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The Churches of School Hill
Page 2

by Charlie Turnbo
School Hill School, Texas



School Hill School Today
Photo courtesy of Carl Jones

< Page 1
Neighboring rural schools located in Lowell (Moccasin Rock) and School Hill were closed in about 1935. The School Hill School offered eight grades during its time of operation.

Church Records

Handwritten church records have been located which help us chronicle development of the church which eventually became known as School Hill Baptist. These records give a great deal of important information about the people and the activities of Charity Baptist Church, Moccasin Rock Baptist (also called Lowell Baptist Church), and School Hill Baptist. (Special thanks to Mrs. Jo Ann Elston for sharing some of the early church records which were an enormous help in writing this article.)-

The records carry these entries:
“The Baptist Church at Charity met December 28, 1919. Preaching was at 11 o’clock by Brother Williamson.”
Another entry called Charity Church by the name of “Charity Church at School Hill.” But a note on February 26, 1921, called this church the “Charity Baptist Church of Christ.” (p.137). Brother Kidd was preaching there at the time.

By April, 1929, the church was called the Baptist Church of Charity of School Hill (April 6, 1929). The preacher at this time is Brother A.W. Cunningham. An entry in church records says:
“It was discussed (sic) that this church disband as there was such a few members. The few that were left couldn’t give up hope that some day they would have a church.”

Entry on August 17, 1929:
“Brother Jim Bays helt (sic) a revival for the Missionary Baptist of School Hill at the ME Church house and a grand revival it was. 24 new church members was (sic) baptized by Brother Bays into the Missionary Baptist Church of Charity at School Hill. “
Opal Yardley was in that revival and was one of some twenty-four souls who were baptized by Brother Bays at Tandy Key’s stock tank. She recalls there were people lined across the tank waiting to be immersed. This was the beginning of the new School Hill Baptist Church.

Opal Yardley recalls:
“After the Baptist opened their church (School Hill Baptist) there weren’t enough folks to go to the Methodist Church. There were only 2-3 families left. And there was a big squabble ending up in somebody throwing a rock through the window and hitting the preacher. So, they ended up closing the church and tearing it down.” (Telephone interview with Opal Yardley, 7/15/02).

The Methodist Episcopal Church was located several hundred yards from School Hill Baptist Church. Today, only the concrete front steps remain to mark its former location, on the J.C. Moon farm place, across the road from School Hill Baptist.

September 28, 1929 Preacher Jim Bays preached (apparently at the neighboring ME Church) and afterwards the church went into conference… and discussed building a church. The records record the following:
“Decided to buy the Baptist church of Lowell. Got $310 promised and some paid. Among the church members donating for the church building were the following: Emma Yardley, M.A. Elston and Wife, C.A. Elston and wife, Jake Christian and wife, Tommie Wells and wife, Mrs. Crawford Lewis, John Key and wife, Joe Huffman and wife, Al Yardley, Annie Christian, Porter (?) Hallmark and wife, Phelps (?) Wells and wife, Brother Jim Bays, Joe Elston and wife, Earl Creager and wife, Zeph Christian and wife, Grampa Hen Brock and wife, Clyde Fair and wife, L. W. Riddell and wife, Mrs. Jones of Lowell, Mrs. Sol Yardley, Mrs. Mandie Chrenshaw, Johnnie Boucher, Stephenville State Bank, Dr. Mulloy, R.E. Cox (Stephenville), Higgingbotham (Stephenville), Farmers First National of Stephenville, G.E. Ray, Stephenville, Henry Clark, Stephenville, C.A Russell Stephenville, and Dave Evans.”
Page 141 of the church records indicate:
“Missionary Baptist Church of School Hill went to tearing down the Baptist church of Lowell on Sep. 30, 1929 and had it all tore down and moved in three days. October 2 and Oct. 3, 1929, went to rebuilding it and by Oct. 19, had it all done but the painting, for services.”
On November 3, 1930, A.A. Yardley bought the seats for the church from Lowell church and paid for them out of the Sunday School treausury. ($10). On Nov. 4, 1930, M.A. Elston and wife bought a gas lantern for church. Other donors to the church at that time included Mr. G.W. Anderson, J.W. Taylor, (?) Pemerton, Pete Huffman, Henry Hare, Arthur Brock , Jim Brock along with Charlie Baxter (Dublin, 1 light), Higginbotham (Dublin 1 light), Claude Lathan and wife, First State Bank Stephenville, Blakney Dry Goods of Stephenville, Ladies Store, Stephenville, Electric Light Co., Stephenville, Earl Weathers, Stephenville.”
“On October 19th, had services for the first time in our new church. Bother Jim Bays preached. Had 11 new members come by letters and 2 by statement of their church disbanding come by letter. After the services had dinner on the ground at 2 pm and had the M.E. Sunday School.”

Church records (p.145) indicate that on Oct. 20, the church changed the name of Charity Baptist Church to Missionary Baptist Church of School Hill.
“That day an old neighbor (John Glynn?) brought us our deed for the church lot of which can be found recorded at Stephenville.” (Record deed Book 128, page 129-C-10)

On September 29, 1929 the Baptist Church of Charity organized a Baptist Sunday School.

