Milam County, Texas - Rockdale History

The city of Rockdale was formed in the post oak country of Milam County in 1874, shortly after the International and Great Northern Railroad officials came into the area with engineers formulating plans to extend the line from the terminus in Hearne on to Austin.

Three men, George Green, B. F. Ackerman, and Frank Smith of Cameron, together with a group of settlers, sold to the railroad officials 400 acres of land on which to lay off a town. This town, later to be named Rockdale, served as the terminus for the I&GN Railroad for two years.

On Sept. 3, 1873, there was a sale of lots when prospective buyers came from cities and towns around the country. The highest price paid was by I. Jalonick of Galveston, who paid $400 for a lot on which he later erected a two-story stone building for a bank at the corner of Main & Milam streets.

E. M. Scarbrough of the firm of H. P. Hale and Co. of Bryan, Station, and Hearne, paid $150 for a lot on which he later erected a two-story wooden structure to be used as a grocery store. Scarbrough who later became one of the states best known merchants, was a partner in the original firm of Scarbrough & Hicks Co. in Rockdale. A store in Austin still bears his name.

The bank and the Grocery were the only buildings left after a fire destroyed Rockdale's business district in 1876.

The first unofficial passenger train left Hearne for Rockdale on Feb. 4, 1874, loaded with people from all walks of life. It was on this day that the town of Rockdale was named and founded.

Historians attribute the naming of the town of Rockdale to Mrs. B. F. Ackerman whose husband was one of the original sellers of land to the railroad. On Feb. 4, 1874 as she was traveling from her home on Little River near Cameron to the new town, she was attracted by a large rock on a sandy prairie two miles north of the townsite. At the new railroad station she noticed the hills around the site. This associated with the rock, suggested the name Rockdale, which she offered to the railroad.

Here is an alternate version of the naming related by W. H. (Bill) Cooke Sr., that sounds more plausible to me.

On Feb. 4, 1874, two relatively unknown people rode their horses in to the new townsite to see the train come in. They were none other than Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Roy was riding his famous horse, Trigger, and Dale was riding a high-spirited horse with the unlikely name of Hammer. Now Hammer didn't like the crowd, and even less he liked the sound of the old steam locomotive as it approached the crowd on the newly-laid rails.

As the engine eased to a stop, one lone rock from the train ballast became dislodged, and started rolling directly towards Dale's frisky horse. Roy Rogers, fearful that Hammer might jump and unseat Dale, quickly yelled, "Look out for that rock, Dale!"

Mrs. Ackerman who had been sitting nearby trying desperately to come up with a name for the new town, jumped up and said, "That's it! That's the name I've been searching for: Rock-Dale!" Officials grabbed the idea and the town was named Rock-Dale. Through the years the hyphenated name became too cumbersome and the single word "Rockdale" emerged.

Since that day in 1874, the town of Rockdale has grown to its current estimated population of near 6000. the population has more than doubled since the Aluminum Company of America built its huge smelting plant here in 1951. The plant makes use of the large local deposits of lignite as a fuel for its great steam generating plant, generating the large amounts of electricity used in the aluminum smelting process.

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Created on 15 Feb 2001 and last revised on 2 Dec 2006

Copyright 2001,2002,2003,2004,2005,2006,2007 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.

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