Tarrant County, TXGenWeb
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|During the second half of the nineteenth century many small churches
in rural north-central Texas were formed, flourished for a time, and then
faded away. They were the victims of shifting population patterns, the
emigrations or deaths of their leaders, economic misfortunes, and a host
of other factors.
One such country meeting place was Sansom's Chapel Methodist Church, established in 1872 in Bedford, Tarrant County, Texas. It disbanded at some time in the year 1880, and its members then joined other area churches. In late 1886 or early 1887 newly-formed Oak Grove Methodist Church moved the Sansom's Chapel building to its own site, less than two miles away, and used it until well into the twentieth century.
Sansom's Chapel was named for the Reverend Samuel Durrell Sansom, Jr., an early Bedford settler who arrived in Tarrant County in the first half of the 1860's.1 Throughout most of the church's history he seems to have been its guiding spirit, and its demise may have been due to his leaving the Bedford community in the late 1870's when he moved to nearby Zion (Smithfield) and went into the dry goods business.2
Sansom was born into a distinguished Methodist family in Lincoln County, Tennessee on January 30, 1816.3 He was the son of another Methodist minister, Rev. Samuel Durrell Sansom, Sr. (1776-1854) and his wife, Elizabeth (Lackey) Sansom (died 1843).4 The elder Sansom's father, John Sansom, was a Virginian who died in service during the American Revolution.5 S. D. Sansom, Jr., first came to Texas in the fall of 1837, and served for a time in 1839 as a Texas Ranger in the company commanded by Captain H. M. Smith.6 He also spent time as a militiaman during the days of the Republic of Texas in a company commanded by Captain John Edward Waring in Militia Beat No. 6.7 He returned to Tennessee in 1841 and married his first wife, Sarah A. King, there on July 21, 1842.8
In the spring of 1845 Sansom returned to Texas and settled briefly near Hallford Prairie, in the area of northeast Tarrant County-northwest Dallas County. In the fall of 1846 he moved to Tyler County, Texas and was licensed to preach there in 1850. In 1851 he was admitted on trial into the East Texas Conference, and traveled the Kaufman Circuit in 1852 and 1853. He also rode the Athens Circuit in 1854 and 1855, and in 1856 traveled the Crockett Circuit. In 1860 he and his family were living in Henderson County, Texas. By 1861 his preaching was somewhat curtailed because he was having serious eye trouble.9
S. D. Sansom's first wife died on August 9, 1861. He was remarried on October 12, 1862 to Sarah Ann Thomas (June 18, 1842-June 13, 1934). After Sansom's death in 1894, she was remarried in 1901 to Louis B. Blevins.10 She was a familiar figure around Smithfield for many years.
Sansom is listed as a Local Elder at the first meeting of the newly-formed Grapevine Circuit of the Dallas District of the East Texas Annual Conference on December 10, 1864, by which time he had permanently settled in northeast Tarrant County. His name is constantly seen in the Grapevine circuit's minutes until the late 1870's as a steward, as a local elder, and as a member of various committees.11 He was an active citizen in Bedford and Smithfield, and was a charter member and first Master of the Grand Prairie Masonic Lodge #455, which was established at Zion Methodist Church [later Smithfield, present-day North Richland Hills] on June 5, 1875. 12
Sansom died at Smithfield, Tarrant County, on July 16, 1894. In his obituary, H. K. Agee said of him, "...As a traveling preacher he was clear, strong, and successful; as a local preacher he was cheerful, earnest and faithful, laboring, both night and day, that he might deliver his message and finish his course with joy..."13 He lies buried among several of his family members at Smithfield Cemetery.
Fortunately the book containing the minutes of the Grapevine Circuit, to which Sansom's Chapel Methodist Church belonged, is still in existence. It was the primary document used to write most of this history. It spans the period from late 1864 through early 1888.14
For more than half its existence the church probably met in Mr. Sansom's home at Bedford. In 1877 its members reported that they had a building nearly completed. Methodist preachers on the Grapevine circuit in the 1870's often complained of the lack of buildings set aside for church purposes. They indicated that several of their flocks were meeting in private homes.
