Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

Richard V Francaviglia


Throughout the history of the United States, natural resources have played key roles in determining where towns are formed, and when towns will die. For just as long, waterways, roadways, and railroads have played an equally important role in determining the location and success of many towns. This thesis builds on these two broad themes—resources and transportation—to examine how Rockdale, Texas was able to become the most powerful town in southern Milam County, and successfully compete with Cameron, Texas for dominance in Milam County. Cameron was the established county seat in Milam County when in 1873, the International & Great Northern Railway bypassed Cameron and built its track south of the Little River. For two years, the newly established Rockdale was the terminus of the rail line. The railroad connected Rockdale with a large network of cities and it grew into an important center in the county. This thesis also engages a third theme, community leadership and promotion, that is crucial in determining how a community thrives. In the years that followed, city leaders consistently worked to improve their town, strengthen relations with other towns, and diversify their economy. In 1951, the culmination of three-quarter’s of a century of progress, combined with the natural resources found near Rockdale, the Aluminum Company of America erected a large aluminum smelting plant that would forever change Rockdale and secure its position as an important center in Milam County. The success that Rockdale capitalized on in 1951 was made possible by a series of events over the previous eight decades.


Arts and Humanities | History


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

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