Milam County Historical Commission - Milam County, TX
Statue of Ben Milam at Milam County, TX Courthouse
Old Junior High School Building, Rockdale, TX
Milam County Courthouse - Cameron, TX
Preserve America
Milam County Historical Commission
Milam County, Texas
Looking Back
100 Years Ago...

Interesting headlines and recaps of articles
from the
Rockdale Reporter
100 years ago
Compiled weekly by the Reporter staff

County Commissioner E.M. Reese of Lewis, who represented Rockdale, died at his home from heart disease. Lewis had become ill after commissioners court in Cameron.

Rev. H, B. Smith, pastor of Rockdale Methodist Church, told The Reporter the rumor he had charged a family $10 to offi ciate at a funeral was an “infamous falsehood.”

Winnie Longmire of Rockdale left Sam Houston Normal (Sam Houston State) to volunteer for war work and was sent home to Milam County to teach canning and other home economics skills.

Henne & Meyer Co. purchased the American Lignite Briquette Co. plant and business east of Rockdale and changed its name to the Big Lump Lignite Co.

The World War I Liberty Loan Drive was in full swing. Bankers met in Rockdale and there were numerous ads asking residents to buy bonds. One led with the headline: “Brother, you don’t want to be a slacker do you?”

Because of the Liberty Bond drive, Rockdale’s town cleanup day had to be postponed. Mayor H. C. Meyer had asked all businesses to delay opening until 1 p.m. on June 12 and “a concerted effort taken to make Rockdale clean town.”

All men between 18 and 30 were required to register for “the war army” on June 3. Exemptions would be granted but all men were required to register.

Graduation exercises were held for the RHS Class of 1917. Highlight was the class prophecy where seniors Antoinette Walter and Agnes Cooke forecast what their classmates would be doing in 1927.

Voters in the Lexington- Tanglewood area of Lee County passed a $5,000 “good roads” bond issue. Vote was 240 in favor and 95 against.

Col. W. B. Woody told Rockdale’s Confederate veterans World War I, which the U. S. had just entered, would not affect the upcoming reunions of CSA veterans.

M. L. Kuykendall reported Thorndale area wool growers had just made the largest shipment in 25 years. He said the 8,000-pound shipment represented the wool from about 1,000 sheep and brought approximately 45 cents per pound. About 400 sheep were also sold.

Sheriff Allen Hooks was in the Davilla area investigating a murder after a fight between three laborers on the Bill Sharp place.

Editor’s note: Even history has history. One hundred years ago this week there was a history column in the May 24, 1917 Reporter. It listed items from Reporter files between March 18 and April 29, 1898. Here’s a sampling:

Four Rockdale boys, Howard Shapard, Earl Allen, Sid Ghent and Joe Valentine, had joined a battalion being formed in Milano to go fight in the Spanish- American War. War had not yet been declared but looked imminent.

E. J. M Hopkins sold his ice plant to Dan and John Weaver. They advertised “we will sell ice-cold ice at responsible rates.” It turned out the report of the death of a local man was premature. 100-yearold George Washington — yes that was his name — was still going strong. Mr. Washington had been born in 1798 when that other George Washington was still alive. \ A free-for-all fight at the Black Diamond Coal Mine was reported and a number of arrests were made. One man was stabbed but was expected to recover. New officers for the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Department were elected as follows: J. E. Longmoor, president; H. Lockwood, vice-president; H. E. Rowlett, treasurer; S. C. Cawthon, secretary; S. G. Hodge, chief; E. L. Rasberry, first assistant chief.

“Honest Jim” Browning, candidate for lieutenant governor, spent the day in Rockdale. Browning and Reporter publisher R. W. H. Kennon were old friends from the Texas Panhandle. A large rain sent the San Gabriel River and Brushy Creek out of their banks and caved in several lignite mines in the area.

Dr. William Osborne and H. Brevard were prospecting for gold in Llano County and reported “showing lots of paydirt.”

The Reporter reported on the murder of W. C. Brann in Waco. Brann, publisher of The Iconoclast, had made numerous enemies, including the administration of Baylor University, which he despised. Brann was shot in the back by a Baylor supporter in front of a Waco cigar store. “The Reporter came out strong for Brann,” the newspaper noted.
Rockdale High School was set to graduate its largest senior class ever as 20 seniors were ready to receive their diplomas from school board president Ira Perry.

