Milam County Historical Commission
Milam County, Texas
Requests for Info
Received via Website
Barbara Guthrie Peterson
426 Corona Ave
San Antonio, Texas 78209
I am seeking directions to my mother's birth place "Sandy" near the old coal mine and Near Big Sandy. Also
info about Watson's Branch where my grandmother Sanders was born & raised.
Standard reply sent to Ms Peterson - info request sent to MCHC members.
Email addy corrected.
Barbara, I'm wondering if the place might be Sandow. This mine was in operation for many years, then idled for
years, then restarted in the early 50s. At that time, Alcoa began using the coal to generate power for its
aluminum smelter. At one time, there were boys who swam in the abandoned pits so maybe your mother bathed
there. I have heard the pits were very, very deep in places. When did your mother live there?
Hi Ms. Peterson, I hope that I understand your inquiry and I'll do my best to relay what I have researched to
date. My first thought was to research the coal mines since they appeared to be the key to the Sandy(Sandy
Creek) community. My Reference is Rockdale Centennial, A History of Rockdale, Texas, 1874-1974. Attachment # 1
& 2 tell of Rockdale's lignite coal mining history researched by Ida Jo Marshall. I spoke with Patricia Vogel
Mckee whose ancestor, Herman Vogel, operated the first mine in Milam County in 1890. She had never heard of a
Sandy community. There were numerous mines east of Rockdale up to the Sandy Creek community. She thought that
that's where the Sandy came into play(there was a Big Lump mine). My next call was to Charles Hubert, who is a
long term resident, and what I would call a historian, of the Sandy Creek community. He also had never heard of
a Sandy community and suspected that the Sandy Creek community with the close proximity of the various mines
was the place of your mothers birth. Charles even mentioned that there is a large ridge of lignite coal under
the property on which he resides. He further stated that it runs all the way to Arkansas. Numerous times he
mentioned the Talbot Ridge and San Andres mines so they had to be in reasonably close proximity. I didn't see
either one listed in Ms. Marshall's research. Attachment # 3, again researched by Ida Jo Marshall from the same
reference, gives a brief history of the Sandy Creek community. Attachment # 4 & 5, which was researched by Mrs.
C. L. Yount in that same reference, tells of the history of the Watson Branch community. Attachment # 6. I
believe that I may have stumbled across a special treat for you. If your grandfather Sanders initials were J.
J. and he resided in Watson Branch in 1925, I've posted a photo of a 1925 Milam County Property ownership map
which shows his property. If you'll look just above the large R in BRANCH of WATSON BRANCH, you'll see the 100
acres of the J. J. Sanders property. You'll have to reply and let me know if that's him or another Sanders
relative since it may have been such a lucky coincidence. On behalf of the Milam County Historical Commission
and Mr. Jerry Caywood our website administrator, I hope that we've resolved some of your questions.
Respectfully, Jack Brooks
Dear John. Thank U so much for the info & pic's of Watson's Branch! I am waiting for an answer from my elderly
uncle (Elbert Wayne Guthrie 86 yrs) to confirm that I am fairly certain that the J J Sanders in the deed was my
grt. Grandfather. My mom (Elsie Mona Guthrie 101 yrs) (she died this last Dec.) always said she thought his
name was John . I only remember going there one time. I am waiting 4 pictures my sister has. Emma Sanders was
my great-grandmother & both are buried there. This is so exciting 4 me. My mom NEVER wanted to go there nor
talk much about her life there. I can't thank U enough for spending your time to help me research this.
Dear Barbara, Thank you for your kind words. It's our pleasure to assist you.
When I posted my research, I didn't realize that Ms. Peggy Wright had also posted an earlier reply. I'm now
rethinking my reply due to her thought process and timeline.
Her 1950's logic made perfect sense. In the 1920's to early 40's timeline, Mrs. McKee's, Mr. Hubert's and mine
did. Referencing the previous two page article on the mines, "By 1949, the only mine in operation was the
McAlester Fuel Company, nine miles southwest of Rockdale".
This now would put Sandy Creek and the only working mine, approximately thirteen miles apart. You certainly
wouldn't have wanted to walk thirteen miles to take a shower and then the same distance to return back home.
As stated, the Freezeout community evolved to the Millerton community and then ultimately, to Sandow. I'm just
not able to get "Sandy" to work as a residence for your mother unless it was slang for Sandow. Everything was
big in open pit mining, from the size of the excavations to the massive equipment "harvesting" and moving the
coal. Would the locals have used the term "Big Sandy" in that regard?.
Any further thought on the matter would be conjecture on my part. I would like to bring attachment #1 to your
attention. Reference source is stated on the page.
Pleasant Hill and the Watson Branch communities are a short distance away from one another in southwest Milam
These departed names may "fit" better considering Emma is the nickname for Emily and Amelia. There's your John
in J. J. Sanders name as well.
Many thanks to Mrs. Patricia McKee and Mr. Charles Hubert for their insight and Ms. Peggy Wright for getting
the timeline more on track.
Respectfully, Jack Brooks
Hi John is the book that U sent the copies to me from available for sale? If yes when can I purchase one?
While searching for Rockdale Centennial, A History of Rockdale, Texas , 1874-1974 on line at Amazon Books and
the like, I discovered a website that has the entire book available to be read on line. How about that,
Barbara, attached is the article on Watson Branch. Sandow and Watson Branch are both in southwest Milam County.
Some time ago, I was fortunate to read Jo Locklin Byrd's treasure trove of original Foke, Locklin documents. I
didn't make the connection until I saw that Permelia Ann Foke married George Washington Guthrie.
*WATSON BRANCH (Researched by Mrs. C. L. Yount) In the southwest part of Milam County Mr. William Patton
Pritchard donated land for a church to be built where all denominations could come and worship. This was Union
Church, and the earliest records available are from the year 1891. The Reverend J. A. Stephens was pastor that
year. Early deacons of the church were: D. S. Todd, N. H. Scales, H. Poe, J. S. Brady, B. W. Rhodes, W. F.
Scales, and T. J. Wauson. Mrs. Alice Poe was church clerk for many years.
In 1902, Mr. and Mrs. T. J. Barber gave land near the Watson Branch school for this church. In 1903 the old
building was torn down and rebuilt at this new location which was two and one-half miles from its first
This church joined the Baptist Association in 1919 or 1920. The church building was destroyed by fire in 1948.
A vacant house was used for a time.
Later the school board gave the school building and the grounds to the church to be used as long as it would be
needed. Sunday School and preaching services are still being held in this church regularly. Watson Branch, a
one-room school, was on the banks of Wauleye Creek in Southwest Milam County. It was located on land owned by
Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Jensen.
The date of the beginning of this school is unavailable, but it was probably some time before 1900. In 1916 Mr.
and Mrs. T. J. Barber donated four acres of land when a new two-room school building was erected. *
*This school building was destroyed by fire in 1948. Then a building was moved here from Camp Swift and used as
a school building. In 1950 the school was consolidated with the Thorndale Schools; consequently, the school
building and grounds were deeded to Union Baptist Church. *