Most of the early blacks in Rockdale settled south of the I&GN (Missouri Pacific)
railroad tracks in a section known as “The Flat” and on a hilltop known as “Grassbur
San Gabriel Street becomes Plum after it crosses the railroad tracks. Other streets in
The Flat neighborhood include Martin Luther King, Pecan and Mulberry. During the 1950s
there was a new addition, including Baxter, Vernon, Riley, Metcalf and Pear streets.
Most of the early activities occurred in The Flat.
Oldest known black-owned business in Rockdale was Paul Moultry’s blacksmith shop,
downtown where the Gaither building stands. It later moved to the corner of Mulberry and
Jack Shields blacksmith shop was located in a prairie area between the Missouri Pacific
tracks and First.
In the 1930s through 1950s, many businesses were in the middle of The Flat.
Among the earliest known were Frank “Doc” Cummings’ ice cream parlor and barber shop and
grocery stores owned by Jim Beals, Cebron Sauls, Withie McKee Sr. and Joe Chandler.
There were favorites of children as candy bars, sodas and small snacks cost 1-5 cents.
The stores were also readily available to those who spent long hours in the cotton fields
where workers could get a hunk of bologna for 10 cents, a can of pork and beans for 10 or
15, plus a 5-cent soda and some crackers.
Duke, Ella and Cab
Teens gathered at places owned by Jack Wratt, Fred Foster and “Mrs. Ruby ” Ledbetter and
danced to the music of Ella Fitzgerald, The Platters, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, The
Supremes and others. You could also get short orders of hamburgers, hot dogs, chili or
chicken dinners at these places.
Teens respected owners and always addressed them as “Mr.” or “Mrs.”
Also in The Flat were Emma’s Beauty Shop, Jean’s Beauty Shop, CharlesEtta’s Beauty Shop,
Sansom’s Barber Shop, S. T. Benson Barber Shop and Tom Fair Barber Shop.
Most of the early barbers were of the “front porch” or “back yard” variety who cut hair
with hand clippers and w ithout a license. Haircuts were 25 to 50 cents.
In later years, Phillips Barber Shop, Lynn’s Beauty Shop and Locklin’s teenage place were
housed at MLK and Second. William “Bill” Jackson had a barbecue business on weekends.
Rockdale’s only known black doctor, Dr. W. A. Allen, has a 1-1/2-room office at Plum and
Second. Legendary tales relate he made a “cure all black salve” which was guaranteed to
cure “just about anything.”
His practice began in Rockdale in 1905 and thrived until the late 30s.
After the death of his wife, Minnie Clarissa, Dr. Allen terminated his practice. He
remained in Rockdale for the next 2-3 years, soon became ill and died.
He was buried in South Carolina next to his wife. Dr. Allen’s original home still stands
on Baxter Street.
Two prominent midwives also lived in The Flat. Kate Walton was well known and delivered
most of the babies in the Rockdale area in the 30s and 40s. She was also noted for ear-
piercing using a simple cork and threaded needle.
Eula Bell Moultry, who was also a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), was a Richards
Memorial Hospital employee for many years.
Flat residents Minnie Fair, Earnestine Mays, Uneeda Rice, Julius (Bose) Moultry, Myrtle
Mae Tind e, Frankie Moore McDonald, Wilma Moseley, the Shields brothers, Jessie Wells,
Freddie and Imogene Gray were well known for their musical talent. Birdie Cook as an
Lyle Tindle a pioneer railroad worker, Olivia Wilson, Henrietta Garman and Annie Bell
West lived on the north side of the tracks, also considered to be a part of The Flat. It
is also said the old dirt road once near the tracks was the main highway to Milano and
the old Mundine mine.
In early Rockdale a Masonic Hall and Woodmen of the World Hall were on Pecan Street. The
first black school was the first Masonic Hall. Later a third Masonic Hall was built on
The second school, the first Aycock School, was located between Pecan, Third, Fourth and
Mulberry streets. The first known kindergarten in the area was operated by Ella J. Beals
in her home, which still stands on Second Street.
Funeral home, churches
Phillips & Luckey operated a funeral home for African-Americans on the corner of Plum and
Third. The original building still stands at this location.
Most of Rockdale’s African-American churches were, and still are, located in The Flat.
Earlier churches were Springfield Baptist (oldest), New Hope Baptist (second oldest) and
Allen Chapel AME.
The Church of God in Christ once existed on Second Street and the newest church in the
area is the Institute For Teaching God’s Word.