Rawlins Monuments, Inc.
111 Palo Pinto Street
Texas Business Treasure Award
By Gloria Elam
Painting by and courtesy of V.A. Littleton
On Tuesday, October 25, 2016 the Texas Business Treasure Award was presented to Rawlins Monuments, Inc. The program recognizes accomplishments of Texas Businesses that have provided employment opportunities and support to the state’s economy for at least 50 years in a building that still looks and has maintained its architectural integrity. To qualify, the business must be a “for profit” business that has operated continuously by the same family in the state of Texas.
The history of this business having been presented this prestigious award began with Alex Rawlins. The business stands today as its own monument to the community, reflecting the pioneer spirit that marks the years of family tradition.
It all began in 1884 in the first block of South Main Street where an English Immigrant, Alexander (Alex) Rawlins and his partner, Charles Robinson opened a monument business. However, the story began long before the monument company was established.
Alexander Rawlins was born in 1861 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England. The son of Elizabeth Wodehouse and William Young, his father died soon after his birth in 1864. His mother married Albert Rawlins and Alex was given his Rawlins name.
The family came to America in 1870, living first in Chicago. They came to Texas by train to Fort Worth. With meager possessions they traveled by wagon train to Eastland, Texas, settling there in 1877.
In 1882 at age 21, Alex Rawlins came to Weatherford as a stonecutter’s apprentice earning $6.00 a month plus room and board. His pay was later raised to $15.00 a month. He soon became the partner of Charlie Robinson.
Alex erected a small building on the Spracklin lot and hung out his sign, Alex Rawlins Marble Works. This building was destroyed when a disastrous fire swept the block on the square just east of the Rawlins place, but this did not affect his work and delivery of orders. Within 24 hours he had thrown up another small building and was cutting stone. He was unable to buy the Spracklin lot for many years or until the owner died. He purchased it from heirs and then bought the two lots west of the Spracklin lot. This gave him a 75-foot frontage on Palo Pinto Street. He was occupying the west lots with his yard when the Franco-Texas Land Co. tried to move him out. He refused to move and bought the property.
In 1885, Alex married Annie Hutcheson Tandy. Annie’s parents, Frankie Hutcheson and G.A. Tandy came to Weatherford from Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1872. With a new business and life ahead of them, Annie and Alex moved to a two room house at 401 Simmons Street, a property that had been a farm.
In 1887, Alex and his partner Charlie Robinson separated when the business was moved to the present location at 111 Palo Pinto Street. Weatherford Marble Works, A. Rawlins Proprietor opened on February 8, 1887. Alex and one helper did most of the work on two to three inch monuments, mostly of Vermont marble. They used oak or hickory mallets and flat chisels, the process being quite slow and requiring much patience and craftsmanship. He soon built a far reaching reputation for the excellence of his work. He traveled extensively in West Texas where he took orders that took months to finish, which were then delivered by train.
First Rawlins plant in 1895, at 111 Palo Pinto, Weatherford, Texas
From a 1905 photo, unidentified workers.
The same building as above in 1921
In this photo from 1925, left to right is Alex Rawlins with workers John Matt, Mr. Boyett and Mr. Gaines.
Alex recalled in a 1937 interview that he often traded for cattle, horses and such things. He remembered that one time he took a parlor organ in trade out at Baird and had it freighted to Weatherford. He lost plenty on the cattle he traded for back in 1887 when the worst drought on record hit Texas.
Through perseverance and hard work, Alex Rawlins steadily built up a good business, increasing his stocks when finances would permit, and adding equipment from time to time until he finally developed a plant second to none in this section of Texas.
One monument that stands as a testament to Alexander Rawlins is the Confederate monument at the Parker County courthouse in Weatherford. From an article in the The Daily Herald in 1923 was the following:
“Responding to the call of the permanent chairman, Mrs. G.A. Holland, the permanent monument committee met in the office of Mr. Alex Rawlins New Year’s morning and made the last payment on the beautiful granite Confederate monument which stands on the northwest corner of the courthouse lawn. This monument was purchased by Sam Lanham Chapter United Daughters of the Confederacy from Mr. Rawlins, whose liberal terms to the chapter made the purchase possible—June 6, 1915, and was erected Oct. 25, 1915.
While this monument as it now stands to a casual observer, would seem complete, however, it is the plan of the chapter to continue the work of raising funds, by donations, entertainments, etc., until a sufficient amount has accrued to place a statue of a Confederate soldier on the top of the monument already placed.
