Milam County Texas Archives
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  Contributed by: Milam County Genealogical Society

Community Facilities
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(Researched by Sharon Hodges)

The Chamber of Commerce was organized for the purpose of advancing the commercial, industria1, civic and general interests of the City of Rockdale and its trade area. The Chambet of Commerce in Rockdale commenced with the issuance of a charter on July 18, 1952. The new organization grew out of the Young Men's Business League.

Since that date twenty-one years ago, the local Chamber has served as a clearing house for community projects, problems and ideas, and as an information bureau for visitors and residents. Along with regular and continuous services, the Chamber has initiated and executed many special activities and projects for the community.

Throughout its existence the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce has had seventeen men serve as president: J. B. Newton, T. B. Ryan, George Bredt, J. R. Yeager, E. S. Dillen, T. L. Austin Jr., S. P. Peebles Jr., R. R. Sugg, H. D. Maxwell, Clyde Franklin, J. W. Cooke, G.K. Worley, J. R. Goley Jr., Glenn Hodges, Preston Perry, Harold Love and Curtis Gould. The first slate of of ficers and directors, who served from 1952 to 1953, were the following: J. B. Newton, President; W. H. Cooke, Vice-President; T. B. Ryan, Treasurer; J. B. Newton, W. H. Cooke, E. S. Dillen, Alex McLeod, A. A. Goehler, Louis Gest, R. E. Fritz, T. B. Ryan, John M. Weed Sr., directors; and Robert Greenwald, full-time manager.

During the first eighteen months of permanent operation, the Chamber of Commerce busied itself with numerous community projects. Chief among those was the marking of streets and the numbering of houses for the city of Rockdale. Other projects were the 1952 and 1953 Milam County Livestock Shows, the Christmas celebrations, the solicitation control ordinance, the city street guides, the city directory and library promotion.

Since its inception in 1952 the Rockdale Chamber has worked on many many projects. Only a few of these projects will be reviewed here. During 1954-1955 one of Chamber's top priority projects was the brochure "This Is Rockdale, Texas," a twenty-four page publication which introduced the city The fulfillment of a promotional activity was the official opening of the Rockdale public library. (3ther activities promoted were the National Softball Congress State Tourney, a business-education day for high school seniors, and a promotional circular entitled "Here's How From Rockdale, Texas" on street marking.

From 1956 to 1963 the Chamber of Commerce sponsored such activities as the annual Christmas party, the Fourth of July celebration, the Junior Livestock Show, an annual barbecue, an industrial workshop, a farm clinic for melon growers, Frontier Days in June, trade promotions like Shoppertunity Days, and the Rockdale booth at the Heart O' Texas Fair displaying local industry. Chamber organized a United Fund for South Milam County supported the Rockdale Men's Basketball League and a summer recreation program called Junior Olympics; erected a street banner showing "Watermelon Center"; conducted an industrial conference; and proposed a golf course and countq club.

During the past ten years the Chamber of Commerce gave financial assistance to the Black Jack community for telephones; sponsored a dinner for Congressman W. R. Poage; organized the New York Mets tryout camp in Rockdale; sponsored a float which advertised Rockdale at numerous parades throughout Central Texas; purchased Christmas decorations in 1968 which presented a golden Christmas for the city; cooperated with the Texas Tourist Council for tourism; sponsored a youth rodeo; and held a Flea Market at Fair Park on the first Saturday of each month.

The Rockdale Chamber of Commerce continues to serve the needs of Rockdale and outlying communities and strives to maintain the image envisioned by its founders: "Chamber of Commerce kindled the spark that later grew into a flame of constructive effort; public sentiment fell in line and finally the job was done."

(Researched by Clty Hall Office Force)

The Rockdale City Hall was built in 1895 during the time that B. A. Coffield was mayor; J. G. Brown, O. A. Bowen, Lee Wallace, and E. L. Rasberry as councilmen, E. A. Wallace, City Attorney; Leonard Isaacs, secretarytreasurer; J. D. Hamilton, marshal; and J. H. Burnett, tax assessor.

At that time it was large enough to accomodate the crowds who assembled in the auditorium for social gatherings, school commencements, and political meetings. Basketball games were played upstairs.

The water, sewer, garbage, and tax collector's offce, Fire Department, Police Department and City Jail are housed on the first floor. Also, the City Secretary's and Manager's Offices are on the first floor. The Chamber of Commerce office is upstairs. The County Nurse has a room for one day a week visits and the Highway Patrol has a room, also upstairs.

The present form of government creating the offce of City Secretary and Manager was passed by ordinance, Aug. 8, 1947. The City Secretary and the Manager are appointed by the City Council.

