W. Wilson
Lee Wallace Lumber Dealer
R. L. Wilson Lumber Dealer
C. K. Stribling
John C. Witcher P. M.
H. S. Harklesrod
J. W. Weinbrener Editor
W. A. Morrison Attorney
H. Cone Attorney
J. T. Prewitt J. P.
W. F. Lohse Merchant
O. A. Bowen Clerk
W. A. Gentry Barber
Ben Smith Farmer
R. H. Ames Miller
P. R. Rawland Merchant
S. F. Caddish Bookkeeper
J. C. Arnold Merchant
W. E. Copeland Railroad Agent
Henry Lockwood Lumber Dealer
J. S. Perry Mayor of Rockdale
James Samuel Perry was a promoter of Rockdale Improvement Company--for a time he owned the Rockdale
Leonard Isaacs Merchant
J. G. Vest Cotton Broker
J. L. Larkin Merchant
Flon James Commission Merchant
Cyrus Edwards Salesman
J. B. Hamilton City Marshal
J. C. McCawley
G. W. Gambill Constable
Gray Hamblen Salesman
G. B. Randle Merchant
L. S. Woody Bookkeeper
One of the men listed above is O.A. Bowen. Judy Grimes (MEGBR549@aol.com) sent in the following additional history about this early-day settler of Rockdale:
"O.A. Bowen married Amelia Louisa Jane DODD of Alabama, at age 16, on Sept. 7, 1870 in Brazos Co.TX. and 9 months later Amelia died in childbed with the birth of their first child.
This little baby girl grew up to age 16 and married her first cousin, a Dodd/Grabener boy and she also died in 9 months of marriage with the delivery of her first child, a son. The little boy lived two weeks shy of two years.
He and his mother Mary Bowen Grabener are buried in Sand Grove, Milam Co.TX. in the CAVE section of the old Hurt/Graham Cemetery. (Henry Cave was Amelia Dodd's uncle).
The Wolf family included several prominent Rockdale citizens near the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.
Joseph Marion Wolf, born in April 1841 in Norfork, Ark, entered the Confederate Army in 1861 in Co. B. 1st Ark. Mounted Rifles , transferred to Co.I 14th Ark. Infantry and fought at Pea Ridge, Ark., Iuka and Corinth, Miss., Port Hudson, La., and Jenkins's ferry, Ark. He surrendered in Marshall, Texas on May 26, 1865.
He graduated from U of Louisville Medical School in 1870; moved to Rockdalein late 1890s and died in Rockdale in 1915. His brother John HB Wolf, also a confederate soldier was a druggist in Rockdale. He died in 1911 and is buried in the Rockdale IOOF Cemetery.
COAL MINING HISTORY OF ROCKDALE
Coal was discovered in the Rockdale area in the late 1860's but the first mine wasn't opened until long after the arrival of the second railroad line in Rockdale in the 1890's.
By the early 1900's, there were some 12 different mines operating in Milam County including
The Black Diamond (later called the Vogel and Lorenz mine), the Santa Fe Mine, the Texas Coal Company, and others. These mines employed hundreds of Mexican nations who came seeking work. Using hand-cranked winches, coal was hauled up and loaded into a wagon pulled to the surface by a mule. This was hard work and cave-ins were common in those days.
For the most part, the mine workers were Mexicans fleering the revolution in thir homelands. These coal miners named their settlement, just north of the International-Great Northern Railroad tracks, La Recluta, or "recruitment."
Family names represented here include Ruiz, Flores, Casarez, Zapata, Aldama, Montoya and Lumbreras.
According to Rosa Martinez (email@example.com). "My parents, Matias M and Rosa Torres Martinez, came to Rockdale from from Zaragoza, Coahuila in 1904 and my Dad was one of the workers in the Rockdale mines. While working in Rockdale, several of their children were born including Manuela Martinez (1915), David Martinez(1917), Luis Manuel Martinez (1918) and Consuelo Martinez (1920)."
In 1913, Rockdale experienced a mine cave-in that trapped several men in the International Mine. Eight men and one mule awaited rescue for six days; All except one man was rescued alive.
Early-Day Mining in Rockdale
La Escuelita School is Established for the Mexican Coalminer's Children
Yards away from the collapsed mine entrance on the east side of Rockdale just off present-day HW 79 is La Escuelita, the small school house built for the mexican children of the coalminer community. Classes were taught in English, although most students spoke Spanish at home. As part of the Talbott Ridge School District, the students transferred to Rockdale schools in 1944, when the districts consolidated.
