Jose Leal received six leagues of land in this area in 1833. In 1867, coal was discovered, and the railroad reached Rockdale in 1874. Not until 1890 did the first coal mine, owned by Herman Vogel, begin operation. Others opened, and more settlers came looking for work.
Many workers came from Mexico, leaving behind a revolution. These immigrants settled on land owned by E.A. Camp. They sharecropped, growing enough for themselves, and worked in the mines. They named their settlement, just north of the International-Great Northern Railroad tracks, La Recluta, or "recruitment." Family names represented here include Ruiz, Flores, Casarez, Zapata, Aldama, Montoya and Lumbreras. The men, like many other industry workers at the time, received their pay in tokens, which were redeemable only for mine commissary purchases and doctor visits.
Several men were trapped in an International Mine Company cave-in in 1913. Eight men and one mule awaited rescue for six days; one man did not survive. Yards away from the collapsed mine entrance is La Escuelita, the small schoolhouse built for the children of the community. Classes were taught in English, although most students spoke Spanish at home. As part of the Talbott Ridge School District, the students transferred to Rockdale schools in 1944, when the districts consolidated. In 1946, Rockdale merchants donated benches to La Escuelita building. In 1953, the school was deeded to the St. Joseph's Cemetery Association, the support group for the community's cemetery, where nearly 300 gravestones tell the stories of La Recluta's families, many of whom remain in the area.