|A History of Rice
Researched by Mrs. M. S. Miles and
Mrs. S. A. Moore
Originally published in "", 1967, pp 36-53
Reprinted with permission of the
Extracted by Roger Bartlett
Many items from the History of Navarro County
By Annie Carpenter (Mrs. W. F.) Love
An Account of Rice, by Mrs. Maud Lackey Elliott
A Story of Rice, by Mrs. J. A. Lackey as told to Grafton Goodwyn
Other items from memories of early settlers.
[p. 37] There were only farmers and ranchers living around Rice
until the Houston and Texas Central Railroad reached here in
1871-1872. Then Mr. Lewis B. Haynie and Rev. Jerry Ward came and
established a store and post office on the corner where Loop and
Walker had a store later. Soon Mr. Benjamin C. Clopton came and
had the first Drug Store in Rice. He was the father of [Mrs.] J.
Among the farmers nearby in 1860 were Burwell Edmunson [Edmundson],
Lucian Lockhart, Isaac B. Sessions, Egbert Sessions, Jesse M.
Bartlett Sr., James and Thomas Bartlett, Wm. A. Langham, Nathan
M. Fitzgerald, and Major Rose. The Log house which Mr. Langham
built is still used. The Major Rose house is still standing and
the framework is of cedar logs.
A great number of people settled here between 1872 and the 90's.
This is a partial list of family names:
William D. Haynie Rufus Cardwell P. C. Bradley W. W. McPherson
John Gibson John Bradley William A. Neal J. M. Bartlett Joe
Bradley C. C. Neal Tom Bartlett R. P. Dukeminier S. N. Gregory
S. J. Norvell A. C. Hervey J. M. Allen John Fortson Howard Wear
A. D. Cardwell Joe Fortson J. R. Collins John Cardwell Emmerts
Hays Geo. Humble Will Cardwell H. F. Barrington Nathan M.
Fitzgerald Mrs. M. E. Moore J. S. Scott
The ones who stayed here and established businesses of different
J. M. Bartlett.......................Hardware, gins, land
John and Joe Fortson.................Large tracts of land
The Haynies..........................Land and other property
The Bradleys.........................Large farms and other
Jake Queen...........................Store for many years
The father of Mrs. S. M. Miles was Jim Allen, a farmer north of
Rice. The children of Jesse M. and Ella Guy Allen were
daughters; Mrs. W. W. Stringer; Mrs. A. W. Christian, Mrs. M. S.
Miles; Mrs. T. A. Cullen; Sons: Timothey Y. Allen; Arthur O.
Allen, Chas A. Allen.
A trainload of settlers from New York and New Jersey came to
Rice in 1877 to find a warmer climate for their homes. The next
morning the ground was covered with snow, which was too much for
part of them who then left. But fortunately some stayed and
settled on land beginning at the cemetery and extending north to
Walker's Creek. The following is a letter from one of those who
stayed and was sent to the Rice Rustler.
[p. 38] Otisville, N.Y. March 7, 1912.
Mr. J. W. South, Editor "Rice Rustler"
My dear Sir:
Please accept my thanks for a recent copy of your "Rustler" and
the news about your live little town which interested me
regret to learn from the columns of the "Rustler" that Egbert G.
Sessions is infirm and -- is over 70 years of age -- Three
notices I find in your columns, which shows that the people of
Rice and vicinity are ardent supporters of the Church. 'Tis
In the southeast corner of that last resting place for the
departed to the Great Beyond, is interred the remains of a young
of mine, Mr. Frank Ketchum, a bright young farmer who came out
with the N. Y. - N. J. Colony, of which I was Secretary, in
1878, and who owned a small farm that cornered at the cemetery
where he now sleeps. He has two brothers here and I shall advise
them of * * the cemetery where their Frank was about the first
I suppose that the first cotton-mill in (this part) [of] Texas
was established at Telico on the Trinity about ten miles
your town in the early days. I had this from reliable sources
when I lived in Rice, thirty-five years ago, more or less.