On Nov. 24th, the Church came together in a business meeting to select the pastor for the coming year. “There were 2 pastors voted on, Brother Cunningham and Brother Stewart, with Brother Cunningham winning.”
Group photo, Missionary Baptist Church of School Hill
 
Back Row: Jess Elrod, Lee Yardley, Ezra Halmark, Al Yardley, Tom Christian, Albert Christian, Murph Elston, Jim Hare, Dave Halmark

Second Row: Ollie Elston, Mrs. Adaline Smith, Ellie Anderson, Ola Hare, Jeanne Elrod, Lady Rucker, Anne Christian, Martha Turpin

Front Row: Charlie Williams, George West Anderson, Walter Rucker, Willie Smith, Brother Cunningham (Pastor, School Hill, 1929), Mrs. Cunningham, Ruth Halmark

Deacons for Missionary Baptist Church of School Hill on October 19, 1929, were:
Al Yardley, Jake Christian, Zeph Christian, Loe (?) Elston, Murph Elston, Tommie Wells, and John Key.

May 26, 1930, the preacher, Rev. A.W. Cunningham and wife and daughter Ruth presented their self for membership by letter to this church. (p.150)

September, 1931, the church records report:
“We have 75 members and the church auditorium seats 150 persons. The value of the church house and grounds is $1500.”
Sue Shields recalls her childhood memories of School Hill Church:
“I remember going to School Hill as a child when we lived with Grandma and Grandpa Huffman and also later when we visited them in the summers. There I had my first encournter with the Lord. Grandpa led the singing and every Sunday morning when they had services he would be sucking on a lemon to clear his voice for singing. Because I was a curious child, I enjoyed watching this regular routine. It was funny to watch him suck the lemon, gag, spit and then hum ‘do-re-me.’ Grandpa would always let me make a selection from the little paperback songbook that we used in church. I really felt a part and always loved the music.”

“Some of our preachers came from the Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth. There was a brush arbor by the church which could be used for special things like revivals or funerals and during the really hot summer days. The church was very hot in the summer and cold in the winter. In the winter one of the deacons would usually arrive early and get the wood stove fired up to provide some heat to the building.” (Email, Sue Shields)
As a child, I too recall visiting the church during summer vacations at my grandparent’s farm. It seems like we went to church a lot. And I remember vividly the church dinners where a virtual feast was offered! Also, it seemed to me that the members of School Hill Church took their relationships with God and one other very serious!

Church Disbanded

Unfortunately, we have not been able to get access to records for the 1940’s and beyond to give us information about the final years of the little church at School Hill. We do know that the nearby public school and Methodist Church were closed before School Hill Baptist Church.

We have some newspaper reports which indicate that School Hill Baptist Church operated until the mid to late 1950’s. Several recall that the Reverend J.B.Everette was the last pastor of School Hill Baptist Church. He also drove a school bus for Lingleville Schools.

Like so many of the small rural churches of that time, the automobile and state highway system made it now possible to go into nearby towns for church. So, School Hill Baptist Church ceased to exist as a place of worship for the surrounding community. But the little church building took on other uses in the 1960’s and beyond. Cathy Bays Holden talks about the afterlife of the building:
“After Patsy and J.C. Moon moved directly across the road from the church, there were still loads of children in the School Hill Community. The church building was used for various community meetings and events.

Patsy and J.C. got the neighbors together at Halloween and produced an elaborate Hayride, Spook House and wiener roast there in the abandoned church building and on the cemetery grounds. Originally, it began as a fellowship event for children in Sunday School at the Lingleville Baptist Church. (As a teenager and young adult at the time, I enjoyed participating both as an attendee and, later, as a person that helped plan and stage the affair.)

One example of a typical Halloween event staged there, included a fortune teller portrayed convincingly by Oma Lee Riddle. Another character I remember was played by Ralph Elston (Rodger’s dad), who solemnly portrayed a dead Indian in a cardboard coffin. Of course there was minimal light provided by kerosene lanterns, and the usual Spook House fare that included various “ghosts” and gory displays of pigs eyeballs, intestines, hearts, etc. This was all done, of course, in the name of fun.

And there were always tamer displays for the young ones, who were escorted through by their parents. There were many squeals and screams fueled by adults strategically planted all along the hayride route and throughout the Spook House. And there was always plenty of hot chocolate and hot dogs to enjoy around the campfire where everyone gathered to relive their “horrifying” experiences inside.

Some of the families participating in this popular production included: Patsy and J.C. Moon, Don and Joyce Sims, Ralph and Alene Elston, Rodger and JoAnn Elston, Ann and Joe Staude, Gifford and Linda Johnson, Oma Lee and William Riddle, Blake and Delilah Morrison, Renie Hogg, Sherry and Herbert Brown, Judy and Harvey Mayfield, as well as many others over the years.

The event grew in popularity year after year, attracting people from De Leon, Stephenville, Dublin, etc. It seems that every year, folks invited another friend to experience the School Hill Hayride and Spook House. Thanks to the efforts of the many School Hill neighbors, it was all just good family fun in a safe, “spooky,” country setting, and fondly remembered today by many who attended or participated.

With fewer children in the immediate area now, the event was eventually discontinued.” (Email, Cathy Bays Holden)
The building today still stands but is in disrepair. It will not be long before the walls and floors can no longer support themselves.
School Hill Baptist Church, Texas
School Hill Baptist Church Today
Photo courtesy of Carl Jones
School Hill Baptisti Church, Texas
School Hill Church Today – Side View
Photo courtesy of Carl Jones
This little church, however, touched the lives of many School Hill residents and brought them closer to God during its three decades of operation.
In the stillness of the midnight,
Precious sacred scenes unfold*

*(From Precious Memories, Copyright, 1986, Special Rider Music)
This article is respectfully dedicated to the many souls touched by the churches of School Hill. Special thanks go to the many who contributed to this article. Where possible, I’ve tried to give credit and thanks to them.

Copyright, 2002, Charlie Turnbo, 700 Ashley Ct., Salado, Tx. 76571 (CATurnbo@aol.com).
July 9, 2004

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