Milam County Historical Commission
Milam County, Texas
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
We're Banking on You
A History of Rockdale
Presented by
Rockdale State Bank
May 20, 1979
         The Big Flood, The Great Depression -
          How Rockdale Handles it's problems

For all of its good fortune in its mineral reserves
and the location of the railroad terminus, Rockdale
has endured some difficult times, too.  Yet these
hardships served to draw the townspeople closer

The Big Flood of 1921 left 63 people dead in Milam
County, and the damage to crops, livestock and housing
was incalculable.  The floodwaters so damaged the
roads and railroad lines that Rockdale was all but
isolated from the rest of the world. In some areas the
flood waters still had not subsided a week after the
torrential rains.  The townspeople quickly organized
search parties to recover the victims.  A Relief
Committee was organized to collect food and clothing,
and at least one merchant (A baker) donated free bread
and cold drinks for the rescue workers.  And while
offers of financial assistance came in from other
towns, this offer was gratefully declined.  Instead
individual donationswere accepted by the Relief

The impact of the economic Depression was felt nation-
wide.  Some parts of the county suffered severely,
with tens of thousands of people out of work, and
depositors losing money when their banks folded. 
Rockdale, although by no means escaping unscathed, did
not feel the effects as strongly as did its urban
There was unemployment in the town, but again as
during the flood the townspeople worked together to
ease the burden.  The local newspaper, The Rockdale
Reporter, offered Free advertising space to anyone
looking for a job. During E. A. Camp's (Director,
Rockdale State Bank 1920-1961) term as mayor, civic
leaders organized a campaign through the Rockdale
Chamber of Commerce to provide jobs for unemployed

The people of Rockdale also were spared the trauma of
losing what money they had due to bank failure. 
During the Depression, both the Citizens State Bank
and the First National Bank faced financial failure,
as did so many banks across the country.  Rockdale
Stat Bank, however, had the strength and stability to
purchase both banks, paying the depositors of those
banks 100% on the dollar.  When Rockdale State Bank
acquired the First National Bank in February of 1932,
the Ban moved into the First National Bank building at
the corner of Cameron and Ackerman, where it has
remained until the present.

The measures taken by Rockdale State Bank to protect
the financial interests Rockdale's citizens proved to
be prudent.  While thousands of depositors across the
nation faced financial disaster as their banks failed,
not one single depositor in Rockdale lost money due to
bank failure.

Left: The First National Bank building, located at the
corner of Cameron and Ackerman, became the home of
Rockdale State Bank when the two banks merged in 1932.

Rockdale's original City Hall featured a bell
tower which housed the town's only fire alarm.
          The Fifties - Industrialization

The location of the rich lignite mines in Milam County
was responsible for bringing the Aluminum Company of
America (ALCOA) to Rockdale in 1952 to become what is
surely one of the most successful marriages in the
country between a community and an industry.

ALCOA became an integral part of the Rockdale
community, and its location just outside Rockdale has
brought profound economic changes to the area.

As ALCOA's plant grew, it continued to employmore
people, becoming by far the largest employer in the
Rockdale area.  By 1965, some thirteen years after the
plant opened, Rockdale's population had doubled due to
the increase in jobs in the area.

ALCOA has given generously of its resources, too,
opening Alcoa Lake (which was primarily designed as a
cooling lake) to fishermen and picnickers.  The company
has also donated a park to the city as well as the land
on which the country club is located and the land upon
which Richards Memorial Hospital is built.  Numerous
financial gifts have been made by the company such as
the $112,000 donated to the Richards Memorial Hospital

Not only did ALCOA provide jobs for Rockdalians, but
the Industrial Generating Company, which provides the
electricity for ALCOA's plant, also became a major
employer.  Rockdale's economy thrived as a result of
           Up To Date - The 60's and 70's

The last two decades have seen Rockdale continue to
grow and its citizens continue to work together to
improve the city's quality of life.

ALCOA has continued to play a big part in Rockdale's
economic health, with an annual payroll presently
exceeding $40 million with approximately 1,700
employees.  The Industrial Generating Co. Has also
maintained a large work force, with close to 500
employees today.

Rockdale now has a modern community hospital. The
Richards Memorial Hospital was dedicated to a
Rockdale native who has spent his life practicing
medicine in Rockdale.  For years, the clinic Dr. John
T. Richards (Director, Rockdale State Bank since
January of 1971) and his associate Dr. John J. Hopper
operated was the only medical facility available in
the area.  In 1970, the citizens of Rockdale
organized a hospital board of trustees headed by
Emery C. Camp (Director, Rockdale State Bank since
1966) to make plans for a new community hospital.  It
was natural that the new facility, which was
completed in 1974, be named in Dr. Richards' honor.

There have been other recent developments evidencing
a strong future for Rockdale. Ground has been broken
for a new junior high school and for a new addition
to the present elementary school.

As mentioned earlier, Rockdale's greatest asset is
its citizenry.  Over the years, individual have
devoted their time, energy, and financial resources
toward making Rockdale a strong community.  Today's
Rockdalians are equally civic-minded and proud of
their community.  You are what makes Rockdale great. 
That's why we're banking on you.
  Past Directors of Rockdale State Bank

Ben Loewenstein, Sr.
  One of Rockdale's earliest settlers, Ben
Loewenstein was one of the town's most distinguished
merchants.  He opened his dry good sand grocery
business on Christmas Eve, 1893.
  He was instrumental in establishing several
businesses in Rockdale.  One of the most notable was
the Rockdale Brick Works, which erected seven brick
builds in the business district. He also held stock
in the Rockdale Cotton Mills and Rockdale Cotton
Platform COmpany.
  He was one of Rockdale State Bank's first
directors, and was President of the first elected
school board in Rockdale.
  Mr. Loewenstein died May 11, 1923.

