History of Rockdale Public School
(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.)
Rockdale Public School
In 1874, a few weeks after the I & G N railroad reached Rockdale, the first school in
the town was organized by a Miss Molly Roby. Miss Roby taught for six months, and
though realizing the lack of educational advantages, she was finally forced to give up
on account of poor patronage.
It was not until the following fall that an attempt was made to reorganize the first
school. Miss Maggie Hall, a slight, girlish, young lady, who had attended Baylor
University down in old Independence, and who had taught several years in the Bryan
Public School, felt the great need of education for the young. So in September she
opened a private school in one small upper room of a house owned by Mrs. Cole, located
where the Matson home now stands. Miss Hall taught her little school for the nine
months term of 1874-75.
The town had been incorporated, and the citizens decided it was time they should have
the benefits of the public schools that had been secured for Texas under the
administration of Governor O. M. Roberts; so the council appointed a board of trustees
consisting of Dr. W. A. Brooks, R. H. Hicks, Rev. J. H. Stribling, A. E. Fullenwider,
Dr. A. C Walker, Rev. W. E. Copeland, with E. M. Scarbrough, (Mayor, Ex-Officio)
chairman — a strong sturdy group of pioneers.
An old abandoned storehouse at the corner of Cameron and Green Streets was
appropriated, and the public school of Rockdale was launched. Very meager indeed were
the furnishings of this first school. Miss Hall, who had been elected assistant
teacher, had a small desk at the front of the room, while Mr. W. Wyatt, who was
principal, had a small platform at the rear of the room. Mr. Wyatt's only
recommendations were that he was a Confederate soldier and he could "wallop" the boys.
His platform was equipped with a desk, a box of sand used as a cuspidor, and a bundle
of switches. The principal's general attitude and the sight of the switches aroused the
resentment and tears of the pupils. However, under these primitive conditions the first
public school of Rockdale dragged through its first session.
One term for Mr. Wyatt was enough for the school board; so Mr. Brickhouse was elected
to be the principal for the new term. Miss Hall again accepted the position of
assistant. Mr, Brickhouse conducted the school in such a way as to gain the respect and
confidence of both the pupils and parents, despite the fact that the same poor old
building and equipment were used. He was a clean, quiet gentleman of middle age, a
widower with five children.
At the beginning of the next term Miss Hall resigned her position and built a small
schoolhouse on the site of Conn R. Isaac's present home. There she taught a private
school for girls. Mr. Brickhouse taught this session alone in the old building, which
now almost amounted to a boys' school, as most of the girls attended Miss Hall's
school. At the close of this term the council offered to rent the new building of Miss
Hall's for the use of the public school and elect her as principal. She gladly accepted
this offer, and for the next two years school was conducted under these circumstances.
Following the close of school in the spring of '79, Miss Hall resigned and was married
to Mr. R. H. Hicks. Mr. and Mrs. Hicks continued to be identified with the social,
religious, educational and business interests of the town, serving in many capacities
throughout the years.
School attendance was growing rapidly. The trustees, realizing the need for a larger
building, rented the old Brooks Hotel on the corner lot where now stands the J. L.
Lockett home. Mr. G. W. Rainwater, as principal, and Miss Ella Meekin (the late Mrs. A.
H. Wilkins). as assistant, were in charge of the classes and proved competent teachers.
The school grew and prospered under their leadership for the next two terms, after
which the hotel was bought by Mr. Lockett.
We might add here that there were a number of private teachers in those early days. Mr.
O. F. Rogers, a maternal grandfather of Mrs. H. T. Coulter, a Presbyterian minister of
the old school, organized and taught a private school in a church building which served
the needs of all denominations. This building was where the Presbyterian church now
stands. Here also a Mr. Waddel, an Episcopal minister, conducted a private school. The
section around the church building was still timberland, and the story is told that
here, red¬headed Mr. Waddel was often seen with a switch chasing the "bad boys" of the
school out among the trees, trying to catch and punish them. Other teachers in the
early and later stages of the private schools were Miss Nannie Breeding and her sister.
Mrs. Crabbe, and Miss Ellen Ghent. The Jews for a number of years conducted the German-
English Academy, with Professors Hammon and Berlinger in charge. It occupied the
site of the R. L. Hale home and was sometimes used as a synagogue.
But back to the public school. After the sale of the Brooks Hotel, the school was moved
to the Methodist church, where Mr. James Kennard, a nephew of Dr. W. R. Kennard, a
much-loved physician in those days, and Mrs. R. H. Hicks conducted classes for another
term, at the close of which they resigned. Miss Meekin and Miss Sallie Kennard were
appointed for the next term.
Conditions were improving, but the citizens realized more and more the need of a school
building large enough to accommodate the ever-increasing number of children. It was
about February 5, 1883, that the first official board of trustees was elected by the
people. This board was composed of A. E. Fullenwider, R. H. Hicks, C. H. Coffield,
James H. Hill. Sr., Ben Lowenstein, Sr., Rev. J. H. Stribling and Rev. W. E. Copeland.
The new board immediately got busy; bonds to the amount of $10,000.00 were issued and
plans laid for a modern new brick building to be built on the beautiful hill west of
town, later to be known as College Hill. These were great days for Rockdale. The
building was completed about the time Grover Cleveland was elected for his first term
as President of the United States. A great double celebration was planned, and when the
day arrived and the new school building was pronounced ready for inspection, a huge
gathering was held up on the hill, and there were speeches, handshakings, and general
rejoicing by young and old.
