Every day, thousands of people drive through the “Y” on Highway 290. They all have one initial thought: “Gee, I hope that idiot doesn’t run into me.” A few glance over to the old stone building that houses the Austin Pizza Gardens and think, “Mmm…pizza….” And fewer still think, “I wonder what the story is behind that old building.”
Indeed, the “Rock Store” is one of the few indications to most people that Oak Hill ever had a past or an identity separate from Austin. The structure was built by James Andrew Patton (1853-1944), a pioneer and community leader who was known as “The Mayor of Oak Hill.”
Jim Patton was born in Lockhart, in Caldwell County, Texas, one of the eight children of James Madison Patton (1811-1900) and Sarah Jane Smithson Patton. (And to answer your first question—no, there doesn’t appear to be any close connection with these Pattons to World War II General George S. Patton, whose ancestors were from Virginia.)
Jim Patton’s grandfather, Judge Samuel Boyd Patton (1787-1869), came from South Carolina to Texas, eventually settling on the Upper Curry Creek in Kendall County. Though the Pattons were troubled by Indian raids for years, they definitely fought back.
In 1845 Jim Patton’s father James Madison Patton and a group of Texas Rangers had made camp on what is now the site of the State Capitol when they received word of an Indian encampment along Barton Creek. The men forded the Colorado River near the current site of the railroad bridge downtown. (Prior to the construction of the Longhorn Dam, the River was narrow enough to cross by jumping from rock to rock.)
When the men got to the camp they found the Indians asleep. There was an assumption in those days that when Indians slept the chief was always the first to wake up, so when this chief got up and let out a yell of alarm, the Rangers shot him dead. Most of the other Indians escaped, leaving behind a large cache of weapons. One Ranger was killed, however, shot through the teeth.
When James Madison Patton enlisted in the Army to fight in the Mexican War, he gave his occupation as “Indian hunter.”
In 1868 or 1869 a man rode into the Curry Creek Settlement, announcing with great alarm that two boys, one of them a grandson of Judge Patton, had been kidnapped by Indians. When old Judge Patton saddled up and indicated he was joining the rescue party, someone suggested to the Judge that he might be a little too old for this sort of thing and should probably stay home. Annoyed, the Judge said, “Too old? I can stop an arrow and I can stop a bullet as well as the next man.”
So the men rode off. After about a hundred yards they noticed the Judge seemed to be having trouble keeping up with the rest of the group. The rescue party encountered the Indians, there was a skirmish, and at the end of it the younger men discovered the Judge leading a string of Indian ponies and loaded with a collection of arrow quivers and rifles.
The party returned to Curry Creek and not long thereafter the missing boys emerged from the woods. They had not been kidnapped at all, but had gone into hiding when they saw the band of Indians come by. The man who’d raised the false alarm had ridden with William Quantrill during the Civil War, and one of the men from the rescue party, angry at all the trouble they’d just gone through, made the cutting and sarcastic comment to him, “Well, I bet old Quantrill would be upset with you leaving those boys to the Indians.”
The Indians made their raids at night, riding in under the light of the moon, shooting up everything. When they rode away they shot behind themselves over their shoulders.
Jim Patton and his brother Cicero Columbus served as Texas Rangers under Captain Alexander “Buck” Roberts, fighting the Comanches. During the Battle of Spring Valley, which was fought between Blanco and Johnson City, Columbus Patton took aim at a Comanche and shot off a tree branch instead. With his second shot he hit the Indian’s horse. The Indian, who was probably rather agitated by this point, jumped away, clutched his pistol with both hands, shot Columbus, and was in turn shot and killed by Jim. Jim took his brother to Round Mountain for medical care, and Columbus kept the bullet in his chest the remainder of his long life.
>Decades of dealing with Indians in Blanco, Kendall, and Comal Counties took their toll on the Pattons, and after the Judge’s death they looked for a place that was a little more quiet, since Sarah Patton had said she’d had her fill of frontier life. Jim Patton and his family arrived in Travis County on Christmas Eve in 1870 in a wagon pulled by four yoke of oxen. They set up a camp on the Mowinkle Ranch near the community of Oatmanville. And so it was here that the Patton family put down roots, and indeed remains, 140 years later.
In 1875 Jim Patton married Virginia Catharine Bishop (1854-1923). Ginny’s mother, Nancy, was Sarah Patton’s sister. The couple had two children, Andrew Lewis Patton (1875-1937) and Rosa Selma Patton White (1879-1964). When Ginny’s sister Lutie Bishop White died in 1890, the Pattons took her four daughters, Beaulah, Lillian, Zelda, and Cora White into their home and raised them.