Rockdale was getting serious about its ongoing bat problem at City Hall. Carpenter Jim Copeland reported he had replaced the wainscoting in the upstairs auditorium and had removed “several bushels of bats.”

Church-goers on a Sunday night at San Gabriel Christian Church heard gunshots and cries of “fire.” They rushed to the Lige Jocelyn residence but were unable to save the structure from burning to the ground. A neighbor’s home was saved, however.

Guest speaker on Mother’s Day at Rockdale’s Methodist Church was Houston Post columnist Judd Mortimer Lewis. The Reporter noted church-goers were “somewhat disappointed in the brevity of his effort.
The Rockdale City Council set the tax rate at $1.15 and declared R. L. Hale and T. M. Williams elected aldermen in recent city elections.

Former Cameron City Manager Tom Parker was arrested and charged with murder in the shooting death of Louis Mackey who was killed in front of Pace-Marshall Drug Store in downtown Cameron.

Drs. H. T. Coulter, S. B. Kirkpatrick and T. S. Barkley returned from a state medical conference and said a call had gone out for 300 Texas doctors to serve at the front in France.

Reporter Publisher John Esten Cooke warned against wartime hoarding, noting that no conditions existed for an economic panic in the U.S. as a result of the war raging in Europe

Sheriff Allen Hooks issued a proclamation calling on Milam County residents to “refrain from molesting” foreign-born citizens.

The United States had recently entered World War I against Germany. Reporter Publisher John Esten Cooke wrote a moving column-obituary on the death of his only brother, Robert E. Cooke of Fort Worth, 53, who died after a stroke.

Georgetown challenged Rockdale’s claim to be flying the highest American flag in the area. Publisher Cooke countered that Rockdale is only flying its flag at 71 feet because “it is so large we’re afraid if we flew it any higher it would snap the pole.”

A proposal to impose wartime Prohibition in the U. S. said men are needed for the war effort and abstainers die at a lesser rate than drinkers.

A new state law addressed growing concerns of crashes involving motor vehicles. The Reporter’s front page headline: “New Law Covering Auto Speed Maniacs.”

It starts. With the entry of the U. S. into World War I, five young Milam County men enlisted in the Navy including Tracy Longmire, a junior at Rockdale High School.

Bohemian-American Day drew a large turnout in Cameron. Speakers included County Judge John Watson and attorney B. P. Matocha, who delivered his speech in Bohemian.

Cameron was shocked by the public shooting death of a jitney (motorized public transport) driver. An arrest was made and a grand jury convened the next morning.
Work done by a county road crew to straighten out the road between Rockdale and Milano was praised under the headline: “Convicts Do Splendid Road Work.”

Why was building new roads such a major story in 1917. There was a robbery at the Tanglewood Store. Tanglewood is in Lee C ounty. The crime was investigated by the Lee County Sheriff who arrived from Giddings, a journey which occupied one hour and 28 minutes.

An 11-year-old Rockdale boy was recuperating from injuries sustained when his bicycle was struck at night on North Main Street by a car which was operating without lights.

Rockdale endured a power outage triggered, The Reporter said, “ when some miscreant threw a baling wire over a high power line six feet west of Rockdale.
Two cars on a San Antonio & Aransas Pass passenger train derailed two miles north of Rockdale after heavy rains washed a large mound of sand onto the tracks. No injuries were reported.

Quick action by night watchman R. L. Willingham saved the Thorndale Oil Mill after he discovered three separate fires burning about 2 a.m. Arson was suspected.

County Clerk Jeff Kemp resigned after he was appointed Milam County Auditor. At least six persons had submitted their names to be named the new county clerk.

The Reporter was running a day-by-day column of war news after the U.S. entered World War I. Civil War veterans petitioned President Woodrow Wilson to appoint them a “special home guard” during the duration of the war.
WAR! The Reporter’s front page was devoted to national news. President Woodrow Wilson for, and received from both houses of Congress, a declaration of war against Germany. Front page headline: “German submarines expected to raid American coastal cities.”

