A History of Rice
Researched by Mrs. M. S. Miles and Mrs. S.
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", 1967, pp 36-53
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society
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. M.
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
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 kinds were:
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 businesses
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 greatly. I
regret to learn from the columns of the "Rustler" that Egbert G.
Sessions is infirm and -- is over 70 years of age -- Three church
notices I find in your columns, which shows that the people of Rice and vicinity
are ardent supporters of the Church. 'Tis well.
In the southeast corner of that last resting place for the departed to the Great
Beyond, is interred the remains of a young friend
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 northeast of
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 against
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 was
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, too.
[p. 40] Then there was an abundance of cotton-tail and jack rabbits on the
prairie everywhere. Wild geese and ducks would alight in
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 time.
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 located just
north of the Navarro County line. It consisted of 100 apple and peach trees,
some quince, currants, gooseberries, strawberries, white
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
* * * * * 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
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.
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
The 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
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
[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. J. M.
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 surrey with
"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 1912. The
roadbed for it was laid by Irishmen using wheelbarrows, according to Mrs. Lewis
[p. 49] The Bowen Bus Company was next and is now The Continental Trailways.
There are many people who have never ridden a
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 prairie.
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
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.
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
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; Stuckeys;
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
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
[p. 53] Names of Confederate Veterans buried in Rice Cemetery 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
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.