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, 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
Requests for Info
Received via Website

Index
2015-04-14
Warren Carpenter
warren.e.carpenter(AT)lmco(DOT)com
4700 West Village Xing #5345
Smyrna, GA 30080
seven70-49four-714three
Good afternoon .... While searching for potential retirement property last year in southern Milam county, my
wife and I became intrigued in what appears to be an abandoned school at the intersection of CR 421 &
486. Might you be able to provided any information in regard to same that is easily at hand? It would make an
interesting renovation project. Don't suppose it is still owned by a public agency/authority?
Thanks .... W.E. Carpenter

PS - My wife and I will be looking at a house in Cameron next weekend. We may stop in if we have time and we
can find you.

*****

2015-04-14
Reply sent to Mr Carpenter.  Info Request sent to MCHC members.

*****

2015-04-14
Jack Brooks
bjohnr2010(AT)hotmail(DOT)com

Mr. Carpenter,
The school that you are referring to is the old San Gabriel School.
The Milam County Historical Commission had the good fortune to have the San Gabriel Christian Church host our
February meeting.
We also had the opportunity to establish some resident contacts in that community. A Mr. Billy Stigall attended
and was an absolute walking historian of the community. His heritage in the community goes back generations.
You may also have noticed the old Stigall store that was on the corner of FM 486 and CR421 which was his
family's business. He was kind enough to give me his contact tel. number while we were there. I'll try to get
in touch with him tomorrow, and if he'll allow me to share his contact information with you, I'll forward it as
soon as I receive it from him.
Regards, Jack Brooks

*****

(For More Information on Stigall Store)

*****

2015-04-15
Thank you very much Jack. It would be appreciated. And please call me Eric - Mr. Carpenter was my grandfather.
Eric Carpenter

*****

2015-04-15
Hi Eric, The below attachment is from the Milam County Appraisal District public records web site:
Parcel ID # 12785
Owner J.C. Payne and wife
Legal Description A0200 Folkes. Abigail  6.408 acres
Address 121 CR 421, Thorndale, TX. 76577
Regards, Jack Brooks
San Gabriel, TX school
2015-04-17
Hi Eric,
If you're going by the San Gabriel School again,  the owner of the property is a J. C. Payne.
I called Billy Stigall this past Tuesday about the property. He knew a great deal about the history of it but
suggested that I talk to the owner. I stopped by Wednesday to see J.C. He lives in a home just west of the
school(100') on the left. There's a beware of dog sign by the entrance and it means just what it says. The dogs
barking will get JC to come to the entrance.

I wasn't aware that I knew him from our Christian men's breakfasts at Pleasant Retreat UMC. I've always called
him JC and didn't know his last name. Small world around here. He gave me a great tour of the building and I
think that he would give you folks one as well.

JC said that it was built in 1936 and part of Roosevelt's WPA projects. It was shuttered in 1957 when the
Thorndale ISD picked up San Gabriel's students.

Should you get a tour, make sure he tells you about the cornerstones, fish pond and the "hearts". I thought
that the heart in the rear of the building was real interesting.

The walls are constructed of native stone 16-18 inches thick. He said that there is a ridge that runs north/
south a few miles east of the school where all the stone was quarried. I'd like to find out more details
regarding its exact location.

I wanted to take some photo's (especially of the large stone heart) of the building but JC preferred that I
didn't, so I honored his wishes.

I was going to go by the Locklin cemetery when I get a chance to take a photo of Jamie Clark's headstone marker
related to the school for you. Then I discovered it on Find a Grave. There once was an interesting
commemorative plaque on the building but vandals stole it.

  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=clark&GSfn=jamie&GSiman=1&GScid=4893&GRid=16220655&

In case JC or his wife aren't there, I'll try to fill you in on more of the details that he relayed to me in
the near future.
Regards,  Jack Brooks


*****

2015-05-11
Hi, Eric.
I jotted down the following notes while J.C. Payne was tour guiding his San Gabriel school property:
He noted that this was not the first school on the six and one half acres of property. Behind the existing
school, and to the right, there once was another two story wood framed school. The remaining concrete
foundation is almost completely covered with dirt and groundcover.

