Celebrates its 125th Anniversary!
One hundred twenty-five years
ago, in 1883, five families gathered to worship in a spot
about two and half miles south of the present location of
the Crossroads Presbyterian Church for a worship service
that organized the Desert Creek Church. The church was
organized with thirteen members. Three elders and two
deacons were elected, ordained and installed. Church records
aren’t clear, but it appears the congregation was originally
affiliated with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, but in
reality operated more as a non-denominational congregation.
The area was not heavily populated at all, with the nearby
towns of Whitewright, Leonard, Blue Ridge and Westminster
having populations less than one hundred. Securing preachers
to preach regularly was difficult.
Those were exciting days, but they were days, like ours full
of questions and controversy. The Civil War, or as it was
referred to by the local inhabitants, “The War Between the
States,” or simply “The Recent Unpleasantness,” had only
been over for twenty years. Memories of the war were strong
and feelings were still high. Reconstruction had led many of
the families gathered that morning to move to Desert Creek
(or Whitewright, or Leonard or Trenton) from Tennessee.
Those that moved in had to deal with farming the rich black
prairie land, building everything – from houses to roads to
schools to churches. The area opened up because rail lines
were being built everywhere. And with the railroad came
opportunities for farmers to be able to make more than a
subsistence living by moving cash crops of cotton, wheat,
sorghum, onions and more from their fields to market. In
those early days, Desert had a general store, a post office,
a cotton gin, a school, and several churches.
As the area developed change continued. By 1912 a
“tabernacle” had been built and attendance began to grow.
These coincided with “protracted meetings” (I guess we
Presbyterians just couldn’t bring ourselves to call it a
revival!) that resulted in a number of baptisms and new
members. By the end of World War I, about 50 members were on
the roll and several members of the church were known for
their gospel singing all around north Texas.
In the 1920s, the church built a manse (that’s a house for a
pastor to live in), and then the church building was moved
closer to the 3½ acres near the manse. The congregation
extended a call to G.W. Jones of Garland to be the pastor of
the now referred to “Cross Roads” church, working ½ time
here and splitting the rest of his time between Howe and
Canaan. The new sanctuary was completed in 1928.
The time of the Great Depression was hard on the whole
country, and Desert was no exception. The population went
down slightly as folks moved, trying to find “something”
better. During and immediately after the World War II there
was not a lot of change. Rural communities worked hard to
provide the food and agricultural products needed to sustain
the war effort, even as many of the men of military age went
off to combat. Sunday services were held twice a month, both
in the mornings and the evenings. By 1955, the church had
about 65 members.
Time went on, drawing closer to the time that many of the
folks here could tell you about. The church moved in the
1920s from it’s second home to where we are now. Desert
experienced the national move of many family from the rural
areas to the cities, especially with the young people moving
out after high school and not returning. The congregation
dropped in membership and by the 1990s worship was held only
once a month with only a dozen or two in regular attendance.
Rev. David A. Sharp became the pastor in the late 1990s, and
things started to change. As the D/FW Metroplex started
spreading out into Anna & Melissa, there was a “return” by
many to the country. Population growth started to occur,
although not near as rapidly as to the south and west,
families with children joined the church. In 2007 a third
steeple was added to the church (as the first two had been blown
down in storms).
Today, 125 years after 13 members started
the Desert Creek church, we have nearly 100 members, weekly
worship services, a growing faith family, and plans to move for a
fourth time because of the need for more space!
Which makes me wonder… why this growth here? We’re still
really out in the middle of nowhere. Why here? Congregations
that were started roughly at the same time in Leonard and
Whitewright are struggling to keep their doors open. But
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