Providence Church, Franklin County, Texas

"At a meeting held at the home of E.W. Owens in Lamar County in the Republic of Texas on Saturday the 28th of May, 1842 by Rubin Gideon and Joseph Bishop, Ministers of the Regular Baptist Church of Christ - there being seven Members of our faith and order present; viz., Rowland Nichols, William Caudle, James Caudle, Mary Caudle, Joseph Bishop, Mildred Brown, Amos Owen.

"Finding a sufficient number of members to constitute a church, We the undersigned Regular ordained Ministers of the Gospel do hereby certify that we have this day constituted a Church which shall be called Providence . . ."

Above transcribed from the charter of the Providence Primitive Baptist Church, dated May 28, 1842
James Caudle, his wife Mary, and sons William, Mark and Bennett had recently received land grants for land just a few miles from the location of this church. They had moved to the Republic of Texas in November of 1841. All were eager to start a new church in their new and foreign environment.

The current church, built in 1945, is the fourth built on the site . The second was built in 1872. Some first cut white pineElder W. J. Caudle Memorial benches from the 1872 church remain in use. The Providence Cemetery is across the road north of the church. In 1871, 2 ½ acres of land were deeded to the church association by William J. Caudle, son of Mark & Rebecca Caudle and grandson of James. The church has on display a photo of the Elder W. J. Caudle along with a fan and pairs of spectacles he used (see picture to right).

Many Caudle ancestors are buried in this cemetery, and it is possible  that James and Mary might be buried there, having been charter members of this old church..

Providence was organized May 28, 1842 in Lamar County while Texas was a Republic. It is the oldest church in Franklin County, Texas.

Four meeting houses have stood on this Holy Ground. The present meeting house was built in 1945 by R. B. Hightower & Sons. The year is scratched into the foundation on the southeast corner of the building. Materials from the prior meeting house were used to construct the building.

The benches are first cut white pine. The church minutes state some of the benches were constructed in 1872 after thePine Benches second church had been built. There are 6 long pine benches, 1 long oak bench, and 23 short pine benches. The backs of the benches are one solid piece of pine cut from one tree.

There was a well at the south end of the outside dinner table. One dipper was used by all to drink. Since people traveled in wagons and buggies to attend church in the early years, the horses were also watered from the well.

A cemetery is located north of the meeting house. Burials began prior to 1879 in Providence Cemetery. Since markers of petrified stone, colored glass, etc., were used in the beginning, no actual date of the first burial can be determined. The oldest marked grave is Mary Holder, who died January 25, 1870. In 1979, 2,200 graves were counted of which 900 were unmarked. Since that time, 110 graves have been added for a total of 2,310.

Church services begin with a cappella 4 note singing (also called Sacred Harp singing.) Baptisms were, and are, in creeks, pools, or the lake. In earlier years, a three-days meeting was held in August during which communion was observed. Foot-washing was, and is, a special part of communion. The doctrine of the church is absolute predestination.

From material provided by the Providence Church of Franklin County, Texas. Photos courtesy Rhonda Caudle Foster and Barbara Caudle Munger.

[If you'd like to hear a sample of a Sacred Harp singing warmup, just turn on your sound and stay on this page until the song loads. It might take a minute or so, depending on your connection type.]

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