Rockdale,TX Class of 1965
Yearbook of the Rockdale, TX RHS Class of 1936
Among the earliest settlers in this section was Dr. T. E. Riddle, who settled in the vicinity of what is now Cattail in 1867. Dr. Riddle passed away only a few years ago, having reached a ripe old age. In 1852 Captain B. M. Hutchinson settled about two miles northwest of the present site of Rockdale, where he built a log cabin and lived with his family until his death in 1894 This cabin is still standing in part, a gentle reminder of days of long ago.
In the latter part of 1872, news spread over the state that International & Great Northern Railroad was being extended from Hearne to Austin. Prospectors became intensely interested and soon entered the territory between these points, believing a good town would be settled somewhere along this line. Bryan, Hearne, Waco, and Austin were the nearest points of communication with this section of the county.
In the beginning of 1873, some sturdy pioneers with surveying outfits left Cameron in a southwestern direction to survey large tracts of land lying near Rock Prairie, about eighteen miles away. Later it developed that George Green, B. F. Ackerman and Frank Smith had sold to the International & Great Northern company four hundred acres of land on which to lay off a town. On September third a sale was had of lots, which had been laid out, with number, location, and boundary of each. Prospectors came from near and far on horseback or with ox team, carrying with them such supplies as were necessary for existence until some arrangement for local trade could be made.
E. S. Loper of Davilla and Evans and Brickhouse of Lexington were among the first to locate; Evans and Brickhouse were the first to open for business, where the Rockdale State Bank now stands.
Those who had settled here before the first train pulled in, were naturally curious to witness the arrival of that real live monster, as it would come roaring in. From near and far they came, and gathered at the quaint little station to greet the spectacle with frantic cheers and applause.
The track was completed on February 4, 1874. The first train from Hearne was loaded down with people, who brought their tents and provisions with them, for as yet no accommodations could be bad. They came from city, town, and village, a varied assortment of humanity — honest, brave, and rugged men, coming to seek their fortunes in a new environment.
The first superintendent of the railroad was John R. Hoxie, with Henry Dickson as first ticket agent, and Homer Eads telegraph operator.
W. Hill Marshall of this city was one of the passengers on this first official train. He and his good wife have witnessed the growth and development of Rockdale, and recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.
The then nameless town was as yet only a small opening among the post oaks — a frontier town with stumps in the few streets which had been laid out. While it remained the terminus of the railroad, everything about the place was in that unsettled condition characteristic of new western towns.
The naming of a town was usually conceded to the railroad officials, but this honor came to Mrs. Ackerman of Cameron, whose husband, B. F. Ackerman, donated some part of the land on which the town was located, and for whom one of the main streets was named- Mr. and Mrs. Ackerman coming across country to the new town, passed an immense rock on a prairie about two or three miles north of town —a rock about ten or twelve feet high, which must have been twenty-five or thirty feet in circumference. Mrs. Ackerman noticed this lone rock, and after arriving here and seeing the place was low with hills around, radiating as from some center, and remembering the lone rock, hit upon the idea of ROCKDALE. which she announced to the railroad officials; and that name they promptly accepted. So Rockdale, a name dear to the hearts of many, saw its beginning, and, with the swiftly passing years, was to witness phenomenal commercial and civic growth.
Among the first settlers were Thomas Fletcher, W. W. Harvey, and Frank Allen, who located on what is now the T. M. Williams' place. Mr. Fletcher improved the old J. M. Ousley homestead, where he established and operated the first mill and gin plants. This land is now owned by his daughter, Mrs. D. H. Sanford. Miss Ellen Fletcher, now Mrs. W. W. Harvey of Comanche, was quite a horsewoman and would ride at will over the prairie where Rockdale now stands with little thought of what the future held for that playground of hers.
At first tents had been put up to shelter the people who were here to build a town, but these were rapidly replaced by crude wooden or board structures. A row of business houses was built on Railroad Street, which was then the important street in the town. The carpenters and contractors were kept busy, and by the following summer one could count the number of painted houses on the fingers of one hand. One of these houses which still stands today was the home of Mr. Jack Stewart, afterwards the home of Mrs. Sue Hale. Mr Stewart was a good carpenter, also a good singing school teacher.
Business prospered, and during the two years that Rockdale was the railroad terminus it became the commercial center of Milam County, with a trade territory from the Brazos River to Georgetown and from Giddings on the south to above Belton and east toward Waco on the north. The board shacks were rapidly supplanted by brick buildings as business justified the change.
