History of Rockdale
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The history of Rockdale and the Rockdale Public School, has been presented in as
clear and true a manner as possible. This would have been impossible had it not been for the
information furnished me by a few of the pioneer settlers and friends who have been associated
with the town since its early beginning. For co-operation in this work I am indebted to the
following: Messrs. L. H. Porter and W. Hill Marshall, and Mesdames C. K. Stribling, R. H. Hicks,
A. M. Dunnington, J. E. Longmoor, Lorena Kevil Bradley, J. L. Lanning.
In the extensive history of Milam County all credit goes to Mrs. Hubert Dennis, a very efficient
history teacher of the Rockdale School, who is also Sponsor of the Annual. The history is gotten
up entirely on research work of Mrs. Dennis in various Texas histories, assisted by information
from Mrs. Jeff T. Kemp of Cameron.-VIRGINIA HALE, Editor.)
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.
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
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
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.
Surveying was begun for the entrance of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad into
Rockdale in the early nineties. The track was completed in 1893. and the first train
was run into town, with A. J. Bashaw as first agent. L. A. Baxter is present agent.
In 1926 the S. A. & A. P. was consolidated with the Southern Pacific Lines, but
remains the "Sap" railroad to old patrons.
Druggists of the early days were George P. Winder, C. C. Howell, Isaacs and Lockett,
W. R. Kennard, Giesekea and Hodge, W. E. Douthit, Clark and Perry. H. O. QUEBE
and BALDR1DGE AND PREWITT are the two splendid, modern drug stores Rockdale possesses
The late Mrs. E. S. Loper was millinery artist for thirty-five years, selling out about
twenty years ago to another pioneer artist, the present Mrs. Dora Poole. Mrs. Loper
also had a dressmaking establishment and carried the famous old style magazines,
Godey's Lady's Book and Demoresi's Magazine, devoted "to the Artistic, the Useful, and
John Scott was the veteran photographer of Rockdale, a real artist in his line. He
was considered one of the best in this part of the country. He was succeeded by the
McClintock Studio with Miss Lulu McClintock in charge. These two are about the only
photographers Rockdale has ever claimed for any length of time.
Vogel was the pioneer jeweler, and H. Bland and Son owned the first Jewelry and
Bookstore. These were succeeded by James H. Hill, B. L. Douthit, and B. Regenbrecht.
Hughton and Robinson, A. E. Fullenwider, W. H. Richardson, H, Lockwood, and W. D.
Bagley were the first lumbermen, and are today succeeded by Wm. Cameron & Company and
Turner Lumber Company.
W. L, Lutner and Joseph Hooks were the first blacksmiths in Rockdale, and for many
years ran their places in the same old stand, was finally sold to Louis Diehl, who
continued at the same place until the property was finally sold to make way for the
modern brick garage owned by W. P. Henry.
Max Ferrari today controls the longest established confectionery business in Rockdale.
It was operated for many years by his late father, E. Ferrari.
Citizens must have lawyers to get out of legal entanglement, and Rockdale has been
blessed with many a "skilled exponent of the Mosaic law." Among the first lawyers
were James Breeding, Harry Tracy, Judge Fred Hill, Major Wm. M. McGregor, Long,
Guy Hinman, Ben Bonart, John Absher, Kilpatrick and Kimbrough, A. G. Wilcox,
J. S. Perry (state senator), Dr, A. C. Isaacs' (representative), Henry Cone,
E. L. Antony (congressman), N. H. Tracy (state representative), and later W. A.
Morrison, Eugene Wallace, W. K. Clement, J. W. Garner, E. A. Camp, and Ed Gunn.
Among the early physicians who ministered to the ailments of the people were Dr.
Connoly, David W. Broadnax, P. A. Horton, T. E. Riddle, W. A. Brooks, W. R.
Kennard, Milton Antony, J. E. Douthit, George Prewitt, A. C. Isaacs,
E. H. Gray, R. S. Wallis, D. R. Wallis, Q. C. Wallis, and A. C. Walker, who
became noted surgeon of the Protestant Sanitarium of Fort Worth. These were, one by
one, succeeded by I. P. Sessions, H. T. Coulter, R. W. Wallis. T. S. Barkley,
and lately B. E. Laurie.