In 1946, Rockdale merchants donated benches to La Escuelita building. In 1953, the school was deeded to the St. Joseph's Cemetery Association, the support group for the community's cemetery, where nearly 300 gravestones tell the stories of La Recluta's families, many of whom remain in the area.
Rockdale Colored Public
In the early 1880's, a negro school was established in Rockdale known as the Rockdale Colored Public
School. The school initially had two rooms and two teachers for 11 grades.In 1903, a third room and third teacher was added to the school.
Aycock School Built in 1904
In 1904 the school became overcrowded so the trustees rented the
Masonic Hall and the colored faculty began planning for a new high school.In the first faculty meeting of 1904, professor Aycock
was elected president; Mrs. Moseley, secretary; Professor Allen was treasurer; and Professor
At the second faculty meeting the idea of establishing a school library was discussed. By
unanimous consent it was decided to begin at once to raise funds for a start. This was on
February 8, 1904. A concert was given to raise funds to begin the library and the event that was a huge success. Aycock School got it's library.
Members of the school board in 1904 included Professor Marshall
Superintendent; A. H. Coffield; J. H. Perry; Ben Loewenstein; Sr.; Leonard Isaacs; and J.
E. Longmoor. All were very friendly and cooperative.
Due to failing health, Professor Aycock resigned as principal and Mrs. M. C. Allen filled his
unexpired term and remained the principal for 15 years.
Professor O. E. Wilhite,
a man with a pleasing personality, replaced Mrs. Allen as principal and soon gained the confidence of the school board and the community. Though his efforts, a new high school was built.
In September, 1965 students from the Aycock school merged with the white students
throughout the Rockdale School System.
Plan and Policies Govering Desegregation of the Rockdale ISD under Title VI of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 were discussed by the board of trustees of the Rockdale ISD.
Freedom of choice for desegregation was accepted by the board for the 1965-66 school
In that year, grades 9-12 of the Aycock Schools were moved to the Rockdale
High School. The first and sixth grades were moved to the elementary school and
freedom of choice was given grades 2, 3 and 4 in 1966-67, with the 5th and 7th grades to
have a choice in 1967-68.
On April 6, 1967, the board of trustees voted unanimously to move all of the remaining
children from the Aycock Negro School to the Rockdale white schools and to have one
school for all school age children.
The school year of 1967-68 saw final integration approved and the one school for all was
Early-Day Graduates of Rockdale
Mrs. Lizzie Baines Stiles, San Antonio
Mrs. Mary Hill Moore, Houston
Mrs. Minnie Kincaid (Kinnard) Davis, Dallas
Mrs. Mary Robinson Bownds, Huntsville
Mrs. Fannie Stribling Morrison, Cameron
Miss Gussie Rowlett
1887 - None
Mrs. Laura Allen Griffin, Brawley, Calif.
Mrs. Allie Davis Gilliland, Cameron
Frankie Richardson (Gerguson)
Mrs. Porter Valentine Edmonson
Cornelius K. Stribling
Mary Kinnard, Austin
Mrs. Annie Mae Coffield Burnett
Mrs. Ida Redding Penn
Mrs. Emma White Kone, Lampassas
Mrs. Lillie Robinson Moore, Pilot Point, Tex.
Mrs. Minnie Randle Little, N. Mex.
Mrs. lone Middleton Hudson, Georgetown
E. A. Wallace
Hal C. Darden, Abilene
Sam S. Woody, M.D.
Edwin J. Douglas, San Antonio
Jas. H. Hill
Joseph L. Lockett, Houston
Mrs. Bertie Loper Lowenstein, N. Y.
Beaulah I. Loper
Mrs. Mary J. Copeland Stribling, Rockdale
John J. Joynes
Mrs. Glennie Wilson Corby, Calvert
Mrs. Gertrude Wallace Conaly
Leonard B. Isaacs, Ft. Worth
Mrs. Mary Baxter Wells, Temple
Mrs. Kate Walden Hill, Rockdale
Mrs. Minnie Barnett Mallory
Mrs. Annie Hawkins Albertson
Henry Thompson, Taylor
Edgar Perry, Austin
Mrs. Eula Rasberry Sessions, Rockdale
Mrs. Addie Cone Isaacs, Georgetown
Mrs. Annie Washburn McQueen, Beaumont
John Henry Miley
Mrs. Mamie Lewis Wallace
Mrs. Minnie Alexander Fulcher, Ft. Worth
Mrs. Willie Woody Peake
Mrs. Edna Branch Coulter, Rockdale
Mrs. Zelda Branch Kalp
Mrs. Nellie Wallis Ryan, San Antonio
Clyde H. Loper, Dallas
Mrs. Moselle Baxter DeGrasse (DeGrassi), Amarillo
Mrs. Johnny Houghton Russell, San Angelo
1895 - None
Mrs. Mattie Clement Saller
Mrs. Bessie Simms Phillips, Rockdale
Eugene Tracy, Los Angeles, Calif.