A new way of looking at things was creeping into Rockdale life. Reporter ad: “In war, crippled soldiers are sent to hospitals...when your watch is off take it to Douthit Jewelry.”

Rockdale residents began to think about building a new school. E. B. Phillips (Phillips & Luckey) suggested one could be built without a bond issue.

County convicts were “straightening out the kinks” in the road between Rockdale and Milano, a project that was expected to shorten the distance between the two towns by almost a mile.
The much anticipated Rockdale area road bond election passed by a vote of 598-213, more than the two-thirds majority it needed. Rockdale voted in favor by 398-237 while several rural areas voted against.

The Reporter published a front page letter from an opponent of the road bonds urging area residents to “bury the hatchet” and work together to build the roads.

The Dixie Theater had a new motorized windmill at the back of the building. Theater Manager Long promised “the hottest days are now converted into October breezes.”

Over 600 people attended school commencement exercises at Sand Grove, lasting from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.. Sea Shells, The Reporter’s correspondent wrote “it was the biggest thing in the history of this place.” But he still led his column with the weather.

With a March 23 Rockdale- area good roads election looming, The Reporter’s entire front page was again devoted to testimonials in support of the effort.

A report on a good roads meeting in Sandy Creek alleged at the meeting antibond speakers “refused to discuss the question at issue but, in language unprintable devoted their entire time to vilifying and defaming the good name of Rockdale as a town and of her citizens individually and collectively.”

Fire Chief Andrew Perry was showing off new boots recently purchased for members of the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Department.

R. L. Hale and W. D. Turner, incumbent Rockdale city aldermen, filed for new terms on the city council
The Reporter’s front page consisted almost entirely of letters supporting the upcoming “good roads” bond issue, some of whom said they had originally opposed the idea but were now in favor.

There were more “probond” letters on page 2 including a plea from Rockdale physicians and a letter from a farmer which bore the headline: Thorndale German Farmer Has Been Convinced”.

After urging by the Milam County Bar, led by Rockdale attorney E. A. Camp, the Texas Legislature created a “Milam-only” judicial district—the 20th. Milam had been sharing a district with Robertson and Brazos counties.

Lexington residents were headed to the polls to vote on whether to incorporate as a city. The community had been operating under a commission form of government.
Charley Gohman of Rockdale lost an arm at the I&GN Depot. He tripped over a site and fell with his had and part of his left arm on the tracks where it was run over by a freight train.

Even though a proposal to arm American merchant ships overwhelmingly passed Congress, there was some opposition and The Reporter’s front page headline was “12 Benedict Arnolds Found in U.S. Senate.”

Major Dan Smith, a leader in state and national Prohibition movements was set to address a rally at Rockdale’s First Baptist Church.

One week after the U. S. Supreme Court struck down Texas’ anti-pool hall law, Claud Ashby opened a pool hall on the second floor of Rockdale’s Hudson Building
Mayor and Mrs. H. C. Meyer hosted a lavish dance on the third floor of their Bell Avenue mansion. (Which still stands— editor.) Music was provided by a live band and “the Victrola.”

Mechanic “Big Boy Cates lost a finger in a plane saw accident at Rockdale Motor Company. The accident was blamed on a block that slipped.

A carpentry advertiser identified only as “Billie” advised Reporter readers: “A nice front porch saved many a nice girl from dying an old maid.”

Previously successful oil well entrepreneurs Tom Marrs and M. D. Lynam announced plans to sink a new well west of Rockdale.
County commissioner E. H. Reese was ill and in the Cameron hospital. When the county judge and commissioners needed a full vote of commissioners court they adjourned, went to Reese’s room, re-convened into session and took the vote.

A bond issue vote on a road improvement package was set for March in the Rockdale area. Polling places included “Simms Blacksmith Shop near Tracy.”

But not so fast. A meeting of the Anti Road Bond League was called for the Farmers Union Hall in Rockdale by organization chairman J. M. Cherry.

J. P. Lightfoot of Austin was heading up a “million dollar company” which was preparing to drill extensively in the Tracy Oil Field.

Rockdale downtown merchants were being asked to join the city in a plan to resurface eight downtown blocks, six on Cameron and two on Main. It was promised the “tarviation” process would be almost as good as a paved street.

The Reporter had moved into its new location, the bottom floor of the corner two-story Odd Fellows building, across the street from the previous home of the newspaper.