Bedford's first Methodist congregation, Spring Garden Methodist Church, first appears in the Grapevine circuit minutes in early 1867.15 It is last mentioned in the records of the first quarterly conference in 1872, and its demise may have given rise to the new meeting place at Sansom's about 2.3 miles to the southwest. In that year the frame building at Spring Garden which served the community as church, school, and grange hall burned.16
The first mention of a Methodist meeting held at Sansom's in Bedford came in the minutes of the Second Quarterly Conference of the "Grape Vine" [Grapevine] Circuit of the Dallas District of the Trinity Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The meeting was held at the church at Birdville [central Tarrant County, now in Haltom City] on April 27, 1872.17 Sansom's church had apparently been established between that date and the first quarterly meeting, which had been held on January 6, 1872.18
Only three men served as Preachers in Charge of the Grapevine circuit during the brief life of the Sansom's Chapel congregation. Sansom's first preacher was Samuel S. Cobb,19 who was already riding the circuit when the church began, having taken the post in January, 1872. He continued in service until the end of the year. Cobb was a memorable figure; in a memoriam to him printed in 1901 it was said, "...He had his faults....He was high-tempered---quick as powder; but God never made a man with nobler designs..."
After Cobb's reassignment, Lewis M. White20 began a four-year tenure in January, 1873 and remained through December, 1876. William Sibert May21 began a two-year term in January of 1877 and continued through the end of 1878. At the beginning of 1879, Lewis M. White returned and served until December, 1880.
During that same period of time four men served the circuit as Presiding Elder, regularly visited Sansom's Chapel and the circuit's other churches, and presided over the quarterly conferences. They were Jacob Monroe Binkley22 (January 1872 through December 1873), John W. Chalk23 (January through December 1874), William F. Easterling24 (January 1875 through December 1877), and William Holmes Hughes25 (January 1878 through December 1880).26
At the April 1872 quarterly conference, S. D. Sansom was recorded as a local elder, a position he held as a leader of the church but without any remuneration for his work. It was reported that "Sansoms" had raised $8.60 for the support of the ministry from a total of $133.25 raised by five of the churches in the circuit, which included Minter's Chapel, Grapevine, Willow Springs, Birdville, and Sansom's. Of that amount, Jacob M. Binkley (the presiding elder) received $15 and Samuel S. Cobb (the preacher in charge) received $118.25.27
At the third quarterly conference, held at Sansom's on July 20, 1872, Sansom's contributed $12.00 toward the support of the ministry on the circuit. At that time the other churches in the circuit included Grapevine, Minter's Chapel, Birdville, Willow Springs, and Foster's School House.28
At the fourth quarterly meeting held at Minter's Chapel on October 12, 1872, Samuel Cobb reported that only one Sunday School was functioning on the circuit... at Minter's Chapel. He listed the churches on the circuit and their memberships: Grapevine (72), Minter's Chapel (122), Sansoms (37), Birdville (28), Willow Springs (22), Pleasant Hill (19), and Foster's School House (17), for a total Grapevine Circuit membership of 317. Also at this meeting David Smith was elected steward in place of S. D. Sansom. As to the general condition of the circuit, Cobb wrote:
