A Pioneer Church | The Doll Coloring Book

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Among the first buildings erected in any frontier community was the “Meeting House”. It was often used as a home for women and children until pioneer cabins could be built. Then it was used for the church, or as they generally call the “meeting”. In the same building, they also had other community gatherings, even using it as a schoolhouse at times. They were not very expensive and the church was not pressed for “offerings” or should I say, “collections”? She did not care about finery and the Church was never financially embarrassed.

In earlier days they were usually built of logs but sometimes of wood sawn with a whip saw or small mill, set in motion by horse power or a water wheel. All work was donated and people gladly gave it as a labor of love. Of course they also gave the material.

They were given such names as Mount Olive, Mount Pleasant, Mount Pisgah, Mount Moriah, Mount Nebo, Pleasant Grove, Bethel, New Jerusalem, Sharon, and so on. “Board Shanty”, and sometimes these names became more common than real names.

Old Sharon was a country church set in a wonderfully shady grove. It was a fairly well constructed building, about thirty feet by forty feet, and every piece was made by hand. Even the floors, ceiling and weatherboards were hand dressed. The altar or pulpit, as it was called, was a fine piece of architecture and was reached by “three regular upright steps”.

The seats were common seats. The corner to the right of the preacher was called the “Amen corner” and was reserved for the elders. If the old church was still standing, I could go back and hang my hat on the nail my father used to hang it on. For lack of a better name, some shake called the opposite corner “Woman’s Corner”. On one side they had seats for boys and men, on the other they had seats for girls and women, and, let us say, this rule was most sacredly observed. In one case a young man entered and sat with his best girl. The preacher politely told him to move to the other side. He was hesitant, but obeyed.

Let me digress here long enough to say that boys seldom accompanied their daughters to church, but often went home with them from the night service. Sometimes they had no prior arrangements and had some very ingenious ways of asking for the privilege of accompanying the girl home. The boy might say, “Do you like chicken?” And if she wanted to answer in the affirmative, she said: “Yes, sir.” Then he extends his arm and says, “Take a wing.” Again he might say, “The moon is shining, may I go home with you tonight”? If the answer was favourable, the answer was: “The stars do that, too. I don’t care if you do.” Not every member of the crowd standing waiting at the door like a gang of unwanted calves was taken into consideration, and the negative response was called a “sack.” Most of the boys agreed without a word and, in their great embarrassment, got out of the crowd as fast as they could, but the others were ‘toy’ and gave feedback. Once I heard this dialogue take place:

Boy: “Can I see you at home tonight?”

Girl: “No, sir.”

Boy: ”Give me a string.” “

Girl: “I have nothing.”

Boy: “Give me your garter, then. This will.”

I know that young man’s name, but please don’t ask me any questions, because I won’t tell. The law grants immunity from testifying against ourselves. Another kid wanted to concede the matter and said he only wanted to go as far as Uncle Mac.

Of course, they were to be governed by the weather, but in the summer, especially, the young men gathered in the orchard and “swapped strings” until someone in the house started a song which was the signal to enter for the services to begin. Some young men were entering, but the rioters remained outside. Sermons were usually very long, and services often lasted from 11:00 until after 1:00. Once a young man went out of town hoping to get home with one of the girls, and stayed with the gang outside. If nothing else made him unpopular, the mere fact that he had wanted to pay his respects to one of the “country girls” would have made him so, and he had to be the victim of all their jokes. He was surprised by the length of the sermon and asked how long it lasted. They told him it would be until the time he came home and did his chores late in the evening. He believed it and left just in time for another classmate to go home with the girl.

They had no organ or choir (the war department of the church), but the singing was usually led by an old man with a hoarse, hoarse voice, or a woman with a high, nasal voice. There were few songbooks and the preacher would “paint the hymns,” that is, he would read a line or stanza and then sing it, thus over the song. In many churches there was, and in a few, a prejudice against any kind of church musical instrument, and it was so strong that at times it was a rock against which the church crashed.

Sometimes they would have revivals, and while a preacher or layperson would pray, others would say things like “Lord grant it,” “Yes, Lord,” and “Amen,” all in a groaning tone that was difficult for people to understand. I suppose the Lord did. Once, while such a performance was in full swing, the gray-haired Venerable Brother was holding his nose and saying some such things. Looks like he was dealing with his nose. Some boys saw it and laughed. One of the deacons scolded them. His attention was drawn to it and he even had to laugh.

The preacher was sometimes one among them, but he was usually a man of great big heart and little ambition to accumulate money, and his reputation as a preacher extended far beyond the boundaries of his community. He was always reverent and loyal and every word and deed proved it. The best people in society loved him and others respected him. He always had the ability to deliver his message directly to his listeners. “a man who was in all the country dear,” but he was not getting rich on forty pounds a year, because the collections were usually small.

But in his immediate duty on every call,

watched and wept, prayed and felt all;

And like a bird trying every love smitten,

To tempt the new spring in the sky,

Try every art, rebuke every tedious delay,

Fond of brighter worlds and leading the way.

“Beside the bed in which was the life of parting,

And sorrow, guilt and pain alternately panic,

The honored hero stood up. under his control.

Despair and anguish fled from the struggling soul.

The trembling wretch lodged comfort,

And the last accents whispered praise,

In the Church with meek and unaffected grace,

His gaze adorned the solemn places-

Right prevailed from his lips with a double effect,

And the fools who came to mock, stayed to pray.

Last service, about the pious man,

With unwavering enthusiasm every honest rustic ran.

his ready smile, the warmth of a parent;

The secret of their well-being and narrowed their worries.

I give them his heart, his love and his grief.

But all his serious thoughts settled in heaven.

As a lofty cliff lifts up his awful form,

Swells from the valley and leaves the middle of the windy road,

Rolling clouds spread around her chest,

The rays of eternal sun rest on her head.”

I have described here my old house church. Of course, my experience does not go back to the pioneer days, but many of the old customs still prevail and I remember my father and other old settlers telling me many things which made the memory of the old church sacred to them.

Built around 1840, this church was destroyed by a hurricane in 1889. A new church was erected on the spot, but is now out of use. I believe that the rural church has entered the social and religious life of communities more than others. Waller

A mixture of old country hymns…

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