Rock is located in Cowley County, about 30-miles southeast of Wichita. According to an old map, this area was designated as an “Osage Reservation.” The county was formed in 1867. In Pawhaska, to allow white settlers to buy land once the hunting grounds of the Osage and Cherokee. The ground was covered with a short “Mesquit” grass that feed thousands of Buffalo that once roamed the prairie.
Rock’s beginning started around 1869 as early settlers began homesteading the area. Among the first families were: James B. Wall, E.A. Houser, and Martin Martindale in 1869. That same year, Martindale built a cabin and broke ground for 15 acres of corn and had a fine herd of 300 Texas cattle. Others coming in 1870 were George Worners, J.M. Harcourt, Josiah Houser and George H. Williams.
They were among those that organized the Methodist Episcopal Church and were elected trustees. The Rock UMC began meeting in the Rock school in1887. The current building was constructed in 1902. All of the Parsons for the next hundred years attended services at this church. It later became the United Methodist Church. Interior renovated in 1970.
Others who appeared in Rock about this time were the families of J.R. Richards, George Walker, John Stalter, Andrew Dawson, J.R. Holmes, C.S. Widner, Mahlon Fatout, and T.F. Harp.
Rock Community Quilt
Quilt is hanging in the community room of the Methodist Church in Rock
Each square represents a family or person. The list and a larger view of the quilt click HERE or the quilt image. Some names are hard to read but we did the best we could to list them.
The Post Office opened 12 August 1870 with its first Postmaster being Oliver G. Ross. Until 1928, the Post Office was located in various mercantile stores. When a new brick Post Office was built in the 1970’s, it’s Postmaster for several years was Betty Venable, a descendent of one of the early pioneers of Rock.
Other families coming to the Rock Creek area then were: Dr. H.F. Hornaday, H.F. Kaats, Anson Carman, S.P. Strong, Jothan Holmes, John Bailey, U.E. Sims, Dick Wheeler, F.R. Floyd, F.R. Starkey, W.H. Wilson, Oliver Jr. Dickenson, Amos West, H.E. McDaniel, W.S. Wall Elmer Groom, Frank Bruner, J.B. Detwiler, Raymond Gray, Fred Pickering, Alec Finney, L.E. Wamsley, Ben Tittsworth, Wm. M. Parsons, J.D. Bush, Thomas Daniels, L.D. Stevenson, C. White, Sarah Radar, L. Danford, W.E. Johnson Arthur Mawpin, Mr. Counts, Wm. Curtis, Edmund Wheeler, James Wheeler, S.R. Widner, David C. Floyd, H.G. Widner, Clarence Kistler, A.A. Thompson, Charlotte Thompson, J.A. Beenis, C.H. Mabry, W.H. Osborn, J.F. Greer, Thomas Cooley, Alpha Bucher, J.J. Hartenbower, G.W. Kistler, Samuel David, V.D. David, A.B. Tuggle, P.H. Albright, N.E. Eudailey, L.C. Houghton and many more.
Rock Creek township population was 160 in 1870, rose in 1880 to 1170, and gradually decreased since that time to around 260 in 1985.
Justice was meted out swiftly and fairly to horse, oxen and chicken thieves by J.F. Williams who was, according to court records, the first long line of constables of the peace. The last recorded civil court docket in Rock was 1903.
In 1882, Rock had five businesses; a Post Office, a Blacksmith Shop, Wagon Shop, Grocery Store and a Stone Quarry.
The first school stood one-quarter mile north of the present location of the town site.
The second school building was constructed in 1885, a two story brick structure that was used for many years. (Included among its students in 1941 was Jon W. Goodman.) In 1960 a larger school building and gym was constructed on the same site.
The railroad began in 1885, with its end of track being in Douglass, (about five miles away). Hiram T. Fisk was the first Depot agent. Draymen who owned a wagon and a team of horses, hauled the bulk of supplies from the trail depot to the stores, about a half mile away. Before the Depot mail was delivered to Rock by horseback from Douglass. Theadore “Dode” Parsons was among those who carried the mail on horseback from the Depot to the Post office in town. In 1958, the Depot was torn down due to the expense of its upkeep. (Theadore “Dode” Parsons was the son of Hirman Parsons, brother of our ancestor, William Milton Parsons).
