Thursday, May 24, 2012

1906 :: Death of H.L. Witcher


Rockdale, Tex., May 19. -- H.L. Witcher died at his home in this city on yesterday afternoon in his 67th year. He was a member of the G.A.R. He served in the Eighth Illinois Cavalry. Mr. Witcher moved to Rockdale in 1873 and was elected City Marshall in 1874 and served two terms in that capacity. In 1884 Mr. Witcher was married to Miss Ruth Stribling, a daughter of Dr. J.H. Stribling, an eminent Baptist preacher. He was also a member of the Masonic Lodge. His funeral services will be conducted by that fraternity this afternoon at 5 o'clock. Mr. Witcher served two terms as postmaster of Rockdale. First under Benjamin Harrison's administration and afterwards under McKinley's administration. He leaves a widow. Dallas Morning News, May 24, 1906

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

1928 :: Downtown Rockdale



The following article was written by Dr. Lucile Estell, and was published in the 23 May 1996 issue of The Rockdale Reporter. Mr. Bland's model was the central focus of the Rockdale historical display which was set up at the Rockdale Homecoming on Sunday 13 June 1999. At that time, it was intended that the model would find a permanent home in the restored I&GN Depot.


Nolan Bland's model
of downtown Rockdale . . .
a trip back in time

Backward, turn backward,
O time in your flight,
Make me a child again, just for tonight!

These words, penned in 1860 by Elizabeth Akers, describe in part the feeling which engulfed me as I crossed the threshold of Nolan J. Bland's workshop to view the model of Rockdale, circa 1928.

The model came to life as I examined sites which were among my first memories growing up in Rockdale in the early 1930's. The feelings were so real that for a fleeting moment I felt that I had been once more at Mr. C.W. Matson's Dixie Theater, followed by ice cream at Mrs. Hill's.

The model of Rockdale is the work of Nolan J. Bland. According to Bland, the idea for such a model had been in his mind for a number of years. After his retirement, he decided to make the model a reality. He began its actual construction more than a decade ago, using as a basis a 1928 map of Rockdale. He laid off the streets first, presenting them in the unpaved condition which existed in 1928.

Construction of buildings came next. Bland used old photographs as well as his own important mental images of Rockdale in this early period. "I remember all of this," he said. "I was born and raised right here," he added, pointing to a site southwest of town. In the beginning, his work was on a scale of one foot to sixteen inches. However, he altered this in some instances in order to make the buildings look more realistic.

As his dream took physical form, Bland enlisted help in identifying buildings and ensuring the accuracy of the model. Part of this assistance came from his wife, Leona Gest Bland. She is a native of the Gay Hill community and strong supporter of the project. A major role in this identification process was played by E.E. "Buck" Henry, who assisted Bland in this important phase.

The first area that Bland constructed was south of the railroad tracks in the booming industrial section of Rockdale. This is the area near the first city water tower, shown on the model.

Featured here are...

  • the ice plant
  • the cotton oil mill, including garage & scales
  • the lumberyard
  • Farmer's Union Store & Warehouse
  • Blackburn's Electric Gin
  • Sinclair Oil
  • Gulf Oil
  • the swimming pool
  • railroad houses
  • William Cameron Lumber Yard
and other structures. Also seen on the model is the office of the cotton buyer, a man named Vinton.

Moving on toward "downtown" Rockdale, one sees both the passenger and freight depot of the IGN Railroad. The town was thriving. Persons looking for a residence, temporary or permanent, might select from...

  • the Larue (formerly Wolf) Hotel
  • Mrs. Queen's Room & Board
  • Wilson's Boarding House
  • or the Hale Hotel

Those wanting to eat had a broad choice, including...

  • Scheihing's Restaurant
  • Carrol Robison's Hamburgers
  • Albrecht's Hamburger Shop
  • Owl Cafe (Mr. Landis)
  • Peveto's Restaurant
  • Mrosko's Cafe
  • Elite Cafe (Ryan & Vogel)
  • Dad Griffith's Cafe

If there was a sweet tooth to be satisfied, there was also a broad choice...