Mr. Billy Stigall previously stated that this earlier location was at a lower elevation and was subject to
flooding by the San Gabriel River that was behind it. The San Gabriel Dam/Reservoir, completed in the late
1970's was designed to minimize the flooding problem and also served as a municipal water source and
recreational area.

J. C. Payne is the eighth owner and purchased the school in 1985.
Please take note of the following website for photo's of the front of the school:
http://www.texasescapes.com/CentralTexasTownsSouth/San-Gabriel-Texas.htm

J. C. removed one of the three cornerstones of the building and found a stick with the key to the locked
"treasure" box. The stick also had a map attached which gave the location of the other "mystery" cornerstones.
I say mystery, because no one knew that they existed.

The map had a unique symbol, which he later determined was engraved on the other stones. They have yet to be
removed to see what treasure remains within.
 
When the school was dedicated in 1936, a large memorial plaque was attached to the front of the building which
stated the names of the School Board Superintendent, officials and the like. It was later stolen by vandals.
I also learned that a gentleman by the name of Cunningham, helped construct the rock building in his youth. He
is currently 97 years of age. Since it was a CCC/WPA type project, he was paid fifty cents a day and worked
three days a week so that others would also be able to have gainful employment during that week.

Please see the attachment below. This is a Google Earth satellite view of the school. You'll note that only a
small section of roof is in place in the rear/southern end of the building. J.C. said that the roof was of a
very poor design which was one of the downfalls of the school. Instead of the roof trusses over-lapping the
exterior walls of the school with "tails" to provide eves, the steel trusses were instead  cast into the
interior walls a few feet below the top of the walls. All the rain water then flowed down the roofing material
covering the trusses and into the interior side of the exterior wall in a valley. It was then designed to drain
out two small "scupper" holes in the wall to the outside. They were not designed of adequate size to handle
heavy rainfall. Leaves and debris would also restrict/plug them up. Furthermore the joint between the wall and
the roofing material was difficult to seal and leaked/failed badly. With time the roofing fell in, but many of 
the steel trusses are still in place.
  
Another downfall of the school was when the road out front (CR 421) was paved, there was no longer a ditch to
catch the roadway runoff. The water then ran towards the front of the school and in it causing interior
flooding.
 
When J. C. showed the interior of the building to me, I was quite impressed. I visualized it in its heyday with
the large gymnasium and auditorium stage. There were adjoining locker rooms. It had to be a very impressive
school in its day. The school went thru the 11th grade.  The school had a fishpond on the southeast exterior of
the building whose remnants may still be seen today.

In that same general area is a large native heart-shaped stone that comprises part of the back wall.  J.C.
relayed the story of the gentleman who placed it during the construction of the school. He had engraved his
initials in the heart when he was finished. Years later he married a young lady and they went back and added
her initials to it. I was told that there was a similar, but smaller, one in the front of the school. I failed
to observe it when we rode by it in J.C.'s golf cart.
 
Eric, thank you for your interesting inquiry. I thoroughly enjoyed J. C. Payne's company, and his kindness, by
tour-guiding the school and sharing some of its colorful history. I'll now forever see it in a different light.
Regards,  Jack Brooks



.
2015-05-11

Hi Eric.

I jotted down the following notes while J.C. Payne was tour guiding his San Gabriel school property.

He noted that this was not the first school on the six and one half acres of property. Behind the existing
school, and to the right, there once was another two story wood framed school. The remaining concrete
foundation is almost completely covered with dirt and groundcover. Mr. Billy Stigall previously stated that
this earlier location was at a lower elevation and was subject to flooding by the San Gabriel River that was
behind it. The San Gabriel Dam/ Reservoir, completed in the late 1970's was designed to minimize the flooding
problem and also served as a municipal water source and recreational area.

