Tarrant County, TXGenWeb
An Oral and Documentary
|One of northeast Tarrant County's pioneer churches, Oak Grove Methodist
Church, held its worship services in the same location without interruption
from its founding in 1886 until it voted to disband in 1949. The original
Oak Grove building sat facing east on the west side of McLain Road at the
modern-day intersection of McLain Road with Oak Grove Lane and Hardisty Road
in the City of Bedford. The second church house at the site sat facing south.
The descendants of Oak Grove's founders and members wish to mark its meeting
site with an official Texas State Historical Marker.
Oak Grove Methodist Church was probably named for the large old post oaks which stood around it. Some of them survived into the 1980's. The church was a community landmark for nearly sixty-three years. The street beside the site, Oak Grove Lane, preserves its name today.
This writer's grandmother, Bessie (Cavender) Simmons [1892-1972] remembered
attending Oak Grove Church regularly when she was a girl. Her grandfather,
Harvey Richard Sparger [1833-1914], was one of the church's original three
trustees. This writer also remembers hearing in 1964 from the lips of his
great-grandmother, Leona (Sparger) Cavender [1872-1965] that she was present
and remembered when her parents and several other men and women formed the
I. The Founding of Oak Grove Methodist Church
The first mention of the Oak Grove Methodist Church is made in the minutes of the third quarterly conference of the Keller Charge, Dallas District, North Texas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The meeting was held at Smithfield, Tarrant County, Texas on July 7, 1886. At that session three men were elected as trustees for the Oak Grove Church: H. R. Sparger, M. D. Arthur, and J. F. Moody. At the time the circuit seems to have consisted of five northeast Tarrant County churches: Fossil Creek [in present-day Haltom City], Zion [Smithfield], Keller, White's Chapel [in present-day Southlake], and Oak Grove. 1
We do not know the names of many of the other founding members. Probably Layton Thurman Rogers [1852-1927] and his wife, Margaret Jane (Sparger) Rogers [1857-1944]; and George Washington Couch [1858-1935] and his wife, Mary Alice (Sparger) Couch [1862-1939] were among them.2 Both women were daughters of H. R. Sparger, both lived near the church, and both are included with their families in the only known photograph made of the congregation about 1890.
M. D. Arthur had grown children by the time the church was founded, but James Frank Moody did not. It would also seem logical that William M. Sitton [1840-1917] and his family were among the founding members, since they arrived in the community in the early 1870's, lived only a short distance from Oak Grove, and were active in the church in later years. There were also family ties; Mrs. Sitton was Layton Thurman Rogers's sister.3
Family tradition states that William Burgess Cheek [1846-1930], his wife, Maria C. (Weddle) Cheek [1847-1919], and their family were also among the charter members of Oak Grove.4 Cheek-Sparger Road, one of the major east-west thoroughfares between Colleyville and Bedford, today preserves his name along with that of Harv Sparger, one of Oak Grove's first three trustees.
At the same meeting, the Oak Grove trustees were authorized to make "...a Quit Claim Deed to the Land where-on Sansom's Chaple is Situated." The members agreed to hold the next quarterly meeting at the Oak Grove church, then adjourned. In a supplementary report appended to the minutes, it was noted that they had "...Organized one new Church of thirty members...," referring to the Oak Grove Church.5
On August 14, 1886, Sparger, Arthur, and Moody bought two acres of land from Wiley Green Cannon [1842-1903] and his wife, Sofronia S. Cannon [1844-1922], to use as a meeting place for the Oak Grove Church.6 The two elder Cannons were members of the Church of Christ at Bedford and did not attend Oak Grove, although a number of their descendants did.7
The Oak Grove Church lot was at the northwest corner of present-day McLain Road and Oak Grove Lane, north of Harwood Road, in Bedford. The trustees paid fifteen dollars per acre for the land. It was described in the deed as:
Harrison Sterling Price Ashby [1848-1923], as Preacher in Charge of the Keller Circuit at the time Oak Grove was formed, served as its first pastor. One month earlier, on May 8, 1886, his estimated salary had been set by the stewards at $500 per year.9 Ashby was an extremely young Confederate veteran, having been only fifteen at the War's end. He was a very interesting character, having come to the Methodist ministry in his early twenties after being, in turn, an actor, cattle driver, farmer, and school teacher. In the late 1880's he was removed from his itinerant ministry because of his increasing activism in political affairs, his criticism of the church's failure to support reforms, and "an alleged fondness for the bottle." By the time of his death in Oklahoma many years later, as "Stump" Ashby he was well-known in that state and Texas for his politics and public-speaking abilities.10
The quarterly conference decided to move the older Sansom's Chapel meeting
house, located at what is now the southeast corner of the intersection of
Airport Freeway and Bedford Road,11 to the new Oak Grove
site. By the wagon roads of the day it was a move of about 1.7 miles. The
church house had been moved by January 29, 1887.12 The
building had earlier served a congregation named for the Samuel D. Sansom
[1816-1894], a pioneer Methodist minister who lies buried at Smithfield.