T. J. Avirett, Hunter Alexander, J. W. Allen, followed by G. B. Renfrew, P. E.
Berndt, George B. Kincaid, and E. A. Swafford, were the popular dentists.
Rockdale is justly proud of her hardware and furniture stores. The J. F. Coffield
Hardware and Furniture Store occupies the same location at which the late J. F. and C.
H. Coffield had established business in the early eighties. The Henne and Meyer
Company, that had been in business for the past forty years, was succeeded by E. M.
Peeples and Sons in 1933.
Phillips and Luckey, Undertakers, long-time associates of the Henne and Meyer Company,
have recently completed a handsome funeral home, the first in Rockdale. They purchased
and remodeled the former J. Sid Hudson home, built in 1893, on East Bell and Burleson
Max and the jovial Pat Reilley were the pioneer bakers, followed by J. A. Stein, who
had been in business for thirty-five years, when he was succeeded by his son, Otto.
Solon Joynes, commission merchant, weighed and shipped the first bale of cotton out
of Rockdale. Other buyers were B. B. Baxter, W. A. Estes, J. H. Sparkman. Leo
Strelsky, Valentine and Arnold, W. T. Coffield, Bryan Heard and J. W. Perry.
The Noack Abattoir, erected on the old D. H. Hunt homestead west of the city, is the
only one in this territory.
Among other names who helped make Rockdale of today possible are; The Ackerman Dry
Goods Company, Baum and Crohn, A. Kaiser, H. Goldstkker, John G, Brown, Max Blum,
Leo Strelsky, John N. and Fayette Redding. Berry Loper, E. S. Loper, Hyman Block.
A. Young, Valentine and Arnold, Solon Joynes, Coffield and Dunnington, J. S.
Walden, Isaacs and Lockett, L. Box, W. A. Estes, J. M. Ousley, B. B. Baxter, J.
R. Rowland, Richard Ames. John Randle, John Lyons, Woody and Berry, W. A. Gentry,
L. J. Porter. Cyrus Edwards, A Wolfson, H. & L. Hudson, T. B. Kemp, George B.
Randle, John Dunnington, W. C. Wright. Joe Hawkins, Hamblen and Porter, August
Schaffer, James Wicks, Tom Hudson, J. Sid Hudson, Dan and Hyman Lasker, N. H.
and Harry Tracy, Joe Sitman, James H. Hill, Standifer, Robert, Steve, and John
Wilson, C. A. Duffy, Jake Pettyjohn, Fred and George Graves, Cebe Houghton, W. H.
Bagley, Henry McGowan, Tap York, John York, D. C. York, J. B. Hamilton, James and
W. P. Branch, Vineyard, Perry Hale, El Smith, J. P. Linn, T. F. and D. P. Hewitt,
Abe Steinberg, C. E. Wynne, W. H. Marshall, Frank Allen, A. Wolf, J. R. Arthur,
T. M. Freeman, John Freeman, Sparkman and Lee, Busby. Chas. Reed, Tom Reed, Arthur
Collins, Thomas Prewitt, J. E. Longmoor, W. M. Ferguson, F. C. Kinney, B. T.
Middleton, Chas. Heidenerich, W. F. Jones, Max Ross, C.K. Robinson, Theo.
Schirmacher, Max Winterberg. Kincaid. Fowzer, T. H. Paul, Dave Harris and sons,
Clark and Wells, C. K. and Cleve Stribling, D. W. Broadnax, J. P. Kevil, A. P.
Perry, M. S. Riglander, John Fears, Moffitt and Hefley, P. Sass, Leach Grocery,
A. H. Gladdish, Rasberry, Stevens, McCalla, Sprott, Wallis, Turner, Clark,
Dudley, Rice, Worley, Beathea, Simms, Arnett, Armstrong, Millican, Sherar,
Hillyer, Williams. Wash Wilson, Davis, Shappard, Foster, McGuyer, Rexford Wells,
W. M. Wells, Hall, Baines, Douglass, Orr, Turnham, Aldridge, Tom Williams,
J. C. McCawley, J. S. Bonner, Minor H. Brown, Bernard Gary, George Vandeventer,
John Cole, Frank Block, Eads, Castleberry, Dan Wooten, J. J. Hairston, A. J.
