Wednesday, August 31, 2011

1892 :: Two Deaths at Rockdale (Young and Vick)

The Galveston Daily News. Wednesday, August 31, 1892. Mortuary. Two Deaths at Rockdale. Rockdale, Tex., Aug. 30. -- Died, Sunday morning, in Rockdale of consumption, Mr. Robert N. Young. The funeral took place Monday at Milano, Tex., under the auspices of the Knights of Honor of that place.

Died, Sunday afternoon, in Rockdale of typhoid fever. Wm. H. Vick, Jr., in the 20th year of his age. The deceased was an exemplary young man; was connected with the International and Great Northern freight office here and a son of Dr. John Vick of Albany, Tex.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

1882 :: Burial of Samuel Cohen

Galveston Daily News, Friday, August 25, 1882. Rockdale, Tex., Aug 24 – Sam Cowen, one of our merchants, died to-day, and was buried this afternoon according to the Jewish Rites in the Jewish Cemetery, Rockdale, Milam County, Texas.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

1948 :: Death of E.H. Balhorn

Funeral services for E.H. Balhorn, 55, who died Friday night [August 1948] in a Cameron hospital from a heart ailment, were held here [Rockdale] Saturday. Burial was in Oak Lawn Cemetery, with Masons in charge. Balhorn was widely known among grocers, as he had been a representative of large wholesale houses since a young man. At the time of his death he was connected with a St. Louis firm. He leaves his wife, a son, Edward Balhorn of Beaumont; two grandchildren; three sisters, Mrs. Ray Humphrey of Beaumont, Mrs. C. F. Tuberville of Oklahoma City and Mrs. Will Gray of Yoakum, and a brother, William Balhorn, Cameron. Dallas Morning News. August 17, 1948. E. H. Balhorn, Rockdale, Dies of Heart Ailment. Special to The News. Rockdale, Texas, Aug. 16.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

1958 :: Amelia W. Williams

Amelia W. Williams, educator and historian, daughter of Thomas Herbert and Emma (Massengale) Williams, was born in Maysfield, Texas, on March 25, 1876. Several generations of the family were planters in South Carolina until after the Civil War, when her father established a plantation on the Little River in the blacklands of Milam County.

Amelia, the oldest of seven children, was early recognized as a potentially outstanding scholar and so was given the best education available from local teachers. She attended Stuart Seminary in Austin and graduated from Ward (later Ward-Belmont) Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1895 with a liberal arts degree.

By the time she turned twenty-two both of her parents had died, leaving her the guardian of four younger sisters and manager of a 2,000-acre plantation. After rearing her younger sisters Amelia Williams was able at last to work toward her academic goals.

She passed exams for temporary certification and taught history and English in rural schools in San Gabriel, Marlo, Branchville, Baileyville, Calvert, and Cameron. Attending college during the summers, she earned a B.A. at Southwest Texas State Normal School in 1922, a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Texas in 1926, and the Ph.D. in 1931. From 1925 until her retirement in 1951, Williams taught American and English history at the University of Texas.

As a student of Eugene C. Barker, she investigated Texas history, doing primary research on the Alamo. Her M.A. thesis, "The Siege and Fall of the Alamo," incorporating much of this material, was expanded into her Ph.D. dissertation, "A Critical Study of the Siege of the Alamo and of the Personnel of its Defenders," which established her as the authority on this subject. Five chapters of the dissertation were published in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly in 1933 and 1934. In 1935 she published Following General Sam Houston, 1793–1836. From 1938 to 1943 Williams and Barker collaborated on the eight-volume edition of The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863. Her tact was credited for having convinced Houston's descendents to grant access to portions of his correspondence, an act that Barker's disdain for Houston had precluded for many years.