At the first quarterly meeting for 1873, held at Minter's Chapel on February 15, Sansom's was directed to raise $55 during the ensuing year for the support of the Preacher in Charge and the Presiding Elder. The other churches mentioned were Minter's Chapel, Grapevine, Austin's [now White's Chapel in Southlake, Texas], Pleasant Hill, Birdville, and Willow Spring.30
On the same day a building committee was named for a meeting house to be known as Sansom's Chapel. The committee included Brothers S. D. Sansom, A. D. Currie, and Tilford Scott. Bro. Currie was elected Steward for the Sansom Class.31 A . D. Currie and his wife were admitted to the Conference during the same meeting.32
At the beginning of 1873 the Preacher in Charge of the circuit was Lewis M. White. White's reports to the conference were generally more optimistic than those of his predecessor, Samuel S. Cobb. During that meeting Sansom's contributed $4.00 of $21.50 given by five churches for the support of the ministry.33 For the ensuing year Sansom's was asked to raise $55.00 of a total of $550.00 from seven churches.34 At the second quarterly conference, held at Birdville on May 24, 1873, Sansom's contributed $9.20 of $82.60 given by six churches.35 At the third quarterly conference, held at Sansom's on August 16, 1873, Sansom's gave $14.50 of $94.25 raised from six churches.36
At the fourth quarterly conference held at Grapevine on October 11, 1873, Sansom's Chapel contributed $27.25 of $273.75 raised by six churches...including Willow Spring, Birdville, Minter's Chapel, Grapevine, and Austin's.37 Of that total offering, the Presiding Elder received $65.00 and the Preacher in Charge received $208.75. The conference minutes report the death of Bro. John Berry of the Sansom's congregation during the preceding quarter.38
At the first quarterly conference of the circuit held at Birdville on January 3, 1874, Sansom's contributed $6.80 of $43.30 from five churches. By that time John W. Chalk was the Presiding Elder. At that meeting Sansom's was assigned to raise $60.00 of $585.00 to be raised by the seven churches during the ensuing year.39 At the second quarterly conference meeting at Minter's Chapel on March 21, 1874, Sansom's gave $1.50 of $121.75 from four churches for the support of the ministry.40
In the third quarterly conference held at "Sansom's Camp Ground" on August 8, 1874, the conference minutes mention that "...One permanent Campground bought and arrangements made to build a large campmeeting shed..." This seems to suggest that the Sansom's property may have been purchased between March 21 and August 8, 1874. At that meeting, A. D. Currie was listed as a Steward at Sansom's. In the conference minutes Sansom's is mentioned as one of six churches who contributed money to the support of the ministry. Sansom's portion was $5.50 of a total of $85.30 given; the Presiding Elder received $10 and the Preacher in Charge received $75.30.41
We have not located the deed in which the two-acre Sansom's Chapel property was purchased. The transfer predated a disastrous court house fire in Fort Worth on March 29, 1876, in which all the county's deed records were destroyed. Several settlers later had their pre-fire deeds re-recorded, and some land records survived in the files of one or more abstract companies which were already established in Fort Worth by that time.42
On March 10, 1884, S. D. Sansom sold three tracts of his land at Bedford to R. T. Valentine...20.5 acres he had purchased from Tilford Scott, 23.5 acres from J. W. Haynes, and 20 acres from W. R. Allen. Nowhere in the deed did he mention or make any reservation of any lot earlier deeded to the Methodist church.43 This deed seems to suggest that the church acreage may actually have originally belonged to someone other than Sansom.
