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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Rains Continue to Fall

Rain completely covered the surface of my garden during Monday's downpour.
Two more rains this past week, one on Saturday evening and the other on Monday morning, added to the already ample amounts that have fallen the past couple of weeks and kept lawn mowers busy all over town.  On Saturday evening just about sundown a storm blew in from the southwest with strong winds and rain falling off and on until around nine-thirty or ten o’clock.  Here in Roscoe, totals amounted to about a half-inch, with Kenny Landfried recording an official .62", but more fell in places west, northwest and south of town.

Then, on Monday morning another storm hit and my rain gauge got 1.1” more, but again more fell in some areas around Roscoe. Kenny Landfried recorded an official 1.15". This storm was accompanied by strong south winds with gusts up to 46mph, enough to knock down tree limbs around town and prompt the Fire Department to sound the siren as a tornado was sighted near Loraine.  There was also some hail west of town.

Luckily, we haven’t had the flooding or tornados that have hit other parts of Texas in the past week, particularly in central and southeast Texas.  Almost all of our rains have been under an inch and a half at a time, but they have come consistently enough that it feels like we’re in a tropical monsoon season, where rain falls almost every day. The official total for the month of May so far is 4.62" with more quite possible before June rolls around. The fields haven’t dried up yet, which is okay for the cotton crop because farmers haven’t planted yet, but those with winter wheat are suffering from the inability to get into the fields to harvest it.

Temperatures have remained lower than average for this time of year.  Last Wednesday the high was only 66°F, and Thursday felt downright chilly with a high of 61° and strong northeast winds gusting up to 25mph.  Friday was also cool with a high of 76°.  Lows ranged from 50° on Thursday morning to 62° on Sunday morning.  The warmest temperature of the week was yesterday at 88° as skies cleared and the sun shone almost all day.

Today should be a repeat of yesterday with a high of about 88° again this afternoon and little chance of rain until this evening when the chances go back up to 40% tonight, 60% tomorrow, and then back to 40% until midday on Saturday. Temperatures will continue to be mild from Thursday through next Monday with highs in the upper seventies to lower eighties and lows in the mid to low sixties.  Humidity should remain high all week.



Although the water may be a little colder than usual, Saturday should be a great day for Roscoe kids.  Not only will the Roscoe City Pool be open, but the pool staff wants to kick the summer season off right with free hot dogs for all.

This year the pool is being operated once again by Kalyn Presley-Tate and will be open Tuesdays through Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00pm.  Price of admission is $2 with season passes available for $75.  “Women’s Only” will be from 11:30am-12:30pm daily.

The pool can also be rented for private parties that begin and end between 6:00 and 10:00pm.  The fee is $60 for two hours, $70 for three hours, and $80 for four hours with a $15 deposit.  That price includes an approved licensed lifeguard.

Swimming lessons are also planned, but exact dates and instructors have yet to be determined.

For reservations and additional details, phone 325-766-2352 during open pool hours or visit the pool’s Facebook Page at Roscoe City Pool.



City Manager Cody Thompson would like everyone to know that he and City workers are well aware of the potholes in several streets around town.  Unfortunately, they can’t eliminate them until the streets dry up since the asphalt patches won’t hold otherwise.  They will be working on them as soon as conditions permit.

He also wants to remind everyone that mosquitoes are a health hazard as they can carry the West Nile virus.  To keep them from multiplying, residents should drain any standing water in yards or containers, clean rain gutters, fill in low areas in their lawns, keep grass mowed, and stay indoors as much as possible at dusk and dawn.

He is also asking drivers to be aware that school is out for the summer and to watch out for kids in the streets, especially around the baseball field, the park, and swimming pool.



Country singer Mark McKinney will just be one of the bands appearing at the fourth annual “Flip-Flops and Tank Tops” on Saturday afternoon and evening.  The event, whose proceeds go to the Hope Center for Autism and Snyder We Care, will feature live music starting at 4:00pm and continuing all evening.

This poster lists all the musical groups that are playing.  Tickets are $20.

On Friday evening, Granger Smith and band will make their debut at the Lumberyard.  Smith, also known as Earl Dibbles, Jr., has had hits with songs such as Country Boy Love, 4x4, and the Country Boy Song.  He has played in the White House and for the troops in Iraq and Kuwait.  Opening for him will be Hudson Moore starting at 8pm with Granger Smith taking the stage at about 9:30.

For more information, call the Lumberyard during business hours at 325-766-2457.



The downtown water tower, a Roscoe landmark for over 75 years.
Editor’s note: A good historical narrative should be based on solid evidence, contemporary with the event or events written about and corroborated from other sources of the time, whether oral or written.  However, sometimes the desired solid basis is not possible because evidence is lacking and pieces are missing.  In such a case, the historian must do the best he or she can with what’s available—and the following account of the 1911 downtown fire and its repercussions for the city of Roscoe is such a case.

For lack of better evidence, this account is based on minutes from two City Council meetings of January 6, 1911, and another dated February 3, all re-typed from the original records in 1983; two high school essays on the fire, one from 1936 by Earl Dawson, the other from 1937 by Bill Marth; and a
Sweetwater Telegram newspaper article entitled “Roscoe, the Magic City of West Texas,” published on July 16, 1908.  The school essays, lent to me by Stanley Cleckler for scanning along with several others written on the history of Roscoe, are valuable despite their obvious imperfections because both use as sources copies of the Roscoe Times which are no longer available to us.