Williams was an honorary lifetime member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and also held membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Order of the Eastern Star. She was a Presbyterian and a Democrat. She died in Austin on August 14, 1958, and was buried near Maysfield. The Barker Texas History Center at the University of Texas at Austin contains her papers.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Milam County Heritage Preservation Society, Matchless Milam: History of Milam County (Dallas: Taylor, 1984). National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 44. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Jane Smoot [her niece, who is still living in Austin, Texas as of this date]

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Jane Smoot, "WILLIAMS, AMELIA WORTHINGTON," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed August 10, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

1946 :: Rockdale Undertaker Dies

Dallas Morning News. August 14, 1946. Rockdale Undertaker, P.E. Luckey, Dies. Rockdale, Texas, Aug. 13 (AP). -- P.E. Luckey, 67, senior partner of the Phillips & Luckey funeral establishment here, died at his home Tuesday. Burial will be here Wednesday afternoon. Survivors include his wife, four sons and a daughter.

Perry Emmett Luckey, the son of John Millard and Rachel Garner Luckey was born February 28, 1879 in the Millerton Community of Milam County. The old Luckey homestead was located on much of the land where the Sandow Strip mine is now located. On June 1, 1902, he was married to Mary Draper Carter. Her parents were Sinclair Blake and Tennie Love Carter who immigrated to Texas from Mississippi in 1877 and settled in the Tracy Community of Milam County. Mr. Carter was a Confederate veteran and he and his wife had experienced much hardship during the Civil War.

The Luckeys were parents of four sons: Darrell Emmett, Harold Milton, Donald Carter, Edward Earle; and one daughter, Bertha Lucille. The Luckeys were members of the Methodist Church. For a number of years, Mr. Luckey was associated with Henne and Meyer Hardware and Undertaking Company in Rockdale. These two men were pioneers in the burial insurance business and worked toward the enforcement of having burial insurance legalized in Texas. Later they founded the Phillips and Luckey Burial Association.

Mr. Luckey was a quiet and unassuming man and he had a steadfast devotion to principal. His heart was supercharged with love for his fellowman. He was a greatly beloved citizen of Rockdale.

From Matchless Milam, History of Milam County Texas, compiled and edited by Milam County Heritage Preservation Society, A Texas Sesquicentennial Edition.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

1754 :: San Xavier Missions

On this day in 1754, Pedro de Rábago y Terán took over as commander of San Francisco Xavier de Gigedo Presidio, the military post at the San Xavier missions (near the site of present-day Rockdale, Milam County, Texas). He replaced José Joaquín de Ecay Múzquiz, who had been sent in 1753 to assist Capt. Miguel de la Garza Falcón in investigating the murder of a priest and a soldier at Candelaria Mission. Nothing better illustrates the animosity that often existed between missionaries and soldiers than events at the San Xavier missions. Felipe de Rábago y Terán, Pedro's nephew, had served so poorly that conditions at the missions were deplorable when Ecay Múzquiz arrived. The nadir had come with the murder of Father Juan José Ganzabal and the soldier Juan José Ceballos, on May 11, 1752. Commandant Felipe, who had debauched Ceballos's wife, blamed the violence on the Coco Indians. But evidence uncovered by Ecay Múzquiz and others strongly suggested that Felipe himself was behind the murders. When the elder Rábago y Terán replaced Ecay Múzquiz, he was unable to reverse the general decline. The San Xavier missions were abandoned in 1756, and their property was moved to Santa Cruz de San Sabá Mission, which was itself destroyed by Indians in 1758. From Texas Day By Day

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

1914 :: Death of Mrs. M.C. Rasbury

Dallas Morning News. August 10, 1914. Deaths. Rasbury. -- Rockdale, Milam Co., Tex., Aug. 9. -- Mrs. M.C. Rasbury died at the family home here at 7:30 o'clock Friday, aged 72 years. She had resided in Rockdale for thirty-three years and reared a large family. The surviving children are Judge Charles A. Rasbury of Dallas, E.L. Rasbury of Thorndale, Mrs. E.H. Wynne of Temple, Mrs. C.M. Sessions and L.L. Rasbury of Rockdale.

