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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Roscoe in Years Gone By: The Tabernacle

Baptisms at Seale Creek in 1927.
Editor’s note: Mary Edna Worthy, who taught English and other subjects in Roscoe High School for many years, also wrote about many of her memories growing up as a member of Roscoe’s Baptist Church.  The following, one of those, is an excerpt about the old tabernacle on Main Street, which stood about where the Purple Passion Salon is now.  Used by all denominations, it played a prominent part in the life of the town from the teens to the fifties.  It was torn down in 1951.

The Tabernacle
by Mary Edna Worthy

A facet of Church life that occupies a prominent place in my memory is that of the summer revival meetings held annually at the tabernacle.  This tabernacle, located in the two-hundred block of Main Street, was owned jointly by the four local churches then in town [i.e., Baptist, Church of Christ, Methodist, and Presbyterian].  It had a large square concrete floor, a shingled roof, and was open on three sides.  The center section of the south side was closed, and there was an elevated section to accommodate the choirs and a pulpit.  Each congregation held a summer revival, and much negotiation was required to achieve satisfactory schedules.  It was considered a disadvantage to have a revival coincide with a political election.  Prior to 1959 both political primary elections were held later in the summer than they are now.  In those pre-television days political campaigns involved much personal electioneering and many political rallies.  Special trains and car caravans of campaigners were not uncommon.  Presumably such activities served as distractions from whatever revival was in progress; so each congregation chose a representative perceived to be a “good negotiator” to meet with other representatives to set dates.  Obviously, not everybody was satisfied every time.

Revivals were of two weeks’ duration, and two services were held daily.  Generally, services were well attended, particularly the evening services.  The physical location of the tabernacle made it convenient to drive cars up close on the three open sides, and occupants could enjoy the sermon from the relative comfort of their cars.  For many of the elderly, the infirm, and mothers of small infants, this was not a minor consideration.  The tabernacle pews were rough (very rough) wooden benches, and torn clothing and painful splinters posed a real threat.  Many people came supplied with cushions or old bed quilts which were folded and placed on the benches to make them more comfortable.  Not everyone, however, found the benches a daunting proposition.  One ancient lady, who didn’t attend Church any other time, had her large rocking chair brought in for the revival services.  She insisted on having it placed at the front right near the piano.  There she sat, wearing her black silk split bonnet, rocking lustily.  From time to time during the song service during prayers, she was so moved by the spirit of the occasion that she gave vent to her feelings by shouting out loud—much to the discomfiture of the young pianist seated nearby.

Mosquitoes and other night-flying insects could be a problem, and it sometimes happened that a member of the congregation injected an unexpected note into the service by spraying for bugs.  There were no aerosol cans then, and the weapon used was the ancient “Flit Gun.”  These guns were operated by a hand-operated plunger used in rapid succession.  The plungers were not exactly noiseless, nor was the Flit odorless.  Its aroma circulated over the tabernacle, aided by the vigorous use of hand-held cardboard fans, usually donated by undertaking establishments.

The pulpit stand and the piano were brought from the Church, and someone furnished a wagon sheet to cover the piano between services to protect it from the elements.  Song books used were usually paper-backed collections of somewhat more spirited and informal selections than were found in the more traditional hymnals.  All of these items were left unsecured at the open tabernacle for the duration of the revival meeting.  If there was ever any vandalism or theft, I never knew it.

The visiting evangelist and singers stayed in the homes of Church members who also provided them with breakfast.  They were invited to different homes each day for the noon and evening meals.  They would be accompanied by the pastor and his family, and it was considered an added treat when a family member of the visiting preacher or singer could be present at these occasions.  Hostesses outdid themselves to provide sumptuous meals, and prodigious amounts of fried chicken, baked ham, fresh corn, homemade ice cream and cake, and other summer delicacies were prepared.

A rather ecumenical spirit prevailed during revivals, with people of different faiths attending services of whatever revival was in progress.  Most churches dismissed their Sunday evening services to attend the revival.

On the final Sunday afternoon of the meeting or the first Sunday following its close, baptismal services were held for those who had made professions of faith since the last previous baptismal service.  Since this rite was held out-of-doors, it was prudent to observe it only during warm weather.  A favorite site for these services was at a creek south of town known variously as Seale’s Creek or Woodward’s Pasture.  It was a scenic spot with trees, grass, and running water.  There was a serene atmosphere which rendered the service even more impressive and reverent.  Occasionally, for some reason, baptisms were held at other locations.  This writer recalls her own baptism in the old Santa Fe Lake, and even as a child I felt the occasion to be somewhat diminished by the presence of nearby swimmers and the noise of a passing motor boat.

With the advent of air-conditioned churches, the open-air tabernacle became obsolete; and when a building with a baptistery was finally constructed, outdoor baptismal services became another memory.



