Home News Local News Concert Set Friday, Nov. 17 to Benefit Historic Grapeland Church

Concert Set Friday, Nov. 17 to Benefit Historic Grapeland Church

The Purple Hulls will give a concert at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17 in the historic First Chrisitan Memorial Church Inc. building located on Business 287 in downtown Grapeland. Donations will be accepted to benefit the upkeep of the historic building. Courtesy Photo.

By Cheril Vernon

Messenger Copy Editor

GRAPELAND – For more than a century, the “Little White Church with the Steeple” has been a landmark for the local community.

In order to continue to preserve the building and plans for educational purposes, board members of First Christian Memorial will hold a concert fund-raiser at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17 in the historic church building located on Business 287 in downtown Grapeland.

The sister duo, The Purple Hulls, will perform varied acoustic selections on the guitar, mandolin, banjo and upright bass.

“The Purple Hulls play all over the country and worldwide. They are wonderful instrumentalists. With the beautiful acoustics we have, every where you sit in the church is like you are sitting on the front row,” First Christian Memorial Board President Tammy Hassell-Anderson said.

The Texas native siblings are known not only for their instrumental abilities, but for their tight family harmony. In addition, they’ve written songs for Nashville’s largest publishing company, Sony Tree. Joining them on the bass for the concert will be Grapeland’s Jed Mobley.

Donations from The Purple Hulls concert on Friday, Nov. 17 will benefit the historic First Christian Memorial Church Inc. Photo by Cheril Vernon / Messenger.

Donations will be accepted during the evening, with proceeds going toward the upkeep of one of the town’s finest historical structures.

“By attending and donating at this event, you will have a part in keeping this important facility in good repair for years to come,” Hassell-Anderson said.

The church board members also have plans to add a history room in the upstairs area of the church.

“The plan I would like to see happen is for tours for fourth graders learning about Texas history,” the board president said. “We are gathering artifacts of historic significance during the time period when the church was functioning that we hope to put in this room.”

For more information about the concert or the historic building, call 936-687-4903.For more information about The Purple Hulls, visit their website at thepurplehulls.com.

Little White Church History

“The building itself was constructed in 1895 at a different location not too far away on a lot donated by Mr. J.F. Martin. The beautiful old structure was the handiwork of early day settlers Charlie Walling and J.N. Story. In 1915, the church membership voted to move the church building to another location near downtown Grapeland. The new property had been donated to them by Mr. T.H. Leaverton, a local lumberman and builder. History tells that when the attempted move began, they had gotten little more than across the street before realizing that it would be impossible to move the 20-year-old structure to the proposed lot without destroying it. It was standing near the present site when efforts to move it were halted. So church members set about to purchase those lots instead. That was accomplished on March 4, 1915, when the deed was signed by church trustees J.E. Hollingsworth, J.S. Yarborough and E.W. Davis with land owners W.G. Darsey and George E. Darsey, Sr.,” according to the history information published on the First Christian Memorial website.

“For many years, the church served the spiritual needs of the community, its church family and friends. The building medallion on the front of the building was dedicated during Grapeland’s centennial in 1972. But the years took their toll… In the fall of 1990, the dwindling membership decided to disband but they did not want to permanently close the doors to their beautiful historic structure. With an eye toward a community chapel and meeting place where weddings, funerals, showers, reunions and other such events could be held, some of the members set about to form an organization dedicated to the preservation and continued community use of the facility,” the website stated.

Those efforts resulted in the establishment of a tax-exempt, non-profit corporation known as First Christian Memorial, Inc. of Grapeland. It was officially chartered Nov. 1, 1990, for the purpose of maintaining the Recorded Texas Historic Landmark building and continuing its community use. ‘

Funds for it maintenance and necessary utilities are made through membership dues, building rental fees, memorials and special admission programs, which First Christian Memorial, Inc. may sponsor during the year. A volunteer board of directors oversees the responsibilities of the building.

Building rentals for special events may be arranged by contacting a member of the board.

“In the 1940s, a fellowship hall was added,” Hassell-Anderson said as she walked through the historic structure.

Walking into the church’s sanctuary which can seat 136, Hassell-Anderson explained how the church went through additional renovations to bring the sanctuary “back to its authenticity” in the early 2000s.

“What’s amazing is what it used to look like – so dark. And the original wooden floors were covered up, like they always did in those days. Now it’s bright and beautiful,” Hassell-Anderson said. “In the past year, all the windows were reglazed on the outside.”

In addition, the board has been working on renovating the upstairs rooms. Besides setting up the history room, the board president would also like to see one room turned into a replica of a pastor’s study and another room set up like a Sunday School room from that time period.

“Many times the pastors who would come to preach would come from the seminary, so they would stay here in the church during their stay,” Hassell-Anderson said.

Tree With Historic Ties

On Sept. 17, during the annual membership meeting of First Christian Memorial, Inc., a ceremony was held to honor an oak tree and dedicate a marker signifying the tree’s importance as a descendant of the Treaty Oak in Austin.

Hassell-Anderson said the story of the tree begins in Austin where a grove of 14 trees served as a sacred meeting place for Comanche and Tonkawa Indian tribes. It is believed Stephen F. Austin signed the first boundary agreement with the Indian tribes under these trees.

“Sam Houston is also believed to have stretched out under the shade of the oaks to consider his next move after he was removed from the governor’s office in 1860. This location eventually came to be known as the ‘Council of Oaks,’” she said.

“As the city of Austin grew,” Hassell-Anderson continued, “the oaks perished until only one was left. It was finally bought and protected by the city of Austin in 1937.

The tree’s fame grew over the years and came to be known as the “Treaty Oak” and spread over 127 feet.

“It was declared as a perfect tree by the American Forestry Service and is believed to be over 500 years old,” she added.

The board president said that unfortunately the tree was vandalized in 1989 with enough poison to kill dozens of trees. Efforts were made to save the tree – although about two-thirds of its limbs were removed. The tree which now grows in Grapeland came from one of the acorns from the preservation efforts.

“With the church’s architecture, the history room and the tree with its historic ties, it could make for a nice little tour for fourth graders,” Hassell-Anderson said. “Other than members, the only way we can take care of this building is with events like this concert. We hope everyone will come out and support our efforts to raise funds for the building and educational purposes.”

Thanksgiving Service

Another upcoming event at the church is the annual community Thanksgiving service, which will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 20. Refreshments will follow in the fellowship hall after the service.

“We always have this Thanksgiving service on the last Monday before Thanksgiving,” Hassell-Anderson said. “The elementary kids will be reading a poem. Josh Luker will bring a devotional and the Houston County Choir will sing. It’s very moving to be in this building with all of the voices listening to the hymns being sung.”

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