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Early History of Rockne, Texas

Rockne, Texas (Walnut Creek) String Prairie (Brushy Creek)

Rockne and String Prairie, Texas, situated about 10 miles apart in the Southern part of Bastrop County, both have their roots in Meuth Hill where the Meuth brothers settled and built a chapel on the second floor of their home. Meuth Hill, the name given to the settlement on Sandy Creek, is located about half way between String Prairie and Rockne.

The early settlers bought land and became farmers raising their own food then crops like cotton and corn. Chickens, cows and horses became a part of the farm as the families prospered. The pioneers depended on each other for help and support in every thing from barn raising to delivering babies and taking care of their sick.

November 9, 1846. The distinction of being the first German settlers in the Rockne area goes to Daniel Lehman and his wife Johanna Erdmuth and their three children John, Caroline and Pauline Lehman and Danielís brother Mortiz Lehman. They left their home in Friedersdorf, Laubnitz, Silesia, Prussia, arriving at the Port of Indianola, Texas on November 9, 1846.

November 18, 1846. Two young brothers, Andreas and Franz Meuth, pioneered the way for German emigrants from Würges, Germany to the communities of Rockne and String Prairie. They settled on a beautiful spot near Sandy Creek known as Meuth Hill.

1844. Joe J. Rabel gave oral testimony that his grandfather, Andreas Meuth came to Meuth Hill as a scout in 1844 for an emigration society and went back to Germany before returning with brother, Franz. Unfortunately this isnít documented but there is a contract showing he obligated himself to the newly established corporation (Fisher-Miller) for one-half the land that was promised to him. The contract is dated September 1, 1846 in Antwerp. Apparently this document was signed before boarding the ship and does not substantiate his being in America earlier.

June 10, 1850. Johann Peter Meuth, his wife Elizabeth and their three children, together with Johan Peterís siblings, Johann, Carl Joseph and Elizabeth Meuth join their brothers, Andreas and Franz at Meuth Hill.

January 6, 1856. The last Meuths, Georg and Maria Anna and family, and a cousin, Andreas II immigrated to Meuth Hill. Fifteen family members from this one family came to Sandy Creek, Texas from Würges, Germany.

January 6, 1856. Along with the last of the Meuth émigrés, another group from Würges, immigrated to Texas. They were: Philip and Catherine Goertz and their first child John; Philipís father-in-law John Hartmann; John and Catherine Wolf and six of their seven children; and John Wilhelm.

March of 1856. Three of these first settlers, Philip Goertz, John Hartmann and John Wolf, Sr. purchased 515 acres of land along Walnut Creek.

January 3, 1857. Daniel Lehman purchased 175 acres of land out of the Andrew Mays league. It was described as being on the waters of Walnut Creek in Bastrop County on the west side of the Colorado River.

Meuth Hill was the first place many immigrants stopped before continuing on to their destination, or building a home of their own. We can imagine the happiness of finding kinfolk and a warm welcome after months of traveling. The small group of people kept the faith and would gather together to pray the rosary, litanies and read Scripture in their little chapel.

1854-1887. Early records during this period show that Father Victor Gury, pastor of St. Peter and Paulís Church in Frelsburg, came twice a year by horseback, to have Mass, baptize babies and bless marriages at Meuth Hill.

The first homes of the early settlers were most probably tents but they soon chose home sites and began to build. Philip Goertz chose a site about one mile north of the present day Rockne where he built a two-room dog-trot log cabin for his family. This home was to have a profound influence on the future of the Walnut Creek community. The Pioneer Log Cabin became the center of social life and the place where the first Mass in the Community took place.

On September 2, 1874, Bishop Pellicer was named the first bishop of the newly formed San Antonio Diocese. In 1875 he began to visit all the churches in his vast territory and literally covered hundreds of miles by horseback. As he was making his visits in the eastern end of his diocese, he came in contact with the German Catholics living in southern Bastrop County. By this time, more and more families were moving into the Rockne and String Prairie area and the little chapel at Meuth Hill was no longer large enough to accommodate all the people. Also it was a rather long distance for the people of Walnut Creek area to travel to Sandy Creek for religious services. After the visit of the Bishop, the decision was made to establish two separate parish communities.

