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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

1922 :: Plans for a School Reunion

Rockdale, Tex., June 11. -- When the new $75,000 high school building now under course of construction is completed and turned over to the trustees Aug. 1, and before the old building, which, it is proposed to turn over to the negro schools, is demolished, it is planned to have a general reunion of all the ex-students, teachers and trustees of the Rockdale public schools since organization, 1884, holding a two days celebration upon the campus.

At a recent meeting of the Parent-Teachers' Association the plan was presented by Ira Perry, formerly a student of this school, but now a resident of San Antonio. C.R. Stribling, president of the Citizens' State Bank, was named as general chairman of arrangements.

Among other attractions of the reunion will be speeches and talks from the ex-students, many of whom have attained distinction in public life since leaving the walls of their alma mater, some of whom are: J.L. Lockett, attorney of Fort Worth; H.W. Wallace, attorney of Cuero; F.A. Wallace, attorney of Cameron; Dr. S.S. Woody, physician of Philadelphia; E.H. Perry of Austin, prominent cotton factor; J. Earls Longmoor, vice president of Drovers National Bank, Kansas City; Leon Rasberry, attorney of Washington County; Charles L. Baxter, wholesale lumber dealer of Chicago; Dr. Thomas D. Baxter, physician of Chilton; Miss Gleanie Wilson, now Mrs. W.T. Corby, teacher of Calvert; Miss Fannie Stribling, wife of W.A. Morrison, lawyer of Cameron; Miss Lena Wright, wife of A.C. Walker, physician of Fort Worth; Miss Gussie Rowlett, well-known instructor of Arkansas, and others. The Galveston Daily News, Monday, June 12, 1922

Saturday, June 9, 2012

1910 :: Judge E.Y. Terral Dead

Dallas Morning News. June 9, 1910. Judge E.Y. Terral Dead. Cameron, Tex., June 8. -- Judge E.Y. Terral died at his residence here last night after a protracted illness. He was about 70 years old and a native of Mississippi. He belonged to Company F. Sixteenth Mississippi, and performed service in the Confederacy. He was a man of positive convicitions and a Democrat of the old "Hickory Jackson" type. He served as County Commissioner several years, and was County Judge from 1886 to 1892. He had a brother who was a member of the Supreme Court of Mississippi at the time of his death. Funeral and burial were observed at the Slocomb graveyard, near town, this afternoon. Judge Terral was a member of the Primitive Baptist Church.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

1888 :: Rockdale Enshrouded with a Mantel of Gloom

Galveston Daily News, June 6, 1888. Rockdale -- The work of desolation and death closes over one of the most peaceful and prosperous little towns in Texas, enshrouding it with a mantel of gloom too impenetrable for a stranger living beyond its borders to be able, however sympathetic, to even faintly appreciate. 

The loss of property, the earnings of years of hard work and close application falls heavy upon poor men, reduced late in life to begin the struggle new. But such considerations pale into absolute insignificance when contrasted with the appalling loss of life, wrought in a few brief moments in so awful a manner.

As has been stated, the Mundine hotel was a three-story brick structure about 60 x 80 feet in size, fronting on the south the International and Great Northern railroad, and on the east Main street, which is 100 feet wide.

The hotel was a perfect mass of windows with a veranda running its entire length on the south and east sides of the second story and a veranda in the third story, connected with halls running to the south and east sides. In addition to these there was another gallery at the extreme west side of the second story of the building, with steps leading to the ground. 

In the extreme southwest corner of the second story, opening on galleries both south and west, were the rooms occupied by Dr. W.A. Brooks, wife and four children

Next east of them on the same floor, opening on the south gallery, was the room occupied by J.F. Briscoe, wife and two children, next to which ran a cross hall, also leading to the south gallery. 

Still east, across the hall mentioned, was the room occupied by Pemberton Pierce and next, in the extreme southeast corner of the same floor was the room of Mr. Oldham, while directly above the latter, in the third story, was the room of Isaac Crown.

It almost surpasses human conception that in a building with such numerous avenues of egress that of thirteen people only two should have escaped. The only rational theory advanced is that the fire originated about the staircase in the first story, and a comparatively small space being open to the top of the house operated as a flue, filling the house with a volume of smoke so dense that the inmates were only awakened to suffer almost instant suffocation.