  • Bob Reagan's Confectionery*
  • Hill's Confectionery* & Book Store
  • Stein's Bakery
  • Henning Root Beer & Gas Station.

*A place where confections, ice cream and cakes are made or sold; a candy shop.
Those persons needing or wanting to purchase groceries could go to...
  • Cannon's Grocery
  • Ray Ead's Grocery
  • Noack's Grocery
  • Marshall's Meat Market
  • Backhaus Brothers Grocery
  • R.L. Orr's Meat Market
  • H&L Hudson Grocery
  • Jim Hamilton's Meat Market

And the model shows stores and services of other varieties. I noted with pleasure Dora Poole's Millinery* (my maternal grandmother), and Estell's Tin Shop (my paternal grandfather).


*The business of making, trimming or selling women's hats.
There was...
  • Ousley's Variety
  • Cone's Dry Goods
  • Perry & Quebe Drug Store
  • Lowenstein's Merchandise
  • Pruett's Feed Lot
  • Coffield Hardware
  • Henne & Meyer Hardware
  • Baldridge Brothers Drug Store
  • Stricker's
  • T.B. Kemp Insurance
  • City Panatorium*
  • McCawley's Saloon

*Have been unable to find a definition for "panatorium", but did find a description of another turn-of-the-century business which describes "The City Panatorium" as a "...cleaning and dying establishment....where garments are cleaned, pressed, repaired, and dyed and a specialty is made of dry cleaning...."
Rockdale was progressive, with...
  • a newspaper, The Rockdale Reporter
  • a Masonic Lodge
  • Dr. I.P. Sessions
  • Dr. T.S. Barkley
  • at least one dentist and one lawyer

Rockdale had two banks, Rockdale State Bank and Citizens Bank. There were other amenities...

  • B. Regenbrecht, Jeweler
  • Moultrie's Blacksmith Shop
  • Phillips & Luckey, undertakers
  • Gaither Motor Company
  • Texas Power & Light
  • W.E. White Dry Goods
  • Scarborough & Hicks
  • Louie Gest Chevrolet
  • B. Ashby Gas Station
  • Schubert's Shop & Shoe Repair
  • Franklin's Filling Station
  • Strelsky's Gas Station
  • W.P. Henry's Garage

Reflecting on these years and on all the years between, we should remember most of all that this was a town filled with hope and promise and compassion -- a town filled with people, some of whom would remain in this central Texas location and some (such as George Sessions Perry) whose influence would span the world and future generations. The model is a treasure beyond words, a pleasure to view, and perhaps most of all -- a gentle reminder of who we are and from whence we came.



Below is the list of buildings on Nolan Bland's model, as prepared by Peggy (Skinner) Wright. At one time, the buildings were numbered to correspond to this list.