In 1876, Walnut Creek (Rockne) and String Prairie (Meuth Hill) became separate parishes. The people of Meuth Hill continued to hold services in their little chapel while looking for a suitable location for a new church. On August 1, 1878, Anton & Theresa Schrader deeded 17 acres of land lying on Brushy Fork of Sandy Creek. When the church was completed in the fall of 1878, the furnishings from the Meuth Hill Chapel, including the bell, were brought to the new Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Subsequently a pastoral residence was built and the pastor resided at String Prairie. The community at Walnut Creek was a mission church, until the turn of the century.

Beginning in August 1876, Mass was celebrated in the Phillip Goertz home until the new Ascension of Christ Church was dedicated on May 27, 1877. The first pastor traveled from Brushy Creek, (String Prairie) to minister to the people at Walnut Creek, (Rockne). In January 1891, the Ascension of Christ Church was burned to the ground by arsonists and again services were held in the Phillip Goertz Pioneer Log Cabin.

1891-1892. There was no doubt about rebuilding the church but questions arose about the location. Walnut Creek was no longer the geographical center of the community. The matter was settled when John T. and Rosina Lehman offered to donate ten acres of land. The deed was signed on July 31, 1891. It is on this property that the church and cemetery in Rockne are located at the present time. The new church was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on March 27, 1892.

1894 to 1900 - Hilbig Park School was the first to serve the children in the Rockne area. The education of the children had been a concern for the Walnut Creek community because none of the schools were easily accessible and religious education was left entirely to the parents. The land for Hilbig Park School was donated by Anton Hilbig and his wife Carolina who emigrated from Kospendorf, Silesia Prussia, in 1871. The school was located across the road from the Hilbig home on what is now Goertz Road. In the deed, recorded in the Bastrop County Court House, the trustees of the school were Joseph Rathmann, John Goertz, and Albert Beck. August Boer taught religious education during the summer months and also added Christian Doctrine and German language to curriculum.

In 1898, the parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish, under the guidance of the pastor, Father Francis Neisens, decided that they would build a rectory for the pastor, a school building, and a convent. A financial drive was conducted and building began under the direction of Michael Goertz and Charles Lehman. The parish rectory was the first building completed and Father Neisens was able to move into his new home and be present during the construction of the school and convent. String Prairie then became a mission parish.

In 1900, the Rockne community established St. Elizabethís Catholic School staffed by the Sisters of Divine Providence in San Antonio. The enrollment for that first school year lists 77 students from 31 families. A two story building housed the Sisters upstairs with classrooms below. A Catholic School was in operation at Sacred Heart Parish from 1900 until 1962 with new facilities added in 1910, 1930 and in 1950. Since the closing of the school the building is used for many community functions including the religious education of the children. Presently, around 200 students are enrolled for religious education on Sundays and evenings during the week.

1900-1922. The community was generally known as Walnut Creek until the Lehman Post Office was in operation from February 1, 1900 to November 30, 1904. It was established in the Lehman Store with Martin Lehman as Postmaster. The community then went by the name of Lehmanville. In 1922, W.M. Hilbig & Sonís General Store opened and the community began to be called Hilbigville.

In August of 1931, Fr. Francis Strobel proposed that Sacred Heart Parish community have an official name. School children were given the choice to vote on the names Knute Rockne or Joyce Kilmer. The boys voted for the football coach and the girls voted for the poet resulting in a tie. The next day Edith Goertz changed her vote giving the community its name, "Rockne".

Rockne, Texas is the only town anywhere named for Knute Kenneth Rockne, considered the greatest of all American football coaches.


This history was compiled by Marian H. Nelson, President of Rockne Historical Association.

Resources:

ROCKNE, Sacred Heart Parish, Bastrop County, Texas, 1876 Ė 1976, Updated 1996, by Reverend Alois A. Goertz.

Rockne Region Germans, IMMIGRANTS FROM WÜRGES, 1846-1883 & THEIR DESTINY IN TEXAS BY ANNI BALTHAUS, TRANSLATED FROM GERMAN BY Donald C. Goertz, Ph.D.

Watterson Folk OF BASTROP COUNTY TEXAS by D.L. Vest