J. C. is the eighth owner and purchased the school in 1985.

Please take note of the following website for photo's of the front of the school;
http://www.texasescapes.com/CentralTexasTownsSouth/San-Gabriel-Texas.htm

J. C. removed one of the three cornerstones of the building and found a stick with the key to the locked
"treasure" box. The stick also had a map attached which gave the location of the other "mystery" cornerstones.
I say mystery, because no one knew that they existed. The map had a unique symbol, which he later determined
was engraved on the other stones. They have yet to be removed to see what treasure remains within.

When the school was dedicated in 1936, a large memorial plaque was attached to the front of the building which
stated the names of the School Board Superintendent, officials and the like. It was later stolen by vandals.

I also learned that a gentleman by the name of Cunningham, helped construct the rock building in his youth. He
is currently 97 years of age. Since it was a CCC/ WPA type project, he was paid fifty cents a day and worked
three days a week so that others would also be able to have gainful employment during that week.

Please see attachment # 1. This is a Google Earth satellite view of the school. You'll note that only a small
section of roof is in place in the rear/ southern end of the building. J.C. said that the roof was of a very
poor design which was one of the downfalls of the school. Instead of the roof trusses over-lapping the exterior
walls of the school with "tails" to provide eves, the steel trusses were instead  cast into the interior walls
a few feet below the top of the walls. All the rain water then flowed down the roofing material covering the
trusses and into the interior side of the exterior wall in a valley. It was then designed to drain out two
small "scupper" holes in the wall to the outside. They were not designed of adequate size to handle heavy
rainfall. Leaves and debris would also restrict / plug them up. Furthermore the joint between the wall and the
roofing material was difficult to seal and leaked/ failed badly. With time the roofing fell in, but many of 
the steel trusses are still in place.

Another downfall of the school was when the road out front( CR 421) was paved, there was no longer a ditch to
catch the roadway runoff. The water then ran towards the front of the school and in it causing interior
flooding.

When J. C. showed the interior of the building to me, I was quite impressed. I visualized it in its heyday with
the large gymnasium and auditorium stage. There were adjoining locker rooms. It had to be a very impressive
school in its day. The school went thru the 11th grade.

The school had a fishpond on the southeast exterior of the building whose remnants may still be seen today. In
that same general area is a large native heart shaped stone that comprises part of the back wall.  J.C. relayed
the story of the gentleman who placed it during the construction of the school. He had engraved his initials in
the heart when he was finished. Years later he married a young lady and they went back and added her initials
to it. I was told that there was a similar, but smaller, one in the front of the school. I failed to observed
it when we rode by it in J.C.'s golf cart.

Eric, thank you for your interesting inquiry. I thoroughly enjoyed J. C. Payne's  company, and his kindness, by
tour guiding the school and sharing some of its colorful history. I'll now forever see it in a different light.

Regards,  Jack Brooks - bjohnr2010(AT)hotmail(DOT)com]

*****

2015-06-15

Jack .... Thank you so much for your in depth response .... It is obvious you have a love for the history of
the area .... Who better to be on the historical commission?

My wife and I were definitely intrigued with the property when we drove by.  It seems to have had a varied
life. It's a little sad that is was so short lived.

I think it's wonderful how much information JC was able (and willing) to share. Hope you will include some of
it in Milam's official historic stash / records!

Wonder if JC would condone a commission expedition to determine what other "treasures" of historical
significance are under / within the other cornerstones? It would be interesting to document a "San Gabriel
school Dig".

If we are fortunate enough to find an appropriate retirement home in the Cameron area, I will make it a point
to treat you to lunch!

Please thank JC on our behalf when you see him next.   Thanks again!

Eric
W.E. Carpenter
Airframe Design Engineer - Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems (Marietta Site)

*****









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