Little air was stirring during the course of the fire, in consequence of which there was no cause to prevent the entire house rapidly filling with smoke. Still it would seem that more than two should have escaped.

Before anyone was aroused or an alarm given the entire first story must have been a seething mass of flames, for in three minutes after Mr. Oldham, who gave the first alarm and descended by one of the upright supports of the south gallery had reached the ground flames burst forth from his room.

It is, alas! Too late to consider what might have been done had certain precautions been taken, but this town having enjoyed immunity from fires for many years perhaps engendered a feeling of security leading to some carelessness, not in the hotel management alone, but the citizens at large, which sooner or later was likely to lead to disaster. And how terrible has it fallen!

Messrs. Scarborough & Hicks have received the following telegram -- Philadelphia, Pa., June 4 – See best undertaker and express body of Mr. Pierce in best shape possible to David Schuyler & Son, undertakers, Philadelphia. Express his effects to 904 Cherry street. George H. Ziegler.

Dr. W. A. Brooks, who was rescued while struggling to regain his family, is not seriously burned or injured, but is of course, terribly prostrated by the loss of his wife and four children. He says that when he was awakened the room was full of smoke, that he rose quickly and reached a window, which he raised, by means of which he obtained a little fresh air and then went back for his family, groping in dense smoke. While doing this he heard the window fall, returned to it and smashed it with his fist and arm, was grabbed by someone and forcibly removed; after which his mind is clouded until he found himself in safety, just beginning to realize his awful loss.

To undertake to mention the names of any who signalized themselves by daring flames and smoke in their efforts to save life would be wrong, as the writer could not name them all. Suffice it to say that no means were left untried and, He who notes the humblest sparrow’s fall will bless the manly bravery and humane efforts of those who in these feeble lines are nameless.

Disposition of Bodies. With every tender care possible the remains of the Brooks and Briscoe families, as near as they could be identified, charred and broken as they were, were placed in two separate coffins and interred in the Odd Fellows cemetery after funeral services at the Baptist church, under the auspices of the Odd Fellows and Knights and Ladies of Honor. The services were attended by almost the entire population of Rockdale.

The remains of Isaac Crown were also buried last yesterday afternoon in the Jewish cemetery, under the auspices of the Masonic fraternity.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

1888 :: Eleven Persons Perish in Fire

Dallas Morning News, June 5, 1888. Most Horrible Holocaust. Eleven Persons Burned to Death. The Leading Hotel in Rockdale Consumed by Fire -- Men, Women and Little Children Devoured by the Flames. 

Rockdale, Tex., June 4 – Rockdale was stricken this morning [the 4th] at a little after 3 o’clock with fire and holocaust so appalling and heartrending that language is inadequate to describe the scene.

At the time stated the town was aroused by cries of fire and the rapid discharge of firearms. The fire was discovered about the staircase in the office of the three story brick building known as the Mundine hotel. So terrible and rapid was the work of the flames that out of thirteen persons known to have been in the hotel eleven perished. Those known to have been lost are:

  • Mrs. W.A. Brooks, wife of the proprietor of the hotel, and her four sons, aged about 4, 6, 9 and 15 years respectively.
  • J.F. Briscoe, wife and two little children.
  • Isaac Crown.
  • A traveling salesman, supposed from papers found to be named Pemberton Pierce. He was representing Geo. Zeigler, of Philadelphia, but the hotel register being lost there is nothing more to identify by.

Mr. D.M. Oldham, representing F. Cannon & Co. of Galveston, escaped without injury, and Dr. W.A. Brooks, proprietor, was pulled by main force out of the room occupied by his family, he having reached the door but resisting every effort to be saved before his wife and children. He was carried down the rear staircase.

Mr. D.M. Oldham, who occupied an extreme southeast room in the second story, says he was awakened by a roaring, cracking sound, thinking that a storm had arisen and was blowing the doors and window blinds about, but he soon detected smoke in his room, arose, went to the door and opened it only wide enough to see the flames in the hall. 