The Downtown Fire of 1911

On January 11, 1911, downtown Roscoe had the most disastrous fire in its history.  It started in the general store of L. E. Jarmon & Bro. and completely destroyed it, along with the store next to it owned and run by W. T. Pool.  It also did considerable damage to the Roscoe State Bank, McCauley’s Dry Goods, the Roscoe Times office, and the Roscoe, Snyder & Pacific Railway office, all barely saved by the volunteer bucket brigade.  At that time, all of these businesses were located on the north side of Broadway (then known as First Street) east of today’s Blackland Smokehouse and west of the Worship Center. There was no damage to the businesses across the street.

According to the Roscoe Times of January 13, the blaze started in the back room of Jarmon’s store and had a fair start when it was discovered by Asa Chappell. However, it could have been quenched at that point with a few buckets of water if they had been available.  As it was, the total damage done to Jarmon’s store was $16,000—quite a sum in those days—$10,000 of which was stock and the remainder the building and fixtures. Pool’s store and stock, valued at $11,000, were also destroyed, but because he had insurance, he was able to recover a large amount of his loss.

The minutes of the City Council meetings immediately before and after the fire present a bit of a mystery.  First, there were apparently two meetings on January 6, five days before the fire.  In the first, Mayor E. I. Hill was absent and the meeting was called to order by the Mayor pro tem, L. E. Jarmon himself.  In that meeting A. B. Lipscomb moved that the City Council condemn the wall of the L. E. Jarmon building and have it torn down and removed, but there is no mention that the motion carried.  Whether the apparently faulty wall had anything to do with the fire five days later is anybody’s guess.

Then, in the second meeting Mayor Hill, present this time, called the meeting to order with all members present.  In an ironic twist, Councilman L. E. Jarmon moved that the City “order an election for the purpose of voting 20-year bonds at 5% to the amount of $5000.00 for the purpose of installing water works.”  This motion was then apparently tabled rather than acted upon.

Was it just coincidence or could Mr. Jarmon have had a premonition about the fire that broke out in his store five days later?  In either case, it did break out and destroyed the store that he and his brother had run and built up since 1906, according to an article in the July 16, 1908, Sweetwater Telegram.

Then, according to the January 20 Roscoe Times, the City Council called a meeting for January 19.  At that meeting “the members discussed a bond issue for the building of a city water works.” In the words of Bill Marth’s essay, “This had been brought up before, but since the large fire, the council decided something had to be done.” So, a motion was made and passed that the Council authorize “the issuance of $7500.00 bonds for the purpose of erecting water works in the City of Roscoe.” Then, another motion was made that the Mayor “draw up a suitable resolution on the death of Mr. L. E. Jarmon deceased.”*

So, in the week since the fire, two things had apparently happened: 1) the City Council had a change of heart about the City’s need for water works, and 2) L. E. Jarmon had died. The first is completely understandable after a fire of such magnitude, and, I suppose, so is the second, especially if Mr. Jarmon had no insurance on his store and had lost everything.  However, at this late date, there is probably no way of ever ascertaining whether he committed suicide or died of natural causes.

In either case, an election on the bond issue was called for February 2, and city voters approved it by a vote of 67 to 14.  However, the Attorney General declared the election invalid because of insufficient lapse of time between the calling and the holding of the election.  Instead of two weeks’ notice, a minimum of thirty days was required.  So, on March 17, a second election was held and the bond issue still passed, this time by a vote of 56 to 13.  On June 30, Mayor Hill received notice that the bonds were approved, and water wells were drilled.

On November 24, the City paid $5530 for a 50,000-gallon water tank bought in Chicago along with 1512 feet of six-inch water mains and 1000 feet of fire hose.

The 50,000-gallon tank and tower, erected before the year was out, was the old downtown water tower that immediately became a Roscoe landmark and remained one for over 75 years. It was finally brought down in 1990.  

An article on old Roscoe written by Marion Duncan and published in the Roscoe Times on November 5, 1983, states that as soon as the new water tower was up and in use, the old City-owned windmill and water trough were taken down.  These were located just behind the present-day Smackers Building on the south side of Main Street.

* The re-typed City Council records put the date of this meeting at February 3.  I have no explanation as to why the discrepancy exists.  However, since the Roscoe Times account used by both high school students in their essays put the date at January 19 and then follow it with plausible dates for the bond issue elections, I have chosen to use the Roscoe Times dates.


Many of us who grew up in Roscoe when the downtown water tower was still standing have personal memories about it.  Of course, as boys we were strictly forbidden to climb it as it was something like 85 feet tall, but at night when no one was around many of us did.  I remember throwing balsa wood gliders from the walkway that went around the tank.  I also remember the time in 1959 when a painter who was chipping paint under the water tank fell to his death when his one of his scaffold ropes broke.  And Arlon Wayne Orman tells me that back in the twenties or thirties it used to have a big red heart painted on the tank along with the words “In the Heart of the Blackland Divide,”  but I’ve never seen a photo that captured that.


1 comment:

  1. Some of those original waterworks are still in use.


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