Idella McGowen Flynn
Mrs. Bell Valentine Jones, San Antonio
Mrs. Edith Hillyer Well (Neel), N. Mex.
Bessie Strelsky (Sterly) Sharp
Mrs. Etha Perry Landis
Mrs. Minnie Box Walker
Mrs. Lottie Simms Wallis, Rockdale
Mrs. Hester Joynes Means
Mrs. Claudia Tracy Werner, Palestine
Mrs. Ruth Pleasant Crawford, Quannah
Mrs. Maudie Prewitt Culp
Jones Clement, Thorndale
Jim F. Chadwick
John C. Scott, San Antonio
Mrs. Kate Woody Perry, Beaumont
Mrs. Dora McGuire Tombs, Washington, D. C.
Mrs. Margie Lockett Sledge, Rockdale
Maude Prewitt Culp
Mrs. Gussie Castleberry, Center
Mrs. Murphy Buse Wilcox, Georgetown
Mrs. Delia Foster Woody, San Gabriel
Mrs. Ruth Gentry Meyer, Austin
Mrs. Virgil Buse Linborn (Linbron), Kingsville
Early-Day Postmasters in Rockdale
Muir, Jas. A., 20 Oct 1873
Doenicke, Robt., 3 Mar 1874
Antony, Milton, 6 Jun 1876
Wilcox, Albert G., 26 Apr 1877
Travers, Herndon C., 14 Apr 1882
Witcher, John C., 26 Mar 1889
Witcher, Hugh L., 18 Nov 1892
Woody, Wm. B., 30 Mar 1893
Witcher, Esta, 17 May 1897
Hopkins, Elias J. M., 25 Apr 1901
Lowenstein, Ben, 14 Jan 1909
Shapard, John A., 20 May 1913
Talley, Herman P., 19 Jan 1918 (Acting postmaster)
Shapard, Nannie, 1 Apr 1918 (Acting postmaster)
Talley, Herman P. 24 Oct 1918
Wade, Elmer I., 7 Jly 1923 (Acting postmaster)
Turner, Homer H., 1 Jan 1928 (Acting postmaster)
Thorndale, Our Neighbor to the West
Thorndale was established just a few months after the settlement of Rockdale in late 1874. Thorndale was named after the mesquite and cactus thorns that grew native in the area. By the late 1870s, Thorndale had a post office, a store, and a hotel. In 1880 the store was sold and moved east to the present site of the community on the railroad, and eventually the other businesses moved as well. By 1884 Thorndale had a church, a school, and 130 residents.
Sandow/Millerton, Our Southwest Neighbor
Sandow is a mining community on Farm Road 1786 eight miles southwest of Rockdale in southern Milam County. At one time the site was a stop for mule drivers hauling freight from Matagorda.
Freezeout, as the drivers named the community, had a trading post, a quarter-mile racetrack, and several saloons. A post office opened there in 1873 and was named Millerton in honor of Emil Miller, who had given land for a school. Millerton became a voting precinct in 1874. Its post office closed in 1876, reopened in 1889, and was finally discontinued in 1891, when mail was routed through Rockdale.
Millerton (Sandow)had a one-teacher school for forty-two students in 1903; the school was incorporated with the Rockdale Independent School District in 1949. In 1918 the Federal Fuel Company, which owned a lignite mine at Millerton, began construction of a six-mile railroad to connect the mine with the International and Great Northern line at Marjorie. The fuel company soon went bankrupt, however, leaving the railroad unfinished.
When the McAlester Fuel Company took over the operation in 1922, it renamed the town Sandow, after a famous strongman then being promoted by Florenz Ziegfeld. Construction of the Rockdale, Sandow and Southern Railroad was completed in 1923.
For twenty-five years the Sandow mine provided lignite to several plants in Texas, including the central heating plants at the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, the San Antonio Public Service plant at New Braunfels, and the Texas Power and Light plant at Trinidad. The abundance of cheap natural gas, however, undermined the lignite industry during the 1930s and 1940s, and in 1950 the mine at Sandow closed.
