Ten miles south of Nashville, Tenochtitlan was established on the crossing of the
Old Spanish Trail, and became an important settlement, while north of Nashville,
Sterling (near Calvert) became another distribution point.*
(*Judge Calvert's granddaughter, Mrs. J. W. Doremus of Dallas, still still owns
the plantation at the original site of the village. Her title is in the form of a
Spanish land grant dated 1825)
One of the first permanent settlements in Robertson's colony was Jones Prairie,
settled in 1833 by Joseph P. Jones, who came from Illinois and obtained a league
of land in the vicinity. A later point of importance was Port Sullivan, near the
mouth of Little River. Davilla. one of the oldest settlements, had its beginning
when the Spanish government sold to Miguel Davila a grant of land on
October 18, 1833.
Robertson's original grant included roughly the section embraced as follows:
The west bank of the Navasota River south to the Old San Antonio Road
(or Spanish Trail), along the road west to the divide between the Brazos and
the Colorado, along the ridge north to the Old Comanche trail, thence east to
the Navasota. His grants included parts of the present Brazos, Burleson, and
Hill Counties, and all of Williamson, Milam, McLennan, Bell. Limestone. and
Navarro counties. The territory was given the name of the Municipality of
Viesca, and delegates from the district were always designated as being from
Viesca. Other counties included in this municipality were Burnet, Lampasas,
Bosque, Coryell, Hamilton, Erath, Hood, Comanche, Brown, and Eastland.
Robertson proved himself a wise and farsighted empresario, and. before the revolution, he had introduced more than six hundred families to his colony. He never spared himself expense and labor for their interests, and was a gentleman of culture, intellectual, unselfish, enterprising, patriotic, and a good leader and a statesman. He lived on his farm in what is now Robertson County until his death on March 4, 1842, at the age of fifty-seven years.
Milam County played her part in the Texas Revolution, and in the period of the Republic had a hand in all affairs. Again Sterling C. Robertson was leader in his colony. He was a delegate from Viesca (official name of Robertson's colony, also known as the Nashville colony) to the convention of March 1, 1836, which was called by the general council to meet at Washington-on-the Brazos, and. on March 2, he signed his name with fifty-seven others to the Declaration of Independence, which was penned by George C. Childress. Childress had assisted Alexander Thompson in the establishment of Old Nashville. A few days later, Robertson took part in the drawing of a Constitution for the Republic of Texas, and again was one of the signers of the document. When the convention received news of the fall of the Alamo, it disbanded at once (March 17), and Robertson returned hastily to Viesca to organize a force to help fight the Mexicans. Forming a company, he marched to the aid of Houston. He and his men participated in the Battle of San Jacinto, and, for his heroic services, Robertson was given six hundred and forty acres of land. During the "Runaway Scrape," Robertson's colonists deserted their homes, and, after this, some of the villages practically disappeared. The first man to move back to Viesca was John Marlin, and later Captain Joseph Daniels. famous Indian fighter, built Fort Milam on the site of old Viesca. In the latter part of the year 1836, the Indians became very troublesome, and Robertson organized a ranger company to protect his colonists from attacks. Many accounts of Indian raids and Indian fights are preserved from this period of Milam County history, but it is hard to sift the truth from the legendary accounts of these events. One story that is typical of the Indian situation is the history of the Mercer brothers, Peter and Jesse, and a man named Orr who settled on the Gabriel, west of Cameron, and who were attacked by the Indians. A bluff known to this day as Mercer's Bluff is said to have been the spot where Peter Mercer, Orr, and a negro servant leaped to their death in an effort to escape the marauders. It is said also that the town of Cameron is located on the spot where an Indian fight once took place.
On December 26. 1835, nineteen days after Ben Milam fell at San Antonio, the provisional government of Texas had changed the name of the municipality of Viesca to Milam Land District. We therefore have the honor of being the first district named for a hero of the revolution. When the first Senate of the Republic was called in session, Robertson was elected from the District of Milam and served two terms. Milam was the first county organized after the revolution, and Nashville was the county seat. Early in 1836, Massillon Farley was named County Judge, and William Thompson, County Clerk.
In 1837, the first county court was held at old Nashville. The name of the sheriff was John Beal. In the early fifties the district was divided into many smaller counties.
