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The Home Town You Never Had
Navarro County, North Central Texas
10 miles N of Corsicana
43 miles S of Dallas

Population 798 (2000) 564 (1990)

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Rice Texas architectural detail

TE photo

In the shadow of the Metroplex (if the sun rose in Oklahoma) lies the little town of Rice.

The town's namesake is the same William Marsh Rice that the university in Houston was named after. He was later murdered in New York City (the Valet did it). Rice came to Houston in 1837 nearly penniless and by 1860 was the second richest man in Texas. One of his major interests was railroading and when the Houston and Texas Central ran a line to Dallas, he gave the land for the town's church and cemetery.

Being this close to Dallas doesn't help Rice's economy at all. People en route to Houston don't need to stop this soon, and travelers from Houston figure they can wait. If they can't, then they'll more than likely stop at Corsicana or Ennis.

We stopped because that's what we do. We saw the water tower and the silver dome that suggested a pocket-courthouse. We weren't hungry, but we were curious.

Rice Texas street scene
The street where you eat
TE photo

"Downtown" Rice lost nearly half of its buildings in a devastating fire in 1901. What remains is a picturesque row of brick buildings with a few scattered around the immediate area. From the raised brick sidewalk on the north side, you can look over a lush Spring landscape where the other half of the main street once was.

Midway in the block is a small and charming business open only since December 1999. The darkened storefronts on either side might make it resemble a bar, but it's actually an ice-cream emporium/grill. This is The Rice City Grill. The sign mounted in the back of a truck will make sure you don't miss it.

Rice Texas - door & wrench
TE photo

The front door was propped open with a twelve-pound pipe wrench and the door's hardware had the unnecessary elegance of the early 1900s. The proprietress was a gamin-like young woman named Raina Clawson. Husband Rodney was busy in the back. At the time of our visit we thought he might've been "the hired man." People often mistake busy husbands for hired help. Even wives. Maybe he was busy looking for his wrench.

Kid eating ice cream
"The Regulars"
TE photo

As we entered, a brother-sister team was spooning vanilla ice cream into their mouths as fast as they could without getting "an ice-cream headache." As young as they were, they knew that if it's a beautiful Spring day, then Summer will be here tomorrow. We had assumed they were Clawson children, and they're certainly polite enough that anyone would want to claim them, but a later phone call to Rodney identified them as "regular customers."

If you're lamenting the passing of places like this, then stop lamenting and pay them a visit. You can show your kids what small towns were like while you remember what it was like with brick sidewalks, screen doors, and ice cream that needed to be eaten before summer.

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Visited March, 2000
© John Troesser

Anyone with stories, photos or incidents of Rice's history is invited to share them with our readers. Please contact us.

Rice, Texas Forum

  • Subject: Another Lost Limb in Rice, Texas
    I found [the story] quite interesting about the man who got his arm cut off in the cotton gin at Rice, Texas. My grandmother, Rosa Mae Fisher, also had her left arm cut off above her elbow at the same cotton gin. She was 5 years old at the time and since she was born in 1907, that would be right about 1912. She and her parents and siblings lived in Palmer at the time. - Lillian Williams (No town name provided), November 22, 2006

  • Subject: Information about Rice Texas
    I ran across your website that had some information on Rice TX and I read the article from Robert Erisman IV about a man who got his arm cut off in the cotton gin. Yes that did happen, it was my grandfather ,his name was Jack Leach, he ran the cotton gin for brothers J.B & James Fortson for over 40 years. He lived in the house on the same property. When I was a child we would play in the cotton seed barn until we would get in trouble, then back again as soon as we could. It was so much fun growing up there. You could ride your bikes or horses anytime or anywhere and didnít have to worry about anything.

    The stories about Bonnie & Clyde I am not sure about robbing the bank but I do know they stayed at the hotel that used to be downtown, there was pictures at one time in the Pioneer Village in Corsicana of them there.

    My mother is 72 and lived in Rice her entire life and I still have family there. I was in the last class to graduate from the old school 8th grade before they tore it down back in the 70ís. It had a fire slide that would go up to the 3rd floor we used to climb out on the ledge walk around it & slide down it was a blast, yes we would get in trouble from teachers & parents but it was worth it. Thanks. - Sharon K. Vaclavik, August 14, 2006

  • I am a resident of Rice, Tx. I read your article about your visit to Rice,Tx. in 2000. I really enjoyed reading it. I am sad to inform that the Rice City Grill is no longer in business, but I was wanting to write and let you know about my mothers business that she has recently opened here. Rice finally has a flower and gift shop and she really is doing well. My mothers name is Irene Lopez and it has always been her dream to have a flower shop in Rice, as this is where I grew up. The shops name is LeFleur Floral & Gifts. This is a nice addition to such a small town.

    The building where she is located was once the Rice Bank many, many years ago. It is also rumored that the Bank was once robbed by Bonnie and Clyde, (would like to know the truth to that one).

    Rice also now has a newsletter, which is also located in the historic Bank building. Just thought i would write with an update on our wonderful little town. :) Monica Slade, July 23, 2004

  • My name is Robert Erisman IV and I live in Chatfield next to Rice and I have a little information about Rice History. A woman who goes to my church, who is very old, told me [about] that the old Cotton Gin that mean kids mess around in and destroy things in. Well, [she said] that some man who she knew who was the owner back in 1915 or something like that was working in there and the machine stopped and so he tried to fix it and it started back up and killed him or cut his arm off. I'll try and find out more information about that accident.

    Also in Chatfield there is a very old house that the generals would sometimes stay in during the Civil War and the pasture next to it is where a battle was fought that had to do with the civil war. Some of the Civil War took place there you could say. And next to my house there is another house but not quite as old as the other one and there is a reenactment of the Civil War every year... Thank you for your time. - Robert Erisman IV

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    This page last modified: November 24, 2006