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NEWBERRY CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN
On the fifth Sabbath in May, 1868, a group of ten pioneers met at the Strain’s double-log cabin on Patrick’s Creek and organized the Brazos Congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, under the care of Red Oak Presbytery.
J.B. Strain, Mary Maxwell, L.M. Marshall, Amanda Joyce, C.M. Lewis, S.A. Strain, E.M. Strain, M.M. Lewis and Hannah Marshall were all related by marriage, and from a long line of Cumberland Presbyterians. Most of these families were involved in the organization of a church in Three Rivers, Arkansas, and another church in Collin County before migrating to Texas in 1854.
E. J. Upton (Elizabeth Porter Doss, a widow with three small sons) moved to the banks of Grindstone Creek with her parents, Robert S. and Nancy Ann Porter, in 1855. She later married James M. Upton.
The first elders were J.B. Strain and L.M. Marshall, and the first pastor was Rev. C.W. Berry. According to the minutes of the church, in the early days the usual salary for ministers to preach one Sunday a month was $100.00 a year. Many
ministers would not consider coming at all, as it was on the frontier and Indian raids were frequent.
This new congregation of believers held services in their various homes, the Strain School House and Wade’s Chapel Methodist Church on Patrick’s Creek.
In 1859, three sons of James P. and Mary Elizabeth “Polly” Cowan Newberry of Franklin County, Tennessee loaded their families in ox drawn covered wagons and joined a wagon train headed for Texas. They were Robert Cowan and Elizabeth Ann “Betsy” McAlister Newberry, James Campbell and Angeline Baxter Newberry, and Ross Bird and Nancy Baxter Newberry. They arrived in the Big Valley on the Brazos River at the mouth of Kickapoo Creek in November, 1859.
These Newberry brothers were also from a long line of Cumberland Presbyterians. The Newberrys and Cowans helped organize the Goshen Presbyterian Church in Cowan, Tennessee in 1806. It was the second church to go over to the Cumberland Branch, when it was organized in 1810. Services are still being held at the Goshen Church today.
In 1861, the Robert C. and Ross B. Newberry families moved north to Grindstone Creek, with the J. Campbell Newberry family following in about two years.
On April 23, 1871, church services were held under a Live Oak tree on the Robert C. Newberry place on Grindstone Creek.
For a period of time, church services were alternated between Patrick’s Creek and Grindstone Creek.
The families came in ox drawn wagons with the men heavily armed, and watchful for signs of Indians. Services were sometimes held under a large oak tree. It was not unusual for the
minister to wear a gun while preaching. The men would lean their rifles against the tree in easy reach.
The first camp meeting was held in August 1871, and was held each year until 1914. It was the social highlight of the year. Each family had a brush arbor. Some of the “elite” families had covered wagons to sleep in, but most brought bedrolls and pallets and slept under the arbor. Each family cooked and ate separately, except on the last day, “Big Sunday”. Then everyone spread “dinner on the ground” and ate together.
The city people, from Fort Worth and Weatherford, would come to camp meetings on the train, which would stop at the crossing and let them off.
There were several services each day, a mid-morning preaching service and mid- afternoon singing. After the singing the older boys would go home to do the chores; milk the cows, gather the eggs, feed the livestock and see that everything was in order.
Around sundown they would have their prayer meetings, with the men and boys meeting at one place, and the women and girls at another. Evening preaching services, with more singing, were held after the sundown prayer meetings. Many decisions were made during these camp meetings.
At the camp meeting in 1874, James Daniel “Jim D.” Newberry gave land for a church and cemetery. After that, the camp meetings were held on the church grounds under a brush arbor until the tabernacle was built in 1901.
The first church, a log cabin, was built in 1874. This cabin was also used as a schoolhouse.
In 1877, a frame church was built, with the men of the community doing all the work. This building was also used for
school purposes. In 1903, a third church was built, and
the frame building moved southeast of the church location, onto land donated by the McGill family to be used for school purposes only. The Newberry School consolidated with the Millsap School in 1928.
