Rice History 1933
In the summer of 1875 ten of the citizens of Rice gave money for the erection of a building which was to serve as a church and school house. L B. Sessions, W. D. Haynie, J. A. Ward, L. B. Haynie, J. A. Clopton, B. M. Clopton, J. M. Bartlett, W. M. Holmes, E. G. Sessions and Jim Mitchem contributed to the fund. The building was constructed on the lot where the First Methodist Church now stands. School was taught in it on week days and church was held in it on Sunday, when there was anyone to preach. Traveling preachers of any denomination were welcomed there.
Below is given a sketch written by Mrs. J. A. Lackey about the new school:
"The first Monday in October, 1875, the first school ever taught in Rice was opened in a new wooden frame building, the first ever built in the little new village for that purpose. There were few children living in Rice at that time, and the school drew its patronage from several miles in the country, also some boarding pupils from other towns. Our instructor, Dr. J. A. Ward, a minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, a scholarly gentleman with an A.M. degree from a noted university, taught forty-five or fifty pupils, little tots of seven or eight years to young men twenty-two or twenty-three years old until the first public school opened in November of the same year. Then Mrs. Ward, Dr. Ward's wife, was his able assistant.
"Some families from the Northern states had found homes in this county. Also several families from Galveston.
"Town, school house, pupils and teacher were all new. That first day was a day in which we were somewhat busy getting acquainted and adjusting ourselves to new conditions.
"Those were days when girls wore calico dresses and gingham sunbonnets. They were by no means a dull, ignorant class of young people. A number of them with their keen perception and bright intellects were a joy and pride to their teacher. Some of them afterwards attended colleges and universities. Several of the boys made professional men. Dr. Ward inspired his pupils to greater and nobler things. He has long since gone to his reward, but I am sure his good influence still lives."
Mrs. Lackey is the only person now living in Rice who attended school on the first day.
Rice has the distinction of being one of the few towns that had never had a saloon. A small amount of whiskey was sold in grocery stores until 1876, but there was no regular saloon. In 1876 it was made unlawful to sell intoxicating liquors within three miles of Rice by a petition drawn up by Fletcher Mitchem. A large number of people signed this petition.
Except for one occasion the increase of population in Rice has been very slow and even. In this particular instance the population of Rice was almost doubled in one day. One morning in December, 1877, a train stopped here which carried about a hundred new settlers. They came from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They had heard much of the lovely sunshine of Texas and were looking for a good place to settle. Evidently this was the most inviting spot they had seen since they left New York for they stopped here. A number of them stayed for the first few days at the hotel, which was then being run by Haynie and Ward.
On the morning after their arrival the ground was covered with snow. This was a great disappointment to them, especially to one young man of a poetic temperament who was among those staying at the hotel. Early that morning he walked out on the veranda of the hotel to view the landscape. As he pondered weak and shivering on that bleak December morn, probably thinking of his old home up North, suddenly he burst into poetry. He spoke in a desperate and dramatic tone that would have put any tragedian to shame:
"Tell me not in mournful numbers; Of this glor-i-i-ious sunny South, Verily it doth seem,
That this is but a dream."
Most of the settlers left in a few months. Poets do not make good settlers.