In January, 1842, an act of the Congress of the Republic named commissioners to select a permanent county seat of Milam County to be called "San Andres." But about this time Captain Ewen Cameron, a Texas ranger and a member of the Mier Expedition, met his death by special order of Santa Anna, and it was decided to name the new town for him. In 1846, Milam County was organized as now constituted, and Cameron became the county seat. The town was built on a tract of sixty acres donated by Captain Daniel Monroe, and he and a group of pioneers founded the county seat. The first courthouse was erected in 1846 and' W. W. Oxsheer was District Clerk, Isaac Standifer, Chief Justice, Francis Duffau, County Clerk, and John McLennan, Sheriff. (This building was moved and another erected later. In 1874, the second building burned, and the records were destroyed; in 1875 a new building was constructed, only to be condemned in 1889. The fourth and present courthouse was built in 1892 at a cost of $75.000.)
In 1846, Texas was annexed to the United States. For the next fifteen years Milam County heroes were mostly those who gave their attention to-handling the Indian problem, and particularly do we remember with pride and praise the Texas Rangers of the period who gave their courage and skill to help shape the destiny of Texas. Among the famous Texas rangers and Indian fighters of Milam County who gave us one of our most illustrious heroes of the Civil War period in his son. was Shapley P. Ross, father of Lawrence Sullivan Ross. Ross was one of the earliest settlers in Milam County. and his cabin home was on the site of Cameron. The son was born in Iowa (1838) but came to Texas with his family at the early age of one year. In the notes of W. W. Oxsheer on life in Milam County in early days is the following interesting mention of Ross: "I remember seeing one there (Old Nashville) at a horse race which I attended on the Fourth of July, 1840. He was then a boy and a rider in one of the races, which I think he won. this being the subsequently famous Indian fighter and distinguished Governor Sul Ross." Sul Ross attended school at Baylor, Waco, where his family finally made their permanent home, and, later, at Florence Wesleyan University in Alabama. In 1858, he organized a company of Indian warriors and went to the support of Major Earl Van Dorn, who was leading the United States troops against the Comanches. He took part in the battle of Wichita against the Indians, and in this battle rescued an eight-year-old white girl who was adopted by his mother and named Lizzie Ross. In 1859, Ross was placed at the head of a company of sixty Texas rangers. In 1860, in a battle with the Comanches on Pease River, Peta Nocona, the chief, was killed, and Ross discovered the chief's wife to be a white woman. She was identified as Cynthia Ann Parker, made captive by the Indians in childhood (1836). In 1866, Ross entered the Confederate army, and it is here, perhaps, that he deserved the name of hero most sincerely, for he entered as private soldier, and, on account of his deeds of daring, was soon promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General. He served throughout the war, took part in one hundred and thirty-five battles, and had five horses shot from under him. He was closely associated with Generals Johnston and Hood. After his return to Texas, he continued to interest himself in the affairs of state, serving as Senator (1881-1883), as Governor in 1886, and. finally, as president of A. and M. College until his death in 1898.
Milam County furnished her share of Confederate soldiers other than Ross, and in the roster of names of those who saw service were the following: Captain P. M. Kolb, Solon Joynes, Rev. W. E. Copeland, Captain Tracy. J. S. Perry, A. P. Perry, C. H. Coffield, Fred A. Graves, Captain J. B, Kemp, Dr. L. J. Turner, Captain L. L. Lee, and others whose records are not to be found at this late date.
From the time of the Civil War forward the story of Milam County has been one of consistent progress. Today "Matchless Milam" is one of the most outstanding counties of central Texas. Its improved highways, charming towns and villages, stately courthouse, efficient school system, colorful historic spots, and congenial populace all summed up together form what could be considered the "perfect" county of God's great Universe.
"To the eye Milam County presented the appearance of a vast stretch of
undulating country, threaded at intervals by clear streams of running water
and divided almost equally between timberland and prairie. All kinds of game,
such as buffalo, deer, antelope, bear, wild hogs, and turkeys were there in
abundance, while the climate was almost ideally perfect. It was the hunter's
home, the pioneer's paradise, and the poet's dream of breathing beauty."
The territory along the banks of the San Gabriel and the Brushy was occupied
by various small tribes of Indians, probably akin to the East Texas tribes.
The Spanish found them here and have given their names as the Mayeyes,
the Deadoses, the Yohuanes, Bidai, Cocos, Orcoquizas, and others. These names
are found in Dr. H. E. Bolton's articles on the subject of the San Gabriel missions.
