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Looking back at:

The Sermon on the Rock

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

When Rev. Dan Moore of Willow City went looking for a place to deliver a sermon inspired by the Bible verse "Upon this rock I will build my church," the top of Enchanted Rock seemed a logical choice.

Enchanted Rock, after all, has amazed and mystified humans for centuries. Legends abound about the spirits that live there.

The Rock has been a church, of sorts, since human eyes first saw it. Native Americans considered it holy ground. For modern day nature lovers, climbing the Rock is a spiritual experience. The view from the top is heavenly.

TX -Enchanted Rock, Gillespie County
Enchanted Rock
Click on image to enlarge
Photo by Michael Barr, June 2023

The idea of holding a Sunday church service at the summit of Enchanted Rock came to Rev. Moore one day after reading Matthew 16:18, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Even simple country folk got the symbolism.

Contemporary sources describe Rev. Moore as "an old settler in the Willow city area" and "the Old Cowboy Preacher." He raised goats, cattle and horses, but he had a higher calling. Members of his flock remembered him as "small in stature with a red face and white hair."

Enchanted Rock and the area around it played a big part in Rev. Moore's life long before he preached there. As a young man he almost died there.

In February 1870, on a trip from Willow City to Llano, Dan Moore (not yet a minister) rode in an ox wagon with his brother-in-law Riley Walker. Hostile Natives attacked the men near Bell Mountain.

Riley Walker died in the attack. Dan Moore, twice wounded, escaped on foot and ran to safety at the Moss Ranch headquarters near Enchanted Rock.

That near-death experience may have inspired Moore to go into the ministry. The Baptist church ordained him in 1876.

Rev. Moore preached in several country churches, but he is best known for his yearly sermons on the top of Enchanted Rock in the late 1800s.

On the last Sunday in August, people came from all over Llano and Gillespie Counties to hear Rev. Moore's sermon on the Rock.

"We were out of bed before dawn," Mrs. H. C. Kirk of Willow City told the Fredericksburg Standard, "ready to begin our 15 mile journey via wagon through pastures on neighborhood roads, little more than cow trails in places. Father kept the horses in the pen overnight so they could be fed, watered, curried and harnessed, ready to begin the journey at sunrise."

"At early dawn father placed the boxes of food in the wagon and prepared a place for us to sit."

"Upon arriving at Enchanted Rock we (the children) were carefully checked, hats tied on because of the strong wind, handkerchiefs in pockets, shoes tied."

Some people rode their horses to the summit. Others walked.

With no pews, chairs or cushions, accommodations at the top were spartan to say the least. "We sat on the granite ledge surrounding the circular depression atop Enchanted Rock," Mrs. Kirk remembered.

Conditions at the summit were not ideal for a formal church service. A stiff breeze mussed hair and sent hats and bonnets flying into the next county. Sometimes the whistle of the wind drowned out the sermon.

Still, worshippers persevered. They sang hymns, heard the sermon, passed the collection plate and enjoyed the spectacular scenery.

After the closing prayer, everyone descended to the pleasant shade of the trees along Sandy Creek at the base of the Rock and ate fried chicken, potato salad, pinto beans, homemade bread, pies and cakes.

The Sermon on the Rock drew a crowd for a time but soon lost its appeal. The seating at the summit was uncomfortable. The strong winds mussed hair and carried away hats and umbrellas. Just getting up there had its challenges.

After a few short years attendance dropped. Then Rev. Moore said the final benediction.

The sermon is history, but the Rock never lost its charm for people with a desire to schmooze with mother-nature and rub elbows with the man upstairs. Climbing Enchanted Rock, like hearing a good sermon, still touches the soul and stirs the spirit.

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" August 15, 2023 Column

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