Island School Picnic|
Photo courtesy Nesbitt Memorial Library #01408
in a Pecan Shell
town had been named Crasco after the nearby creek in the early 1890s but was renamed
Rock Island in 1897 after the former home of a newly arrived settler. The name
is said to have been the brainchild of Charles Petersen, an area landowner who
became the town's first postmaster under the new name.
intent on outselling each other recruited land-buyers from Illinois, Iowa and
Missouri and promised a "tropical paradise" near the Gulf of Mexico. Between their
recruitment trips and newspaper ads a substantial number of investors sold their
nothern farms to buy the cheaper Texas acreage. A good many of the new settlers
felt duped when they arrived, but they stuck it out and within a few years they
were making a go of it.
S. Lundy's Store Interior in Rock Island|
Photo courtesy Nesbitt Memorial Library
town was prosperous enough to have its first bank robbery in 1902 when robbers
blew the door off the safe of Mr. Lundy's bank. Lundy, who had his finger in many
pies - including the store below - sold the bank to the "new" Rock Island Bank
in 1908. |
The influx of northerners (and their out-of-state money) helped
Rock Island prosper and gave it the nickname "The Northern City on the Gulf Coast."
Sixteen northern families moved here by 1904 and together with a few local residents
they made up a population of 367. The Hallettsville
Herald saw fit to mention the town's prosperity in one of their issues.
Bell's 70 Acre Cabbage Farm Raised by J. G. Adams|
Photo courtesy Nesbitt Memorial
production was just getting started and 160 acres were sold to Japanese investors.
somewhat exotic figs, more familiar crops of potatoes and cabbage were planted
and Rock Island had between 150-200 acres of land devoted exclusively to strawberries.
This agricultural success had two effects - first, it brought in new settlers
and secondly, it raised land prices. In 1906 one 160-acre farm was sold for the
then unheard-of price of $37 an acre. A creamery opened that same year and was
soon producing 300-400 pounds of butter per day.
Mr. Sherman was hired by partners Frazee and Green to make candied figs, marmalade
and fig mincemeat around 1915 and in 1917 plans were made for a 10,000 bushel
potato curing house.
Peanut Patch of Frank Vachon |
1911 postcard courtesy Betty L Case
Island Downtown 1918 or earlier|
Photo courtesy Nesbitt Memorial Library #01392
were Rock Island's golden years and the prosperity lasted up until the U.S. entrance
into World War I. After the war, mechanized farming methods and larger single-crop
(rice) operations caused the population to move away. With the decreased population
the stores lost their customer base and started closing. |
Rock Island reached
a high-water mark in 1925 with a population of 500.
old store in Rock Island|
Photo by John Troesser, February 2006
old store in Rock Island, and the old and new watertowers.|
Photos by John
Troesser, February 2006
the 1960s Rock Island suffered several fires that left large gaps in the former
downtown. At first glance Rock Island doesn't look all that different from neighboring
Sheridan, Texas, but Rock Island has been designated
a ghost town and is included in T. Lindsay Baker's More Ghost Towns of Texas.|
the mid-1980s the population of Rock Island had declined to 160 - the same estimate
used on the 2004 highway map. The town's only cemetery is the Myrtle Cemetery
which sits just south of town on FM 1693.
John Troesser, June 14, 2006
Colorado County Chronicles,
Volume One, The Colorado County Historical Commission, The Handbook of Texas Online,
The Nesbitt Memorial Library Photo Collection
Ghost Towns of Texas||