Using the 1889 deed when the church lot was sold into private hands, we are able to locate it precisely in relation to modern-day landmarks. It was included in the Mansel W. Wilmuth survey in present-day Bedford, and was described as:
At the fourth quarterly conference held at the Grapevine church on October 17, 1874, Sansom's contributed $28 of a total of $214.25 for the support of the ministry. Of that amount, the Presiding Elder was given $33 while the Preacher in Charge got $181.25. At the same meeting, John Mayhan [Mahan] 45 and A. D. Currie were elected to be the stewards of the Sansom's Chapel Church.46 L. M. White reported:
During the first quarterly conference for 1875, held at Zion on January 23, a listing of the circuit's eight churches was made and an amount was set as a goal for each church to raise in support of the ministry. The local churches and their amounts were: Grapevine ($167), Minter's Chapel ($162), Zion ($167), Sansom's ($90), Fossil [Creek] ($90), Austin's ($90), Elizabeth [town] ($100), and Grapevine Springs ($34).48 On that day Sansom's contributed $2.50 of $47.15 which was given by the circuit's churches. The Preacher in Charge received $39.30 and the remainder was given to the Presiding Elder. Also at that meeting W. F. Easterling was first named as the circuit's Presiding Elder.49
At the second quarterly conference for 1875, held on April 26 at Minter's Chapel, Sansom's gave $5.80 of the $69.50 raised for the ministry. White received $57.90 for his support, and the Presiding Elder got the rest.50 At the third quarterly conference, held July 17, 1875 at Elizabethtown, Sansom's gave $9.50 of $135.25; the Preacher in Charge received $100.25 and the Presiding Elder got $35.00.51
The fourth quarterly conference of the circuit was held at Sansom's Camp Ground on September 25, 1875. Sansom's gave $47.80 of the $361.50 which had been raised for the ministry by the circuit's churches. White reported to the conference:
At the first quarterly conference of 1876 at Grapevine in January 1, White reported Sunday School interests lagging during the winter, as they usually did. He attributed the lag to a "want of suitable places in which to hold them....the church was never more prosperous than now except upon a want of unity upon the subject of Church building in some instances..."53 The circuit's six churches were listed in the minutes and a suggest amount for each to raise in the ensuing year was made: Grapevine ($175), Minter's Chapel ($150), Zion ($175), Fossil Creek ($150), Sansom's ($125), and Austin's ($125). During the conference Sansom's gave $1.00 of the $59.70 given to support the Presiding Elder and Preacher in Charge.54
At the second quarterly conference, held on March 18, 1876 at Grapevine, Sansom's gave $6.50 of the $102.75 raised from four churches. The Preacher in Charge received $85.25 of that amount, and the Presiding Elder was given the rest.55 At the third quarterly conference, held at Zion on July 29, 1876, Sansom's gave nothing to the ministry. Only three churches did at that time...Minter's Chapel, Fossil Creek, and Zion.56
The fourth quarterly conference, held at Fossil Creek on September 30, 1876, was poorly attended. No hint is given in the minutes as to the reason, but only ten members are listed as present while twenty were absent. S. D. Sansom did not attend the meeting in person but his "...character...was examined...and passed." Sansom's sent no contribution toward the ministry.57
Minter's Chapel Church hosted the first quarterly conference of 1877, held on February 25. About one third of the conference's members were absent from the meeting. Sansom's contributed $5.00 of the $100.35 given for the support of the ministry. W. S. May, the Preacher in Charge, received $80.35, with the remainder going to the Presiding Elder, Mr. Easterling. Sansom's was assigned to raise $50 in the ensuing year, as its part of $650.00 to be raised by six churches.58
At the second quarterly conference for 1877, held at Zion on June 2, W. S. May reported that "...We have not succeeded in organizing [Sunday] schools at Minter's Chappel and Sansom's Chappel---yet we hope to do so some day soon..." A report was filed which showed that $124.03 had been raised toward the building at Sansom's Chapel. Five men were elected to serve as trustees at Sansom's Chapel: Samuel D. Sansom, Campbell Poiner [Poynor, 1825-1908], John Mahan [c1828-1886], J. F. Moody [b.c1855], and William Morrow [1849-1916]. The conference's last action was to choose Sansom's Chapel as the site of its upcoming Campmeeting. Five of the circuit's churches contributed a total of $84.00 toward the ministry, but Sansom's was not one of those contributing.59
