Salado Historical Society will dedicate an official Texas Historical Commission Historical Marker 10 a.m. Oct. 8 in honor of Alice Gray Hamblen and the Hamblen family’s gift to Salado.
Local historian and author, Carol Wilson, documented the life of and gift from Alice Hamblen to apply for the marker. The ceremony will be at the Salado Civic Center, which was the 1924 Salado public school and the site of the William and Alice Hamblen home.
Today, the building houses the Salado ISD Administrative offices. David Yeilding, Historian, will make comments.
After the Civil War, William Kroger Hamblen (1817-1902) and his second wife, Alice Joy Gray Hamblen, moved to Salado to provide an advanced educational opportunity for their children. Salado College had been established in 1860 and its reputation as having high academic standards was known throughout the State of Texas. A school of that caliber in Texas was rare and the forward thinking leaders, led by Elijah Sterling Clack Robertson, established a classical school to serve the families of Salado. Col. Robertson donated one hundred acres of land around Salado Creek, which were sold for home and business sites, with the exception of ten acres on the crest of a hill which were reserved for the school. Proceeds from the sale of town lots were used for the construction of the school. Several families moved to the area that is now the Village of Salado because of the opportunities afforded their children.
Rev. Hamblen’s first wife had died at a young age and left him with three children. When William and Alice moved to Salado from Milam County almost ten years after the establishment of Salado College, they had added two more children to their family and, while living in Salado, Alice bore twelve additional children. Also, the Hamblens opened their large home for the children of other family members so they could enjoy the benefits of the school. They secured a city lot of almost five acres on the main thoroughfare for their home, and built the house using red brick for the exterior.
William was involved in ranching and land speculation. He became the second pastor of the Salado Church of Christ, where he served for twenty years. He was also very involved in community service, which included serving on the Salado College Board of Trustees. Alice supported his community involvement, participating in the kind of discreet work that goes unrecorded, while raising their children.
Salado college struggled financially. By 1901, the old college building, which was still serving as a private high school, had been serving Central Texas students for forty-five years. Two fires ravaged the building just months apart. William Hamblen offered his church as a temporary classroom. Naomi, a Hamblen daughter, offered her services on the solicitation committee formed to raise funds to rebuild the school,
On September 12, 1902, William Hamblen died.
In January, 1919, the stockholders of the Salado College Joint Stock Company, one of whom was Alice Hamblen, voted to dissolve the corporation that owned the college building and donate the property to Salado’s Public School District. The facility was used as a public school until the early 1920s when the building was declared structurally unsafe.
At the suggestion of her son-in-law, Carl Aiken, Alice offered the family homestead, consisting of 4.66 acres of land – including the sacrifice of the once bustling and brimming Hamblen family home, which had offered refuge to many, as a site for the new public school. The location was ideal, positioned, as it still is, on Salado’s most heavily traveled street.
Dubbed “the Red School House,” the new two-story facility was constructed quickly. It was no less imposing than the school on the hill, and blessed with easier access. The Red School house became the new landmark school, a symbol of civic pride that reflected Salado’s well-placed priorities.