More businesses came to Rock including a Hardware Store, Telephone Exchange, (in a private home across the road from William Milton and Amelia Parsons), Implement Company, Christian Church, Creamery, Produce House and general Store, Stockyards, Butcher shop, the Long Bell Lumber Yard, a Café and several Service Stations. The last, in a stone building that was still standing on the north east corner of the town intersection in 1990. Its last owner was Thomas Nichols.
Around the turn of the century, the first grain Elevator, called Bartlett Grain Company, was managed by F.R. Starkey, by 1985, the elevator along side the Santa Fe Railroad track west of town, was called the Rock Grain Company and was owned by Quenton Waples. Before that time it was the property of Harry McDaniel.
In 1901 – an Encyclopedia stated “Rock: small village in Cowley County situated east of the Walnut River and Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad 15 miles north of Winfield. Has Telegraph and Express office and Money Order Post Office and other businesses.”
A supplement to the Winfield Daily Courier of 14 March 1901 described Rock as “an important trading point on the Florence Branch of the Santa Fe in the township which bears its name.” In the early 1900’s, a Rock Community Band was organized and entertained the community for many years.
The Long Bell Lumber Company had a painted sign out front advertising; paint, hardware, cement, lime, plaster, brick and “can’t sag gates.” With the Post Office in this location for many years, this was a popular gathering place along the north side of the street, east of Highway 77.
In 1911, the Rock State Bank was organized. It lasted until 1933. In its November 3rd. issue, the Douglass Tribune reported: “The Rock State Bank at the town of Rock five miles south of Douglass, was closed by its Directors on Wednesday of last week, when a discovery was made that a shortage of about $11,200. existed.” Depositors recovered about 80-cents on the dollar.
From about 1915 into the early 1920’s, the Palace Hotel was operated by John Everett and Daisy Brown Parsons. The hotel stood on the southeast corner of the town, on the south side of the Rock-Atlanta road east of Highway 77. It consisted of two stories, with the front door facing north, the main floor had a large dining room and kitchen, also a place for a daybed. The second floor had five sleeping rooms. Some of the patrons were oil field and road construction workers. The hotel closed about 1929. In 1932 Rolla (Dude) Kunkel moved his creamery into it. When the hotel was torn down, Marvin Well moved the second floor to his farm in 1964.
In 1913, Elmer and Carrie Groom moved to town where he began his lifetime career as a Barber. He died in 1971. At 84, Groom had been the oldest Barber still licensed to operate in Cowley County. Carrie celebrated her 100th. Birthday in December 1984.
The Rock Reporter Newspaper was published from 8 August 1913 to 17 October 1913. It was first printed from a press in the back of a stone store, then moved to a store building near the Rock State bank. The first issue was eight pages, the last issue, one page.
In 1923, Rock was completely surrounded by flood waters. Oil was discovered east of town. (In 1990 it was still being pumped).
In 1925, the entire southeast portion of the business section burned in an Easter morning fire.
The early mercantile stores had their own history. One storekeeper related these facts about those days. From the railroad, he received “a carload of salt, one carload of flour and feed, 100 cases of quart fruit jars, ten (60-pounds) of Folgers coffee, 500 yards of outing, (used to make your own night clothes and other garments), 100 pairs of rubber shoes, and at one time he had the only sugar in town for 30-days.
Civic organizations in Rock included: The Women’s Society of Christ’s Service of the Methodist Church, the Friendly Club, the Worthwhile Club, the Rockette Home Demonstration Unit, the Royal Neighbors Lodge, the Masonic Lodge, and the Order of the Eastern Star.
- Bluestem Country: edge of the Flint Hills; Cowley County and other counterparts. By Pauline Kennedy Jones of Atlanta, Kansas, 1985.
- From the Winfield Public Library. Rock Kansas scrapbook 1869-1972 by Jeanette Bielby Nichols, 1972.
- Childhood recollections of Jon W. Goodman and observations made by me in Rock in July 1990.
- Also, recollections of Meryl Parsons Davis.
Tom & Carolyn Ward, Columbus, KS