The impression one gains from studying the meagre sources of information on
these tribes is that they were not of the semi-civilized, more stable type of
Indian, but more or less of a wandering and restless nature. They spent their
days hunting in the woods along the Gabriel, fishing in its waters or chasing
buffalo on the slopes. In summer they feasted and in the winter they shivered
and starved. In summer they often followed the buffalo north and west to the
plains and here they came into conflict with their hereditary enemies, the Apaches.
Periodically they organized themselves into raiding bands and went on the warpath
with murderous intent in search of Apaches. Thus their lives were one long idyll of
savage existence, in cycles of war, the chase, orgies of feasting, and religious festivals, until the arrival upon the distant horizon of an undreamed of menace to their peace of mind— the Spanish conquistadores.
About 1714-1715 Spain became suddenly interested in settling Texas, for the French were settling on the Mississippi and Red Rivers, and were getting too close to the Spanish claims for Spain to rest comfortably. The first mention to be found of Spain in Milam County is in the reports of Captain Ramon, who told of crossing the San Andres (Little River) on May 31. 1716, just above its confluence with the Brazos, and of naming another stream which emptied into it, the San Francisco Xavier. This name, Xavier, (pronounced Hav-yer' in Spanish) was corrupted into Gabriel, and the stream has since been known by this name. On one of Austin's early (1829) maps he names the stream the "San Javriel." In 1720, Aguayo, a Spanish governor from San Antonio, traversed Milam County and crossed Little River on June 12, after a delay of seventeen days on account of high water. In 1732, Bustillo. traveling from San Antonio on a campaign against the Apaches, reached Little River, also. In his party were one hundred and fifty-seven Spaniards, sixty Indians, one hundred and forty pack loads of supplies, and nine hundred horses.
In 1744, Fray Francisco de los Dolores y Viana, a missionary from the Alamo, on tour in search of Indians, found a large village of them near the junction of the San Gabriel and Brushy Creek. He tried to coax them to join him and enter the mission at San Antonio, but they refused, promising, however, to visit the Alamo at a later date. Soon four chiefs appeared in San Antonio with a request that the priests establish a mission in this country. It was later found out that their real purpose in asking for a mission was to secure the aid of the Spanish and their guns against the Apaches. Father Ortiz was dispatched to Mexico City to ask permission of the viceroy to found the mission, and in 1746 permission was granted for the construction of three missions on the San Xavier. In 1748, thirty soldiers were sent to protect the priests, while in the meantime Dolores had, on his own initiative, established a mission on the Gabriel, the first foundation before Dec. 26, 1746. The viceroy's orders were carried out and two missions were added to this one the same year. The three were placed at some distance from each other along the Gabriel and were named San Francisco Xavier de Horcasitas, San Ildefonso, and Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria.* (*According to Mr. L. H. Porter, San Xavier was on the Kolb place, Ildefonso on the fork of Brushy and Gabriel, and Candelaria on the Porter farm.)
In 1751 there were three hundred and forty-nine Indians in the three missions. These missions suffered heavily from the attacks of the Apaches, and in 1751 a fort was built and more soldiers sent to guard the settlement. Smallpox reduced the population, many Indians ran away to join a campaign against the Apaches, the priests and the officers at the fort quarreled, and finally friction produced a tragedy in 1752 that demoralized the whole organization of the missions. One of the priests was killed, probably by a soldier, and after three more years of struggle against overpowering odds, the missions were deserted (1755) and left to decay and crumble. Time has erased them from the scene, for, like other missions of this part of Texas, they were constructed of logs and rotted away under the work of the elements. Traces of this settlement are still found scattered up and down the river, but nothing whole is left as a monument to the work of the faithful and unselfish Spanish padres. Some traces of a dam may be seen on Ditch Valley farm, faint marks of irrigation projects may be found, some stones used in the construction of the missions may be located, and even the bones of some of those connected with the missions have been unearthed. Many legends are related in connection with happenings in the vicinity, but we are interested in facts only in this account. Interest in settling Texas waned soon after, for France ceded Western Louisiana to Spain in 1762, and no further effort to inhabit Milam County was made by Spain.
From 1755 to 1823 seems to be a blank in the history of Milam County. It is probable that during this time the country was visited at various times by other Spaniards or by the American filibusters of the period, but no authentic data are to be found of such occurrences.
