GROVE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
DISCIPLES OF CHRIST
1867 - 1997
By Thelma Smith
Whether the name Grapevine Church,
Home Mission Society, or Vine Grove Christian Church is used, one is
still referring to a little church that once was or still exists in
Live Oak Community, Matagorda County, Texas.
The community is situated on FM 2540 on the Live Oak Bayou in an
area where the bayou crosses FM 521. From the city limits of Bay
City, travel east six miles on FM 457 to a flashing light at the
intersection of 457 and FM 2540. Turn right onto FM 2540 and go
southeast some six more miles, and the Live Oak Community comes into
Prior to the Civil War, the community was a large plantation owned
by John L. Thorp. Thorp farmed cotton and sugar cane and had
approximately one hundred slaves to do the work. Before coming to
Matagorda County, Texas, Thorp was a farmer in Greenville County,
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed January 1, 1863, and the
news reached Texas on June 19, 1865. Among the families who remained
on or migrated to the former plantation/community were Wyche, Dale,
Brown, Wiggins, Carruthers, Yancy, Allinece (Alonis), Dennis,
Robbins, and Taylor.
Communities are composed of families, houses, schools, churches,
post offices, trading places and work forces to provide for economic
welfare. This community had the families who built or provided the
houses and people who farmed, fished, hunted, and did other menial
jobs for their food supplies and security. The post office and
possibly a trading post was located some six miles northeast of the
community; however, there was neither a school or a church building
in which to congregate.
On some plantations before 1865, it was permissible for slaves to
hold some type of church service with the overseer's permission, but
it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write. Therefore, there
was neither a building for a church or a school in the community.
In 1867, Joseph Yeamans, a Caucasian and a pioneer schoolteacher of
the Matagorda County Common School District, resided in Matagorda.
Under the leadership of Yeamans, the Grapevine Church was organized
in the Live Oak Community.
The first church building was constructed of logs with dirt
flooring, wood-shutter windows and doors. It was located in the area
of the old road that connected Matagorda with the eastern half of
the county. The area today is known as "Grapevine Corner" because of
the wild grapevines growing in the live oak trees. During the summer
season, the vines still hang from the trees that date back some one
hundred twenty or more years.
The Grapevine Church building was also used as a school house.
Former residents who lived in the Live Oak Community were: Marcus
Robbins, Jessie Mae Dennis Edison, Sessia Wyche, Sr., Lula Yancy
Duncan, Sam Carruthers, Mark Mathenia, Henderson Bouldin, Jim Louis
Dale and Tim Brown. These and many others attended school in the
"Grapevine Corner" Church/School building.
According to records provided by Mrs. Lizzie Jane Brown Earls, an
active member of Vine Grove Christian Church, Joseph Yeamans
pastored the Grapevine Church of 1867. Mrs. Earls was the
granddaughter of Sam Brown, a slave who was brought from Virginia at
the age of eighteen to Galveston, Texas.
In 1875, the people in the community and the county erected a second
building. This building was located on the site where the first log
building was constructed. This building was called the "Rosenwall
Today an old water pump, a small cemetery and live oak trees with
trailing grapevines are the only remains of the early Grapevine
Church/Rosenwall School. Across the road from the site can be found
homes of persons whose great grandparents (slaves) are interred in
In 1809, the people of the community bought two acres of land from
Troy and Patricia Taylor. The Taylors were the great-great
grandparents of Mrs. Annie Clara Green, a teacher and head of the
business department in the Bay City Independent School District.
Mrs. Sallie Norman, grandaughter of the Taylors, indicated that the
Taylors had purchased land in the Live Oak Community, William Rabb
League, from J. K. White. Mr. & Mrs. Taylor agreed to sell two acres
to the church congregation for nine dollars. The membership
contributed eight dollars and the Taylors donated the other dollar
to complete the selling price.
The Taylors signed the deed, October 14, 1895, with their X and the
deed was filed and recorded January 2, 1896. (Deed Records, Vol. 3,
page 513, Matagorda County, Texas)
At that time the church came to be known as the Home Mission
Society. The land for the Home Mission Society is situated on the
west side of Live Oak Creek in Matagorda County, Texas.
Joseph Yeamans was pastor for the Grapevine Church. Troy Taylor was
pastor for the Home Mission Society Church with Tim Brown, James
Armstead, Eugene Brown, Joshua Wyche, Hal Robbins, Henderson Bouldin,
Sessia Wyche, Sr., Horace Earls, and others serving as officers.
At that time, the building faced the south with its back to a ditch.
The ditch is presently a ravine running north of the present church
building from FM 2540 to the Live Oak Creek.
The story is told that in 1826, a group of Karankawa Indians roamed
and massacred members of the Flowers and Cavanah families. Some of
the Vine Grove Christian Church members indicated that as children
they played in that area and found Indian relics there.
Rev. Taylor served as pastor for several years. He died in 1932. The
next pastor to lead the congregation was Rev. W. L. Law. In 1918,
another building was erected under the leadership of Rev. Law.
The president of the Mission Society in the Home Mission Society
Church was Isabell Norman. Members of the society included Pinkie
Dale, Ella Brown, Elizabeth Wyche, Amy Clay, Esther Brown, Rannie
Gaston, Mary Haley, Lucy Wyche, Emily Dennis, Lucy Armstead and Emma
Other pastors of the 1918 church were Rev. C. H. Norris, Rev. C. H.
