“preserving the past for the future”
The museum is sometimes called the Manson-La Moreaux -(pronounced La MOR o)-Hartman House to designate people who lived there the longest. The house became available to the Foundation through an anonymous donor. The building is believed to be the oldest structure in Rockwall. The first two rooms and hallway were built in 1850 by W. B. Bowles, one of the town's founders. Other rooms were added as the house was sold to other people. These people, according to Rockwall County Court records, although the area at that time was Kaufman County, were Amos and Mary Ann Dye, before 1861; A. D. Edwards, 1865; J. D. and Elizabeth Boystun (not town founder), before 1880. The property was sold to Dr. Henry Walker Manson November 3, 1880. Pictures and documents relating to three persons for whom the house is named are on display in the museum. The two cases of mounted birds were prepared by Myrta Castle Manson Bost, second wife of Dr. Manson and Lawson Bost. When showing them to her step-grandchildren and grand nieces and nephews, she always reminded them that she had not killed them..."I preserved as best I could after nature had had its way." All were preserved prior to 1919. The book shelves in the entry hall and south room were filled with books on a wide range of subjects. One particularly cherished volume was a first edition of the Scofield Reference Bible, signed by Dr. Scofield. Dr. Scofield had served with Dr. Manson during the Civil War in the Confederate Army. They remained friends until Dr. Manson's death in 1905. The books from these shelves were lent by Dr. Manson and after his death, Myrta Castle Manson, to other people in the county; thus this was the first library in Rockwall County. The two windows in the south room facing Washington St. were probably at one time a fire place. The first families who lived in the house could have used this room as a kitchen, using the fireplace to cook and keep warm, a bedroom, and a sitting room. The house, with the first two rooms of high ceilings and beading on walls, was built as a "dog trot" house. This was to help keep the house cooler in the Texas heat. This style house was popular in early Texas before fans and air conditioners. The other rooms in the museum contain memorabilia of people who lived in Rockwall County. Some of these include a dresser, rug, piano, table, child's desk, wood cook stove, and kitchen "appliances" such as sausage grinder and press, and coffee grinder. The quilt with names was made by the women in Royse City. It contains the names of men in the county who served in World War I, 1917. This quilt is currently on loan to the Zaner Robison historical Museum in Royse City. Two architects who looked at the Manson-La Moreaux-Hartman House could not agree on the time the house was built. Each gave different year, these approximately. Dr. Kenneth W. Schaar, Faculty Advisor for School of Architecture & Environmental Design, University of Texas, Arlington, and Mr. Raiford Stripling, restoration architect, looked at the house and reported that it was well built in the early 1880's with the first two large rooms and central hall with other rooms being later added. The house finally had eight rooms plus the entry hall. The RCHF was able to move only four and the hall. The most definite date concerning when the house was built comes from a story in an 1886 issue of The Rockwall Success by Solomon Fletcher: "I emigrated from Mo. to Texas, in 1852 with five children, and bought 600 acres of land, locating one mile east of where Rockwall now stands. This was then Caufman county. My land then worth from $1 to $2 an acre I divided among my children . Some of this land is now worth $50 an acre. The family including all children, grand children and great-grandchildren now numbers 46. "The town of Rockwall was located in 1846 by Dr. Elgan (Elgin) and Mr. Gray. W. B. Bowles built the first house on the hill 36 years ago. The foundation of this house was four bois d'arc posts set three feet in the ground and the house was weatherboarded with clapboards. This house is now a part of Dr. Manson's dwelling and I presume the bois d'arc foundation and framing is still in it."
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