The earliest settlers arrived in the early 1840s either on horse, mule-drawn wagons or by foot by way of the National Road of the Republic. At times, the road was impassable where it crossed the East Fork of the Trinity River because of rain-swollen river was over its banks. Some travelers simply stopped in this area, originally called Mercer’s Colony, to begin their new life.
Three men named Boydstun, Wade and Stevenson discovered a rock wall formation when digging a well in the mid-1800’s. They suggested naming the town Rockwall after the curious geological formation. The name was accepted and the town of Rockwall was planted in April 17, 1854.
At that time, Rockwall was part of Henderson County, later Nacodoches County, then Kaufman County. Since Rockwall was located in the panhandle of Kaufman County, conducting business meant traveling the long road from Rockwall to Kaufman. In an effort to strengthen and expand business, in Rockwall, the town seceded from Kaufman County, forming its own county in 1873. That same year, the Texas & Pacific Railway built westward across Kaufman County on its way from Longview to Dallas.
A Time Line of the Rock Wall Explorations
1852 – Discovery of the rock wall formation by Benjamin Boydstun, Terry Utley Wade and William Clay Stevenson.
1874 – Geologist Richard Burleson examines the exposed sections of the wall and forms the opinion that they are “igneous occurrences.”
1897 – G.R. DeWeese and T.H. Meredith (both laymen) dig a shaft through a cross section of a large rock wall northeast of town (near present-day FM. 549 and Clem Road).
1901 – Dr. Robert T. Hill, a Texas geologist, publishes an article about the rock wall and classifies them as clastic sand dykes.
1909 – Sidney Paige publishes an article in Science Magazine entitled, “The ‘Rock Wall’ of Rockwall, Texas.” He states, “The writer was able during the past winter to spend a few days investigating this supposed historic structure. It proves to be not a wall, but a number of disconnected sandstone dykes, strictly speaking, not surrounding the town, but trending in many directions.”
1922 – An article is published in the Dallas News that suggests a different “first discovery” of the rock wall. The author, W.S. Adair, stated that a Mr. Bourn, who farmed about 50 acres between the city and East Fork of the Trinity River, discovered the rock wall while he was digging a well.
1925 – In February, archeologist Count Byron de Prorok examines exposed sections of the walls and concludes they are constructed by a prehistoric race.
Stuart McGregor’s article appeared in the Dallas Morning News on February 22, 1925.
1925 – Dr. R.S. Hyer, former president and professor of physics at SMU, concludes the formation is natural.
1927 – Both L.W. Stephenson and J.W. Fewkes (Smithsonian Institute) pronounce the structure nature.
1933 – A map is prepared by Martin Kelsey and Harold Denton with the aid of J.S. Mason, Rockwall County Surveyor, of all the discovered outcroppings of the wall. At the time, there were eleven known outcroppings.
1936 – Coinciding with the Texas Centennial, a section of the wall is excavated and opened for viewers for a small admittance fee. The attraction is owned by R. F. Canup. In the first few months, the attraction averaged seventy visitors per day.
1949 – A layman, Mr. Sanders of Fort Worth, conducts an excavation on property near what is now FM. 549 and Cornelius Road. The rocks in this excavation average 12-14 inches thick.
1950 – Dr. James L.. Glenn publishes his essay, “Photographic Essay on The System of Rock Walls at Rockwall, Texas.” Among his observations, Glenn states, “The fact that there is a natural fault here does not preclude the construction of other walls by a prehistoric race within the same region.”
1959 – Dr. John T. Lonsdale denounces Dr. Hill’s earlier claim by asserting that the Balcones Fault has not been traced with any significance beyond the Hill Country and that no known fault system runs through Rockwall County.
1970’s – Bob H. Slaughter, director of vertebrate paleontology at SMU, concludes a serpent’s head found near the wall is the very tip of the upper snout of a Tylosaurus prolinger, a very large swimming reptile found in the area.
1976 – The rock wall is excavated under the direction of the county on land located near present-day FM. 549 and Cornelius Road. The excavation is open to the public and hundreds of school children visit the wall.
1979 – Dr. Kenneth Schaar of the University of Texas at Arlington and his students expose two walls for study. Schaar concluded that both of the sections he examined were natural formations, but does not rule out the possibility that another portion could be manmade.
1988 – Geologist Brooks Ellwood concludes, “The wall is a natural formation. I base this on having studied and seen the wall at three locations. Man did not build it.”
1996 – Architect John Lindsey conducts a study of the rock wall. After examining excavations, he concludes “After compiling past records, data and documents including recent studies and research, evidence of a prehistoric structure built by man is mounting.”
2013 – The America Unearthed program, “The Great Wall of Texas”, examined an excavation in northeast Rockwall County and concluded this section was a natural formation.
2019 – Many Rockwall County residents believe the rock wall is both natural and in the ancient past was used by native people for their needs and purposes.
For more information, visit:
Rockwall County Historical Museum
9012 East Washington Street, Rockwall, TX 75087