Early Church Struggles

1915-23 100 Blk S.9th St

Two young boys, possibly wearing white long shirts buttoned up to the top and heavy grey trousers made of twill very common of the 1920’s, sat outside of the Capps Hotel on the Slaton Town Square and watched as the people celebrated one unpleasantly bitter November night.

“I well remember the night of November 11, 1918,” John Emmett Waldrop wrote in Slaton Stories, “when we received news that the Armistice ending the war was signed.”

Waldrop and his friend Doc Castleberry watched in wonderment and confusion.

“People all over town were firing guns into the air,” Waldrop wrote. “We could hear buckshots rolling off the tin roof of the hotel. Loud explosions were coming from Mayben’s Blacksmith Shop which was located where the fire station is now.”

The two boys scurried from the Capps Hotel and made their way toward the ruckus at the Blacksmith Shop, “When we asked what was causing all the racket,” Waldrop wrote, “We were told, ‘They’re shooting off anvils’. It took quite a while for two little boys to figure that out.”

Throughout the nation, a hatred for Germans and those of German decent reached an all time high. Even in Slaton, various newspaper articles in the Slatonite referred to Germans as, “Barbarians and Huns”.

This same year, the First Baptist Church slowly grew but not without tribulations.

According to the book, Pioneer Preacher of the Plains by John Peddigrew Hardesty, in the early twenties the First Baptist Church was a congregation divided. “Pastors would try to get matters to run smoothly but soon would give up in disgust and defeat,” Hardesty wrote in his autobiography.

In 1921 Hardesty was asked by Walter L. Tubbs, one of the general missionaries under the State Baptist Convention, to serve in Slaton.

“I did not want to go to Slaton,” Hardesty wrote. “Out of courtesy to the church I agreed to visit them and give my answer.” Of course, even after visiting, Hardesty continued to have his doubts especially during one particular, emotion-filled, meeting. “The deacons had quarreled, and one of them attacked another with an upraised chair during a deacons’ meeting.”

In a different part of town, according to Slaton Stories, Father Joseph Reisdorff of the St. Joseph Parish of Slaton was dealing with an influx of German families that had migrated to Slaton by the Santa Fe Railroad who had hired many and attracted them to Slaton with the donation and building of the first Catholic Church in Slaton. However, by 1919, a new building was needed to accommodate the inflowing families. The Catholic Church, itself began in 1911 with only two families, the Frank Simnacher and A.L. Hoffman Families.

First Baptist Church

In 1920, however, the church was in dire need of a new building because of the new congregants. By 1922, a parochial school had already been implemented for a year and run by the Sisters of Mercy.

At the First Baptist Church, to help stabilize the troubled parish, Hardesty eventually agreed to move out of his comfortable and stable town of Lockney and make his way to Slaton.

“I gave several reasons why I should not accept the call,” Hardesty wrote. The first reason was that his family had become accustomed to a lifestyle that had kept his family well fed and nicely clothed. The congregation matched his salary in Lockney. The second reason was that the living quarters in Slaton were not up to his standards. The congregation gathered one afternoon to re-paint and re-model the pastor’s home. His third and final reason was that the move, itself, would be too expensive and untimely for the family. So residents of Slaton gathered trucks and moving supplies and made their way to Lockney to move the family. “And that was that,” Hardesty wrote. “Every objection I had raised was promptly met and remedied. What else could I say but yes.”

Upon arrival, in 1921, Hardesty replaced the deacons of the church and the congregation soon began to unite. Before long the church, like the St. Joseph Parish, had space problems also and they too began to look at constructing a larger place of worship.

However, across the way in an entirely different town it seemed because minorities were not permitted in various parts of Slaton, they too had the urge to convene in solidarity, faith and spirit.

On the second Sunday of March, 1921, under the direction of Deacon Aren Johnson, five African-American families came together; the families of Arthur Jones, Reuben Johnson, Willie Bryant, Oscar Wilborn Sr., and the deacons peacefully met for the first time beneath a donated tent to praise and worship God just like the majority of the community of Slaton did every Sunday.

This was the first meeting of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church.

In 1922, however, a new ordeal entered the First Baptist Church.

“One night a group of robed men quietly walked down the aisle of the church and the leader handed me a letter,” Hardesty wrote. “I was commended for my stand on law and order, and the letter informed me that the Ku Klux Klan stood ready to aid all the forces for good in the community. Then they just as quietly filed out through the other aisle. Not a word was spoken and everyone sat in complete silence during the episode.”

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About slatontx

The ramblings of one of the few remaining small town newspaper reporters left in the world!
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2 Responses to Early Church Struggles

  1. lori says:

    I love reading this type of history and watching where it goes. The “wild west” was still pretty wild back then and man being who man is never seems to take the easy route. Look forward to reading more.

  2. slatontx says:

    Thanks Lori… I’m loving this project because the twist and turns are so intriguing mostly because it’s all true. Not too mention, since the community has remained almost the same in population in the past 100 years, it’s really neat to meet people in the streets who are related to the names given in these pieces. Thanks for reading and, what do you know, I’m actually in the middle of writing my piece for OBG!

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