Hastily closing the door, he went to the window, threw his clothing out on the wide veranda which surrounds the south and east side of the second story, and from there to the ground, he then followed by sliding down one of the supports of the veranda. 

Almost immediately after reaching the ground he saw the party supposed to be Pemberton Pierce rush out on the veranda all aflame and leap to the ground, striking on his head and killing himself instantly. 

Thus have perished two most estimable families, one of Rockdale’s promising young businessmen, Isaac Crown, and a stranger whose sad fate will startle and grieve those to whom he was dear.

J.F. Briscoe was for many years a barber at this place, thoroughly respected by everyone, and who by thrift and industry had risen to independence. He recently sold out his business here and opened one in the same line at Taylor, married to a young and beautiful woman who with her two little children had stopped over here, being en route to her girlhood’s home in Indiana. She was joined by her husband, who came in on the 11:30 train last night, only to share with his loved ones a horrible death. 

Mrs. Brooks, who has been identified with all that is good of Rockdale since its construction, was well and widely known by the traveling public, her husband and she always having kept the principal hotel.
Dr. Brooks is entirely dazed, crushed at heart and badly injured, but whether fatally or not cannot be determined, but it is thought he may recover.

Isaac Crown, the junior partner of the firm of I. Baum & Co., was about 30 years of age and unmarried. No citizen held a higher place in the esteem and confidence of all than did this young man.

The origin of the fire is yet conjectural. The hotel building was occupied on the first floor by the United States postoffice and the firm of T.B. Kemp & Co., general merchants, and from neither could anything be saved except such valuables as were contained in fire-proof safes. 

Adjoining the hotel on the north was a one-story brick building, owned by J.S. Perry and occupied by J.R. Rowland for the storage of general merchandise, whose main stock was kept in the building adjoining still on the north. The first-named building was entirely consumed with its contents, and the last named is nearly destroyed, with the goods badly damaged. 

Here the course of the fire was checked by the heroic efforts of the citizens, who worked with unceasing and fearless energy, unaided by organization of any kind and no conveniences for obtaining water. All business here is entirely suspended, and a gloom has been cast over Rockdale which cannot be removed for many a day.

See also . . .

1997 :: Homecoming's Deep Roots

Rockdale Reporter, Thursday, June 5, 1997. Homecoming's Deep Roots Traced to '33-'34 Gatherings

Rockdale's annual homecoming . . . has some mighty deep roots. Franklin D. Roosevelt had been in office less than three months and not too many people outside Germany had even heard of a fellow named Hitler when the Rockdale Home Coming (that's the way it was chartered) Association was formed on a sunny Sunday in 1933. . . .

Rockdale's annual homecomings are the brainchild of Ira Perry, a rancher and former Rockdale resident who settled in the Pipe Creek area of Bandera County but never lost contact with Milam County. Under Perry's guidance, a small group gathered at Fair Park in June 1933, for the first homecoming.

They elected officers and planned a 'full-fledged' homecoming the next year. That's the meeting where it was decided to hold the annual homecoming on the second Sunday of June. Marion Burck Smith of Austin was named the first association president with Mrs. C.M. Sessions of Rockdale vice-president, Perry as secretary, and Mrs. D.H. Sanford of Rockdale and Mrs. W.A. Morrison of Cameron as historians.

The Rockdale Reporter termed the 1933 gathering "a rather impromptu affair" but had praise for Perry. "The fact that he was named to the key position of the organization is a guarantee that the next annual meeting will be largely attended," John Esten Cooke, Reporter editor, wrote.

FIRST TRAIN. Rockdale roots don't come much deeper than those of Mrs. Smith, first homecoming association president. She was the daughter of A.A. Burck, Rockdale's first mayor. Burck brought his family to Rockdale on the first International & Great Northern (I&GN) train that chugged into the new town in 1874. Rockdale's official founding is traced to that year, when the bustling new community was the railroad's western terminus.

Mayor E.A. Camp called the first homecoming to order and delivered a speech. "An hour or two was then spent in general conversation and the relating of reminiscences of the 'good old days.' Miss Polly Smith of Austin, the attractive daughter of the president, and an expert photographer, took several pictures of the group." In addition to Rockdale, Cameron, Austin and Pipe Creek, the first homecoming drew participants from Dallas, Rocksprings, Taylor, Palestine, San Antonio, Bastrop and Houston.