II. The Three Founding Trustees...Arthur, Moody, and Sparger
Marcus D. L. Arthur was born on March 10, 1834,13 in Mason County, Kentucky. He was the son of James Arthur [born about 1797 in Pennsylvania] and his wife, Mary (Beall) Arthur [born about 1797 in Kentucky]. Born "Marquis De Lafayette Arthur," he grew up in a well-to-do slaveowning family. He was still living at home in Kentucky with his parents in 1850.14 He is found in various records made during his lifetime as "M.D.," "Marcus D.," "Marcus," or "Mark." His wife, Fannie Jane (Arnold) Arthur, was born October 30, 1843 in Mississippi and died in Bedford February 9, 1893.15 They were married on September 6, 1858. She was the daughter of Levi Arnold, a Methodist minister.16
By 1860 Marcus Arthur was working as a farm hand on a ranch belonging to his father-in-law, Levi Arnold, in Lavaca County, Texas.17 Arthur served as a private in the Confederate Army in Frederick J. Malone's Company of State Volunteers, and later also served in Company E of the 21st Texas Cavalry.18
In 1870, Marcus Arthur, his wife, and their five children were living at "Penninsula" in Matagorda County, Texas.19 M. D. Arthur and his family first appear in the Tarrant County tax rolls in 1876, when they took up residence in Precinct 3.20 Family sources suggest that the Arthurs had earlier lived in Bedford before moving to Matagorda County, and that they came back to Bedford after the disastrous hurricane which devastated the Texas coast at Indianola on September 15-17, 1876.21
In Bedford in the 1890's the Arthurs lived along the south side of present-day Cheek-Sparger Road, just east of its intersection with Jackson Drive.22 In the 1880 Tarrant County census, they and the Moody family were next-farm neighbors.23 In 1883, Arthur purchased a tract of land from Margaret Moody, the mother of one of the other three trustees.24 Marcus D. Arthur died in Bedford on February 1, 1893, only eight days before his wife. Both are buried in Bedford Cemetery.25
James Frank Moody was born in Texas about 1855. His father was Levin Moody, one of Tarrant County's earliest pioneers. The elder Moody was born about 1827 in South Carolina,26 died on May 22, 1865 at the age of thirty-eight, and was buried in Birdville Cemetery.27 Levin Moody and his family were in northeast Tarrant County by 1858 when he appears in the tax rolls. The unreadability and poor microfilm quality of the earlier tax rolls preclude saying certainly whether or not he was here earlier.28 Levin Moody had served as a Confederate conscript during the Civil War.29 Levin Moody's widow, Margaret Moody (and James Frank Moody's mother), survived until at least 1883. Their home was in the southwest corner of the intersection of present-day Jackson Drive and Cheek-Sparger Road, in northern Bedford, along its border with Colleyville.30
At some time around 1890, J. F. Moody wrote a page in an autograph book belonging to Leona H. Sparger, the daughter of Harvey R. Sparger. The writing is undated, but most of the other entries in the book fall within the period 1888-1891. Moody's note says:
Conference records indicate that J. F. Moody and his family left the Oak Grove Church in April, 1888,32 but he was still living in Tarrant County as late as February 29, 1892, when he deeded his 108-acre farm near Oak Grove to James R. Puckett.33 We have not discovered where the Moody family moved next.
