Robert James Stone (September 18, 1869-July 28, 1953) was born in Chappell Hill, Washington County, Texas to Warren Thomas Stone (1814-1878) and Cornelia Meriwether (1833-1870). The parents had come to Texas from Alabama after the Civil War. Robert’s mother died before he reached his first birthday and his father died eight years later.
In the U.S. census of 1880, Robert is living with his half-brother, Thomas Benton Stone and family in Chappell Hill where Thomas was serving as President of Soule University.
A year later, in 1881, the family moved to Caldwell, Burleson, Texas where Thomas joined his half-brother, Wooten Meriwether Stone (1855-1945) in a drug store enterprise. Thomas and family lived in Caldwell until 1893 when they re-located to Georgetown, Williamson, Texas opening a drugstore that he owned and managed the rest of his life. There is evidence that Robert began his career in photography in Caldwell and may not have made the move to Georgetown with Thomas’s family in 1893.
A news item in The Galveston Daily News on March 2, 1893 reports that a fire began in
R. J. Stone’s photography gallery but, fortunately was extinguished before extensive damage was done. Also, there is an announcement of the organization of a lodge of The Knights of Pythias by a group of Caldwell men which includes R. J. Stone’s name. By 1896, however, Robert’s place of residence is noted as Georgetown in a list of guests at The Driskill Hotel in Austin.
The first advertisement found for the Stone Gallery appears in the September 9, 1897 issue of The Georgetown Williamson County Sun. The ad gives the location as being across from the Standpipe located by the Fire Hall on Main Street just off the town square.
In 1899 Robert advertises a carbon porcelain portrait. There is also a mention of an exhibition presented by The Farmers’ Institute in which he displayed several examples of his work. He employed two other photographers in 1899: W. P. Womble and S.M. Jimenez, according to a short notice in an October issue of the local paper, The Georgetown Williamson County Sun, but there is no further mention of either of them that has been found.
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In the U.S. census of 1900, Robert is living at the Harrell’s Boarding House on Church Street and his occupation listed is photographer. Ads appear weekly in the local newspaper. In 1904 there is a short article that Stone, the photographer, has many University photographs on display at his studio and that he is working on the Annual for the school. This began a relationship with Southwestern University in Georgetown as the school’s photographer that lasted for decades. Robert was affectionately referred to as “Uncle Bob” by students and faculty, according to his obituary.
As the new century continued and the Kodak became popular, Stone Photography Studio offered cameras for rent and finishing of photographs taken. He continued photographing the citizens of the community and the county and appears to have been the only photographer in town for several years after N. M. Wilcox retired in 1921. In 1946, he was joined in the business by Lee Karr, who, in 1947, announced that the name of the studio would change from R.J. Stone Studio to Lee Karr Studio.
In 1906, Robert married Vitula “Tula” Lee (1886-1968) from Caldwell, Burleson, Texas. To this union three children were born: Tula Lee (1909-1989), Frances Elizabeth (1913-1968) and Robert James “Sonny” Jr. (1914-1925). The U.S. Census of 1910 shows the family residence on College Street and in the 1920 enumeration their residence was on Ash Street. The latter is one of many historic homes preserved in Georgetown. Robert James Stone died July 28, 1953.
Robert James Stone
Time line information sources include U.S. census, newspaper items and Portal to Texas History.
1869 September 18
Robert James Stone is born to Warren Thomas Stone and Cornelia V. Meriwether in Chappell Hill, Washington, Texas
1880 U.S. Census
Living in household of half-brother Thomas Benton Stone and family in Chappell Hill, Washington, Texas.
Family moves to Caldwell, Burleson, Texas. Robert is 12 years of age.
Thomas and family move to Georgetown, Williamson, Texas. Robert stays in Caldwell and has opened a Photograph Gallery there. No opening date found.
Robert is living in Georgetown.
First ads appear in the Georgetown Williamson County Sun for Stone Gallery.
Robert displays some of his work at The Farmer’s Institute show in Georgetown.
News item notes that R.J. Stone has hired Mr. W.P. Womble and S. M. Jimenez to work in his gallery; Advertises a Carbon Porcelain portrait available at Stone Gallery
1900 U.S. Census
Robert is living at Harrell’s Boarding House on Church Street. Occupation listed: Photographer
News item notes that Stone’s Gallery has many Southwestern University photographs on display and that he is busy working on the school’s annual
1906 January 17
Robert marries Vitula (Tula) Lee (1886-1968) from Caldwell, Burleson, Texas
1910 U.S. Census
Robert, wife Tula, and daughter Tula Lee (1909-1989) are living on College Street, Georgetown
Occupation listed: Photographer
1920 U.S. Census
Robert, wife Tula, daughter Tula Lee, daughter Frances Elizabeth (1913-1968) and son Robert James (Sonny) Stone, Jr. (1914-1925) are living at 1102 Ash Street, Georgetown, Texas Occupation: Photographer
1925 October 10
Death of Robert and Tula’s young son, Sonny.
1930 U.S. Census
Robert, wife Tula, daughters Tula Lee and Frances Elizabeth living at 1102 Ash Street, Georgetown, Texas. Occupation: Photographer
1940 U.S. Census
Robert, wife Tula and daughter Tula Lee living at 1102 Ash Street, Georgetown, Texas. Occupation: Photographer
1953 July 28
Robert James Stone dies in Georgetown, Williamson, Texas
Galveston Daily News - 02 Mar 1893
Galveston (TX) daily News -
Austin (TX) American Statesman -
example from Portal to Texas History