In 1951, after the development of a process by which lignite could be dried and carbonized to produce a cheap fuel, the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) decided to locate a large plant near Sandow; the Sandow Power Plant used lignite to generate electricity for Alcoa. Though the new business brought a much-needed economic boost to the region, Sandow did not develop as a commercial or residential center. Most of the employees of the Alcoa plant lived and shopped in Rockdale. The Alcoa facilities were all that marked Sandow on the 1988 county highway map.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Lelia M. Batte, History of Milam County, Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1956). Milam County Heritage Preservation Society, Matchless Milam: History of Milam County (Dallas: Taylor, 1984). Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin (Rockdale, Texas).
Rockdale Matinee Musical Club Founded (1909)
Mrs. Preston H. Perry (Mary Ann Coffield Perry) invited a group of young Rockdale ladies and matrons to her home in January of 1909 to discuss plans for a musical club. They decided to organize, and chose the name, Matinee Musical Club. The object of the club was to be both social and musical, having for its aim higher culture and the dispersing of knowledge of the musical world.
The nine charter members were Mrs. Preston H. Perry, Mrs. Pearl Cawthon, Mrs. Andrew Perry, Misses Margaret MeCalla, Grace Longmoor, Alice Graves, Jessie Sessions, Ruth Isaacs and Norris Wallis.
The club membership was limited to twelve women. The yearbooks were done by hand in the early years and were works of art. They became federated in January of 1922. Many whose names have appeared on the roster not only studied under musical artists in Tesas, but completed work in Conservatories of the greater musical centers. The club on special occasions has provided programs which always drew large and appreciative crowds. One memorable occasion was during World War 1. The club gave a benefit, the proceeds going to the war relief fund. The members, gowned in Red Cross uniforms, gave a program that brought generous applause from every corner of the packed auditorium.
Texas Historical Marker commemorating the Rockdale Matinee Musical Club
Site of the Meeting Place for the Rockdale Matinee Musical Club
The Great Flood of September 8, 1921
A monster flood swept down Brushy Creek, the San Gabriel River, and the Little River drowning more than 63, washing out or damaging all area bridges and train trestles, and drowning most of the livestock in the creek and river bottoms. In the morning of Sept. 8, 1921 it began raining dumping between 15 and 20 inches of rain in the Rockdale area turning all streets into rivers. Ham Branch became a raging river flooding all homes in its path. At Minerva, a small cyclone did a lot of damage.
The loss of human life, crops, livestock, and damage to property was staggering.
Early-day Physicians in Rockdale
Early-day Horse and Buggy Doctor of Rockdale
Dr. T.S. Barkley started his medical practice in Rockdale in 1912
Dr. T.S. Barkley, who practiced medicine in Rockdale and the Milam County area for over 50 years beginning in 1912, was born in Rice (Navarro County) in 1885.
He received his medical degree at Southwestern University in Georgetown and served his internship at St. Paul's Sanitarium in Dallas. In 1912, he moved to Rockdale and setup a horse and buggy practice. He served as a medical officer with the Army medical corps in World War I. He also served as a surgeon for both the Southern Pacific and Missouri Pacific Railroads and a member of the St. Edwards Hospital in Cameron. Dr. Barkley was a lifetime member of the Board of St. John's Methodist Church in Rockdale and a 32nd degree Mason.
Dr. T.S. Barkley started his medical practice in Rockdale in 1912, served in World War I, a board member of St. John's Methodist Church in Rockdale, and a 32-nd degree Mason. Dr. Barkley died at the age of 79 in February of 1965.
Dr. Thomas Elam Riddle and his wife, California (Perryman) Riddle lived in Rockdale in the 1920's. Dr. Riddle practiced medicine visiting his patients by horseback.
Dr. Thomas Riddle made patient house calls in the 1920's.
Another famous Rockdale physician, Dr. John Terrance Richards, has touched the lives of most of the people of Rockdale over a span of 50 years.
John Richards attended St. Mary's University in San Antonio, then graduated from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston with his M.D. in 1939. He served in World War II in the U. S. Army's Medical Corp from 1940 to 1945 before returning to practice medicine in his home city of Rockdale in 1945.
Doctor Richards was born on March 7, 1911 at Rockdale, Milam County, Texas, the son of Jackson Brock Richards (born 03 MAR 1885 in Rockdale, Milam County, Texas) and Cecilia Hansen (born 16 OCT 1888).
John Richards married Elizabeth Jeanne Foster on December 26,1937.