Quite a number of exciting events happened during those stirring days, chief among which was the arrival of the first circus in town. People came in wagon loads from great distances to witness the first circus of their lives, and by their awestruck and bewildered behavior proved more of a show themselves. But these rough and rugged people were "diamonds in the rough" and soon proved themselves the fine men and women of later days after contact with the outside world. Picturesque cowboys managed to ride to town often and added color and gaiety to the streets of Rockdale. Frank and Jesse James, the outlaws, visited here now and then, but always seemed in pleasant spirits and proved agreeable company. Negro revivals were popular in those early days, and quite a bit of complaint was noticed when such a revival ran for several months, beginning about twelve o'clock at midnight and closing in time for breakfast. The meeting continued, however, and developed a boy named Toliver, quite a genius for stirring the darkies up, who later landed in Washington City in charge of a large congregation. Another negro, Jim Jackson, a porter in a saloon and gambling emporium, was collecting contributions to build a church. He was active in this dual position for years, with many a successful gambler slipping Jim liberal contributions for LUCK, which enabled him to purchase the farm now occupied by the Worley Mines, upon which he raised the finest peaches in the country.
Remains of cabin built by Captain B. M. Hutchinson in 1852
W. E. Copeland home built in the early nineties.
Late Mrs. Sue Hale home built by Jack Stewart in late eighties.
B. LOWENSTEIN AND BROTHER opened their first stock of goods here December 24, 1873, Beginning with a few handfuls of goods, valued around two or three hundred dollars, which they brought here with an ox team before the railroad came, they increased their stock of merchandise and groceries as the trade demanded. By hard work, honest dealing, and a vision of what the future held, they continued to prosper and grow, erecting several business houses and residences, and became leaders in the town. Joseph moved to Houston, and the business continued under the firm name of B. Lowenstem and Sons. B. Lowenstein was a member of the first public school board, was instrumental in having erected the German-English Academy, was vice-president of the old First National Bank, which he helped to organize, and later became postmaster of Rockdale under two administrations. He was succeeded by his son, Ben, Jr., who conducted the business left by his father, until his untimely death two years ago. Mrs. Ben Lowenstein, Jr., now heads this old-established firm.
E. M. Scarbrough, representing H. P. Hale and Company of Hearne, came from that town on horseback to Rockdale the latter part of 1873. He bought a lot on Main Street for one hundred and fifty dollars and erected a two story wooden house. When the new train arrived in February, 1874, H. P. Hale and Company opened for business in the town. The directors of the firm consisted of H. P. Hale with E. M. Scarbrough as silent partner, Jobe Hale, Green Wilson, and J. J. Dunnington as bookkeeper. The partnership lasted until the death of General Hale in 1882, when his estate having been wound up, the firm of SCARBROUGH 8 HlCKS COMPANY was formed. Mr. R. H Hicks, who had been with Hale and Company as bookkeeper, became partner in interest. Mr. Scarbrough remained in Rockdale until 1889, when he moved to Austin and opened a branch house in 1893. The houses at Rockdale and Austin were two of the strongest mercantile establishments in Central Texas, and stood, each in its respective place, at the head of the business interests of those cities. They continue to hold that enviable position today. Following the death of R. H. Hicks, his son John. R. L, Hale, Sr., and Omrad Palm were active managers of the business until January 1, 1913, when John Hicks and associates acquired the Scarbrough interests and sold out their interests in Austin. Following the moving of Messrs. Hicks and Palm to El Paso and the death of R. L. Hale, Sr. in 1919, the Scarbrough & Hicks Company was reorganized. In January, 1927, at a meeting of stockholders and directors. Ira Perry, J. W. Scarbrough, J. O. Newton, E. P. Henke, and J. W. Garner were named as board of directors. The entire mercantile establishment had been remodeled with an up-to-date plate glass front facing two streets sometime before 1919, and about a year ago considerable improvements were made on the interior. Then the disastrous fire in September, 1935, completely wiped out all that was once the pride and glory of the business district. But time does not stand still, and in January, 1936, the new business of Scarbrough B Hicks Company, under the ownership of J. O. Newton and Sons, opened up for business in the J. F. Coffield building on Cameron and Main Streets, and thus again this old firm continues to live in the hearts of the people.
The Rockdale Bank was organized in 1874 by Isaac Jalonick, representing Stowe and Wilmerding of Galveston. A corner lot on Milam and Main Streets was bought for three hundred dollars, the highest price paid for a lot in those days. A bank building, eighteen by thirty feet Was erected, which was replaced a year later by a two-story stone and brick building, the building later known as the Wolf Hotel, operated by Mr. and Mrs. A. Wolf.