[p. 39] I remember the most exciting campaign I ever
participated in was when Hon. R. Q. Mills stumped the state
prohibition on the grounds that it is an "infestation on
personal liberty" * * * *
The writer had some exciting hunting, fishing and berry
expeditions when he lived out on his farm on the Colony lands
northeast of town. It is about nine miles (from) Porter's Bluff,
I think, where we occasionally resorted during the few leisure
weeks we had after the crops were "laid-by" in the summer, to
draw up our wood supply from the post oak ridge, west of the big
spring where we always camped for
dinner, made coffee and got a drink of good pure water. We would
start in at the big bluff where there was a ferry across the
Trinity, and fish up stream and we surely caught some big fish
in that muddy stream - buffalo, cat fish, perch, suckers and
etc. Some of them weighed from 10 to 40 pounds.
On one occasion a large alligator was caught and we all liked to
have went into fits in our efforts to capture the monster, which
done after a hard and long fight. It must have weighed over a
hundred pounds. In hunting we did not have to go very far. I
have shot many prairie chickens from the porch of my dwelling
from the far corner of my garden. There were lots of these birds
in that locality at that time and they were very fine eating,
[p. 40] Then there was an abundance of cotton-tail and jack
rabbits on the prairie everywhere. Wild geese and ducks would
one stock tank and we had plenty of these wild fowls, also. Then
there were numbers of plover and other birds that we brought
down with our guns, while over on Walker Creek, you could have
fun shooting wolves and coyotes.
Upon one occasion after a rainy forenoon, myself and a carpenter
friend, Moses C. Dunn, started on an excursion to cut a bee tree
back of Cornelius Neal's plantation over near Walker Creek
(Neal's Valley). We loaded our wagon with buckets, cans, and a
large wash-tub and other paraphernalia necessary to insure a
successful job, which included a sharp ax, a butcher knife,
large spoon, a good supply of sulphur, rags, matches, and etc.
On arriving at the tree it was raining as if the clouds above
had broke loose. Moses promptly cut a large hole at the bottom
of the tree's trunk, we jammed in a bundle of rags saturated
with sulphur, set it on fire with a match, plugged the hole full
of clay and waited events in the pouring rain. In short time
the bees were all killed or stupefied and Moses commenced to
down the tree with his ax, when the job was nearly completed,
the wind caused the tree to lurch and over it went splitting the
trunk up about 20 feet and in the downfall scattering honey,
comb and dead bees, (as well as a few live ones), in every
direction. We were somewhat astonished at the result, and as my
partner in the raid was [p. 41] afraid of them, it was left to
me to assume the duties of "Master of Ceremonies". Therefore the
writer pitched in and we soon had gathered up in our receptacles
nearly a barrel of as fine honey as I ever tasted and it lasted
our families and some of the neighbors many months. The worst
stinging I ever got was when I found some of the honey made from
horsemint, and it was found to be as hot as a dose of cayenne
pepper or a Mexican tamale. * * * * * The first time I ever saw
an opossum we cornered the pig-looking animal in front of the
house - he played up dead. Having never seen one of these little
"varmints" before and not knowing what it was, he was carefully
picked up by his pig-like tail and 'twas thought our capture was
a wild pig. Don't laugh, dear reader, the joke was on us that
I think I was the first one to plant an orchard of fruit trees
on the black waxy soil of Ellis County - for our lands were
north of the Navarro County line. It consisted of 100 apple and
peach trees, some quince, currants, gooseberries, strawberries,
mulberries, grapes, plums, figs. All bought over at Larissa in
East Texas. I also planted rhubarb, horse radish, asparagus, and
Bois 'd Arc or Osage orange for a hedge on a division line with
the next 100 acres. (Many others did this and these hedges still
stand all over this part of Texas.) [p. 42] The apple tree
trunks, I wrapped with rags up to the limbs and there were doing
nicely when I sold the place a few years later. Peaches did
well. I planted Umbrella China seed and sat under their shade 5
years after planting. I secured the first well of water on the
colony tract by having a well bored by Sam Bull, a well boring
contractor from St. Louis, Mo. Only had to go 40 feet deep when
an abundant supply of clear water was obtained but it was so
impregnated with minerals that it was unfit for household use or
for cooking, but it was a healthful drink for man or beast. And
stock always appeared to like it and it was nice and cool. I
then built a cistern and we used the water therefrom for cooking
and drinking purposes as I could not stomach tank water unless
strained and boiled in my tea or coffee. * * * * I abandoned the
farm and went to Hubbard City and became owner of the News and
again embarked in journalism and real estate - became a regular
promoter - not a boomer, but an industrial missionary in that
favored region of Hill County known as Cold Corner, where Capt.
