Magness provides history of Rockwall roads in Historical Foundation lecture series

(ROCKWALL, TX – March 29, 2017) Did you know that from the 1800s into the 1900s, Rockwall County had very little road construction equipment and that repairs to roads fell on the shoulders of the landowners and citizens?

The Rockwall County Historical Foundation welcomed County Commissioner David Magness for its Sheri Stodghill Lecture Series on Friday, March 10, who gave a brief history on the road system of Rockwall County.

Magness said back in the 1800s to the early 1900s, the Commissioners Court would appoint 100 landowners as overseers to repair the roads within the county. Each overseer would pick five people to go help him repair a section of road for five days. The county paid the overseer $5 per day and paid the five individuals who helped the overseer $3 per day, but the workers had to provide the mules for the road work.

“Those individuals brought their team of vehicles and the county equipment to work on the roads for those five days,” Magness said. “It was a partnership all around the county, and you can imagine that in some areas it worked, and in some areas, it didn’t work.”

Magness said that in 1905, the citizens asked the commissioners court to create a special tax just to improve roads. The request passed with 169 for the tax and 149 against. Then in 1914, a group of citizens formed a road district and improved a portion of the roads in Rockwall County.

“I can’t tell you exactly where that road district was, but I can tell you that the citizens couldn’t pay the tax on it,” Magness said. “They were getting underwater pretty quick because their taxes were out of reach. That’s part of the reason that we got to the 1919 bond election for the $800,000 to build the roads throughout Rockwall County.”

The proposal that passed was for a full 12-foot-lane, 24-foot-wide, concrete roadway from Rockwall through Royse City and to the west from Rockwall to what is now Dalrock Road. The slab roads, Magness said, were nine feet wide and generally on the right-hand side so that people coming to town with their goods had a paved road. “You could use the paved road coming out of town if there was no one coming into town, but if there was, you had to pull over to let them pass. And if there was bad weather, you still had to move over.”

On April 8, 1940, Rockwall County signed a letter saying they would buy the right-of-way for the U.S. Highway 67 (which was eventually renamed Highway 7, then was rerouted and became the Bankhead Highway or State Highway 66) to come across the East Fork bottom into Rockwall as far as Highway 205. In 1953, Ralph Hall sent out a letter asking for the residents of Rockwall County to attend a meeting about how best to progress Highway 67 across the county.

“That’s a particularly important letter because there had to be some bond money spent to buy additional right-of-way,” Magness said. “There was a 200-foot right-of-way already bought by the county with that special tax which passed in 1905. The state needed an extra 100 feet wide of right-of-way.”

Magness showcased another letter written in 1961 by the Rockwall Chamber of Commerce to Dallas East, a group of cities and communities which had formed to try and get transportation roadways from the east part of Texas into the Dallas metroplex. The letter stated that Rockwall citizens had approved a bond to purchase the remaining 100 feet of right-of-way for Highway 67, which had cost $41,000. About half a decade later, Dallas and Hunt counties got around to purchasing their 100 feet of right-of-way, and that delay had resulted in the federal government picking up 90 percent of the cost of that right-of-way, ultimately costing Rockwall County 90 percent of the $41,000. The letter also called for the modernization of Highway 7 which would eventually be completed in 1969.

As a county commissioner, Magness represents Rockwall and Hunt counties on the Regional Transportation Council. He also serves as vice chairman of the Board of Directors of Star Transit. Magness serves as chairman of the Rockwall County Transportation Consortium and oversees Rockwall County’s transportation plan, which is funded by $117 million approved by county voters in 2015.

Story and photo by Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News. 

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