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Saturday, June 4, 2011

1925 :: Reporter looks back at 1888

The Rockdale Reporter. 1925. Old Paper Gives Account of Epochal Event in History of Rockdale. 37 Years Ago Mundine Hotel Burned in Rockdale. Through the kindness of Y.A. Gjedde the Reporter editor has been privileged to peruse a copy of the old Rockdale Messenger, published by Enoch Breeding, of date June 7, 1888, in which is printed an account of the burning of the Mundine Hotel in Rockdale. The fire occurred at 4:00 a.m. on Monday, June 4, 1888, and eleven people lost their lives in the flames, as follows:
  • Isaac Crown, Rockdale business man
  • Pemberton Pierce, a traveling man
  • J.F. Brisco, wife and two children. Brisco was a barber and with his family was to have moved to Taylor the next day.
  • Mrs. W.A. Brooks and four children. Mrs. Brooks is described in the story as being "a lady who had been a kind mother to all of us for lo, these many years, until we had all learned to love her."
Of the thirteen people sleeping in the hotel that night only two escaped, one being D.M. Oldham, a traveling man, who got out through an upstairs window, and Dr. Brooks, who was rescued by D. Sanford. The account of the fire is written in a somewhat flamboyant style, and the writer was evidently much agitated, the story being rather incoherent. It is not made plain just who Dr. Brooks was. His rescue and the account of the death of Mrs. Brooks and children are treated in separate paragraphs and no connection established between them. 

The style of the writer is entirely different from present-day newspaper style. The story gives little details of property loss, merely stating that the post office and store of T.B. Kemp were destroyed, and that an adjoining building owned by J.R. Rowland was damaged by the falling walls of the hotel. V.B. Orr, a jeweler, is mentioned as having sustained a heavy loss. The story closes with the following paragraph:

"If we have not told all this terrible story, let the conditions and circumstances under which we write suffice. There was only one of those who perished, but was an intimate and a friend of ours. The pen fails to transcribe the words we would write."
Other items contained in this copy of the Messenger, printed 37 years ago, included:

  • an account of the marriage of Mr. C.A. Duffy to Miss Dedie Wilson. Mr. Duffy was described as the representative of the Missouri Glass Works, and Miss Wilson as one of Rockdale's most esteemed young ladies
  • the death of a child of N.P. Crump
  • the birth of boy babies in the homes of Luther Davis and T.J. Woody
  • the removal of the post office to the Messenger building, "around the corner"
  • the return from Wooten Wells of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Isaacs [findagrave]
  • the visit of R.H. Hicks and G.B. Randle to Galveston
  • the receipt by the editor of a 29-inch turnip and six Irish potatoes weighing near four pounds
A perusal of the advertisements showed that:

  • bottle beer was for sale at the Rockdale Saloon at 5¢ a glass
  • Hawkes' spectacles could be purchased at Douthit's drug store
  • board and lodging could be had at J.H. Simmons, six miles south of town, at the rate of $10 per month or $3 per week by those who desired to stop there and drink the mineral water from the well on that place
  • Wallace & Company handled lumber
  • John G. Brown sold all kinds of good whiskey
  • Isaacs & Lockett were dealers in general merchandise
  • J.P. Heywood sold millinery and fancy goods
  • T.B. Kemp dealt in dry goods and groceries
  • Geo. W. Williams sold farm implements
  • Wolf & Winterberg were house and sign painters
Another display ad on the front page announced the democratic ticket of Cleveland and Thurman, giving woodcut engravings of each. Among the professional cards were those of:

  • Dr. E.W. Allen, dentist
  • Dr. J.H. Wilson, physician
  • Thos. A. Pope, physician
  • Henderson, Henderson & Mcalla, attorneys
  • A.G. Wilcox, attorney
  • A.C. Walker, G.A. Trott, B.F. Lee, P.A. Horton and J.B. Stone, physicians
Advertising rates were quoted at one dollar per single column inch. (Present-day advertisers take notice.) T.B. Kemp's produce quotations were as follows:
  • Butter 12½¢ per pound
  • eggs 7¢ per dozen
  • chickens, each 10¢ to 16¢
  • turkeys, per dozen, $3 to $7
  • hides, 3¢ to 5¢ per pound
  • corn 60¢ per bushel
  • sweet potatoes 40¢ per bushel
  • pecans 5¢ pound
  • J.H. Hill was mayor
  • J.R. Arthur, city marshal
  • Solon Joynes, R.H. Ames, J.G. Brown and Joe Lowenstein were aldermen
  • H.C. Travers was postmaster
  • Rev. J.H. Stribling pastor of Baptist church
  • Rev. N.F. Law, pastor Methodist church
  • Rev. T.C. Brittle, pastor Episcopal church
  • Rev. W.E. Copeland, pastor Cumberland Presbyterian church

No less than nine separate and distinct lodge directories were given. The paper consisted of four pages of six columns each, and much of the inside space was devoted to politics, including a two-column interview with Harry Tracy on the subject of the Farmers Alliance.

The brittle and yellowed original of the above 1925 newspaper clipping belongs to Iola Avrett nee Christian of Rockdale.

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