The sandy loams where Rockdale now stands were once the homeland of the Tonkawa Indians in the sixteenth century. The Indians roamed the prairie throughout Central Texas until the early part of the eighteenth century, when expeditions by missionaries and conquistadors brought the Spanish to Milam County. By 1755 Spanish occupation of Milam County came to an end due to drought conditions and disease. However, the Tonkawan were eventually squeezed out of their homeland by advancing Comanches in the northwest and Anglo settlers from the southeast. Pioneers settled permanently in Rockdale in 1873 with the arrival of the railroad.
The International and Great Northern (I&GN) Railroad wanted to extend its tracks westward from the city of Hearne into Austin. In 1874 Rockdale became the terminus of the railroad for the next two years. When the final tracks were laid hundreds of people flocked to the area to watch the steam locomotive roll into town. Among those people was Mrs. B.F. Ackerman, traveling by horseback via an old wagon trail. Two miles north of the town, she spotted a rock formation in the middle of the prairie. Standing atop the twelve-foot high rock, Mrs. Ackerman observed the railroad tracks ended in an area that was nestled in a valley or dale. It was there the name Rockdale was first used.
B. Loewenstein, Sr. was among the first settlers in Rockdale. He and his wife, Carrie, moved to the area from Colorado County. He opened a dry goods and grocery business in 1873 and established the Rockdale Brick Works and erected several brick buildings in the business district, now Rockdales downtown.
The town went from an agricultural community to an industrial one virtually overnight when the Aluminum Company of America moved into town in 1952. The citys population tripled when the largest worldwide metals producer came into town to develop the areas vast lignite reserves for aluminum production.
Just one year after Rockdale came into existence the Masonic Lodge of Rockdale #414, AF & AM received its charter. As the first and oldest organization in Rockdale, it set the standard for community involvement. There are numerous clubs and organizations in Rockdale for active community members to join, such as Rotary, Lions, Garden and Matinee Musical clubs, VFW Post #6525, and Girl and Boy Scouts, to name a few. The community of Rockdale has a long historical tradition of service to others, and residents take pride in knowing they make a difference.
Today, Rockdale is a bustling community with a diverse roster of business and industry. A solid citizenry preserves its rich ethnic heritage made up of Central Europeans, Germans, Mexicans, Czechs, African Americans, and Jewish settlers.
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