The present Police Department organization was created May 1, 1952, at Council meeting.

The City maintains and operates the Swimming Pool and Library. It maintains three cemeteries, two parks, the Fire Department, and Ambulance Service.

There are 2.6 square miles in Rockdale.

There are 28.2 miles of sewer lines.

Rockdale has 46 miles of streets, six and one-half miles of alleys. Of the 46 miles of streets, 30 miles are paved.

The Fair Park contains approximately 30 acres.

(Researched by John Weed, Jr.)

Early records are not available to determine the actual time of the organization of the Rockdale Fire Department but it is believed to be in the mid or late 1880's. Since that time Rockdale has been protected from loss by fire by a totally volunteer department. Apparatus used by the early firemen was hand-drawn hose carts pulled to the scene of a fire. One of these carts is still stored in our fire station. In the early 1900's a horse-drawn hook and ladder wagon became the pride of the department.

Firemen were notified of a fire by the sounding of the town bell located atop a tower on the City Hall. They would then, as the old constitution stated, "Repair to the fire station and help convey the apparatus to the fire." It took a lot of pure strength and stamina to be a fireman in those days.

In 1915 the city council decided to modernize the department and negotiated the purchase of a motorized pumper. This was an American La France 350 gallons per minute combination pumper and hose wagon. Fireman took great pride in their new pumper and affectionately named it "Nancy Hanks". The pumper could not be stored in the City Hall so it was parked in the Gaither Motor Co. shop.

This pumper served Rockdale well until 1930 when the council found it necessary to augment it. They purchased a Seagrave 600 GPM pumper. This was the latest in modern pumpers capable of road speeds of up to 60 mph, and could handle three 21/2 hose lines at one time.

In the mid 1930's the City Hall was remodeled and a fire station was provided in the rear to house the apparatus and equipment. The Seagraves and "Nancy Hanks" served the town until 1950 when once again the council purchased a new 500 GPM pumper to replace the old one and "Nancy Hanks" was sold to an antique car buyer for $1.50. The Rockdale Fire Department was incorporated by a charter issued on June 13, 1936.

In the mid 1950's the fire station was remodeled and enlarged to its present size. As ALCOA caused the town to grow, it was decided in 1960 to add a new pumper to the department so another Seagraves pumper was purchased. This gave Rockdale a well- equipped department and created considerable pride among members.

The members of the department recognized the need of a rural pumper and in 1969, began fund raising campaign to purchase one. This drive was successful and a pumper was purchased in 1970. At the same time the council saw the need to replace the old Seagraves pumper and purchased a new 750 GPM American La France diesel pumper. The departmentis rural pumper replaced the 1950 pumper and it was sold to Minerva where it is in use today. Rockdale currently has one of the best equipped departments in the state for a town its size. In addition to the pumpers, the department also has a rescue truck and a boat used to search for drowning victims.

Rockdale has had its share of disastrous fires. In the early 1900's the Mundine Hotel located on the corner of Main and Milam burned and the entire Brooks family, five in number, lost their lives. This family is buried in a mass grave in the I. O. O. F. Cemetery in north Rockdale. The ground floor of the hotel was rebuilt and now houses the McVoy Grocery Co. The old Mundine Hotel sill plate is on the Main Street entrance to the store. The firemen had their most tragic fire on September 3rd, 1935 while fighting the Scarbrough & Hicks fire at the corner of Cameron and Ackerman Streets. Two firemen were manning a hose line when the front wall collapsed, burying them. They were quickly rescued, but both men lost their lives. They were W. J. Hooper and J W. Williams. A granite stone marks the occasion on the south lawn of the library grounds, site of the fire.

In the early 1940's the firemen fought a losing battle for 13 hours trying to save the Bredt & Haley Produce complex, a large group of buildings located on Milam Street. A small but tragic fire occurred in the mid 50's when four small children were burned to death in a frame house on the corner of White and Hickory Streets.

There have been many Rockdale Firemen over the years, too many to name. Each one has contributed in his own way and to mention any particular individual would unjustly affect the rest. The Rockdale Fire Department is one of the oldest continuing organizations in town yet it must be one of the newest always looking ahead.

(Written by Mrs. Laurence Warren and Mrs. Dorothy Newton)

Phillips and Luckey Company is a by-product of the Great Depression. Henne and Meyer Hardware, of which P. E. Luckey and E. B. Phillips were long-time employees, closed its doors in 1933.

Mr. Phillips was a licensed undertaker, and Mr. Luckey's avocation was carpentry. The two men formed a partnership and rented office space next to the old Henne and Meyer building. Mr. Phillips kept the office and did the embalming, and since they had no money for the purchase of coffins, Mr Luckey built them in a workshop behind his home. They survived perilous times.