Wyche, and Rev. R. H. Paige. Rev. Paige pastored the church for
thirteen years, and under his leadership the 1918 building was
In 1949, Rev. Paige resigned and
moved elsewhere. Following Rev. Paige, the pastors were: 1949, Rev.
Clarence Times; 1953, Rev. S. L. Brown; 1957, Rev. O. A. Armstead;
1963, Rev. H. L. Hawkins; 1966, Rev. H. S. Williams.
The 1918 building was demolished by a storm on September 23, 1968.
The following Sunday, church services were held in the cafeteria.
Rev. Williams' message was taken from Romans 13:10 and titled, "Who
is Your Neighbor." Rev. Sam Brown and Elder Eugene Brown, the oldest
two members in the community, were present and gave a comfortable
In March 1997, Mrs. Lizzie Jane Brown Earls, age 90, was the oldest
member in the Live Oak Community and the Vine Grove Christian
Church. Mrs. Amey Austin, a sister of Mrs. Earls and a former member
of the Vine Grove Christian Church and Live Oak Community, was 97.
Mrs. Austin later lived in Galveston and Bay City.
On July 13, 1969, the present wood structure was dedicated. Rev. M.
C. Dickson delivered the message, and Rev. R. H. Paige gave the
dedicatorial address. A total of $1300 was donated in the offering.
The carpenter for the structure was Mr. Joe Collins.
In August 1970, the church's body satisfied its debts to all of its
creditors. The church was debt free.
On October 13, 1977, bricks were purchased for the sanctuary area.
Mr. Hooker Peel of Brazoria, Texas, began laying the brick on
October 31, 1977, and completed the project in November, 1977.
A covered porch is located at the front of the structure. Double
doors open into a 7 by 8 ft. carpeted vestibule. To the left of the
vestibule is a carpeted lounge and restroom facility for women and
to the right is a carpeted restroom area for men.
Double doors open into a 70 by 30 ft. carpeted sanctuary with padded
pews. The pews are divided by a center passage way that leads to the
area in front of the pulpit. Equally arranged in this area is an
organ on the left and a piano on the right, centered with
furnishings for communion and the offering.
The lectern is on the pulpit gallery, abounded by chairs for the
pastor and other ministers. Directly behind the pulpit area is the
choir gallery with a door on the south side leading to the pastor's
study, and a door on the north side leading to the choir room and
The following officers served with Rev. Williams were: Deacons:
Horace Earls (chair of trustees), Kermit Monroe, Jimmy Times, Sessia
Wyche, Jessie Times, Billy Polk, Roosevelt Allen, and James David;
Elders: Roy Times, Eugene Brown, Jonathan Times; President CWF:
Lizzie Earls; Choir: Ruth Bouldin; Youth Leaders: Annie J. Allen,
Edna Polk, Ada Monroe, and Mary Wyche; Supt. of Bible School: Joe
Times; Church Clerk: Sallie Norman; and Treasurer: Aslena Polk.
Rev. Williams resigned September 28, 1970. In 1973, Rev. Caldwell
Brown was elected pastor. Under Rev. Brown's leadership, a new
Education Building was erected, and two cooling units were
installed. The Allen family donated the loud speaker.
Rev. Brown retired November, 1984, and associate minister, Rev.
Gilbert Franklin, was elected pastor. Rev. Franklin served until
March, 1988, and then chose to resign.
On June 1, 1988, the Rev. Larry Fletcher was elected. Rev. Fletcher
gave undaunted services for the salvation of lost souls, the revival
of steadfast followers, and the production of the church and
community as a whole.
Throughout the years, many families and
members have given to the Vine Grove Christian Church fulfillments.
Among the donations were: a piano by Mr. and Mrs. Basil Allen; two new
chairs by Mrs. Sallie Norman; cement for the porch and steps by the
Earls family; a baptistry window, a picture, and a communion table by
Rev. Williams and family; and a mirror for the choir room by the Jesse
Times family. Mrs. Essie Brown collected and gave money for a
refrigerator and side walk.
In 1978, new windows were placed throughout the church. Outside speakers
were installed, and a hot water heater and ceiling fans were given by
the Allen family.
In 1986, Mrs. Roy Times donated a communion set in memory of her
husband, Roy Times. Roosevelt Allen donated another communion set in
memory of his grandfather, Tim Brown.
Roosevelt Allen had the bell tower built on the north side of the
church, and the Earls family donated two chairs for the pastor's study
in memory of Deacon Horace Earls.
In 1990, a new sign was installed and a new organ purchased. The work on
the yard was completed in 1992.\
A hallway leads from the choir room to the 33 by 30 ft.
educational/dining area. A kitchenette is on the extreme back.
The total church structure has central air and heat and is very
comfortable for spiritual growth.
In front, on each side of the driveway leading to the church are
tombstones of former members and loved ones. The building sets back from
FM 2540 in a grove of live oaks, pin oaks, and other greenery interlaced
In 1995, Rev. Lloyd Brown, a retired former clergyman and a member of
Vine Grove Christian Church, deeded 7.9 acres of land to the church for
future expansion. The pastor and entire church family marveled at such a
donation from Rev. Brown. They are very appreciative and have begun to
make plans for the new century.
The church continues to praise the Almighty and looks to Him for
directions. It invites and hopes that persons who come to Vine Grove
Christian Church will receive spiritual uplifting and will go away
looking back with wonder knowing that GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!!