A number or rural residents were calling on the county to drag rural roads after a rain. One Minerva-area resident said his section of road could be fixed “with two good mules for $5.”

In a wrestling match at the Thorndale Opera House—yes, the Thorndale Opera House—local favorite Pee Wee Fannin defeated Bang Wilson of Chicago in straight falls totaling 56 minutes
The Jess Dean family of Sand Grove, with help from visiting “Rev. Coldiron and the Mullen Boys,” stopped a woods fire, believed to have been deliberately set, before it reached the Dean barn.

Reporter Publisher John Esten Cooke welcomed a new newspaper to the area. The Thorndale Champion was owned by Terrell Enterprises, headed up by H.N. Terrell, Texas state comptroller.

Clarence Turner contacted The Reporter to note that since Milano got paved streets, a prominent businessman of that town could now “drive all the way to Rockdale without getting on the wrong road.”

Milam County convicts were at work repairing a road between Rockdale and Thorndale. After its completion the convicts were to begin work repairing the road between Rockdale and Milano.

The Rockdale Good Roads District decreased in size as the Tracy community formed its own district to construct a 12-mile road the included the San Gabriel River bottomland.

Two large front-page articles highlighted the Rockdale Women’s Progress Club, noting it had organized what was essentially a thrift shop operation to sell, clothes and handmade items.

Constable Nat Alford opened an office in the Coulter Building. The constable also said he was out for hire as a public auctioneer.

Reporter production foreman Robert Stolterfoht was in New Orleans learning to use the new linotype machine which the newspaper had ordered.

Volunteer firefighters got a nice surprise at the end of their annual banquet. Mayor H. C. Meyer objected to the department footing the bill, “passed the hat” among the local merchants and raised $125 for expenses.

Dr. J. D. “Uncle Gideon” Gambrell, referred to as “The Greatest Texas Baptist,” was to hold a week of revival services at First Baptist Church, according to Rev. C. H. Andrews, pastor.

Rockdale’s Married Folks Club was to host a masked ball upstairs at City Hall. “Young folks” were invited free but nobody would be admitted unless in costume.

Cameron purchased a new fire truck. Reporter Publisher John Esten Cooke commented: “It took the Cameron City Council about 15 minutes to make the purchase after the Rockdale truck had been taken over to the county capitol for a demonstration.”
Opponents of a recently- proposed “good roads” bond issue in the Rockdale area were mobilizing, especially in the Gay Hill and Buschdale — that’s the way it was spelled in 1917 — areas.

In the Buckholts area, opponents of a recently- passed road bond were victorious in a court case and the successful road election was declared null and void.

It was a terrible winter in San Gabriel with outbreaks of typhoid, scarlet fever, diphtheria and, now, measles. Seven members of the E. A. Outlaw family were all suffering with cases of measles.

W. J. Galbreath was opening a new “two-chair” barber shop in the Coulter Building. Price of a haircut, 25 cents.

Rockdale businesses closed for two hours so the business community could attend a standing-room-only meeting at City Hall to discuss road projects. All but five persons present voted to seek at least a $250,000 bond issue to improve roads connecting Rockdale.

A special session of Milam County District Court, to deal only with civil cases, was underway in Cameron. Rockdale attorney E. A. Camp was named acting judge for the session.

A new $1,000 “double baking chamber oven” arrived in Rockdale from St. Louis. It was to be installed in the Stein Bakery on Main Street.

A scheme to deliver a Dallas newspaper by air to north Dallas suburbs failed when the pilot did not show up. “This was the same aviator (?) who showed a streak of yellow three feet wide at last year’s Rockdale Fair, Reporter Publisher John E. Cooke commented.
The Reporter had secured a five-year lease on the Walter Coulter Building, described as between Cameron and Burleson and was to move its operations there. For the past 10 or 12 years the paper was printed in City Hall.

Cameron Enterprise Editor W. M. Cobb, and his wife, lost their new home in a fire that also claimed all their belongings.

A road bond election recently passed by residents of the San Gabriel area was nullified when a court ruled it was held illegally.

Volunteer firefighter J.L. Longmoor, who had been a charter member of the department, was presented with gold-headed ebony cane.