W. H. Wagley was the leading potentate surveyor, planter and
philosopher. It was my destiny to remain in that city eight of
the busiest and most eventful years of my life.
* * * * * Yours truly,
Stephen H. Sayer
Otisville, N. Y.
[p. 43] The first newspaper was "The Rice Enterprise" but it
only lasted a few months. The next one was "The Rice Rustler" in
1901. The editor was Clarence Urban. Urban sold to J. Warner
South and Sam Millerman. They ran it for several years and then
sold to Chester A. Nowlin. Nowlin owned it for many years but
later merged with the Ennis paper. He was editor of the Ennis
paper until his death.
Rice was incorporated December 2, 1912. The first officers were:
J. W. South, Mayor
Aldermen were: D. M. Loop
A. W. Christian
P. F. Halbert
Rice has never had a saloon. It was made official in 1876 that
no saloon could ever be in Rice.
The Rice Post Office was established October 2, 1872 with Lewis
B. Haynie as Postmaster. One account says that Joseph C.
Bartlett was the first Postmaster. He was the father of Jesse M.
Bartlett and was also the County Tax Collector in 1846. Other
Postmasters were Wm. H. Todd, James W. Norriss, J. B. Slade, R.
M. Langham, Mrs. Verna [p. 44] K. Harper, T. Y. Allen, Abe
Coulter, Mrs. Claudia Starnes, Mrs. Myrtle Carter, and the
present Postmisstress is Miss Verna Gregory, whose father was an
early day resident of Rice, Mr. S. N. Gregory.
The first to have a drug store in Rice was Benjamin C. Clopton.
He was the father of Mrs. J. M. Bartlett. The building was
across from the Haynie-Ward store. Other druggists were Dr. Will
M. Harper, Robert L. Harper, James M. Collins, Grover Bruner,
Richard Norwood, G. B. Simpson, Chas. A. Allen, Hugh Hodge, John
Hitt and Mr. Hayes of Ennis.
The first school in Rice was taught by Rev. Jerry Ward, a
Presbyterian Minister, in October 1875 on the first Monday. The
public school was opened in November 1875 with Rev. Jerry Ward
and wife teaching. The first school had pupils from seven to
twenty years of age. The first building was a wooden house used
for the school and for church also. A two-story schoolhouse was
next and cost $3,000.00. The building now in use is brick, built
in 1912. A corner [p. 45] marker has this inscription:
J. B. Fortson, President.
W. T. Wilson, Vice-president.
T. W. Neal, Secretary.
G. W. Pollan (Sr) J. T. Fortson
A. C. Hervey (Sr) J. M. Bartlett (Sr)
A. W. Christian W. W. Stringer
Rice has had many capable and dedicated teachers through the
years. Rev. Jerry Ward was the first and the present Principal
is Mr. Elga R. Kelly. Among other teachers was Mr. Ray Waller
who became the first President of Navarro Junior College. An
early day teacher was Miss Myra Winkler, the daughter of Captain
C. M. Winkler.
The Methodist Church was organized by Rev. Wm. Vaughn in 1874.
The first building was a school and church. Among the charter
members were: I. B. Sessions, Egbert Sessions, J. M. Mitcham and
several other Mitchams. The first building was erected in 1883.
The present brick church was finished in 1909. The members
raised the money for it and W. D. Haynie [p. 46] and wife, Viola
Sessions Haynie, furnished the major portion. Mrs. Wm. D. Haynie
built the pastor's home later. Among the prominent members at
the time the present church was built were: Mrs. Martha Wear, W.
