My paternal grandfather, Green C. Rochell, a poor farm boy from the red hills of northern Alabama, listened to stories from former neighbors, who had hung signs on the gatepost saying, “Gone to Texas.”
The Dawsons, Petries and others sent word back from what was then north Kaufman County, telling of the fertile, black soil. Grandfather had felt the ravishes of the Civil War. Stories of Northern Carpetbaggers looting the few remaining possessions of his widowed mother, could not be blotted out of his memory. With the extreme poverty of not having a bag of salt, he would retrieve dirt from under the smokehouse floor. This dirt was mixed with salt that dropped from hung, cured meat and this was used to season the little food remaining to the family. So, who could resist when told of the bale-to-the-acre cotton and of the native grass as tall as the saddle, girth of a horse? Some said that the soil was up to ten feet deep in the creek bottoms.
With a one-way ticket to Texas and a kiss from his mother on his cheek, Green Rochell arrived in Terrell, Texas, with five dollars In hand in the year 1880. After walking across the black land prairie to Rockwall, he found employment in the Bowles Community north of Rockwall, presently a part of the Shores Country Club Estates. The pay was $3.00 per month with room and board; the hours were “can to can’t.”
I remember Grandpa telling this story often: “My only transportation was shoe leather and while walking Into Rockwall town, I stopped at old man Lanham’s house and asked for a drink of water. Mr. Lanham apologized and said the water was hot in the up-ground cistern and he couldn’t afford to have a well dug.” Grandpa said that he would dig him a well, which he later confessed was his first and last water-well digging The agreement was as follows: “Feed and put me up, and I will dig the well for that old walking cultivator over there by that hackberry tree.” In due time the well was dug and walled up, and he instructed Mr. Lanham to keep the plow for safe-keeping. After entering the town square, Grandpa found a man (the name has been lost for posterity) in similar circumstances, no money, in need of a cultivator, but the owner of an extra saddle horse. I can still picture in my mind his telling of the story again and again, with his hands joining together over a protruding stomach, with thumbs making circles around and around, and saying, “l haven’t walked since.”
I suspect that he end Grandmother worked hard and managed well. After meager beginnings, they accumulated property and lived very comfortably. Their primary objective were to be good neighbors and to live a Christian example for their children. Apparently, he was a good Judge of men and of farm land.
Records indicate that Green Rochell purchased the 24th and 25th automobiles in Rockwall County. On a visit to Dallas he bought a Model F, two-cylinder, chain-driven Buick, and a one-cylinder Brush automobile. It is unknown how he managed to drive both cars from Dallas on the same day. The family did not know if the fact that he bought two cars was from fear of having to walk again, or if he just thought he needed a spare car, or if he was just overcome by a big city car salesman. Regardless, drivlng for Grandpa was a one-day duration. These new-fangled contraptions did not understand “ged-e-up,” “haw,” or “whoa.” In short, he managed to maneuver between the fence post, the house, and the barn. The top wire of the fence stopped the forward motion of the car, and the driving of Green Rochell. All driving from then on was done by his sons, Calvin, or Henry, or by son-in-law, Richard Canup. After the sons married and moved from home, Green had a colored chauffeur by the name of Hubbard.
Apparently, digging a well for Mr. Lanham could not escape Grandpa’s memory. With several men, one of whom I recall as Mr. Chester Edwards (father of Maurine Heath), Grandpa drilled for oil on the Shook place north of Rockwall. This is across Quall Run Road from the Roy and Randa Hance home.
I remember, as a child, spending parts of the summer vacation at my grandparents’ home. This was a large, white, two-level house that was a mansion to me. Grandmother was an immaculate housekeeper with blooming flowers planted completely around from the front to the rear yard. On Saturday, we would drive into town from the country. I would sit in the back seat between my grandparents while Hubbard drove us into the city. I felt like a queen in my carriage. Upon arriving in Rockwall, they gave me a whole quarter to spend on anything a little girl would desire. Their home remains on Highway 276, five miles east of Rockwall, and is now owned by my Uncle Henry and Aunt Emma Rochell, parents of Mrs. Joe Loftis.
Grandpa enjoyed being around people. When he was seventy-three years old, and his going was curtailed, he issued an invitation to each person In Rockwall County over seventy years of age to spend the day with him. A beef was prepared, and goodies were cooked, and people from all around the county began arriving at 10:00 A.M. and spent the day. The Rockwall Success carried the Item on October 13, 1933, and listed the guests, the date each came to Texas, and where each came from.
Green C. Rochell was born In Alabama In 1860. His first wife, a Miss Stout, died young and they were the parents of Uncle Ocie. After the death of his first wife, Green married my grandmother, Josephine Smith, and they were the parents of Emma Jane Canup; George Calvin (my father); and Henry Edward. Each child had one daughter: Adrine Canup Fugua, Marie Elizabeth Rochell Cameron; and my other cousin, Jo Ann Rochell Loftis.
For the privilege of knowing him and for the honor of being his granddaughter, I am deeply grateful.
By Elizabeth Rochell Cameron for Rockwall County History by Rockwall County Historical Foundation, 1984.