Rockdale's hospital was founded in June 1949 by Dr. John T. Richards and Dr. John J. Hopper under the name of the Richards-Hopper Clinic and Hospital. Dr. Hopper was a surgeon and medical school classmate of Dr. Richards.
John Richards attended St. Mary's University in San Antonio, then graduated from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston with his M.D. in 1939. He served in World War II in the U. S. Army's Medical Corp from 1940 to 1945.
Dr. Richards, a native of Rockdale, returned to practice in his home city in 1945.
When Dr. Richards first returned to Rockdale to practice, many babies were still being delivered in the homes. He spent much of his time on rural house calls or en route to the nearest hospital in Cameron, Texas. Rockdale had no industry and few citizens who could support a community hospital. Dr. Richards and Dr. Hopper borrowed the necessary money to convert a large frame building located at the corner of Main and San Amlres Streets into a clinic and hospital. Dr. Hopper left the hospital in November, 1949, to take up practice in another city and the venture became the Richards Clinic & Hospital. Later, another frame building was acquired and additional patients' rooms added. A large stone-fronted reception area was added joining the two buildings.
In 1964, a modern brick clinic was built. This allowed additional space in the existing buildings for patients' rooms. Dr. Richards, Dr. Philip M. Young and Dr. L. E. Selden operated the private clinic under the name of the Rockdale Medical Association for many years.
In 1970, local citizens formed a hospital board of trustees with Emory C. Camp as president and built a community hospital named the Richards Memorial Hospital in honor of Dr. Richards. He died on 2 Sep 1988 at Milam County, Texas, USA, at age 77.
Richards Memorial Hospital in Rockdale has steadily upgraded its level of services to include a new assisted living facility, skilled nursing care, upgrades in telemetry, teleradiology, and ultrasound. Richards Memorial Hospital now has a 24-hour non-emergency clinic open to patients around the clock.
Rockdale Emergency Center Now Open 24 Hours.
Oil Boom Comes to Rockdale
In the early 1920's, oil was discovered near Cattail Creek in nearby Minerva by Sam Whonstein that led to the Minerva oil boom. During it's peak production years, the Minerva oil fields produced over 450,000 barrels per year supporting a local oil refinery.
Other wells were drilled south and east of Rockdale. Thousands of wellbores were drilled in the Rockdale region over a period of some 50 years.
With the rapid growth of the oil and gas industry in Milam county (and throughout the state of Texas), a new energy souce was available driving down the demand for Lignite coal. This soon led to the closing of all of the lignite coal mines in Milam County.
The oil industry of Milam county peaked in a few short years and is down significantly but still produces oil. Substantial oil reserves are known to exist in the region.
In 1999, the United Heritage Corp. acquired an option for over 3,200 acres in Minerva-Rockdale field, Milam County, Texas to evaluate the field's 200 wellbores and 33 producing wells and update the 1995 estimate of 56 million bbl of oil-in-place reserves.
Alcoa Ushers in Another Boom Period for Rockdale
In the early 1900's, the population of Rockdale grew to around the 1000 level mainly supported by agriculture and the strong mining industry in and around Rockdale. Then the population pretty much levelled off. Then in 1952, Alcoa constructed a four-potline smelter and three-unit power plant on a
7,000-acre site near Rockdale that ushered in another period of rapid growth. The sleepy little town of around a thousand citizens swelled to over 5,000 in just a few short months.
Under an agreement with McAlester Fuel Company and Texas
Power & Light Company (TU Electric), Alcoa purchased the mine site to build the world's first
aluminum-producing plant to use lignite as a fuel to generate electrical power.
At the Rockdale plant, Alcoa produces 1500 pound "pig" of aluminum as well as sheet ingot used by various other
companies to produce aluminum plate, sheet and foil. Alcoa also produces atomized aluminum powder used in
making rocket propellants for the NASA Space program.
The Rockdale Alcoa site includes a 914-acre, man-made lake which was one of the premier fishing
lakes until it's closure to the public. Alcoa also has the Sandow Mine facility that does open-pit minining in Milam,
Lee, and soon Bastrop Counties.
LANDMARK ROCKDALE BUSINESSES
With the coming of Alcoa, Rockdale also got a new skating rink (called skateland)thanks to Leo Quick and wife Nanamae. this was a fantastic place for a birthday party or just to gather with friends. In March of 2007, the last of the Skateland building is coming down.
Other landmark businesses contined to operate well into the 1960s.
The old McVoys Feed Store finally closed it's doors in 2010.