W. Swafford family, V. T. Swafford family, W. B. Swafford, Sam
South and family, T. D. Queen and wife, Joe B. Fortson family,
John Fortson and wife, R. F. Bartlett family, W. R. Smith
family, W. H. Holland family, Dr. Hugh Sloan family, B. H. Clark
and wife, A. C. Hervey family, and many others.
A corner marker has this inscription
Methodist Church organized 1874
W. D. Haynie Memorial Church
Erected 1908 A. D.
The First Baptist Church of Rice was organized February 21, 1875
by Rev. (J. T.?) Puryear as Moderator, and E. P. Beddo as Church
Clerk. Rev. Matt Beasley was first Pastor and served for more
than ten years. John A. Clopton [was the] first Deacon to be
ordained by the church. Among the early members were: Wm. H.
Todd and wife, E. P. Beddo and wife, John C. Gallemore and wife,
John Deaton, John L. Miles, R. A. Bowden and wife, Mrs. Burwell
Edmundson, Wm. Edmundson, [p. 47] Wm. A. Neal and wife, Joe
Edmundson, James and Thomas Bartlett and their wives.
present Church building was erected in 1894. Wm. H. Todd and
wife Mary, were the parents of Jackson Todd, Egbert Todd, and
Josie Todd Bowden. All were members of the Rice Baptist Church.
Josie Todd married Reddick A. Bowden. She lived to be 102 years
of age and had over one hundred descendants at her death. Most
of these have been members of this church and some are still
here. Two daughters, Mrs. M. E. (Sallie) Cummins, Mrs. J. D.
Burdine (Addie) and a son, John R. Bowden.
The First State Bank of Rice was organized in 1902. A. C. Hervey
was Cashier and remained until his health failed. S. B. South
entered the Bank in May 1917. After serving in the U.S. Army
until the close of World War I, he returned to work at the bank
and has been Cashier many years.
There were two instances of other banks being here but they only
lasted a short time.
In the early days, most men managed to do their own barber work
at home. Among the barbers who served Rice were: Everett Emmert,
R. T. Irwin and Lonny Williams.
[p. 48] Haynie and Ward had the first cotton gin. It burned in
1875. J. M. Bartlett and Herbert Mitchell had a gin below Rice.
Bartlett and John B. Haynie had a gin where the Fortson gin is
now. Later there was one owned by several men and located where
the Rice Twentieth Century Club house is now. It burned too.
Granville Rutherford, Ed and Norman Holmes and H. C. Noel had
gins too. Fortson's own the only gin here now.
The transportation was by horse and wagon at first. In common
with the rest of the world they graduated to buggies and the
"the fringe on top". Later came the automobiles. The first
"Horseless Carriage" was brought to town by Montgomery Ward.
They brought an exhibit of their wares in a railroad car. The
chauffeur asked for passengers to try a ride and Dr. J. A. McGee
and wife, and Bess, were chosen. Also Lena Moore. It had wheels
like a buggy and the steering gear was like early streetcars
had, which had a handle that moved around to steer.
The H. & T. C. Railroad came through in 1872. The Interurban
line of the Texas Electric Railway was completed to town in
roadbed for it was laid by Irishmen using wheelbarrows,
according to Mrs. Lewis B. Haynie.
[p. 49] The Bowen Bus Company was next and is now The
Continental Trailways. There are many people who have never
train because they have always had cars.
Various Incidents that happened around Rice.
Once a man passing through had smallpox. The men had him make a
fire on the prairie north of town and he was guarded all night
and sent to Corsicana next morning. Smallpox was a very dreaded
disease and they were not taking chances.
There were no fences between the cemetery and town, being open
The Wm. A. Langham family had the first sewing machine in the
county. W. A. Langham built a log cabin which still stands.
Bob Banner of Bob Banner Associates, of T.V. fame, is the
great-grandson of John B. Haynie.