Harvey Richard Sparger was born in Marion County, Tennessee on October 16, 1833. He was the son of Samuel Sparger, a Virginia native who lived successively in Marion County, Tennessee; Walker County, Georgia; and Bedford, Texas. Harvey Sparger married a staunch Methodist girl, Mary Ann Hamilton [1836-1916] in Marion County on December 21, 1854. He moved with his own and his father's families into Walker County, Georgia about 1858. He served in the Confederate Army as a corporal in Company K of the 4th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry during the Civil War.
In late 1879, Sparger and his wife and unmarried children came to northeast
Tarrant County. They ultimately settled along the north side of present-day
Cheek-Sparger Road, a few yards north of its intersection with present-day
McLain Road. They joined two of their married daughters and their families
who had already made the move. He died at his farm in present-day Colleyville
on February 15, 1914, and was buried the next day in Smithfield Cemetery.
A fuller version of the lives of the Spargers is told in An Oral and
Documentary History of the Lives of Harvey Richard Sparger (1833-1914) and
his wife, Mary Ann (Hamilton) Sparger (1836-1916), completed by this
compiler in 1998.34
III. The Church in the Final Years of the Nineteenth Century
On September 25, 1886, the fourth quarterly conference met at Oak Grove and proceeded to business. Of a total of $48.30 which had been raised during the preceding quarter for the support of the ministry, $4.00 was contributed by Oak Grove, with the Keller Church giving $7.50 and the church at Zion giving $36.80.35
At the quarterly meeting at Keller on January 29, 1887, Oak Grove gave $2.50 for the support of the ministry, out of a total of $14.00 which was collected from four churches. By this date, J. B. Minnis was the Preacher in Charge of the circuit, a position he held until at least September 15, 1888.36
About that time J. B. Minnis also wrote a page in the autograph book of one of his young parishioners, Leona H. Sparger. It said:
At nearby Grapevine on February 5, 1887, "The first Quarterly Conference for the current year 1887, Grapevine Charge, Dallas District, North Texas Conference..." met. Ben H. Bounds, the Grapevine Charge's Preacher in Charge, reported a decrease of twenty-four members, and that that number did "...not include 11 members at Grange Hall, who have gone to another organization near Bedford..."38
The Keller Charge's second quarterly conference for 1887 was held at Oak Grove on April 30. At that meeting it contributed $3.00 of the $43.30 collected from five churches. At the third quarterly conference, held August 13, 1887 at Smithfield, Oak Grove gave $5.25 of the $67.40 contributed by seven churches.39
At the fourth quarterly conference held on November 5, 1887 at Fossil Creek, Oak Grove gave $16.00 of the $156.25 collected from six churches. In "Supplement C" to the minutes, Arthur, Sparger, and Moody reported that the Oak Grove Church house was 30 feet wide by 45 feet long and would seat three hundred worshippers. "The house is nearly out of Debt," they continued, "but stands in nead of repare. Two acres of land and the House valued at ($250.00) two hundred and fifty Dollars. Two acres of land (where the church was moved from) valued at ($20.00) twenty dollars." The minutes of this meeting show that Oak Grove was still one of several churches which were a part of the Keller Charge of the Dallas District, which Charge by this time included the churches at Zion, Elizabeth Town [Elizabethtown], Fossil Creek, White's Chapel, Oak Grove, Roan Oak [Roanoke], and Keller.40 Elizabethtown and Roanoke were in southern Denton County.
This report also indicates that the old Sansom's Chapel building had been moved to the new Oak Grove site by that date. One photograph of this building has survived, taken on a windy late afternoon about 1890. Supplement D to the same minutes stated that "The Trustees of Oak Grove are authorized to perfect the Title to the Church Lot where Sansom's Chaple stood: Sell same: and apply the proceeds to Oak Grove Church."41
During a fall 1998 outing in Bedford for another purpose, Tom Miller Acton [1908-1999] told this writer that he remembered seeing in his boyhood a number of sunken graves at the location of the old Sansom's Chapel Church. There were no headstones there even in his boyhood, but he said it was common knowledge in the community that the graves were there. They were visible until until about 1920. Perhaps this cemetery was associated with the Methodist meeting house. Mr. Acton's family moved onto a farm adjoining the old meeting house site in 1894.