A Texas Historical Marker in front of the McVoy's Store reminds us that the Mundine Hotel once stood on that same site in 1880 and was destroyed by fire eight years later.
The Mundine Hotel stood on this site from its construction in 1880 until its destruction by fire in 1888. Completed six years after rockdale incorporated along the International & Great Northern rail line, the hotel was built near the depot to accommodate rail travelers. John Mundine of Lexington, Texas, built th inn, and it opened in 1881 under the management of Dr. and Mrs. W. A. Brooks. The fire that destroyed the three-story structure also killed 11 of its 13 occupants. Never rebuilt, the Mundine Hotel remains a part of Rockdale's history and its significant association with the railroad.
Adolph McVoy could still be seen greeting
customers at the side entrance until his death.
As a young boy in the 1950's, I had the pleasure of working at the
McVoys feed store and getting to know Adolph and his Dad on a personal basis. Adolph is a true Rockdale hero having
served in many of the fierce battles of World War II and surviving when so many of his fellow soldiers were
killed. One of his favorite saying to his employees,"Let's roll, boys!".
Adolph was also a strong supporter of the Rockdale football teams.
My Dad, John Kubiak, always traded with the McVoys to feed his herd of cattle and to buy and sell chickens,
turkeys and whatever livestock Adolph had available at his unique store. In the spring, we had to check out his
seeds and starter plants supply.
Rockdale, Birthplace of Rodeo Bulldogging
Rockdale can also lay claim as the birthplace of bulldogging.It happened right here in 1903 when famous black rodeo star, Bill Pickett got the idea for bulldogging a steer as he watched bulldogsworking alongside cowboys. When a stubborn Texas Longhorn refused to enter a corral and was panicking the rest of the herd, Pickett rode his horse at full speed alongside the troublesome steer, jumped off his horse and grabbed the steer by its horns. As the longhorn continued to fight him, Pickett bit it on its lower lip and tossed the animal to the ground. All early bulldoggers at rodeos used the lip-biting tactic, but it has been gradually phased out of the bulldogging event at modern rodeos.
William (Bill) Pickett, Famous Rodeo Star of the early 1900's
William (Bill) Pickett was born on December 5,1870, in Travis County to Thomas Jefferson and Mary Virginia Elizabeth Gilbert Pickett, former slaves who had thirteen children. Pickett only attended elementary school until he completed the fifth grade; after that, he went to work as a ranch hand.
In 1888, the Pickett family moved to Taylor where Bill and some of his brothers started a business "breaking" horses. Bill joined the National Guard and was a deacon in the Baptist church in Taylor, where he also performed rodeo feats at local fairs.
At the age of twenty he married a young woman named Maggie Turner, with whom he eventually had nine children. Pickett gave demonstrations of this technique at fairs and rodeos around Texas, and the event grew in popularity. (Pickett was only five-seven and weighed about 145 pounds, so his wrestling a full-grown steer to the ground was a remarkable feat, in itself.)
Pickett performed at Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1904 and impressed everyone. Soon after, he was hired by the 101 Ranch Show, and moved with his wife and children to Oklahoma. With this show, Pickett traveled around the U.S., Canada,
Mexico, and even performed in England and South America.
From 1905 to 1931, the Miller brothers' 101 Ranch Wild West Show was one of the great shows in the tradition begun by William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody in 1883. The 101 Ranch Show introduced bulldogging (steer wrestling), an exciting rodeo event invented by Bill Pickett, one of the show's stars.
Riding his horse, Spradley, Pickett came alongside a Longhorn steer, dropped to the steer's head, twisted its head toward the sky, and bit its upper lip to get full control.
William (Bill) Pickett, Famous Rodeo Star of the early 1900's Riding his horse, Spradley
Cowdogs of the Bulldog breed were known to bite the lips of cattle to subdue them. That's how Pickett's technique got the name "bulldogging." As the event became more popular among rodeo cowboys, the lip biting became increasingly less popular until it disappeared from steer wrestling altogether. Bill Pickett, however, became an immortal rodeo cowboy, and his fame has grown since his death.
Bill Pickett died April 2, 1932, after being kicked in the head by a horse. His grave is on what is left of the 101 Ranch property near Ponca City, Oklahoma.
Famed humorist Will Rogers announced the funeral of his friend on his radio show. In 1989, years after being honored by the National Rodeo Hall of Fame, Pickett was inducted into the Prorodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Rockdale, Home of the First Motel in Texas
My good friend, Tumbleweed Smith recently interviewed me for a radio program about Fort Tumbleweed and then excitely mentioned he was doing a story on the oldest motel in Texas, the Rainbow Courts.