During that same quarterly conference, William S. May reported to the conference on the condition of the circuit:
White's Chapel Methodist Church hosted the third quarterly conference on August 11, 1877. During that meeting, six circuit churches gave a total of $105.10 for the ministry's support; Sansom's contributed $10.50 of that amount. The Preacher in Charge received $83.10, and the Presiding Elder received the rest.61
On October 13, 1877, a report to the conference was prepared by Samuel D. Sansom, the President of the Board of Trustees at Sansom's Chapel, and James Frank Moody, the Secretary of the same board. The report was submitted to the fourth quarterly conference. It said:
During the fourth quarterly conference at Grapevine on October 13, 1877, Sansom's gave $26.75 of a total of $257.75 raised from six churches. The Preacher in Charge received $202.20, and the Presiding Elder received $51.55.63
By the beginning of 1878 W. H. Hughes was the Presiding Elder of the Circuit.64 Fossil Creek Methodist Church hosted the first quarterly conference on February 16, 1878. During the meeting five churches gave a total of $72.55, of which Sansom's gave $9.30.65 At the second quarterly conference held at Minter's Chapel on May 11, 1878, the minutes listed the four Sunday Schools in operation on the circuit; Sansom's did not have one operating at the time. Sansom's gave $5 of the $53.20 collected to support the ministry and eldership. A. D. Currie of the Sansom's Chapel Church was selected to be a delegate to the District Conference.66
The third quarterly conference met at Zion on July 27, 1878. Sansom's Chapel sent no report nor contribution to the conference. For some reason neither did three of the largest and most thriving churches send offerings...Minter's Chapel, White's Chapel, and Grapevine.67 It may be significant that this is the last meeting at which Samuel D. Sansom is named as a Local Elder.68
At the fourth quarterly conference of 1878, held at Grapevine on October 26, Sansom's gave $13.00 of $200.72 raised from six churches. The preacher received $150.54, and the elder was given the rest.69
During the first quarterly conference of 1879, held at Zion on February 8, a committee of three men was named "...to take into consideration the moving of Sansom's Chappel to a more eligible point---and was given discretionary power in the premises. Bros. D. W. Smith, R. B. Merrell, and A. M. Quayle were elected..." as the committee. During that conference, no money for the support of the ministry was received from Sansom's Chapel.70 By the time of this conference, Lewis M. White was again Preacher in Charge.71
The second quarterly conference was held at Grapevine on May 13, 1879. Its minutes contain no mention of Sansom's Chapel.72 At the third quarterly conference of 1879, held at White's Chapel on July 5, Sansom's contributed $7.50 of a total of $41.25. The preacher received $34.25 and the elder was given $7.00.73 The minutes of the fourth quarterly conference, held at Fossil Creek on October 4, 1879, contain no mention of Sansom's Chapel.74
On February 7, 1880, the first quarterly conference of the year met at Grapevine. Six churches on the circuit were named in the minutes and an amount was set for each to raise to support the ministry in the ensuing year. Sansom's is included in the list, and its amount was set at $50 of a total of $600 to be raised by it and the other churches, which included Grapevine, Zion, Minter's Chapel, Little Fossil [Creek], and White's Chapel. Sansom's gave $4.50 of $123.95 from six churches. The minutes of this quarterly conference contain the last mention of Sansom's Chapel by name.75
At the time of the second quarterly conference held at Minter's Chapel on May 1, 1880, Lewis M. White reported that the circuit then had seven churches with a Sunday School at each. The new church formed on the circuit since the first conference was the church at Mount Olivet, which has not been identified as to location at this time. This would seem to suggest that Sansom's was still in operation. However, it made no contribution toward the ministry then or later. Only four of the seven churches did...Grapevine, Minter's Chapel, Fossil Creek, and Mount Olivet...for a total contribution of $59.15.76
There is a blank page in the volume of conference minutes where the record of the third quarterly conference should begin. In a subsequent report, the Preacher in Charge admitted to the conference that local records had sometimes been neglected. At the fourth quarterly conference held at Mt. Olivet Church on October 23, 1880, no specific mention of Sansom's is made. However, "A. D. Curry" (a member of the Sansom's Church) is named as a Sunday School superintendent and a notation was made that there was a Sunday School operating at every church on the circuit.77
