Central Texans go to the polls on Saturday for city (and other) elections and there are some pretty lively races.
But Milam County’s most “contested” election ever was held Nov. 3, 1874.
It was literally Rockdale vs. Cameron.
Cameron had been the county seat of Milam County since 1846, designated so by an act of the one-year-old Texas State Legislature.
By the early 1870s a new town to the south was growing as the International & Great Northern Railroad tracks pushed westward through the prairie. It was called Rockdale. Obviously there was a rivalry between the two towns right from the start.
On April 7, 1874, the Milam County Courthouse burned to the ground, apparently an act of arson by an accused forger, trying to destroy county records. If s0, it worked. Only records surviving were in one surveyor’s book which was at the surveyor’s home instead of the courthouse.
The seat of Milam County government became Cameron’s Phillips Hotel. Plans were made to build a new courthouse.
But County Commissioners H. H. Bales and John Crunk had other ideas. In July, 1874, they termed the county seat situation “unsettled,” reflecting a growing movement south of the Little River to build the new courthouse in Rockdale, which had become the larger city.
Bales and Crunk filed a formal protest to stop plans for a new courthouse in Cameron. A petition followed, asking for an election to determine which city would be the county seat.
On Oct. 9, commissioners ordered an election. The ballot question was for or against “removal of the county seat” and, if the vote was “for,” asking the voter to name their preferred site for a new county seat.
A four-week campaign followed. That campaign must have been something!
Cameron won, 1,861 to 1,618, and, of course, remains Milam County seat to this day.
Editor’s note” Joy Graham was unable to write her popular weekly history column this week so the editor is filling in for her.