MOMENTUM. Perry began the next day to seek addresses of "all former Rockdale citizens" for the next event. Having decided to hold each reunion on the second Sunday in June, the new association used an interesting 1934 calendar and scheduled the next homecoming for June 3.

Nevertheless, over 60 persons participated including E.H. and W.A. Richardson of Dallas, sons of Rockdale's first lumber dealer, and C.G. Green of Hamlin, Rockdale school superintendent for almost two decades. City Secretary Branch Lewis, R.L. Orr and Mayor Camp helped organize the meeting. 

Names of those attending form almost a litany of Rockdale history and include Marrs, Isaacs, Sessions, Baxter, Phillips, Bullock, Williams, Baggerly, Mundine, Porter, Henry, York, Wallace and, as the Reporter noted, "probably others who failed to register."

The 1933 and 1934 meetings provided the momentum for all future homecomings. . . .

Monday, June 4, 2012

1888 :: Gloom at Taylor

Gloom at Taylor. Taylor, Tex., June 4. -- The news of the burning of the Mundine Hotel this morning at 4 a.m. cast a gloom over this city, as all parties are well-known, three of them being here Sunday and left for Rockdale at 10 p.m. Frank Briscoe, who is in business here, left at 10 p.m. for Rockdale to move his family here. He and wife and two children are among the victims. P. Pierce, a drummer and noted as a composer of music, attended church twice here yesterday. He represented Ziegler & Co. of Philadelphia, and got several large orders for goods. A number of Taylor citizens have gone to Rockdale and several leave to-night to render all assistance possible. Dallas Morning News, June 5, 1888

Friday, June 1, 2012

You can go home again!

You can go home again! 
by Dr. Lucile Estell

My Hometown . . . When I return . . . the main street still is filled with pleasant faces and glad hellos . . . with an atmosphere of calm . . . with time for neighborly concern . . . with joy in sharing another's fortune . . . or heartfelt words to one who mourns. . . . Hometown is more than just a town . . . it is a way of life, a place of peace and quiet . . . and when I return it is as if I have never been gone . . . and in my heart I have not. . . . by Craig E. Sathoff

Some learned person once wrote "you can't go home again." That's a saying I've heard all my life. I'm not sure I agree with it.

Rather, I believe that a desire to return home, go back to your roots is a desire that most of us feel at some time. The feeling intensifies around this time of year as Rockdale, like many other communities all over Texas, approaches its annual homecoming celebration.

I had an occasion this past week to step backward about 50 years to a place which was my home for two years.

As I turned down a familiar street, past familiar structures -- yes, a school was there -- I slipped into the evening of my memory and there once again saw familiar faces, young and enthusiastic, eager to learn.

I saw the smiles of the human landscape, the people who then composed the fabric of my life. I recalled so many names, Robert, Peggy, Juan, Andrea, so many others, and for a few special moments I was there again.

These memories are a part of my life, a part of what makes me who I am, a part of the fabric of my life.
As we approach this homecoming in Rockdale, I hope that you can take the time to go back in your memory and think of the people and events which have made Rockdale great.

  • Go down to the old depot and remember the days when it was an active place. Hear the hustle and bustle as the trains come and go.
  • Walk north on Main Street from the depot and perhaps you'll see Dr. Barkley walking toward his office.
  • You may see the activity of stores opening at Vogel's or Stricker's.
  • Look across Cameron Avenue and see what's playing at the Dixie Theatre.
  • Move on down Ackerman Street and see (in your memory only) the old Lockett home, residence for many years of Mrs. Sledge who wielded such a powerful influence over so many young people as she taught them piano.
  • Look toward Main Street and you will still see standing the garage of Buck Henry, who for so many years epitomized the values which are Rockdale.

Think of those many friends who are no longer with us and remember the part they played in weaving the fabric of your life.

If the things that you see, and the emotions that you feel, make you happy, bring these with you to the annual homecoming on the 2nd Sunday in June.
What you bring with you will combine with what others bring and assure that we will have the best homecoming ever.

You can go home again. 

Rockdale Reporter, Thursday, June 1, 2000