1912 :: Blood Poison Kills Woman

Dallas Morning News. August 10, 1912. Blood Poison Kills Woman. Chicken Bone in Throat Ends Life at Temple. Special to The News. Temple, Tex., Aug. 9. -- The death of Mrs. L.L. Rasbury of Rockdale occurred here last night from blood poisoning caused by a small chicken bone having lodged in her throat about ten days ago. An operation was performed, but too late to prevent infection. Deceased is survived by her husband and a boy of 12 years, both of whom were here when the end came. Those also here were Hon. Charles A. Rasbury of Dallas, Mr. and Mrs. C.M. Sessions of Rockdale and Miss Maggie Buntin and Mrs. Adams of Flatonia, the two latter being sisters of decedent. The remains were forwarded to Rockdale for burial.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

1914 :: Death of John T. Gambill, Sr.

Deaths. Special to The News. Gambill -- Cameron, Milam, Tex. Aug. 3. -- John T. Gambill Sr. died at Rockdale Saturday and was buried yesterday morning. The deceased was in the Confederate army and was well-known and highly esteemed in this county. He is survived by a large family. Dallas Morning News, August 4, 1914

Monday, August 1, 2011

1966 :: RHS Graduate Meets UT Sniper

Cheryl Botts Dickerson still finds it hard to believe she's alive to talk about the events of Aug. 1, 1966. That day fate brought her face to face with the man who turned the University of Texas Tower into a sniper's den.

Cheryl was the last person to speak to Charles Whitman and the encounter would change her life. If anyone symbolized the innocence that existed that lazy summer, the innocence Whitman tried to shatter, it was Dickerson.

I was from a very small town, and I was a very shy, quiet reserved person, she said.

The then-19-year-old was a small town girl with a wide world ahead of her. She'd just graduated from Rockdale High and was set to attend Howard Payne College, a place with the same small town feel of Rockdale.

But before she headed off to college, Dickerson took a trip to "the big city", Austin, to visit her grandmother. Fate would twist and turn during the first 24 hours of her visit. It started with the 45-minute late arrival of her uncle to pick her up at the bus station. While she waited, she struck up a conversation with a young man named Don Walden.

And we were just talking, and he asked me if I had ever seen the UT campus, and I said 'no,' you know, and he was a student, and he said 'well let me come by tomorrow and come get you, it's my day off, and I'll show you the campus', she said.

Visiting the Tower :: The date was made, a first date with a first stop at the top of the UT Tower. There, Dickerson and Walden signed the register provided by receptionist Edna Townsley. The view from above that morning was beautiful.

"It was just gorgeous because you can see not just the city, but you can see the hills in the background. You can just see forever it seems like," Dickerson said.

By now, it was after 11:30 a.m. and it was getting hot. Soon the other visitors also taking in the view were gone, and Dickerson and Walden had the deck to themselves. But she remembers a series of maps out on the deck that described the landscape. They decided to examine them. The two had no idea it would turn out to be another fateful decision that provided a chance to leave the Tower alive.

"And in retrospect that's the kind of thing that will send chill bumps up your spine, because had we not stopped and spent another five to 10 minutes, we might have walked in on [Whitman] beating up [Townsley] or something," she said.

Townsley met a gruesome fate with Whitman; she was his first victim inside the Tower. As Dickerson and Walden looked at the map out on the deck, they had no idea Whitman was inside savagely beating the woman who'd welcomed them. Whitman would pull her bloody body behind a couch in the reception area.

High noon was approaching now, and the Tower's clock would soon chime 12 times. Dickerson and Walden had another decision to make.

"It seems like when I looked up at the clock, it seemed like it said it was 12 minutes to 12, or seven minutes to 12, something like that. And he said, 'you want to stay and listen? Ah, no, let's don't.' And that's probably another decision that would have been a totally different result," she said.

Dickerson and Walden decided to reenter the reception area and go back inside. Only this time, the receptionist wasn't at her desk, and someone else was in the reception area. Whitman was bent over the couch where Townsley lay dying. He had beaten her in the back of the head and dragged the dying woman behind a couch, leaving a trail of blood along the floor.

Face to face with a killer :: Whitman was probably unaware there were two people still out on the deck -- and they'd just decided to head back inside instead of waiting from the clock to strike 12. It was a decision that meant they were moments away from a face-to-face confrontation with a killer.

"Well, when we walked in the door the first thing I noticed is I looked to the right and the receptionist was not at her desk. But I rationalized - all this is taking place in 15 seconds - but I just rationalized in my mind she'd probably gone to lunch. And I didn't think anything about it."