During the First World War the government sent the Liberty Bell
across the country. It came through Rice on a flatcar, with the
crack plainly showing. A large crowd viewed the emblem of
Liberty. It was late arriving that night because people along
the road would get on the tracks to make the train slow down for
them to see better.
[p. 50] The Rice war record compares favorably with the rest of
Texas. Many Confederate Veterans settled here but Rice was not a
town until 1872. Volunteers for the Spanish-American War were
John Allen Queen, Will Queen, Henry Dukeminier, Wm. D. Bartlett
and A. Q. Thornton.
Many were in the First World War and two lost their lives:
Robert Wasson and Wm. Bolt.
World War II saw so many from Rice that it is not practical to
name all of them. Among the dead were: Estes O'Neal, James
Spurgeon and a Latin American, and S.Sgt. Scott Bowden.
Many were in Korea and many are being sent to Viet Nam. Rice men
were Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants as well as Privates. Some
were Ace Pilots.
A shameful thing happened here once when a negro boy was hanged
by a mob, from a telegraph pole near [the] R.R. tracks.
An amusing occasion was when a man got his dental plate lodged
in his throat. He came to a doctor who had him lean on the stair
rail while the doctor pounded him on the back until he coughed
up the plate.
[p. 51] Two centenarians have lived here. Mr. Burwell Edmundson
lived to be 100 years of age. Mr. Edmundson served during the
Civil War under Benjamin F. Sterling, who was the father of
Governor Ross Sterling. The Edmundson family were neighbors of
Sam Houston at Huntsville.
Mrs. Josie Todd Bowden (Mrs. R. A. Bowden) lived to be 102 years
of age. Her family has a record of longevity. She was the
daughter of Wm. H. Todd, a pioneer of Rice.
According to John O. Thomason, a son-in-law of Wm. A. Neal,
there were no fences or trees between Chatfield and Waxahachie
when he was mail carrier between these places. The prairie was
covered with Texas prairie grass, sometimes called bunch grass.
There were millions of so-called "hog wallows" that were really
Buffalo wallows. The buffaloes left depressions on the ground
that would fill with water after rains.
[p. 52] (Later additions to Rice Merchants)
Thomas D. Queen and wife, Lula Fortson Queen had a Drygoods
store. Will F. Hodge had a Paint and Wallpaper business. He also
carried a line of Caskets.
At present: W. Clarence Mahaley, Groceries; Fortson Brothers,
Groceries, Hardware and paint; Mrs. A. J. Doster, Antiques;
Dot's Cafe; An agency of The Tuloma Fertilizer Company. J. T.
Allen is the Rural Mail Carrier for Rice and Chatfield.
Fortson's Gin. Floyd Brewer's Mobil Service Station.
Blacksmiths: This list is not in Chronological order. Albert
LeMay; T. H. Wear; -- Madewell; A. W. Hodge and son; Jake
Travis; J. S. Parker; -- Mageors; -- Russell; Tom Moore; Willie
Franks; -- Cole; Chapman Clark.
In 1893 or 1894 at Mount Hope, Alabama, Mr. G. R. Thornton had
Mr. T. H. Wear to shoe his mules for a trip to Texas. Mr. T. H.
Wear came to Rice Texas on a train. When Mr. Thornton arrived at
Rice, he had Mr. Wear to remove the horseshoes. They did not
have their animals shod for farm work but did for traveling.
[p. 53] Names of Confederate Veterans buried in
which were left out in the original roll.
J. S. Scott. Born July 21, 1842. Died Nov. 3, 1922. No record
but known to be a Veteran.
George F. Humble. Born Mar. 28, 1834. Died Jan. 11, 1912. Joined
Nineteenth Brigade of Texas Militia. Discharged April 1862.
One name left out from the Chatfield Cemetery.
Captain John Marion Harper. Born June 15, 1840. Died March 21,
1930. Joined in Alabama. Company G, 12th Alabama Regiment, 12th
Cavalry of Alabama. He enlisted at the beginning of the War and
served during the entire time of the War. He was a Lieutenant
under Col. -- Reese. Also on Gen. Wheeler's Staff for a time.
Later was made Captain. A Georgia Native.