At the first quarterly conference meeting of 1888, held at White's Chapel Church on January 28, 1888, the Oak Grove Church's members gave $2.00 as their portion of $54.00 raised from five churches in the circuit. The minutes of this meeting also record that R. B. Merrell [1845-1891] was elected to fill the place of J. F. Moody. The minutes do not specify if that applied to his post as conference secretary, Oak Grove trustee, or both. By that date, Oak Grove was shown as a member church of the Smithfield Charge of the District, in which it remained until at least mid-1890. The minutes of the second quarterly conference, held on April 28, 1888, record the dismissal by certificate of Frank and Ellen Moody.42
On July 28, 1888, at the third quarterly conference held at the Smithfield Church, Tuck Trigg was elected to fill the vacancy in the Oak Grove trustees caused by the leaving of J. F. Moody. At the same meeting, Oak Grove Church gave $10.25 of the $47.85 raised by three churches.43 On September 15, 1888, the fourth quarterly conference was held at Oak Grove. No actions concerning Oak Grove exclusively were recorded.44
At the first quarterly conference meeting held on February 23, 1889 at Keller, Oak Grove contributed $8.00 of the $73.00 raised by seven churches...Zion [Smithfield], Fossil Creek, Keller, Roanoke, Elizabeth[town]. Oak Grove, and White's Chapel. At this meeting, Mexican War veteran and early Tarrant County pioneer Campbell Poynor [1825-1908] was elected to fill a vacancy on the Board of Trustees of Oak Grove. Also at this meeting, T. J. Minnis is first named as Preacher in Charge of the circuit, which position he held as late as November 16, 1889. In his last report to the Presiding Elder of the Fourth Quarterly Conference, Minnis wrote:
On March 1, 1889, the three current trustees of the Oak Grove Church...Harvey Richard Sparger, Marcus D. Arthur, and Campbell Poynor...finally sold the two-acre Sansom's Chapel tract to William Letchworth Hurst [1833-1922], for whom Hurst, Texas was later named. He owned the property adjacent to it. The lot was described as part of the Mansel W. Wilmeth survey:
On June 1, 1889, the second quarterly conference met at the Elizabethtown Church. Oak Grove's members gave $7.25 of a total of $11.25 raised by it and the Roanoke Church. The third quarterly conference was held at Oak Grove on September 7, 1889. The amount Oak Grove gave to the work is unclear in the handwritten record; it is either $15.00 or $5.00 from a total of $52.25 raised from five churches. At the fourth quarterly meeting held at Fossil Creek on November 16, 1889, Oak Grove contributed $9.25 of the total of $93.75 given by five churches. For the ensuing quarter, the stewards of the Oak Grove Church were to be H. R. Sparger, W. M. Sitton, and M. D. Arthur.47
At the first quarterly conference held at Roanoke on March 15, 1890, Oak Grove contributed $4.25 of the total of $87.35 raised by eight churches. At the second quarterly conference held at Keller on June 21, 1890, Oak Grove gave $4.00 of the $91.00 contributed by six churches. By the time of this meeting, J. L. Lavender was serving as Preacher in Charge of the circuit. The minutes for the next quarterly conference, held on June 21, 1890, are the last included in the volume now in the hands of the Smithfield Church. J. L. Lavender was still shown as the Preacher in Charge.48
Two copies of the single photograph of the original Oak Grove building (which had earlier been used by Sansom's Chapel) have survived. One of the copies is much better than the other one. It was made on a windy late afternoon about 1890. As nearly as we can determine, the photograph contains fifty-one people, including children and at least three babies still in their parents' arms. At least twelve, and probably several more, are members of H. R. Sparger's family by blood or marriage. The only non-Sparger-family members who can now be identified are Joseph E. Rutledge, whose son became a lay exhorter at Oak Grove decades later, and John Creecy. Joseph Rutledge was an interesting community character because he served in both armies during the Civil War...first in the Confederate Army, then in the Union Army. He said in his later years that the Union "fed better."