The small-town girl from Rockdale also thought nothing of a reddish-brown swath on the floor directly in front of them. It was Townsley's blood.

"And I called Don's attention to it, because we needed to step over it. Again, I rationalized in my mind, 'is somebody going to varnish the floor?' I'm not the type of person who immediately assumes something negative or something drastic or bad, I guess, being small town, somewhat naive. And so we stepped over it and, just as we were stepping over it, I noticed a movement to our right, and we turned that way and a man stood up," she said.

Whitman was now aware he had company. A young couple stood between him and the glass-paneled door leading out to the deck -- and his final destination.

"It was like he had been bent over the couch. And when he heard us he stood up, turned and faced us, and he had a rifle in each hand. Now I know people think, you didn't think anything about that, you know? Well, we're walking, we were talking, we didn't even stop walking. We did not even stop walking, which probably saved our lives," Dickerson said.

A single word seemed to disarm Whitman -- if only for a moment.

"I just saw him. I smiled and said, 'hi.' And he smiled and said, 'hello,' to me as well. And we just kept on going," she said.

Dickerson and Walden didn't know it at that moment, but an elevator ride down the Tower would be the only way to finally escape the man bent on a shooting spree. The problem was those elevators were a floor below, and the stairs leading to them were block by an overturned chair.

"Well, as we started down the stairs there was a chair that was overturned on the stairs. Immediately I'm thinking they want to warn people there is varnish on the floor. You know, it seemed like I found an excuse or a reason for everything -- except the guns -- but the guns didn't stay in my mind. I don't know why I didn't wonder about them. Later Don commented that he started to ask him if he was going to go out on the deck and shoot pigeons. And that's probably another thing that saved our life, that he didn't stop and question him. We didn't stop talking. We didn't stop walking. We just kept going. And we walked around the chair, went down the flight of stairs, got on the elevator, we went down the elevator," she said.

As their elevator whisked them to safety below, the Tower's only other elevator brought two families -- the Gabours and Lamports -- up to the 27th floor above. They were looking forward to the view in time for the giant clock to chime. But Whitman had his own plans. Now armed with a shotgun, he opened fire on the two families on those stairs -- killing two and critically wounding two others. The shooting had begun.

Safe and sound :: Twenty-eight floors below, Dickerson and Walden saw the bodies and heard the shots.

"This man said, 'someone is shooting at people from the Tower.' And we just looked at each other, and both of us immediately "Oh my gosh, that has to be the man we just saw," she said.

Over the years, Dickerson has come to her own conclusions about why Whitman didn't shoot them.

"It wasn't our time. I just feel like there's an appointed time to die, and apparently that was not my time. Now, we could have been shot and survived -- and why that? I don't know. I think the reason he didn't shoot us is because we did not stop and question him. We were not a barrier to anything he wanted to do. We were in and out of there so fast, that when we left it might have been like, 'well, okay what was that?' I don't think he even knew we were out there. I think we caught him off guard. And we didn't stop. And I think that's a big part of it," she said.

When it was all over, and the news media learned of Dickerson and Walden's encounter with Whitman, their picture and story were in papers all across the country -- even around the world. Strangers sent clippings to Dickerson, mesmerized by her experience.

"Even Walter Cronkite had our picture on the evening news and told about, 'now the question has been answered who was the last person to see Charles Whitman and live to tell about it,' she said.

Dickerson still attended Howard Payne College and shared her story with others who wanted to be close to something that seemed miraculous. She said the experience brought her out of a shell, and ultimately into the classroom as a teacher. Now semi-retired in Luling, she's thankful to have touched the lives of some 4,000 students during her career. She feels blessed to have had the chance. But she admits she'll never be sure why she made it out of the Tower alive that day 40 years ago.

"There's no reason why he shouldn't have shot us," she said.

And no true explanation for what would follow that face-to-face confrontation with a killer.

UT Tower Shooting: Interview with Cheryl Botts Dickerson :: :: Updated: 7/29/2006 5:00:02 PM :: By: Paul Brown