By the end of 1885 the area's Methodists were contemplating the formation of a new circuit. In the minutes of the fourth quarterly conference it is recorded that "...Bro A. D. Currie, J. B. Andrews, and M. M. Austin were appointed a committee to sell the church house at Mt. Olivet and divide the proceeds between Grapevine Circuit and the new Circuit if there is a division."78 That division indeed occurred, since by the time the first quarterly conferences were held in 1886, the Fossil Creek Church (where the first 1886 meeting of the Grapevine Circuit was to be held) was included in the newly-formed Keller Charge of the Dallas District. About the beginning of 1888 its name was permanently changed to Smithfield Charge (Circuit.)79
It is possible that a small cemetery may have developed in association with the Sansom's Chapel Church. In his boyhood, Bedford native Tom Miller Acton (1908-1999) remembered seeing a number of sunken graves without headstones near the site of the church. Mr. Acton said it was common knowledge in the community that the graves were there. They were visible until about 1920.80 Mr. Acton's paternal ancestors arrived in Bedford in 1853,81 and his mother's parents purchased a farm adjoining the Sansom's Chapel property in 1894.82
Surprisingly, many of the settlers who attended Sansom's Chapel and other pioneer Bedford Methodist churches are not buried at nearby Bedford Cemetery. Most of them seem to have used Smithfield Cemetery, which lies four miles northwest of the Sansom's site. Across the years many descendants of Bedford oldtimers have told this compiler that their ancestors did not want to be buried at Bedford Cemetery because of its association with the Church of Christ which sat beside it.
On July 7, 1886 the third quarterly conference of the Keller Charge, Dallas District, North Texas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, authorized Oak Grove Methodist Church's trustees to make "...a Quit Claim Deed to the Land where-on Sansom's Chaple is Situated..." Later, on November 5, 1887, ..."The Trustees of Oak Grove [were] authorized to perfect the Title to the Church Lot where Sansom's Chaple stood: Sell same: and apply the proceeds to Oak Grove Church..."83
The Sansom's Chapel lot was finally sold on March 1, 1889 by Oak Grove trustees H. R. Sparger [1833-1914], Marcus D. Arthur [1834-1893], and Campbell Poynor [1825-1908]. It was purchased by William Letchworth Hurst [1833-1922], for whom adjacent Hurst, Texas is named. Hurst owned the property adjacent to it at the time.84
No photograph of the church house at Sansom's Chapel has been located. Two copies of one photo of it have survived after it was moved to the Oak Grove location. Oak Grove's trustees reported that the two-acre Sansom's site was worth twenty dollars in 1887.85
The Sansom's Chapel church house was moved by January 29, 1887. By the wagon roads of the day, it was a move of about 1.7 miles. As it appeared after it was moved to the new Oak Grove site, it was thirty feet wide (N-S) by forty-five feet long (E-W).86 It had a double door on the east end, and no windows in that wall. The west wall was solid, without windows or doors. The north and south walls had no doors. The north wall had at least three (and probably four) tall windows which extended higher than the door. The south wall was probably identical to the north wall. 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.87 Oak Grove trustees reported to the conference in 1887 that it would seat three hundred worshippers.88 The building served the Oak Grove congregation until about 1925.89
Hundreds of fast-growing suburban communities across the state are, like Bedford, losing touch with their past every day, as new development erases landmarks and vacant land is paved over, subdivided, and changed forever. The site of the Sansom's Chapel Methodist Church remained an undeveloped pasture until the 1990's. It is now covered by a strip-mall parking lot at a major highway intersection, at the southeast corner of State Highway 183 (the Airport Freeway) and Bedford Road, beside the Bedford Road exit.
An Official Texas Historical Marker will insure that this important, albeit shortlived, link in our community's religious heritage will not be forgotten.
This page was last modified 3 Sep 2002.
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