Tidbits of Shelby County History
Methodist Churches of Shelby County #2
For next few weeks, Tidbits of Shelby County History will focus on local Methodist Churches. The information is taken from brochures found in the file cabinets in the museum. Author and date of the information is unknown. The next Methodist Church covered in the series will be Paxton United Methodist Church. (Note: Paxton community is on U.S. Highway 84 and the Southern Pacific Railroad twelve miles north of Center in northern Shelby County. It grew up around the railroad when it was constructed through the county in 1885. A post office was opened there in 1892, and the settlement was named Paxton in honor of a local pioneer family.)
If we recollect correctly, it was back in the late 1880’s when Mr. Jim Fletcher and Mr. Tom Cammack met in the old school in Paxton to organize a Methodist Church. Mr.W.H. Cammack, known affectionately as Uncle Will gave the land upon which the first church would sit. The first church was located on the right, just past the railroad tracks on what is now Farm-to-Market Road 699.
The church was lovingly built by its members, and it was a large, white-washed structured. There were between seventy-five and one hundred people who attended in those early days. The Choir could really sing those old hymns like “The Old Rugged Cross.” People arrived in their spring-seat wagons or riding horseback and the churchyard bustled with activity.
People didn’t get to run to Walmart or the Golden Corral back then, so they were glad to see each other when Sunday arrived. The preachers always went home with a family, ate lunch, and stayed until evening service. They usually had early services to get home before dark. Folks often had other company too. The chickens that were taken out of the coops on Saturday and dressed were fingerlickin’ good when they were chicken fried on Sunday morning. This treat would put Kentucky Fried Chicken to shame. The relaxed visits helped to make for a perfect Lord’s Day.
Miss Dollie Hooper was an early teacher for the Card Class. She was so good with the children, and often gave them little gifts. Ruth Templin’s sister, Ruby McMinn, still has her little Bible that Miss Dollie gave her. What a treasure!
Mothers always brought pallets for the babies and young children to sleep on. They were often spread all over the benches. They brought water in fruit jars and if the children got thirsty, they could have a drank. One early preacher was especially caring with the children. If anything happened that they needed a little comforting, or the many ways in which a child needs attention, he would stop in the middle of the sermon and take care of the child. On the other hand, if a child misbehaved, he would stop the sermon and correct the problem.
Most Methodists were sprinkled, but Ruth Samford (Templin) and seven other young people were baptized in the old Womack gin pond that was located just east of the present church.
As the community grew and prospered the need for a better church was felt and Mr. E.B. Samford, “Uncle Buck,” gave the land for the present church which was erected about 1921. Some of the lumber from the old church was used in the present building. The church is still very much the same with only a few minor changes. The old wooden steps were replaced with concrete one by Dick Templin. Two Sunday School rooms were added and vinyl siding. Also, stained glass windows were installed with many of them in honor or memory of loved ones.
Mr. Henry Townsend was teacher of the adult class for many years, with Mrs. Luella Hutto serving as teacher for the young children, and Mrs. Ruth Templin taught the youth group.
Mr. Ezra Hutto served as song leader for many, many years. He did much all over the county to promote gospel singing. At church, Mrs. Ruth Templin accompanied him on the piano.
Many fine people have gone out into the world having their beginning in the Paxton Methodist Church. Many have made outstanding citizens and owe much of their success to the people who were pioneers of the church. In fact, they blazed the trail for the religious heritage of the area and were good examples for others to follow. We give much praise and tribute to these early leaders in the faith. Some of these families were the Samfords, Townsends, Rowes, Cammacks, Hoopers, Huttos, Odoms, Spurlocks, Templins, Martindales, Womacks, and Watsons.
In the late 1980’s, Mrs. Corine Martindale Wood left the Paxton United Methodist Church a sum of money in her will. The church members decided to establish a church scholarship. The interest from the money, along with money taken from the account of the church, has provided scholarships for quite a number of young people attending college.
Thriving businesses in Paxton declined, and people began to move away. At times it seemed that the church would close its doors because there were often only eight to ten in attendance. The Lord didn’t intend for this to happen, and He would occasionally send in families like the Hill, Umbrells, Berrys, Pollards, Balkcoms, Albrights, and Fieldlers. Mrs. Eva Thompson is the newest member of the congregation, as she committed herself to the Lord in July of 1993. The church now averages eighteen to twenty in attendance.
May the little church of Paxton, under the leadership of Rev. Billy freeman, be the “Little Church with the Bright Future.” Its members will strive to make a difference in this troubled world.