Bell, Kennard, Harvey, Beck, Lewis, Evans, Vogel, Henry, Lockwood, C. H.
and J. F. Coffield, W. E. Copeland, J. H. Stribling, and Frank Hubert.
There are about one hundred and ten businesses in Rockdale, including the ones
mentioned, and in addition an ice factory, electric oil mill, several cotton gins,
an up-to-date moving picture theatre, confectioneries, cafes, a bakery, modern grocery
stores, and any number of small businesses, together with many modern gasoline filling
stations, representing the various major oil companies.
The Rockdale mines are said to be among the largest in the United States. These mines
have been operated for over forty years, and many a ton cf lignite has been shipped
from here to all parts of the State. At one time there were five shaft mines and one
The Rockdale-Minerva oil field created a great deal of excitement in 1920, and extended
operations to within sight of the city. At times excitement dies down, only to be
stirred up again with the drilling of another test. A few undaunted citizens are still
hopeful of an oil boom in the future, when Rockdale will be put on the map forever.
The Rockdale Volunteer Fire Department is composed of sturdy citizens, who boast of
having one of the most complete engines and fire-fighting apparatus in the State.
Recently during the disastrous Scarbrough & Hicks Company fire, when that firm was
completely destroyed, two young Rockdale men, John W. Hooper and Wilbur Williams, lost
their lives. Their heroic deaths will be permanently commemorated by the opening of
a park to be known as the Hooper-Williams Fireman's Memorial Park. This park will be
located on two acres of ground west of the waterworks property on Highway 44.
The Rockdale Fair was organized in 1908, and ran successfully for a number of years.
At one time it was considered the third largest fair in Texas, and was the pride of
every citizen in and near Rockdale. The association was incorporated and owned a park
of thirty acres, covered by hundreds of immense oaks. Large and attractive exhibition
buildings, grandstands, barns, and stalls dotted the grounds in attractive arrangement.
In 1911 H. C. Meyer was President: John Hicks, Vice-President; A. P. Perry Jr.,
Secretary: R. L. Hale, Treasurer; with George Banzaph, L. Isaacs, O. K. Phillips,
S. G. Hodge, J. F. Coffield, Jr., and W. E. Gaither as board of directors. In later
years lack of interest, financial loss and "hard times" caused the Fair to lose out.
The park is now used by the American Legion for Fourth of July celebrations and other
The City Hall was built in 1895 during the time that B. A. Coffield was mayor, with
J. G. Brown, O. A. Bowen, Lee Wallace, and E. L. Rasberry as councilmen. E. A.
Wallace was city attorney; L. Isaacs, secretary-treasurer; J. B. Hamilton, marshal;
and J. H. Burnett, tax assessor. At that time it was large enough to accommodate the
crowds who assembled in the auditorium for social gatherings, school commencements,
and political meetings; but of late years the building has lost its former splendor,
and is now used only for athletic purposes and a few high school dances. These affairs
will soon be held in the new auditorium being constructed on the high school campus,
and the City Hall will have served its purpose. The tax collector's office and the
fire department are housed on the lower floor.
Ever since Rockdale has been incorporated, it has had some strong, able men as mayors,
the first of these being Alfred A. Burck, who in turn was followed by Hugh L. Witcher,
W. E. Copeland, E. M. Scarbrough, Dr. W. R. Kennard, J. S. Perry, B. A. Coffield, J. E.
Longmoor, H. F. Snively, C. H. Coffield, H. C. Meyer, W. E. Gaither, and E. A. Camp,
the present, very efficient head of the town. Mr. H. C. Meyer, now with the State Board
of Control, heads the list with more years of service, having served faithfully and
well for over twenty years. Mr. Meyer was justly called the father of good roads in
this section of the country, and had much to do with improvement of highways and byways
in this trade territory.
Leonard Isaacs was city secretary for thirty years, and was succeeded by J. Frank
McCalla, who served next in length of time as city tax collector and treasurer.