According to its agreement with Mr. Rawlins, the chapter still had several years in which to pay its debt on this monument, but because of the splendid co-operation, the earnest efforts and excellent work of the chapter members in all things undertaken, by the monument committee to supplement the monument fund, and last but not least, the liberal donations of friends, the debt was paid sooner than expected.” Written by Mrs. H.C. Shropshire, Secretary and Reporter for the Monument Committee.
The Daily Herald, Tuesday, November 26, 1929 had this article:
STATUE TO SOLDIERS OF CONFEDERACY IS ERECTED HERE
“With the placing of the statue of a Confederate soldier on the pedestal at the northwest corner of the courthouse lawn, Sam Lanham Chapter, U.D.C, completed Monday and undertaking which began many years back. Both the base and the statue were erected by Alex Rawlins & Sons. The base was placed some eight or ten years ago, the completion of the monument having to await financing plans of the U.D.C.
Both the base and statue are of gray granite, the whole rising to a height of about 20 feet. At the bottom of the base two crossed guns show in relief, and just below are the dates 1861-1865. Higher up on the pedestal is the inscription: In Honor of the Confederate Veterans of Parker County, and just above this is the Southern Cross of Honor. The statue itself is life size and represents a soldier in full Confederate uniform standing at ease. He grasps the barrel of his gun which rests in front of him, and carries full equipment, water canteen, bayonet, belt and cartridge box, etc.
The statue is a replica of which is considered to be the most beautiful and accurate as to detail of the many statues erected throughout the Southern States. The original is in the national park at Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The completed monument as it is now stands has cost the U.D.C. more than $3,000. The base alone cost about $1500 and the statue between $1500 and $2,000. The members of the U.D.C. are unanimous in giving a large measure of credit for carrying out this work to Mrs. G.A. Holland who has worked persistently to bring about the result that has at last been achieved.
The monument is a fitting tribute to the men who wore the gray and will through the years stand as an inspiring memorial to those sons of heroic mold who fought for the rights and ideals of the Southland.”
The statue of the Confederate soldier was placed on November 25, 1929. The final payment was made November 5, 1937.
Sons Build a Family Business
A son, Frank Tandy Rawlins was born in 1890. Bert Rawlins was born in 1897. The sons, naturally grew up to be a part of the business. Frank Joined the firm in 1915, but left for a while to serve in the Army in World War I. Bert Rawlins graduated from the University of Texas in Austin in 1920 with a BBA degree in accounting. Both sons were in the business by 1919 and the firm became known as Alex Rawlins and Sons. Bert and Frank literally grew up in the business.
Frank Tandy Rawlins – 1890 – 1984 Bert Rawlins 1897 – 1980
Bert married Clyde Sturges, daughter of Virginia and James Sturges of Weatherford, in 1921. They built a home at 403 Simmons (now 317 W. Simmons). Their daughter, Virginia Ann was born in 1924.
Frank married Ityl Chadwick Hammond in 1940 and they raised one son, John Hammond.
In 1931, Annie Rawlins died after a long illness. In 1937 Alex lost his sight, and although blind for 14 years until his death in 1951, he remained active in the business until the very last. Frank and Bert were partners in the business from the 1920s when the firm became Alex Rawlins and Sons. They maintained the standard of excellence that began with their father
The third generation, granddaughter “V.A.” and husband Mark H. Littleton joined the business following World War II in 1946. The fourth generation, Nancy Littleton Deison and husband Dave joined the business in the 1970s as did Mark Rawlins Littleton. Today Alex’s great grandson, Mark R. Littleton oversees the business.
The business in 1947
This photo was taken in 1994. Front seated: Dave Deison, Mark R. Littleton; middle row: Brad Nash and Misty Hubbard, Nancy Deison, Therese Shipman; Back row: David Jackson, Jerry Wallace, Billy Nichols, VA Littleton, Mark H. Littleton.
At the Texas Business Award Program Mr. Bob Shepherd of the Texas Historical Commission presented the award to the family as seen in the following photos:
Janice Smith, PCHC Chair, Mark R. Littleton, Virginia Ann Littleton, Nancy Deison, Margaret Gilbert, Dava Deison, Tim Gilbert, Jody McKinney Young.
Rawlins Monuments as it looked in 2010