Like most people in those days, Jim Patton supported himself by farming and ranching, and he did rather well with that, amassing hundreds of acres in Travis and Hays Counties.
In 1879 Patton went into the mercantile business. In 1898 he hired a German mason, Henry Marx to contruct a stone building next to his original wood frame store. The result was a solid limestone structure with walls two feet thick, built in the Texas Hill Country vernacular style.
The second floor of the “Rock Store,” as it is often called, contained a meeting room used as a dance hall, as well as a meeting room by the Masons and the Woodmen of the World Lodge. The Woodmen of the World used to be a rather popular fraternal organization, but is today mostly known for its insurance company. Go into any Texas cemetery that’s over a century old, though, and you’ll likely find at least one or two Woodmen of the World tombstones, designed to resemble tree stumps.
In 1861 a post office was set up in Berryman’s store in Oatmanville, but twelve years later Mr. Berryman relocated to nearby Oak Hill. This, not to mention the existence of a town called Oatmeal in Burnet County, proved too confusing for the bureaucrats in the U.S. Postal Service, and for years Oatmanville residents received Oak Hill mail and vice versa. Eventually a frustrated Jim Patton talked the Travis County Commissioner’s Court into changing the name of the settlement and school to Oak Hill, and he served as Postmaster from 1886 to 1910.
In 1881 the Old Stone Capitol in Austin burned, destroying many records, including those pertaining to the Battle of Spring Valley. Fortunately, Jim was friends with Congressman James P. Buchanan, who fixed the problem and saw to it that the Patton brothers received Indian War Pensions monthly.
Patton donated limestone for the construction of the new State Capitol and the second Travis County Courthouse, as well as stone and land for a school in Oak Hill. In 1933 he donated the Christmas Tree for the State Capitol. He served for about forty years as a school trustee. He even donated the land for the cemetery where he was eventually buried.
He was an active member of the Onion Creek Masonic Lodge #220 and President of the Oak Hill/Cedar Valley Pioneer Association from 1941 to 1944. He served on sixty-six Travis County juries and voted Democratic his entire life. He also served on to the Board of Trustees of the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Negroes.
Jim’s son Andrew Patton became a farmer and rancher. With his wife Webster Wesley Grumbles, he had six children: Andrew Wesley, Archie Lewis, Hazel Madeline, Bess “Erelene,” and Andrew “Jiggs” Jewell.
Jim’s daughter Rosa Patton married Texas Ranger John Dudley White. They had three children: John Dudley, Jr., Bruce Lamar, and Rosa “Margaret.” John Dudley White was killed in the line of duty in 1918 in Broadus, Texas during a raid on a gang of bootleggers and Army deserters.
After John White’s death, Rosa worked for a few years at the Patton Store and also helped run her father’s ranch. Jim and Ginny eventually leased out the store and its adjoining filling station and went to live on the Campbell-White Homeplace. The Homeplace included a dairy, cotton fields, various livestock, and a garden. Jim Patton delivered butter and eggs produced on the farm in a buggy.
Ginny Patton died in 1923, and in 1931 or 1932 Jim Patton moved back to his old house and took over the store again. In 1937 Jim and Rosa moved into Austin, to a property on West Mary Street, and it was there that Jim Patton died in 1944. Rosa remained there until her death in 1964.
The Rock Store was inherited by Rosa Patton White. She left it to her daughter Margaret White Grunewald, who in turn deeded it to her nephew James Morris White. Of course, James and his wife Annetta have, since 1964, owned and operated a landmark of their own, the legendary Broken Spoke honky-tonk and dance hall on South Lamar.
One day in 1970 James White was tending bar at the Spoke and was telling the patrons how he and his wife had applied for and been granted a Texas Historical Marker for the Rock Store. One of the patrons asked, “Well, how’d you like the Governor himself to come dedicate the marker?” It turns out the man was a State Trooper who worked for Governor Preston Smith, and not too long thereafter Governor Smith presided over the dedication, the first official gubernatorial business ever transacted in Oak Hill. Indeed, the Smiths and the Whites were to be friends for many years.
In 1985 the Austin Independent School District decided to open an elementary school in Oak Hill. Because of the interest of James and Annetta White in their family genealogy, AISD administrators learned about James Patton’s civic-mindedness and involvement in local education, and named the new school in Mr. Patton’s honor. All in all, not a bad tribute to a man who devoted his life to the little community at the “Y.”
My sources included White, James M. and Annetta, They Came To Texas, Austin, Texas, privately printed, 2000, and James M. White interview (2/28/2011).