ROCK CHURCH COMMUNITY
VESTIGES OF A PIONEER PAST
by Martha Watson
Granbury Magazine – January/February 1984
Ten miles southwest of Tolar on FM Road 2475, on the Hood and Erath County line, vestiges of one of Texas’ typical pioneer settlements, the Rock Church Community, still stands as tangible testament to the state’s frontier past. An old-fashioned swinging bridge, the original rock fortress/church for which the community was named, and a later, turn-of-the-century clapboard church appear inured to the passage of time.
The first settlers appeared in the area in the early 1800’s. The Jesse Caraway family arrived in 1859, donating land in the early 1860’s for the original Rock Church. Until two years ago, a direct descendant of the family, Agnes Caraway, resided in the community, moving to her current home in Stephenville only due to age and the accessibility of medical facilities.
The original church, typical of early Texas churches, was multi-functional, serving numerous purposes in the community. The two-story, solid rock building was constructed with volunteer labor, money and building materials donated by the community’s founding families. In turn, it served those families as a school and community center, as well as a church.
Even though Texas had reached state-hood in 1845, Indians were still a threat in the 1860’s to the Anglo families settling on the frontier to farm and ranch. Rock Church Community, located on the Paluxy River, was smack in the path used by the Indians to reach Comanche Peak, a double mesa which was a look-out and ceremonial site for the Indians, especially Comanches. At this time, the Indians no longer roamed in large bands but in smaller numbers, yet even until the 1880’s it was not uncommon to find teepees clustered along the river banks and on prime hunting grounds. Though they hunted and fished for food, the Indians threatened early settlers such as those at Rock Church Community–if they came upon a cow or horse, they seldom hesitated to take it for their own use. During the Civil War, the governor of Texas recognized the Indian problem, retaining a group of soldiers as a home guard to patrol against Indian attacks.
Besides the Caraway family, other pioneers were the Jones, Pates and Cowans. These families assisted in the building of the first church and the community itself. It was not unusual for the settlers to bring slaves with them, in the 1850’s and early 1860’s. Near Rock Church stands the community’s first cemetery, with headstones dating back to the early 1860’s.
The first homes constructed at Rock Church Community were one and two room log cabins. Later, as the families grew, the homes were enlarged or new larger structures built.
In 1874 the Rock Church building was dedicated as a Masonic Lodge and was used for several years as a meeting place. In 1906 another church, made of white clapboard, was built close to the old rock building. This building remained in use until the mid-1970’s as a Methodist church.
In 1917 a swinging bridge was built across the Paluxy River, within a short distance of the Rock Church. It was used for many years for pedestrian traffic and horse and buggy and, later, for automobiles. The bridge also was a community effort, with many of the local residents contributing to its construction. One of the volunteers was Bruce Caraway, son of the community’s founding father, Jesse Caraway.
Like the two churches, the bridge still stands, but only as a landmark. Many of its boards are missing or rotten and the structure bears a caution sign warning against walking upon it.
Rock Church was purchased in 1976 by a family which is remodeling it for use as a private residence.
In Rock Church Community, a name which persists today, though unofficially, residents and former residents maintain pride in their pioneer heritage. Each October, the area hosts a reunion heavily attended by long-time friends and neighbors who share a love for this little slice of Texas history.
11/29/1999 E-Mail Corrections to Article
I have been reading from one of your web pages about the Rock Church Community, Vestiges of a Pioneer Past by Martha Watson and note the following two mistakes:
- Agnes Caraway mentioned as a direct descendant of the Caraway family married Bruce Caraway and became a member of the family in 1915.
- Bruce Caraway, mentioned later in the same article as a volunteer contributing to the construction of the swinging bridge, was not a son of, but a grandson of Jesse Caraway. Bruce was a son of Archie Caraway. I thought you might want to note this correction. Bruce and Agnes Caraway were my parents.
Charles T. Caraway, DVM
316 Kent Avenue
Metairie, La. 70001