When former students of Newberry School reminisce, they always mention the good times they had at school plays, parties and picnics. The fourth of July was one of their favorites, with watermelon and lemonade in a new zinc tub. One of the tales they tell is how the boys would climb out of the school windows, and go ride the freight cars as they pulled on the siding for another train to pass. This created quite a commotion, with the teacher afraid they would be hurt, begging them to come back, and their big sisters threatening to tell their parents as soon as they got home.
In those days church and school were the families' entire life--religious, educational and social. Life was simple and it took the entire family and community working together to provide for their needs.
Most of the families lived on farms at least one-half mile apart. Even small children helped with working in the gardens and fields, bringing in firewood for the cook stove, milking the cows by hand, churning butter and feeding the animals.
Laundry was usually done at the creek, with an iron wash pot over a wood fire using homemade lye soap. The clean items were then rinsed in the creek, and hung on trees or bushes to dry.
The women spun thread from cotton and wool to weave cloth for clothes, which were sewn by hand. Gloves and socks were knitted.
Corn and wheat were raised and ground for cornmeal and flour. Beans, peas, and fruits were dried and stored for
winter use. Potatoes, sweet potatoes and turnips were “hilled out” for winter.
Chickens were raised for meat and eggs. Hogs were butchered, and the meat salt cured in the smoke house. Usually the entire community came to help on hog killing day, and this turned into quite a social event.
The present church building was dedicated March 20, 1955. All of these buildings were built on the same location as the first log cabin, and were debt free by the time they were completed.
GROUNDBREAKING FOR FELLOWSHIP HALL
Groundbreaking for the fellowship hall was an exciting day. William “Bedford Bill” Pierson, who was 102 years old at the time, did us the honor of turning the first shovel. “Pops”, as we affectionately called him, was one of our many friends that visited from Bedford. He loved coming to Newberry, was very patriotic and gave us the American flag we have at the front of the church.
The Doss Fellowship Hall was built in 2003/2004, and dedicated May 30, 2004 on the church’s 136th anniversary. Although, James and Dorothy Doss were not members of Newberry Church, the
entire family has always supported the church in all of its undertakings. It was for this reason that the church members chose the Doss name for the fellowship hall, in appreciation of their continuous support and in memory of their ancestors.
The Doss family’s ancestors are Elizabeth Porter Doss Upton, one of the original organizers; and Robert C. Newberry, on whose place the Grindstone Congregation began.
The fellowship hall could not have been constructed without the dedicated help of many of the members, families, friends and neighbors. The fireplace is very special to all of us. It contains some rocks from the steps of the old church and school, and the large rocks on the front were cut over one hundred years ago, by Joseph Simpson to build a fireplace for his wife, Permelia. Joseph and Permelia were old time members of the church. The rocks were given to the church by their great- grandson, Wilford Simpson, and his wife, Barnita, who are current members. A fire is built by the first person arriving at church, even when it is only a little bit cold.
Everyone is enjoying the indoor bathrooms. It is the first time we have had water for indoor plumbing. We still have the outdoor privies in case the water goes off, and also to remind us of the old days.
The new modern kitchen has been put to good use. We have been enjoying it more than words can tell.
The building is not only used to eat in every time we meet; but for family reunions, weddings, showers, retreats, scout campouts, and other community activities.
The hall is always open for the families to use after funerals, or burials at the cemetery. They have a place to relax, visit with families and friends they do not see often, and enjoy the meals or refreshments
provided by the ladies of the church. Newberry Church has served as a
training program for student preachers for most of its existence.
We were honored to have both Rev. Betty Youngman, and Rev. Kevin Henson choose to be ordained at Newberry.
We feel even more honored to have our current pastor, Rev. Hugh Wagner, choose to remain with us for over eleven years after his ordination—even though he was ordain