  1. IGN Railroad Depot (R) Passengers (B) Freight
  2. Cannon's Grocery ~ Peveto's Restaurant
  3. Mrs. Queen's Room & Board
  4. Ousley's Variety Store
  5. Cone's Dry Goods
  6. Scheihing's Restaurant
  7. City Pantatorium (Dry Cleaners)
  8. Dad Griffith's Cafe
  9. Ray Eads' Grocery
  10. Carroll Robison's Hamburger Shop
  11. Rockdale State Bank (doctor, dentist, lawyer upstairs)
  12. Coffield Hardware
  13. Border State Grocery
  14. Larue Hotel (Formerly Wolf Hotel)
  15. Rockdale Furniture
  16. Albrecht's Hamburger Shop
  17. Owl Cafe (Mr. Landis)
  18. McCawley's Saloon
  19. Perry & Quebe Drug Store
  20. Loewenstein's Merchandise
  21. T.B. Ryan's Shoes
  22. Jack Pamplin's Confectionery
  23. Mrosko's Cafe
  24. Noack's Grocery
  25. Marshall's Meat Market
  26. Stein's Bakery
  27. Backhaus' Brothers Grocery
  28. H & L Hudson's Grocery
  29. W.P. Henry's Garage
  30. Henry Barnhouse Home
  31. Colored Barber Shop
  32. Moultrie Blacksmith
  33. Pruett's Feed Lot & Livery
  34. Menn's Monument Works
  35. Estelle's Tin Shop ~ Woodmen's Lodge ~ JP Hillyer
  36. Preston Perry (vacant lot)
  37. Harness Shop
  38. Billy Richard's Garage
  39. Moses' Livery Stable (rear)
  40. T.B. Kemp Insurance
  41. Henne & Meyer Hardware
  42. Phillips & Luckey Undertakers (upstairs)
  43. Furniture Store
  44. Dixie Theater (C.W.Matson)
  45. Citizen's State Bank ~ Southwestern Bell (upstairs)
  46. Elite Cafe (Ryan & Vogel)
  47. Strelsky's Gas Station
  48. Gaither Motor Co.
  49. Texas Power & Light
  50. Wilson's Boarding House
  51. R.L. Orr's Meat Market
  52. W.E. White Dry Goods
  53. Baldridge Bros. Drug Store ~ B. Regenbrecht, Jewelers ~ (doctor & dentist offices upstairs)
  54. Arch Holley Barber Shop
  55. Hill's Confectionery & Books
  56. Scarbrough & Hicks Co.
  57. First National Bank
  58. Horton's Barber Shop
  59. Bob Reagan's Confectionery
  60. Dora Poole's Hat & Dress Shop
  61. Schubert's Shop & Shoe Repair
  62. Jim Hamilton's Meat Market
  63. Stricker's Variety Store
  64. Rockdale Reporter (downstairs) ~ Masonic Lodge (upstairs)
  65. Rockdale Post Office
  66. Franklin's Filling Station
  67. Louis Gest Chevrolet
  68. B. Ashby Gas Station
  69. Claude Ashby Pool Hall
  70. Moultrie Blacksmith
  71. Hale Hotel
  72. Rockdale City Jail ~ Backhaus Bros. chicken pens
  73. Clyde Rhodes & Tony Allen Machine Shop
  74. Will Scheihing Home
  75. Sour Lake Machine Shop
  76. Grocery Warehouse
  77. Wm. Cameron Lumber Yard & Cabinet Shop
  78. Farmer's Union Gin
  79. Blackburn's Electric Gin
  80. Blacksmith Shop
  81. Texaco/Gaither Whse.
  82. Machine Shop
  83. Railroad section houses
  84. Henning Root Beer
  85. Vinton Cotton Buyer
  86. Seed House
  87. Stockyards (for shipping cattle)
  88. Lumber Yard
  89. Warehouse
  90. Mine Payroll Office
  91. Williams' Grocery
  92. Farmer's Union Store & Warehouse
  93. Cotton Platform
  94. Cotton Sample Room
  95. Cotton Bagging and Tie
  96. Gulf Oil
  97. Cotton Oil Mill Garage
  98. Cotton Oil Mill Scales
  99. Cotton Oil Mill
  100. Ice House
  101. Swimming Pool
  102. Railroad Houses.
  103. Railroad Well
  104. Railroad Motor Car House
  105. Railroad Water Tower
  106. Sinclair Oil (Palmer's)
  107. City Water Tower (first)
  108. SA&AP Railroad
  109. Water Fountain ~ middle of street
  110. Turner Lumber Yard
  111. Crittenden Home
  112. Fred Palmer Home
  113. Rockdale Bottling Works
  114. Leo Harris Store ~ Catchings Barber Shop ~ Henke Dry Goods ~ E.A. Camp Office (upstairs)
  115. T. Raymond Dry Goods
  116. Perry Building
  117. Kestenbaum Garage
  118. Maxie's Sweet Shop & Theater