Mr. J. W. Clark, a native of Virginia, who attended Virginia Military Institute and
Emory and Henry College of Virginia, and who had taught at Austin, Bastrop, Bryan, and
Navasota, was elected superintendent of the new school with a principal and a fine
staff of teachers. Mr. Clark served as superintendent for eight years with intelligence
and devotion, and helped to establish an educational institution fully graded and
affiliated with the State University. Since this earliest period it has been recognized
as one of the best small schools in the state.
Mr. Clark resigned as superintendent and moved away in 1890, when Mr. F. L. Norton was
elected to fill his place. Mr. Norton successfully piloted the affairs of the school
for the next nine years. During that time his wife died, leaving him with seven
children. He moved to Denison, where he remarried and still resides.
About this time Mr. C. E. Brennan, a forceful young man with very modern ideas, became
head of the schools. The modern ideas did not appeal to many, and after election of
superintendents, Mr. Clark was recalled and accepted. This time Mr. Clark taught until
1910, when he moved to Georgetown, where he passed away a few years later.
Mr. C. G. Green, a quiet, refined gentleman, very diplomatic and under¬standing,
reigned modestly and well from 1910 to 1919, when he moved away. Mr. G. L. Marshall
successfully carried on the affairs of the school for three years. 1919-1922. It was
during his time that the need for a larger school building was again realized, and in
1922 the new, very modern $75,000.00 brick, fireproof building was constructed. At the
same time the old building was turned into a modern, one-story primary building. And
once again the people of Rockdale felt that ample provision had been made for the
education of their future citizens. The trustees at this time were Fred H. Graves, John
E. Cooke, W. A. Coffield, T. D. Rountree, Ben Lowenstein. Jr., C. R. Isaacs and E. B.
Phillips. The city council was composed of Mayor H. C. Meyer, and Aldermen P. H. Perry,
Sr., A, P. Perry, Jr., L. W. Sledge and E. H. Coffield, with City Attorney E. A. Camp,
and City Secretary, E. T. Kemp. Mr. Marshall served through 1922, when he moved to
Grandview where he died in 1925.
In 1922-23 Mr. J. M. Hodges was Rockdale's superintendent. After leaving Rockdale Mr.
Hodges moved to Tyler, where he is still connected with the Tyler schools and Junior
Mr. C. G. Green returned to Rockdale in 1923 to conduct the affairs of the school. He
is now in Hamlin, Texas, heading the schools there.
Mr. A. W. Franklin served as superintendent during 1924-25, when he resigned and became
superintendent of the Junior High School at Wichita Falls.
In 1925-26 and 1926-27 J. C. Wilkerson became superintendent. Mr. Wilkerson is now
editor of the "Chief" at Comanche.
Mr. S. P. Conn who is now with the schools at Floresville served as head of the schools
In 1928 Mr. S. C. Miles, the present, much beloved superintendent, came to Rockdale.
and by his steady devotion and kindly interests in the affairs of rhe schools and the
pupils, has built up the school within the last eight years to an envied position.
During this time one teacher has been added to the faculty of the Primary School.
During 1929-30 the Home Economics Depart¬ment was enlarged by adding a fully equipped
dining room. Some of the courses have been revised and the Library improved. In 1933-34
the campus was terraced and beautified. The Vocational Agriculture Department was added
to the school system in 1933. and during the summer of 1934 a plot of ground was
purchased, and a beautifully lighted football field and athletic park was provided for
athletic purposes. The term of 1934-35 saw the addition of a commercial department to
the high school curriculum; a full time librarian was added to the faculty; and the
stage was equipped with a beautiful rose velour curtain. Five school busses have been
secured, bringing children in from the rural districts. The year 1936 sees the schools
of Rockdale provided with a beautiful new auditorium building which will be used as a
gymnasium and perhaps for additional class rooms.
We could hardly fail to mention the part music played in the education of the
youngsters. There were a number of private music teachers in those pioneer days as well
as the later and present times. One of the first of the private teachers was a Mrs.
Kreutter. who taught German in the public school and music in a private home. Mrs.
Kreutter was a graduate of the Conservatory of Music of Boston, and came here from New
York. There was also Miss Fannie Rugeley, Mr. Milton Ragsdale, Miss Mary Hill, a Mrs.
Morscheimer, Miss Lalu King, Mrs. Crable, Mrs. W. T. Wright, and later Mrs. C. M.
Perry, Mrs. W. C. Marrs, Mrs. M. R. Reddell and Mrs. L. W. Sledge. The trustees some-
time during 1900-05 built a one room house on the southwestern part of the campus to be
used for the teaching of music, which for many years was a hanging out place of the
students at recess and noon, and many pleasant gatherings were held in and around this
little music house. Miss Sammie Osborne was the first music teacher to be elected; she
was followed by Miss Nell DuBois (Mrs. Stevens, Tucson, Ariz.), Miss Grace Longmoor
(Mrs. W. A. Coffield of Waco), Miss Norris Walls (Mrs. B. C. Tharpe, Austin), and Miss
Margie Lockett (Mrs. L. W. Sledge). The little music house did not last so many years;
it was torn down and thereafter music teachers taught in private homes.
Some of the trustees who no longer serve on the board and have not been mentioned, but
who have been interested in the affairs of education, and who have given, and some
still do, of their time in service to the Rockdale schools are Messrs J. E. Longmoor,
A. P. Perry, Jr., Emmett Kemp, Ira Perry, G. M. Ryan J. T. Beasley. W, L. Baird, E. A.
Wallace. I. P. Sessions, J. W. Garner, C. K.Stribling, Ed Gunn, Ed G. Simms, W B.
Smith, and C. M. Sessions.
The personnel of the school board has changed every two or three years: to the present
board, as well as to those of other days, we would say. "Well done, my good and