Dr. I. P. Sessions
  Born in Rice, Texas on October 25,1867, I. P.
Sessions received his M.D. Degree from the College of
Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, in New
York City in 1892.  He practiced medicine in Rockdale
until the year before his death.
  Dr. Sessions was a director of the Rockdale State
Bank and served as president from 1909 until 1915. 
He was an active member of the Masonic Lodge, and
Methodist Church, serving as Steward and Trustee. 
He was also a member of the Board of Trustees of
Southwestern University at Georgetown, Texas. 
William Edgar Gaither
  Born in Millridge, North Carolina in 1876, William
Edgar Gaither came to Rockdale in 1900.  In 1911, he
became a sub-dealer for Ford Model T Agency;in 1912, he
was made direct dealer.  When he sold his business to
his son-in-law, W. P. Hogan, in 1953, it was the oldest
Ford dealership in Texas.
  A public-minded citizen, Mr. Gaither served as school
trustee, councilman and mayor.  It was during his term
as mayor that many of Rockdale's streets were paved.
  Mr. Gaither died in Rockdale January 8, 1964.

E. A. Camp
  Born in Monroe, Walton County, Georgia, on August 14,
1881, E. A. Camp became one of Rockdale's most
prominent and distinguished citizens.
  After graduating from Sam Houston State College, Mr.
Camp obtained his L.L.B. Degree from the University of
Texas at Austin.  He returned to Rockdale to open his
first law office on Main Street where he practiced for
more than fifty-eight years.  He served as a freshman
legislator alongside Sam Rayburn and while there co-
authored and secured passage of three laws of
particular significance to the development of Texas.
  Mr. Camp's contributions to Rockdale were many.  He
served as mayor of Rockdale from 1929 until 1946,
established the Young Men's Business league (forerunner
of the Chamber of Commerce), helped found the 1st
Presbyterian Church in Rockdale and served as Chairman
of the Board of Rockdale State Bank. "The Judge" was a
member of numerous civic civic and professional
organizations including the Rockdale Chamber of
Commerce, Masonic Lodge, Milam County Bar Association,
State Bar of Texas, and the American Bar Association
  Mr. Camp died in January, 1961, at the age of 79,
ending an illustrious career.

H. C. Meyer
One of Rockdale State Bank's first directors, H.C.
Meyer came to Rockdale in the late 1890's as an
associate in Henna and Meyer Hardware Company.
  He was a well-loved mayor of the city for over 20
years, known in this section as "the Father of Good
  Mr. Meyer was a co-founder of Citizens State Bank in
1912, and held stock in the lignite mines east of
   He later served the state as a member of the Texas
Board of Control.

Dr. T. S. Barkley
  Dr. T. S. Barkley was born November 11, 1885 in Rice,
Navarro County, Texas. He recieved his M.D. Degree from
Baylor Medical School in Dallas.
  He came to Rockdale in 1912, associated in practice
with his uncle, Dr. I. P. Sessions, and retained this
office until his death in 1965.
  During World War I, Dr. Barkley served as Lieutenant
in the Army Medical Corps.   He also served as surgeon
for Southern Pacific and Missouri Pacific Railroads,
and was on the staff of St. Edwards Hospital in
  He was a lifetime member of the official board of St.
John's Methodist Church, and held memberships in the
Milam County Medical Society, the Texas State Medical
Society and the American Medical Society.  He was also
a 32nd Degree Mason.

Harold M. Luckey
  Born in Rockdale September 14, 1907, Mr. Luckey
served as president of Rockdale Stat Bank from
1962 until 1977, when he became chairman of the
board.  He first joined the bank in 1931 as
assistant cashier.
  Mr. Luckey was Rockdale's mayor for eith years. 
His other civic activities included serving as
President and Director of the Rockdale Chamber of
Commerce, Director of the Rotary Club, member of
the official board of St. John's Methodist
Church.  He also headed the area Salvation Army
Chapter for many years.
  Professional and business interests included
serving as a member of the Board of Directors of
the Texas Banking Association, Vice-President of
Rockdale Sandow and Southern Railroad, and as
Vice-President of Phillips and Luckey Life
Insurance Company.

Harden Hull Camp
  Harden Hull Camp came to Texas in 1888 from
Monroe, Georgia where he had been born on August
2, 1890.
  From his early youth his occupation was
farming.  Mr. Camp owned the first farm electric
plant in Texas.
  He served Rockdale State Bank for thirty-six
years, having been elected a director in 1912,
and President in 1916, in which capacity he
served until his death in 1947.

J. Boswell Newton
   Born May 6, 1909, J. Boswell Newton served as
mayor of Rockdale from 1946 until 1950.  He was a
man of wide and varied business interests, which
included partnerships in Phillips and Luckey
Funeral Home of Rockdale, Giddings and Caldwell,
Mutual Fire Insurance Company and Newton and
Luckey Rental Properties which included a
shopping center and several downtown commercial
  He was a director of Central Texas Economic
Development District, member of the Rotary Club
and Chamber of Commerce.  Mr. Newton has served
as President of both the State Association of
Mutual Assessment Insurance Companies and the
Burial Association Union of Texas.

Emery B. Camp
Emery B. Camp was born in Rockdale on July 19,
1909.  After obtaining his law degree from the
University of Texas at Austin, he practiced law
with his father, E. A. Camp.
He was active in the Democratic Party, serving as
a member of the County Executive Committee, and
was a past member of the Texas House of
Representatives.  Mr. Camp was a member and
President of Milam County Bar Association, member
of the Board of Directors of the State Bar
Association, President of the Cameron Chamber of
Commerce, member of the Knights of Pythias,
Masonic Lodge, First Methodist Chruch and
Rockdale Rotary Club.