They were foresighted enough to organize what became the first authorized burial association in the state of Texas. This endeavor, now reorganized as the Rockdale Life Insurance Company, still serves a large surrounding area as well as the immediate locality.

By 1935 the worst days were behind them. They moved the office to 233 Main Street and bought the Sterling house across the alley. This served as a funeral home until it burned during World War II and was replaced by the present building at 240 Burleson Street.

Perhaps the brightest spot in their corporate lives was the admission to the firm of Mr. Luckey's son, Don, and Mr. Phillip's son-in-law, Boswell Newton was a comfort to know they were leaving their once feeble business in good hands.

Because of the all-too-early deaths of both Don and Boswell, the funeral business in 1972 was sold to its present owners, Clyde Jones and Alfred Zoch who operate under the name of Phillips and Luckey, Inc.

(Researched by Mrs. Ida lo Marshalt)

Rockdale has six full-time police offficers in the city. Also employed are two dispatchers, two night watchmen, one meter maid and five extra officers for miscellaneous duties. Duties of the night watchmen are to protect municipal and business establishments in the downtown district. The~city has parking meters and traffic lights which are generally the reason for the majority of traffic arrests. Excessive speed is controlled by radar.

In addition to the above mentioned duties, the police are responsible-for twenty-four hour ambulance service in South Milam County. The City of Rockdale also furnishes emergency service. Mr. Truman White is the Chief of Police for the department.

(Researched by Mrs. Joe Wright)

Rockdale's hospital was founded in June 1949 by Dr. John T. Richards and Dr. John J. Hopper under the name of the Richards-Hopper Clinic and Hospital. Dr. Hopper was a surgeon and medical school classmate of Dr. Richards. Dr. Richards, a native of Rockdale, returned to practice in his home city in 1945. ?He attended St. Mary's University in San Antonio, then graduated from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston with his M.D. in 1939. He served in the U. S. Army's Medical Corp from 1940 to 1945 and has been in active practice in Rockdale since that time.

When Dr. Richards first returned to Rockdale to practice, many babies were still being delivered in the homes. He spent much of his time on rural house calls or en route to the nearest hospital in Cameron, Texas. Rockdale had no industry and few citizens who could support a community hospital. Dr. Richards and Dr. Hopper borrowed the necessary money to convert a large frame building located at the corner of Main and San Amlres Streets into a clinic and hospital. Dr. Hopper left the hospital in November, 1949, to take up practice in another city and the venture became the Richards Clinic & Hospital. Later, another frame building was acquired and additional patients' rooms added. A large stone-fronted reception area was added joining the two buildings. In 1964, a modern brick clinic was built. This allowed additional space in the existing buildings for patients' rooms. ur. Richards, Dr. Philip M. Young and Dr. L. E. Selden presently operate the private clinic under the name of the Rockdale Medical Association.

In 1970, local citizens formed a hosptial board of trustees with Emory C. Camp as president to plan for a community hospital. The City of Rockdale will honor Dr. Richards, who has provided hospital facilities to Rockdale and the surrounding communities for twenty-five years, by naming the hospital the Richards Memorial Hospital.

The new hospital will encompass 32,500 square feet of floor space and will be of masonry and steel construction. Of the proposed 47 beds, 37 will be private and 10 will be semi-private. The hospital is to be constructed on a 10 acre tract off Meadow Drive, just north of Peace Lutheran Church. The tract was donated to the project by Aluminum Company of America, which, through The Alcoa Foundation, also contributed S100,000 to the building campaign fund. The fund campaign, conducted during 1972, raised a total of approximately $300,000 in cash and pledges. The hospital project will be funded by a Hill-Burton grant and guaranteed loan in addition to the locallyraised contributions. The fund campaign was a community undertaking. Planning had been under way for almost three years when it was announced that the Department of Health, Education and Welfare had approved a $4S2,616 Hill-Burton federal grant and also a $1,028,000 loan guarantee to the Rockdale Hospital Authority. A contract for construction was tentatively scheduled for June 30, 1973 with specifications for the project calling for 540 working days.

(Researched by W. H. Cooke)

As Rockdale celebrates its Centennial the newspaper known as The Rockdale Reporter joins in with gusto because the newspaper is acually older than the town itself.

The official name is The Rockdale Reporter & Messenger. The newspaper is commonly referred to simply as The Rockdale Reporter but it is a consolidation of two separate newspapers, The Rockdale Messenger, established in 1873 and The Rockdale Reporter, established in 1893.