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

1905 :: Death of Nathan Oakey Letcher


Nathan Oakey Letcher, whose home was at 183 Live Oak street, this city, died in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 20. The remains arrived in Dallas last night and will be interred today in Oakland Cemetery. He was a son of the late Dr. J.S. Letcher, was born in Milam, Tex., and had lived in Dallas for many years, being a graduate of the Dallas High School. He was assistant cashier in the National Bank of Dallas when only 22 years old, and when that bank consolidated with the National Exchange Bank he became connected with the latter institution. Because of the confinement and his poor health he abandoned the banking business several years ago. A widow and his mother survive him. Dallas Morning News, May 22, 1905

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

1914 :: Rockdale Public Schools


Rockdale, Tex., May 15. -- The Rockdale public schools will close May 29, the graduating exercises being held on that night at the opera house. There are fourteen graduates, as follows: Misses Catherine Sanford, Ester Jenness, Florence Dunnington, Louise Brodnax, Lucile Poole, Lorene Harris, Minnie Hamilton, Mollie Stein, Pearl Woody and Olive Branch; Messrs. Jamie Wallis, Will Norris Hale, Homer Turner and Edgar Lingert. The annual class address will be delivered on that occasion by Dr. Frank Steay of Southwestern University. The baccalaureate sermon will be preached at the Presbyterian Church on Sunday, May 24, at 11 a.m. by Rev. E.G. Cook. Dallas Morning News, May 16, 1914

Saturday, May 12, 2012

1901 :: Pioneer Woman Dead


Mrs. J.A. Marks died yesterday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock at 29 Polk street, Oak Cliff, aged 83 years. She was born at Owensboro, Ky., and came to Dallas County in 1872, sugsequently residing for several years at Rockdale. She had lived at Oak Cliff thirteen years. Two sons and one daughter survive her -- D.E. Marks of Calvert and M.B. Marks and Mrs. W.E. Werner of Oak Cliff. Dallas Morning News, May 11, 1901

Mrs. J. A. Marks, one of Texas' pioneer women, died Friday afternoon at 21 Polk avenue, Oak Cliff. She was born in Owenboro, Ky., in 1818 and came to Dallas county in 1872. She lived at Rockdale several years and had been living in Oak Cliff thirteen years. She leaves two sons, M.B. Marks, of Oak Cliff, and D.E. Marks of Calvert, and a daughter, Mrs. W.E. Werner, of Oak Cliff. Dallas Daily Times Herald, May 12, 1901

Friday, May 4, 2012

1899 :: News from Rockdale


Rockdale Messenger, May 4, 1899. B. Loewenstein, A. Wolf and Gus Backhaus went to Austin to attend the meeting of the grand lodge of the Sons of Hermann. . . . J.B. Hamilton, Joe Loewenstein, Jr. and C.K. Stribling left Tuesday for Paris, Texas, where they will attend the State Fireman’s convention as representatives of the Rockdale fire dept.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

1942 :: Death of Dan G. Davis


Dallas Morning News, May 1, 1942. Prominent Merchant Found Fatally Shot. Cameron, Texas, April 30 (AP). -- Dan G. Davis, 54, prominent Milam County merchant, was found shot to death at the Dan G. Davis estate store at Sharp, near here, Thursday. Justice of the Peace Joe Cummings returned an inquest verdict of suicide. His brother, Judd Davis, his associate in business, and Otto Klem, employee of the store, found the body.

Davis was a native of Sharp, the son of a pioneer family. He was married six weeks ago to Mrs. Josie Quebe of Rockdale and had resided at Rockdale since that time. Surviving are his wife, his 92-year-old mother, Mrs. Dan G. Davis of Sharp; two brothers, Judd G. of Cameron and Will of Sharp, and two sisters, Mrs. B.F. Davis of Dallas and Mrs. T.M. Pace of Grandview. [his Find-A-Grave memorial page]