Milam County Historical Commission - Milam County, TX
Statue of Ben Milam at Milam County, TX Courthouse
Old Junior High School Building, Rockdale, TX
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Milam County Historical Commission
Milam County, Texas
                              Six historic fires in 3 blocks
                              by Mike Brown - Reporter Editor
                              Rockdale Reporter - 2016-01-28

                                 Two on same month, day

Cue the “Twilight Zone” music.

With last week’s fire which gutted what’s believed to be the oldest house in Rockdale,
there have now been six historic blazes within a slightly less than three-block area of
downtown Rockdale.

Those fires include:

• Two on the same month and day.

• Two owned by the same person.

• The only fire in which members of the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Department perished.

• Three in which priceless antiques were lost.

• Three in which popular and thriving downtown businesses vanished forever.

• A mammoth warehouse fire on the same day a tornado hit a different part of Rockdale.

Wilkes also owned an antique-filled home two doors down, 313 Milam. It was gutted by an
April 14, 2005 fire.

That structure was razed. SAME DAY — The fire alarm for the Wallis home fire sounded at
10:22 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19.

The fire carried over into Wednesday, Jan. 20 and there was a callback just before dawn
that morning.

On Jan. 20, 1974, exactly 42 years earlier, volunteers responded to one of the scariest
calls in Rockdale history, a burning building with a theater full of kids nearby.

It was a Sunday when fire claimed the Singer’s Grill Restaurant and Vera’s Fads &
Fashions clothing store. They were two doors down in the Dixie Theater where the kids
were watching a Walt Disney nature movie.

Everyone got out okay.

MORE ANTIQUES - On the same block an overnight Dec. 11, 2002, blaze claimed three-story
Arledge Antiques and the adjacent Ballard Carpets Etc. business.

The two firms occupied the ultra-historic E. M. Peebles & Sons building.

On Aug. 31, 1943, the block-long Coffield Warehouse, directly across the street from last
week’s fire, location, burned.

Later that day a tornado dipped down in the College Hill section of Rockdale on West
Bell, ripping the roof from what was then the high school gym.

No lives were lost at either place.

That wasn’t the case Sept. 3, 1935, when an era-ending blaze claimed the Scarbrough &
Hicks firm, where the city library is today.

Firefighters Wilbur Williams and J. W. Hooper perished when an awning collapsed.

Six landmark fires in a three-block area.

And that doesn’t even count the 1888 Mundine Hotel fire, which claimed 11 lives, on other
end of the same downtown street as last week’s blaze.
All credit for this article goes to
Mike Brown
and the
Rockdale Reporter
Reporter photos by Mike Brown, Ken Esten Cooke and Bill Cooke. 1935 news coverage by John Esten Cooke and W. H. Cooke.
Jan. 19-20, 2016, (L) and April 14, 2005, two antique-filled homes, 146 and 104 years old, two doors apart, both owned by the same person, were gutted by fire.
Different generations of RFVD volunteers battle Dec. 11, 2002, Arledge-Ballard fire (above right) and Jan. 20, 1974, Singer’s Grill-Vera’s Fads & Fashions blaze (above left).
Reporter photos by Mike Brown, Ken Esten Cooke and Bill Cooke. 1935 news coverage by John Esten Cooke and W. H. Cooke.