Eddy Raven
Country legend Eddy Raven, whose fame as a Cajun country singer goes back decades, will appear at the Lumberyard for the first time Friday night.

Over his long career, the Lafayette, Louisiana, native has had over thirty-five singles hit the charts and has produced 16 studio albums.  His first No. 1 single was “She’s Playing Hard to Forget,” in 1982, and since then he has had six others: “I Got Mexico,” “Shine, Shine, Shine,” “I’m Going to Get You, “Joe Knows How to Live,” “In a Letter to You,” and “Bayou Boys.”  Many others also made it to the top ten, including “I Wanna Live,” “Who Do You Know in California?” “Right Hand Man,” “Operator, Operator,” “I Wanna Hear It from You,” “Sometimes a Lady,” “I Should’ve Called,” and several others.

He is also a noted songwriter and has written songs for a wide range of rock and country artists, including Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash, Kenny Chesney, George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Don Gibson, Faron Young, Jerry Jeff Walker, Roy Acuff, the Oak Ridge Boys, Gene Watson, and others.

The show begins around 9:30 pm.  Opening band is Nine Mile Mountain, who will take the stage at 8:00pm.  

On Saturday night, the Hot Texas Swing Band from Austin will be at the Lumberyard.

For more information or to make reservations, call the Lumberyard at 325-766-2457.



Mel Tillis at the Lumberyard last year.
Editor’s Note: Since I won’t be here to announce this next week, I thought I’d go ahead and give everyone advance notice this week.

Mel Tillis, whose fame as a songwriter and performer stretch back over a half-century, will return Saturday, August 2, for an encore performance at the Lumberyard.  He very much enjoys playing in Roscoe, and last year after the show he hung around and signed CDs, guitars, and hats, and got his picture taken with many fans.  

Tillis is a winner of the National Medal of the Arts for his contributions to country music, just one of the many awards he has received over the years.  He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry, and the Nashville Song Writers International Hall of Fame.  He has also been named the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year, Comedian of the Year six times, and Songwriter of the Decade for two decades.

Over the years, he has recorded over sixty albums and had 36 Top Ten singles with nine going to Number One, including “I Ain’t Never,” “Good Woman Blues,” “Coca Cola Cowboy,” “Heart Over Mind,” “Send Me Down to Tucson,” “I Believe in You,” “Southern Rains,” and many others.

He has also written over a thousand songs, approximately 600 of which have been recorded by major artists.  These include “Detroit City,” “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” “Burning Memories,” “Thoughts of a Fool,” “Honey (Open That Door),” and “The Snakes Crawl at Night.”

A large crowd is expected.
For more information or to make reservations, call the Lumberyard at 325-766-2457.



That rain we were supposed to get last week never really came.  We did get around .2” here in town Wednesday afternoon, and it appeared that Champion area got more, but, all things considered, it wasn’t much compared to what could have been.  We did get some cooler weather on Thursday and Friday, when the highs were 80°F and 82° respectively, and that was nice while it lasted.

But on Saturday the hot weather returned, and since then we’ve been enduring more typical July heat.  On Sunday the high was 96°, and Monday and yesterday both topped out at 98°.  Today should be more of the same as the forecast is for sunny skies and a high of 99°.  Tomorrow could hit triple digits, Friday’s forecast is for a high of 101°, and Saturday may be only slightly cooler with a projected high of 98°.  Lows for all these days should be in the mid seventies.

There is no rain in the forecast.



Funeral services for Harold Lynn Williamson, 85, of Baytown will be held at Navarre Funeral Home in Baytown at 10:00am on Friday, July 25.  Burial will follow at Memory Gardens.  He passed away yesterday, July 22, in Baytown.

Mr. Williamson was born to Robert and Mary Blackmon Williamson in Seagoville on November 1, 1928.  He grew up in Roscoe and was a 1947 graduate of Roscoe High School, where he played football and basketball and ran track.  He was also a member of the Boy Scouts and became an Eagle Scout who passed on his love of hunting and fishing to his kids and grandkids.  He lived in Baytown for over 50 years and was a retired supervisor from Chevron with more than 35 years of service.  He was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and a dedicated little league and soccer coach.

He was preceded in death by his parents and a sister, Merle Fitts. Survivors include his wife, Mildred Williamson of Baytown; children, Tommy Williamson and wife Linda, and Terry Williamson and wife Naomi all of Houston, Patti Carhart of Shoreacres, Donald Motley and wife Becky of Trinity, and Paula Widner and husband Michael of Cove; 11 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends from 5:00-7:00pm tomorrow, July 24, at Navarre Funeral Home, 2444 Rollingbrook Drive, Baytown, Texas, 77521, 281-422-8111.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Shriners Hospital for Children at


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