E. T. Kemp, city secretary and treasurer, was succeeded by J. Branch Lewis, the
Judge Fred Hill served as first justice of the peace, and was followed by W. D.
Wells, R. W. H. Kennon, Ed Gunn, Roy Hillyer, and the present incumbent, Leo Harris.
Officers of the law included J. E. Holtzclaw, C. C. Bethea, John R. Arthur, Howard,
Eb Aldridge, N. J. Alford, and John H. Bonds, who held that place for many years.
At present W. C. Colvin and Night Watchman C. H. Landis look after the welfare and
safety of the town.
Uncle Sam has appointed some valuable men to look after the postal department in
Rockdale, one of the earliest postmasters being Donneke; then came H. C. Travers,
W, B. Woody, Hugh L. Witcher, E. J. M. Hopkins, B. Lowenstein Sr, J. A. Shappard,
H. P. Talley, E. L Wade, and the present incumbent, H. H. Turner.
In the early days of Rockdale private cisterns or tank cisterns furnished water for
the town, and there were a few wells for home use, but these were mostly spoiled on
account of minerals. Lamps were the order of the day - Mr. R, H. Ames owned the first
electric light plant and later sold to Lenard Isaacs, who owned the light and water
works for a number of years. The city later purchased the water works and improved it
until today Rockdale has two of the deepest, finest wells with underground and tower
reservoirs of 110,000 gallons capacity. The Texas Power and Light Company furnishes
power and electric light from three high voltage lines, which insures uninter¬rupted
service to its customers. The Southwestern Bell Telephone system dots the land, and
the Western Union Telegraph Company maintains an uptown office besides tower service.
The latest convenience that was acquired in the town was natural gas piped in by the
Community Gas Company of Dallas. Construction began May 1, 1928. and the piping of
the city being completed, gas was pumped into the mains on September 5, 1928.
The paving program was completed in September, 1929, and Rockdale now has more than
six miles of concrete paved streets with uniform curbs to match. covering the entire
business district and a major portion of the residential districts. The Rockdale of
today presents a beautiful picture with streets lined with magnificent trees, lovely
and substantial homes with green lawns and well-kept shrubs and flowers greet the eyes
on every side. In the last few years a number of fine brick homes have been
Churches have not been mentioned so far, but Rockdale has some lovely church edifices,
of which the citizens are justly proud. After the people became permanently -settled
in homes and businesses and felt established, they then turned to the building of
comfortable homes of worship, but the work in each field preceded the building. All
evangelical denominations were represented in the early days of Rockdale, and the
first church service was held over W. P. Branch's dry goods store. It was a bare room,
the rafters covered with dust and spiderwebs. Boards across empty beer kegs served as
seats; singing was led by Mr. Jack Stewart, with his tuning fork and choir of singing
school pupils. Mr. Vandivere, a Baptist preacher, conducted services. Most of the
services were conducted in the old Presbyterian church, known as the Union Church
Building. Rev. W. E. Copeland, living in Washington County at that time, made monthly
trips to Rockdale to minister to his little flock. Rev. Copeland was born in Scotland,
came to Texas in 1858, and as early as 1874 came to Rockdale, In 1880 he moved with
his family here and supplied the pulpit from year to year until his resignation a few
years before his death. He lived to become pastor of the handsome new building that
stands on the grounds of the First Union Church, which was erected under his guidance
and dedicated with elaborate ceremonies on April 19, 1914, with the united clergy and
throngs of people assembled to witness the dedication.
Other active ministers of the early days were the Rev. B. B. Baxter, who was a
passenger on the first incoming train and who helped to organize the First Baptist
Church: Rev. Beasley of the Methodist Church; and the Rev. Edwin Wiggins of the
Episcopal Church. Two outstanding ministers, the Rev, James H. Stribling and the Rev.
George Baines. served as pastors of the Baptist Church. The first revival of any note
was held by the great evangelist, Major Win. E. Penn, who, together with his singer,
Mr. Parker, captured the town. The historic Penn Camp Ground at San Gabriel was a
favorite meeting place for those of all creeds.