In 1823 a venturesome young American, who had spent some time in Mexico after its struggle for independence from Spain was over, and there had heard of Texas and its opportunities, decided to visit the land; so, in his home town, Nashville, Tennessee, he organized a company to explore the wild country. Sterling C. Robertson, the son of a wealthy planter, was born in Nashville. October 2, 1785, and was reared there. He was a well-educated young man and had served as a major in the War of 1812. The company from Nashville reached the Brazos in 1823 and formed a camp at the mouth of Little River. From this headquarters they spent several months hunting, fishing, and exploring the adjacent territory, and, during the time, Robertson visited Austin's colonies and others, gathering information with the idea of obtaining a grant of land and bringing in families from Nashville and Tennessee. Upon his return home, he arranged to purchase a contract (dated April 25, 1825) with the Mexican government that had been made by Robert Leftwich, for the settlement of eight hundred families on the Brazos, Little River, and the San Gabriel. The contract gave him six years to settle the eight hundred families. Late in 1829, at his own expense, Robertson introduced one hundred families into Texas; but they were held up at Nacogdoches by the Mexican military authorities, who had received false reports in regard to Colonel Robertson and his colonists. It was not until 1830 that the Nashville Company reached the Brazos, and this only after having led the authorities to believe that they were going to join one of Austin's colonies. It was not until April 29, 1834, that Robertson finally cleared up the matter with the government in Mexico and the contract reinstated. In the summer of 1834 Robertson made his headquarters on the west bluff of the Brazos, (five miles from Marlin) near the falls, and laid out a town called Sarahville de Viesca. There was a ford on the river at this point, which, in part, accounts for this choice of a site. The name Viesca was in honor of the Spanish governor of the time. Alexander Thompson, Robertson's right-hand man, established another settlement down the river as a distributing point for settlers. This site was on the west bluff of the Brazos just below the junction of the Little River and the Brazos (near Hearne). The place was known as Fort Nashville. A fort of cedar logs was constructed and business was transacted here and records preserved. Nashville later became the most important settlement in the" colony and the capitol. Also, when a discussion arose in the time of the Republic over the selection of a permanent capital for Texas, Nashville came within a few votes of winning the honor. The first land office was opened about October 1, 1834, and in 1835 Robertson made a trip back to the States to induce settlers to follow him to Texas.
Rockdale,TX Class of 1965
Yearbook of the Rockdale, TX RHS Class of 1936
The Tiger Lair
Published & Copyrighted
by The Senior Class of RHS
Virginia Hale - Editor
Tommy Coffield - Bus Mgr.
We, the classes of Rockdale High School in 1936, take pride in having this book as our contribution to the commemoration of the Centennial of our State and we have tried to depict the development of Milam County and Rockdale from the primeval scene of the buffalo range and the wilderess, through the age of the Indian, who left us a heritage of freedom and space; through the time of the Franciscan padres, who left us romance in the names of the physical features of our county; through the era of Sterling C. Roberson, who was the father of Milam County, colonizer and leader; through the period of the Revolution and Ben Milam, who gave us his illustrious name and represented the sterling character of the pioneer; through the chapter of the Civil War and General Laurence Sullivan Ross, who stands to represent all Milam County heroes who participated in this upheaval; to the present day when we prefer to think of Milam County as a link in the whole chain of Texas Counties and as being Texas itself, most glorious state in the Union, and when we see our Texas character personified in our distinguished Governor, James V. Allred. Herein will you find these characters portrayed by the artist's pen and herein will you fee their influence as you turn the pages of our book and, we hope, close the volume with a lasting impression and appreciation of our part in the history of Texas.
To the efficient and paintaking instructor, the sympathetic and firm friend of the pupil, the systematic organizer and disciplinarian, Superintendent S. C. Miles, the Senior Class of Nineteen hundred and thirty-six respectfully dedicate this annual.
Power and Precision
City of Rockdale
Rockdale Public School
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The history of Rockdale and the Rockdale Public School, has been presented in as clear and true a manner as possible. This would have been impossible had it not been for the information furnished me by a few of the pioneer settlers and friends who have been associated with the town since its early beginning. For co-operation in this work I am indebted to the following: Messrs. L. H. Porter and W. Hill Marshall, and Mesdames C. K. Stribling, R. H. Hicks, A. M. Dunnington, J. E. Longmoor, Lorena Kevil Bradley, J. L. Lanning.
In the extensive history of Milam County all credit goes to Mrs. Hubert Dennis, a very efficient history teacher of the Rockdale School, who is also Sponsor of the Annual. The history is gotten up entirely on research work of Mrs. Dennis in various Texas histories, assisted by information from Mrs. Jeff T. Kemp of Cameron.—VIRGINIA HALE, Editor.)