The original Oak Grove building was thirty feet wide [N-S] and forty-five feet long [E-W] as it was reconstructed at the Oak Grove site.49 It faced east, and had a double door in the center of the east wall. There were no windows on the east wall. The north wall had no door and at least three (probably four) tall windows which extended higher than the top of the door. The south wall was probably identical to the north one. The whole building was covered with horizontally-laid wood siding, each piece of which appears in the photograph to be about five inches wide. It had a wood-shingle roof.50 This building served the congregation until about 1925.
The 1890 photograph also shows the corner of a brush arbor sitting northeast of the church house. It was used for summer revivals, which were usually held during the hottest part of the year, typically in July or August. The arbor was rebuilt every few years.51
It is now impossible to reconstruct an accurate list of all the earliest preachers who served the Oak Grove Church. Nearby First United Methodist Church of Euless has preserved a list of its ministers, and some of them are known to have served Oak Grove as well. Samuel Weaver is shown in Euless's list as having served in 1891-1893.52 He performed the marriage of this compiler's great-grandparents at Oak Grove during the last few days of 1891.53
Neither has any record survived to give us a complete list of the membership at any given time. The Conference Minute Book of the Keller Charge (1886-1890) does mention many members by name as they joined or left the circuit's churches, but in no case does it mention the specific church to which they belonged. In some cases, specific men are named as trustees of one congregation or another. All the men named as Oak Grove trustees have been specifically mentioned in this paper.
An entry in the autograph book belonging to Leona H. Sparger suggests that R. C. Hicks was the pastor of the church on August 22, 1891. In it, Hicks wrote, "Miss Leona--Please look from henceforth upon this page in grateful remembrance of your friend and pastor R. C. Hicks, Smithfield, Tex., Aug. 22nd, 1891."
On that same day, Hicks also gave her a small hymnal, newly printed that year, and wrote an identical inscription inside the front cover.54 By 1900, R. C. Hicks and his family were living in a Methodist parsonage in Precinct 2 of Lamar County, Texas.55
The clothbound, hardback hymnal is one of only three physical things we have located which were used at Oak Grove in its early days. It measures 5-1/4" high by 3-1/2" wide by 1-1/4" thick. It has no musical notes, but is a collection of verses and choruses, many of which may be sung to the same tunes. It is entitled Hymn Book of the Methodist Church, South, and was published by Barnes and South, Agents of the Publishing House of the M. E. Church, South, at Nashville, Tennessee, in 1891. It contains 929 selections, many of which are still used in church services today. It also contains a section of about forty pages at its end which includes "The Ritual," "The General Rules," and "Articles of Religion of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South." Sparger descendants also still have the large leatherbound Bible which H. R. Sparger may be seen holding in the circa-1890 church photograph.
Like all churches of its day in this part of Texas, Oak Grove's services were welcomed by the young people as a place to see their friends in a proper and accepted setting. In the old church photograph, this writer's great-grandmother, Leona Sparger, and great-grandfather, Witt Cavender, are seen in two different parts of the picture, since it was several months before their marriage. He traveled a fair distance past some other churches to get to Oak Grove where he could visit with his future bride.56 When they were married at Oak Grove on December 23, 1891, the ceremony was performed by Rev. Samuel Weaver.57 This compiler has one of the leather gloves she wore during her wedding.
We have a unique historical document in "Sam Street's Map of Tarrant County, Texas, Dec. 1895." Oak Grove Church is clearly shown on it alongside the wagon roads of the day. Some of the roads exactly correspond to today's residential streets. The part of McLain Road going north from the church, and the southwest-northeast wagon road which became Oak Grove Lane were already in place. The nearby homes of several men who were prominent in the early affairs of the church are also shown, including H. R. Sparger, W. M. Sitton, Campbell Poynor, George Couch, James Sparger [1866-1953], and others.58
By the late 1890's nearby Grapevine had a weekly newspaper, The Grapevine Sun, in which small mentions of Oak Grove occasionally appeared until the end of the church's existence in 1949. On August 20, 1898, it noted that "...A number of Glade [Pleasant Glade Community] youngsters were at church last Sunday night at Oak Grove..."59
This page was last modified 23 Aug 2002.
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