The bank failed within a year or two and was bought by Wayland and Wheatley with C. E. Wynn as manager. Two years later these men sold to Judge J. S. Perry. Wynn was assisted by J. E. Longmoor, who had held the position of bookkeeper in the private banking house of Tracy Brothers until it went out of existence.
These institutions paved the way for the organization in 1890 of the First National Bank, with a paid-in capital of $75,000. C. H. Coffield was elected President. B. Lowenstein, Vice-President, J. E. Longmoor, Cashier. Edgar Rowlett, Assistant Cashier, with R. H. Hicks, L. Isaacs, B. B. Baxter, and H. L. Witcher rounding out the board of directors.
On January 1, 1907, the Rockdale State Bank was organized with a capital stock of $50,000, with B. Lowenstein as President, H. C. Meyer, Vice-President, W. L. Baird, Cashier, Fred H. Graves, Assistant Cashier, and S. G Hodge, Dr. R. W. Wallis, Dr. A. C. Walker, and Harry Landa the other directors.
The Citizens State Bank was organized in 1912 with a capital stock of $30,000. H. C. Meyer became President; J. S. Jacobs, Vice-President: E. A. Perry, Cashier; and E. B, Phillips, Ira Perry, G. M. Ryan directors.
A few years ago the Citizens State Bank, and still later the First National Bank, were taken in by the Rockdale State Bank, and this bank is now located in the old First National building. The present officers are H. H. Camp, President; T. B. Ryan, Active Vice-President; John T. Hale, Cashier: Harold Luckey, Assistant Cashier; and Poitevant Franklin, Dr. T. S. Barkley. E. A. Camp, W. E. Gaither, and T. B. Ryan are directors.
In the year 1873, Major W. M. McGregor and James A. Muir founded the MILAM COUNTY MESSENGER at Cameron, a weekly which soon won popular favor. When the then nameless town of Rockdale was being looked upon as a favorable place to invest, they built a home and transferred the plant and business to this place. During this time the paper was at its height, being published semi- and tri-weekly at times. Enock Breeding, together with his sister, Miss Nannie Breeding, purchased the MESSENGER about 1876, adding improved machinery; and then in March, 1877, the entire plant was destroyed by fire. However, it was re-established by May 25, 1877, only to burn again m April. 1891, when it was again promptly restored. For twenty-five years the people of Milam County had the benefits of a splendid newspaper, known for its strong editorials. In 1893 W. M. Ferguson bought the MESSENGER, changing its policies which heretofore had been Democratic to that of the People's Party. In 1900 the plant was sold to Howard Wilson and restored to the Democratic fold. After Mr, Wilson's death the paper was controlled by Mrs. Wilson and her sons, who finally sold it to R. W. H. Kennon of the ROCKDALE REPORTER, and it was launched under the merger, ROCKDALE REPORTER AND MESSENGER.
THE REPORTER had been founded by J. H. G. Buck in 1893, ceased publication for a while and was re-established by Homer D. Wade, then a youthful editor at Lexington. Wade sold the REPORTER to his associate, R. W. H. Kennon. Judge Kennon continued to direct the columns of the merged paper until June, 1911, when he sold out to John Esten Cooke. Mr. Cooke is known as one of the best country newspaper men in the State, and has had many honors come to his paper. He has extended the paper's circulation and each week edits a ROCKDALE REPORTER full of human, local interest and boosting "Regal, Rustling Rockdale and Matchless Milam."
In the year 1880 John Mundine of Lexington, wishing to invest his money here, erected the three-story brick structure on the corner of Main and Railroad streets, known as the MUNDINE HOTEL. In 1881 it was formally opened to the public under the management of Dr. and Mrs. W. A. Brooks, pioneers in the business, known and loved by all with whom they came in contact. The Mundine Hotel was destroyed by fire on June 8, 1888, and Mrs. Brooks and her four children, Willie, Brooksie, Harry, and Marion, lost their lives in the same building that had sheltered them for so many years. Only one man escaped. Mr. Oldhum of Austin, who could tell of the horror of that tragic fire. Dr. Brooks braved the flames in a vain effort to save his loved ones, but could not. Mr. D, H. Sanford was the hero of this great tragedy, grasping Dr. Brooks by sheer force, carrying him out of the building just in time to see the structure collapse. Other victims of the fire were Isaacs Crown, Pemberton Pierce, Mr. and Mrs. T. C. Brisco and their...three children. Dr. Brooks died many years ago in San Antonio and his body was brought here for burial by his sons, John and James.
(Rockdale history continued on next page)
Scarbrough & Hicks Company after the fire in 1935