General Histories of Coleman County, Texas

Rock Crusher
by Ovilee White

(Editors note:  In 1909. the Santa Fe Railway Company began work on its Coleman to Texico Cut - Off, which would give the railroad a much shorter route from California points to Galveston.  A rock crusher was built about four miles northwest of Coleman on Bachelor Prong of Hords Creek, in order to obtain rock to ballast the bed of the railroad tracks and later was used to ballast roads in Coleman County.  This rock crusher employed several hundred men.)

When I was a small boy, we lived near the rock crusher that Santa Fe had built.  The first thing they built was a small lake to furnish water for the operation.  Rock Crusher was a small town with all kinds of buildings and things to help take care of the men and mules that did the work.  There was a building used for a pump station to pump water to the crusher and the pens where the mules were kept when not at work and for the commissary where most of the men lived.  Some of the men, like my dad, lived in their own homes or tents.  They carried their lunch with them.

We lived about a mile away in an old rock house.  There was a general store close by our house where we bought anything we had to have.

The rock crusher was a tall building with a big steam engine to turn the roller that crushed the rock, then carried it up an elevator to a place where they could dump it into open cars made for that purpose.  There were many things hat had to be done before the rock could be crushed.  First, the soil was removed from the layers of rock.  They used a big plow pulled by four of the biggest mules I ever saw.  They would plow up the soil and then the wheelers (a large shovel built on wheels) would come to carry the dirt and dump it in a big pile out of the way.  They used a team of three mules to load the wheelers.  These were called a snatch team.  They had a chain with a hook on the end that would hook in the end of the tongue of the wheeler and the snatch team of the wheeler would pull it to the dumping place.  The wheeler had a long lever that was used to load and also to dump.  There was a man to load and another to dump.  The man driving the wheeler team didn't do anything but drive.  He had to walk all the time.  After the wheeler was empty, the team would stop and back up to trip the wheeler back so it would roll along back to the loading place for another load.  There would be 20 or 30 wheelers, so there would be one right behind the other, all day long. After the dirt was cleared off the rock, there would be a crew of men that would come along and drill holes in the rock and place charges of powder or dynamite and get them ready to set off at the noon hour or after quitting tine in the evening.

There were about 60 or 70 different teams of mules.  Each team had one mule the driver could ride.  When the engineer blew the whistle, everyone knew he had to get on his mule and get out of the way of the blasters.  When they started blasting, it might throw rocks for a long way.  You had better be out of reach or under cover until they were through.  After the rocks were broken up and loosened, a crew of men would come along with sledge hammers and break them up small enough to he loaded into a dump wagon.  This wagon was like any other wagon, except it had a bed or body made so you could release a lever and one side would drop down and dump the rock out into the crusher.  There was a track like a railroad track that the wagons had to follow so that the rock would be sure to land in the crusher.  If they had missed the track and dumped it on the track it would have stopped a lot of the operation.  As it was, everything went on just like clockwork.  The crusher was a big roller-like thing that had grooves on it and on the walls, so that as it turned and the rocks were dumped in, it started crushing them.  As they went further done in it, it would crush smaller and smaller until it was the right size.  Then it was elevated to the hopper to be loaded into cars to send to the road they night he working on at that tune.

No matter what you were doing or where you were, when that whistle blew, everything stopped right in its tracks and headed for the barn.

The rock in the area was in layers.  It would be about 12 to 18 inches thick, then a thin layer of dirt and another layer of rock down as deep as they went, maybe 20 or 25 feet deep.  There were huge piles of dirt that had been piled up, that had been dumped by the wheelers.  My dad drove a wheeler for a while.  They worked from seven until six o'clock with an hour off for lunch.  They got about two dollars a day.  The men that broke the rock and got it ready to load, got to be real efficient.  They could tell just the place to hit the rock so it would break easy.  I think the hardest job there was loading the rock in the wagon as each piece of rock had to be lifted into the wagon.  Everything had to be done by hand.  There was no machinery to do the work, but they didn't know anything else, so nobody thought anything about it.  The lake was stocked with bass and almost anytime we went fishing we would catch several nice ones.  In about an hour, we once caught 21 pounds of fish.  We caught a lot of fish during the two years that we lived there.

Too soon they tore the crusher down and moved everything away but the big hole in the ground and the huge piles of dirt.  The store and the cotton gin are gone.  The lake has filled with mud and silt until it doesn't hold water anymore.  The people that worked there are all gone, but I still remember a busy little place that lasted only short time. pump station at the rock crusher.

(Images to be added)

The Rock Crusher.

Loading rock for the crusher.

Pump station at the rock crusher.

(From A History of Coleman County and Its People, 1985
edited by Judia and Ralph Terry, and Vena Bob Gates - used by permission.)

Rock Crusher, Texas

ROCK CRUSHER, TEXAS. Rock Crusher was on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway near the Bachelor Prong of Hords Creek, eight miles northwest of Coleman in northwestern Coleman County. The community began in 1909, when the Santa Fe railroad built a rock crusher in the Purcell pasture to provide ballast for new railroad track. The Bachelor Prong of Hords Creek was dammed to form a small lake to provide water for the operation, and a pump station and a number of buildings were set up by the company to house the workers. The rock crusher was a large roller powered by a steam engine and housed in a tall building. Wagons pulled by mules carried the crushed rock to the railroad siding. The operation required hundreds of workers who lived either in company houses or in a collection of tents and private homes. John Saunders of Coleman built a store at the site in 1912. The Rock Crusher post office operated from 1912 to 1914, at which time the community had an estimated population of 400, two general stores, and a cotton gin. In 1916 three neighboring schools, Silver Valley, Mount View, and White Chapel, were combined for a year to form the Rock Crusher school district. After the demand for railroad ballast dropped off, the company provided ballast for Coleman county roads in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1933 the community had 150 inhabitants and one business. Sometime during the 1930s the company tore down the rock crusher, leaving a large hole in the ground, and in 1939 Rock Crusher had a population of twenty-five, one business, and scattered dwellings. By the early 1960s the site was deserted, and the lake had silted up.

(From The Online Handbook of Texas, as taken from
The History of Coleman County and Its People (2 vols., San Angelo: Anchor, 1985).)

The Post Office operated from April 18, 1912 to February 14, 1914 (See Coleman County Post Offices). The postcard shown here was probably mailed by someone passing through on the train and is dated February 8, 1913.  The card shows a English view of "Loading cotton for Liverpool."  Even though these people were not local, this image of the Rock Crusher postmark is probably one of the few in existence today.

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