In the 1870's the old International & Great Northern Railroad was pushing westward to extend its line from Hearne, then the terminus, to Austin. In the year 1873 the railroad began selling lots in the spot that is now Rockdale, with the idea of starting a new town which would succeed Hearne as the terminus of the line.

Some time prior to this sale of lots by the railroad, The Milam County Messenger was established at Cameron by Major Wm. M. McGregor, a lawyer from Alabama, and his young nephew, James A. Muir, a Virginian. In the fall of 1873 the two men came to the nameless town of Rockdale and transferred their newspaper plant and all business interests to that place. The town was named Rockdale on Feb. 4, 1874, on the day the first train arrived. The Milam County Messenger, established in 1873, became the The Rockdale Messenger.

The Messenger was later sold by its founders to Enoch Breeding and his sister, Miss Nannie Breeding, who had come here from Louisville, Ky. Soon after adding new improved printing equipment the entire plant was destroyed by fire in March, 1877, when the entire wooden portion of Rockdale was burned. The Messenger was rebuilt.

W. M. Ferguson bought The Messenger in 1893, changing its policies from Democratic to The People's Party. In 1900 he sold The Messenger to Howard Willson who returned it to the Democratic fold. Some time after his death his wife and sons sold The Messenger to R. W. H. Kennon of The Rockdale Reporter and since that time the official name has been The Rockdale Reporter & Messenger.

J. H. G. Buck had originally founded The Rockdale Reporter in 1893. After a break in publication it was re-established by Homer D. Wade, then a youthful editor from Lexington. Wade's associate, R. W. H. Kennon, bought him out and became sole owner of The Reporter. It was Kennon who merged The Reporter and The Messenger into one newspaper which he operated until June, 1911.

It was on that date he sold the merged Reporter & Messenger to John Esten Cooke who came to Rockdale from Brady. Cooke enlarged the paper and extended its circulation, and The Rockdale Reporter & Messenger won respect in newspaper circles over the state. It soon became known as The Rockdale Reporter. The "And Messenger" became a secondary line in the mast head.

Cooke brought Rockdale its finest newspaper and editorial thoughts and it was he who coined the two phrases "Regal Rockdale" and "Matchless Milam." He also coined the phrase The Reporter still uses in telling how classified ads get results: "Reporter ads get the grapes."

John Esten Cooke assumed the duties of Rockdale Postmaster on May 13, 1936, and was succeeded by his son, W. H. Cooke, as editor and publisher of The Reporter. The elder Cooke died in 1940 shortly after receiving appointment to a second term as postmaster.

W. H. Cooke continued the pattern of excellency set by his father, John Esten Cooke, and The Reporter, which had received numerous awards in state newspaper contests under John Esten Cooke, continued to receive recognition. When J. W. Cooke received his journalism degree from North Texas State University in 1958, he returned to Rockdale to become editor of The Reporter, with his father as publisher. The Reporter made even greater strides and has been a consistent award winner in state newspaper contests.

Both W. H. Cooke and J. W. Cooke were tagged with the nickname "Bill," and in time became known as Bill Sr. and Bill Jr. The younger Cooke became a full partner with one- half interest in the business known as The Rockdale Reporter in January of 1970. The business is a 3-headed affair, comprising a weekly nespaper, an offfice supply store, and a larger commerctal pnnting division.

(Researched by Harold M. Luckey)

Rockdale is served by the Rockdale State Bank which was estab1ished in the City in 1907. Although there were three banks in the City in 1929, two were discontinued during the depression years. The Citizens State Bank became a part of the Rockdale State Bank in May, 1930, and the First National Bank was taken over by the Rockdale State Bank in February, 1932. No depos~tor lost money as a resuU of these mergers.

The Rockdale State Bank is a member of the Texas Banking Association, American Banking Association, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The Rockdale State Bank had deposits totaling $17,213,122.67 at the close of business July 31, 1973, compared to same period 1933 being S420,233.85 and July 31, 1963, S5,701,770.42.

Loans and discounts, securities, and cash on hand continued to increase during the ten- year period from 1963 to 1973. The Offficers and Directors of the Rockdale State Bank as of July 31, 1973, are:

Officers: Directors.
Harold M. Luckey, President Harold M. Luckey
William R. Vogelpohl, Vice-President W. P. Hogan
John T. Hale, Vice-President Frank C. Anderson
Glen N. Beyer, Vice-President Emory C. Camp
W A. Urban, Jr., Cashier John T. Richards, M.D
Mlss Eleanor Handrick, Ass't Cashier
Gordon E. Beard, Ass't Cashier
Charles Roepke, Ass't Cashier

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