"First , there were wagon yards. People went to town in wagons or buggies. The first stop was the wagon yard, where the horses were unhitched and fed. At night, people slept in the wagon yard, either in the wagons or in the stables. They cooked and had their meals there.
Then came tourist camps, which offered places for travelers to pitch tents next to their vehicles.
Then came tourist courts, usually a row of small rooms with small garages next to them. These were the forerunners of our modern motels.
In 1918 N. M. Bullock opened Rainbow Courts in Rockdale. It has remained in the same family ownership since then and has never closed".
Favorite Past-time of Kids in the 50's
When the Dairy Queen was the only drive-through in Rockdale, it became a popular thing for kids to cruize Dairy Queen to see what other teenagers were out on the town! The original Dairy Queen building was replaced after this photo was taken.
Cruizing Dairy Queen in the 50's
Early day Rockdale Town Scene-Rockdale Interurban Promoters)(Photo Courtesy Joyce Dalley, Rockdale)
Early-Day Rockdale Scene
ROCKDALE'S RADIO STATION- KRXT 98.5
KRXT is a 6,000 watt FM radio station covering the Central Texas area eastward to Aggieland; westward to Longhorn Country, northward to Baylor Bear country and Southward to Giddings Buffalo country.
KRXT features country music programmed with the hits of today and the great hits of the past and feature local news stories
from the area schools, city hall, and the courthouse.
The Rockdale radio station is also affiliated with ABC, Paul Harvey and the Texas State News Network. For weather, there's daily reports from weather expert Bill Hecke and live sports broadcasts for area schools. The station is located
at 1095 West Highway 79 in Rockdale.
EVENTS IN ROCKDALE
Rockdale has Fair Park which has great facilities for such events as Rodeos, livestock shows, arts and crafts sales and other similar activities. Major shows occur almost monthly. In April, there's the Dewberry Jam; in May there's Mayfest, in June there's Rockdale Homecoming; July and October features a Rodeo & Livestock Show , the Christmas Express happens in December, and then there's the First Saturday trade days. Often, the major shows are kicked off with a parade from downtown Rockdale out to fair park and events like 5K runs.
Rockdale-Cameron Bell Rivalry
The Rockdale-Cameron game is one of the state’s best rivalry games.Since 1954, the winner has proudly rung a big brass victory bell, which is symbolic of Milam County football supremacy. The bell, taken from a steam locomotive, was donated to the two schools by the Rockdale, Sandow & Southern Railroad in 1954.
Bragging rights to Milam County football supremacy come with the bell; therefore, the two communities encourage their charges to bring home the brass beauty for another year.
Over the years the bell has helped fuel one of Texas high school football's longest and most-storied rivalries. The contest annually attracts a standing-room-only crowd in spite of either team's record going into the affair.
At one point, the bell was stolen and buried in the Little River and later recovered.
Worn and damaged through years of use, the original bell had cracked and subsequently been repaired by local blacksmith shops on a regular basis. The damage was such that the bell no longer could produce a ringing sound.
In 2001 through the generosity of Cameron resident and Yoe High School graduate Catherine Thomas, the heavily used original bell was replaced with a nearly identical brass bell at a cost of approximately $2,500. The bell, mounted on a two-wheeled trailer, made
its debut at the 2001 Cameron-Rockdale football game on Oct. 12, 2001.
The series, which began long before overtime was initiated for high school contests, has never ended in a tie. Unfortunately, Cameron still has a commanding lead in the fight for the bell series!
Early-Day Rockdale State Representatives
Fifteenth Legislature 1876
House of Representatives - Rockdale - District 41: A. C. Isaacs
Nineteenth Legislature 1885
Senate - Rockdale - District 14: J. S. Perry
Twenty-Fifth Legislature 1897
House of Representatives - Rockdale - District 62: W. H. Tracy
Thirtieth Legislature 1907
House of Representatives - Rockdale - District 64: E. A. Camp
House of Representatives - Rockdale - District 66: Clifford Braley
Thirty-Second Legislature 1911
House of Representatives - Rockdale - District 66: Leroy Hillyer
Thirty-Ninth Legislature 1925
House of Representatives - Rockdale - District 64: D. S. Hollowell
Forty-Third Legislature 1933
House of Representatives - Rockdale - District 64: E. B. Camp
STATE REPRESENTATIVE DAN KUBIAK
Course, anyone who has lived in Rockdale since the late 1960's could not miss another giant of a man in the town, State Representative Dan Kubiak.
