ROCKSPRINGS, TEXAS: FROM TRAGEDY TO TRIUMPH
Rocksprings is a peaceful town on the western edge of the Texas Hill Country. This community of about 1,200 souls is perched in a serene location along Hackberry Creek, and serves as the county seat of Edwards County. Compared to some of its fellow communities in the Hill Country, Rocksprings got a bit of a late start, and had to face challenges of both human and natural origins before becoming the well-settled and prosperous town it is today.
The area around what would become Rocksprings was sparsely populated during its early history, with nomadic Native American tribes and the occasional Spanish explorer wandering through. It wasn’t until 1891 that the region received serious consideration as the site of a permanent community. In that year, settler J.R. Sweeten established the village of Rock Springs (spelled as two words at the time, named after the bubbling natural springs nearby), complete with a post office and the designation of county seat.
Its first few years of growth were impressive. By the mid-1890s Rock Springs boasted a population of over 250, with a general store, hotel, two saloons, a doctor, two lawyers, and a druggist. As it is today, one of the chief driving force of Rock Springs’ early economy was the production of wool and mohair, considered some of the finest in the world.
The first Edwards County courthouse was built in 1892, and it and its successor would play pivotal roles in some of the most tumultuous chapters of Rock Springs’ history. The first courthouse had barely settled onto its foundation when a fire gutted it in 1897, destroying all county records. A new limestone courthouse was erected at the same location, and it would house a very important prisoner just over a decade later.
(One side note: No one is sure why, but the spelling of the town’s name changed from “Rock Springs” to the current “Rocksprings” after the 1897 courthouse fire.)
One of the darker chapters of southern Texas history occurred during the 1910s and 1920s, when intense racial animosity between those of European and Mexican ancestries ran rampant. This period is known as “La Matanza,” which can be translated as “the massacre” or “the slaughter.” One of the triggering events of La Matanza took place in Rocksprings in 1910.
Migrant laborer Antonio Rodriguez was jailed for allegedly murdering a white Texan. Rather than let justice take its course, a mob dragged Rodriguez from his cell and lynched him. His death was the spark that began an intense back-and-forth between Mexicans and Americans, often trapping innocent bystanders in its violent path. Estimates range from hundreds to thousands of people killed on both sides of the battles, with rogue Texas Rangers taking part in the fracas.
Peace wasn’t achieved until the late 1920s, when additional Mexican immigrants were allowed into the United States; their labor was cheap and sorely needed in agricultural and ranching areas. In the decades since, familiarity and tolerance on both sides has essentially calmed the situation. Milder echoes of the La Matanza hostilities do persist, but the majority of Mexicans and Americans live peacefully with one another.
The community of Rocksprings was tested once again on Tuesday, April 12, 1927. A raging EF-5 tornado swept through town, completely destroying 95% of the town’s buildings. The courthouse wasn’t destroyed, but all its windows were blown out, obliterating the county records once again. 72 people were killed, and over 200 were injured, affecting nearly one-third of Rocksprings’ population.
Though its history is peppered with heartbreaking episodes, Rocksprings has risen from its own ashes, so to speak, to become a beautiful Hill Country town. It’s still known for its Angora wool and mohair production, and sportsmen and women are drawn to Edwards County for its excellent hunting. You can also view a huge colony of three million bats at the Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area!
There’s plenty to draw you to Rocksprings, and we’d like to help out when you come here! We’ve collected business and attraction information about the town and its vicinity, and it’s arranged at the bottom of this page in listings sorted by category for all the shops, parks, restaurants, and kid-friendly spots in and around Rocksprings. It’s an easy-to-use road map for your visit!
If you’d like to take a look at other towns in the Hill Country, we’ve thought of that, too! We’ve put dream vacations together in the area (we live and work here, and we love it), and all the expertise we’ve gathered since 2001 is yours with a FREE download of the Texas Hill Country Travel App! We’ve researched over 1,600 local businesses and attractions, and it’s all in the app, sorted by town and type.
In over 20 years as Hill Country property management professionals, we’ve learned from our neighbors, business people, vacation rental owners, and travelers! The Texas Hill Country Travel App takes that knowledge and applies it to your unique vacation needs, from property listings to booking info, from check-in to heading home, and app-exclusive perks! We’ll even keep you up-to-date on special events in the area.
This beautiful region of the Lone Star State is our home, and we love showing it off! We’ve arranged Hill Country getaways for everything from romantic escapes to big gatherings like weddings and reunions. Feel free to contact us; we’d love to inspire you to fall in love with the Texas Hill Country just as we have.