This article originally appeared in the Garland/Mesquite of The Dallas Morning News on August 4, 1995.
By Michael R. Hayslip
One focal point for identifying an early-day rural community was its store, which usually provided groceries, gossip and other essentials for a handful of households set thick enough to notice each other’s gunfire. Those who forgot the proprietor’s name, which was subject to change, simply referred to the store by the community’s name, but that was also subject to change. Sometimes, just “the store” was sufficient, as long as there was only one.
Although sparse settlement in the Garland/Mesquite area dates from the mid-1840s, a tiny community called Housley eventually congealed around the wobbly triangle formed by Rose Hill, Rowlett and Bobtown Roads. The community and its new post office were named after Dan Housley, who owned the first store and in 1884 served as postmaster of the post office located there. Housley himself is also credited with building the first cotton gin in nearby Rowlett.
Its broader sphere of influence stretched from Rowlett Creek on the north down to Duck Creek on the south, and overlapped the older Bobtown and Locust Grove settlements to the east between Lyons and Zion Roads. To the west were the old Centerville and Duck Creek communities, now Garland. Within this district a man named Claypool is reported to have established the earliest saw mill and flour mill, and later the earliest cotton gin in the area was added.
By 1892 the Housley post office was moved west down Rowlett Road to a store outfitted that year by Henry Anderson and his brother John. Henry was appointed postmaster that year, and soon both the post office and the community came to be called Rose Hill. Although no formal ceremony was recorded, legend has it that the new name had been selected and used even earlier by Mrs. Elias T. Myers, an early resident and presumably a rose fancier.
Near the turn of the century Rose Hill boasted two grocery stores, two gin/mill installations, a drug store, a hardware store, a blacksmith shop, a shoemaker, Baptist and Methodist churches and a schoolhouse with a Woodmen of the World lodge hall above it. Doctors Frank Ramsey and J. M. Armstrong were among the early physicians caring for some 50 townspeople and occupants of surrounding farms. But there was no railroad.
The Anderson store was acquired by T. J. Swaffer in the early 1900s and operated as T. J. Swaffer General Merchandise, but it was still known as the Rose Hill store as well. Offering drygoods and sundry items as well as feed and groceries, the store also served as the community mailbox until the post office was replaced in 1906 by rural route delivery from Garland. Later on Swaffer built a croquet court alongside the store for recreation.
Besides those mentioned, familiar surnames of earlier-day Rose Hill customers included Bryant, Compton, Coyle, Crabb, Denton, Dunaway, Gleason, Little, Loving, Lyons, Morris, Poovey, Rosson, Tisinger, Wolford and Vaughan. Some traded their own butter and eggs from home for other supplies, and many enjoyed the store’s credit terms. Although Mr. Swaffer steadfastly resisted Sunday business, he customarily maintained double-digit opening hours on weekdays during cotton planting in the spring and harvest in the fall.
Mr. Swaffer’s daughter Selma was born in 1906 and still remembers helping many of the regulars, as well she should. She married Wendel Anderson, Henry’s son, and together they took over the store after her father died in 1933. Although it resumed the Anderson name and carried it beyond her husband’s death in 1964 until it was demolished for road widening in 1974, the name Swaffer’s or Rose Hill Store could still identify this community’s best-known landmark. After all, it was still in the family.
Rose Hill’s school classes were consolidated with the Garland Independent School District in 1953, and the community itself was absorbed into the City of Garland through a series of annexations in the mid-1960s. Nevertheless, most folks with roots there still claim citizenship in Rose Hill.
Photo caption:The Rose Hill community’s Anderson Store, shown about 1965, stood vigil at the intersection at the intersection of Rose Hill and Rowlett Roads until demolished in 1974 for road widening.
Photo courtesy Jerry M. Flook.
This article originally appeared in the Garland/Mesquite section of The Dallas Morning News on November 10, 1995.
By Michael R. Hayslip
The revival staged in 1903 for Garland’s Antioch Baptist Church by Rev. Mordecai F. Ham provided a stem-winding example of old-time religion.
Besides their Sunday services and mid-week events throughout the year, local churches within the Protestant religious denominations traditionally held annual revival campaigns. Revivals were special meetings, convened on successive days and nights for periods extending over at least a week.
In an analysis of these happenings, titled They Gathered by the River, by Bernard A. Weisberger, suggests that the term revival came into general use around 1800. “Ministers,” the author contends, “chose it deliberately to scold a naughty world by the suggestion that it was necessary to ‘revive’ the piety of an earlier day,” in which people were supposed to have lived purer lives.
Evangelical by nature, revivals were intended to salvage lost souls and add numbers to the sponsoring flock. In the event that existing members had wavered in the faith, a revival could rekindle their commitments as well.
Conveniently for members of Baptist Churches, which inducted converts by a baptismal ritual of submerging them in water, most revivals in those days occurred during the warmer months, when creeks and tanks afforded tolerable temperatures for the occasion. Since scheduling among various meetings was offset at random, motivated individuals could revive with more than one denomination each year.
William Martin, a biographer of the renowned evangelist Billy Graham, took special note of Rev. Ham and his ministry in the book Prophet With Honor. Mordecai Ham, claims Martin, had a “penetrating gaze” and “delivered the colorful, fire-breathing preaching of an old war-horse . . . “
Apparently, Rev. Ham gave the Garland Baptists their money’s worth. Church minutes reflect that the “protracted” meeting, held inside a tent, netted 99 additions to the roll, 78 of whom came “by Grace and Baptism.” As a result, church membership swelled by more than 20 per cent, and grateful worshipers rewarded the guest preacher with a collection of $250, which would have been sufficient to buy a small Garland farm at the time.
Rev. Ham, meanwhile, moved onward and upward from the stock-tank baptism in Garland. In Martin’s book “Billy Frank” Graham credits a North Carolina revival of Mordecai Ham three decades later with “bringing him to his knees” and a decision to enter the full-time ministry. That meeting extended from late August until after Thanksgiving in 1934 and no doubt brought others to their knees as well.
Celebrated as he was, Rev. Ham apparently grew more controversial with the passage of years. Particularly grating to local ministers was his habit of attacking the lethargy of the local clergy with “sulphuric fulminations.” He also became prone, says Martin, to “antisemitic rantings and racist slurs so notable that newspaper editors sometimes urged him to leave their cities.”
Undaunted, Rev. Ham preached on, holding revivals wherever he could draw a crowd. Fred Harris, formerly the proprietor of Harris Restaurant in Garland, insists that he cannot recall the 1903 meeting, but remembers a Mordecai Ham revival at Garland’s Miller Road Baptist Church in the early ‘50s. “He stayed at the Pink Motel, ate with us frequently and gave me a book he had written about his ministry,” said Harris. “He must have toned down some, but he was still full of fire and brimstone.”
Photo not available
A baptism in 1903 at the stock tank on the J. S. Pickett farm winds up a revival preached by Rev. Mordecai Ham for the Antioch Baptist Church, a forerunner of Garland’s First Baptist Church. The site was located near the present intersection of First and Walnut Streets in Garland, where the S&L Automatic Transmission facilities now stand.
Photo courtesy of the Pickett family and First Baptist Church in Garland.