State Representative Dan Kubiak met President L.B.J on several occasions
SEE Rockdale Hall of Fame Page for more information.
The Future of Rockdale
A vast number of changes have already occurred in Rockdale as the town shifted westward along Highway 79. Major multi-million dollar construction projects were completed by 2007 including the new Walmart and the Rockdale Federal Credit Union.
Rockdale Credit Union's New Facility Opened for Business in 2007
With the major growth in counties like Williamson and Travis, it's only a matter of time before major growth comes to Rockdale.
However, the full potential of Rockdale can only be realized if Rockdalians and Rockdale city government recognizes that the heart and soul of a town lies in it's history in the downtown district. Rockdale must restore their historic homes and store fronts and eventually replace the unfriendly asphalt streets with brick streets laced with trees and blooming trees like Crepe Myrtles, Altheas and Wisteria.
Only then will Rockdale achieve it's full potential as a tourist attraction and great place to live, work and raise a family.
Historic Home Presently Owned by Joyce Dalley of Rockdale. One of many historical treasures within the Rockdale city limits.
ROCKDALE COMMERCIAL BUSINESSES
Great new farm and ranch store-the Rockdale General Store
Mexican Restaurant-Great food and service
Brookshires Grocery is back!
New inn on the west side of town
Rockdale Veterinary Clinic
Rockdale Tranum Country Ford
A Bit of History, Downtown Rockdale
ROCKDALE'S TEJAS ART AND BOOK FESTIVAL (2009)
Lots of fun things in town sponsored by the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce, the Rockdale Historical Society, and the Rockdale Downtown Association.
Just to the north of Rockdale is what remains of the village of Bushdale, founded by German immigrants
in the 1870's. into a thriving farming community.
A community cemetery was established on land owned by John and Johanna Broeckl in 1878.
One of the first building projects in Bushdale was the construction of a combination schoolhouse and church. In
1883, the Reverend Immanuel Glatzel organized the Peach Lutheran Church. A short time later, a church and
Parsonage were built on a seven acre parcel of land donated by Herman Henniger.
Businesses in Early-day Bushdale
Early-day Bushdale became a thriving community based on agriculture. A general store (operated by John and
Martha Brockenbush) was one of the first businesses in the area built around 1881. This was followed by the
construction of a cotton gin and a blacksmith shop (operated by Gustav Backhaus in 1883). The Herman Sons
Lodge also built a two-story dance hall at Bushdale that became the social center of the village.
1909, the Peace Lutheran Church moved to nearby Rockdale and the school was closed in 1949. The cemetery
is now all that's left of the town of Bushdale.
Rockdale Looses a Landmark Business
One of the premier businesses in Rockdale, Arledge Antiques was destroyed by fire in 2002. This business was housed in one of the original Rockdale downtown brick buildings and was equipped with one of the oldest elevators in the region and an awsome collection of antiques. One of my favorite places to shop.
Arledge Antiques, A Rockdale Treasure is Lost in 2002
Michael Scott Whiteley Dies, Funeral on Wednesday, July 29, 2009.
Michael Scott Whiteley, born on September 9, 1939 in Cameron, one of five children born to Otto C. Whiteley and Emma Lorenz Whiteley.
Michael lived in the Mt. Zion Community and graduated from Rockddale High School in 1959. Michael married Alice Mae Denman at the Mt Zion Baptist Church.
He worked for Alcoa Operations in Rockdale from 1963 until 1972 and . Michael was a lifelong rancher/farmer/ agriculturist and managed the Whiteley Farm Supply in Rockdale.
Michael died Sunday, July 26, 2009 in the Scott and White Hospital in Temple at the age of 69 years. He was preceded in death by two daughters:Sandra Jeanette Whiteley and Vicki Whiteley Hobbs.
Survivors include wife of 47 years, Alice Whiteley of Mt. Zion Community :Son, Jeffrey Whiteley and wife Monica of Hanover; Granddaughter, Maelynn Hobbs and her father Billy Hobbs: Brothers, Clifford Whiteley and wife Diane of Cameron and Calvin Whiteley and wife Dianne of Milano; and Sisters, Patricia McKee and husband Gene of Rockdale and Diana Sousares and husband Jimmy of College Station
Funeral services will be 10 AM Wednesday in the Phillips and Luckey Funeral Home in Rockdale, with Rev. Luther Shelander and Rev. Charles Denman officiating. Interment will follow in the Minerva Cemetery.