Friday, May 10, 2024

Rusk County Baptist describes Sacred Harp in Texas

From Lon Smith, Railroad Commissioner of Texas

To Mr. W. T. Coston, Dallas, Texas:

Your communication inviting me to contribute an article to the Music Journal to be sponsored by the votaries of Sacred Harp Music has awakened in my soul reflections pleasing, entertaining, inspiring, sacred, and solemn. I see a picture, vivid, abiding as it hangs in the choicest nook of memory’s cloister.

It is Sunday afternoon, my father and mother seated on the spacious veranda of our humble country home, both with cadences of sweetest note singing from the Sacred Harp. How my heart swells now, and tears come unbidden to my cheek as I hear their music, sweet as that of angel choir entertaining the Celestial Courts. My mother sang treble. There was enough volume in her dear voice to carry the part in music, for a large class. We did not call them choirs then. My father sang bass in a tone resonant, uplifting. Not for any earthly consideration would I have this picture removed from its abiding place.

The scene changes. Another picture in kaleidoscope procession comes to enchant. The people have come from a dozen different counties for a three days convention of singers—Friday, Saturday, Sunday. The leader stands before his class, tuning fork in hand. He strikes a table, pulpit, or post with this simple instrument, places it to his ear, and calls to his class to “sound your parts.” Proper volume is given to the three major parts; bass, treble, tenor, according to the Sacred Harp, and the class of singers proceed. Me thinks I hear the reviberations of these soul inspiring songs floating among the top-most boughs of the tall pines as notes of harmony play in the breezes. The notes fa, me, sol, la are sung first and then the “poetry”. The very quintessence of the gospel of the Son of Peace reposes in these songs of assurance, comfort, atonement, faith, consecration, confession, grace, love and repentance; Antioch; Broad is the Road, Midleton, David’s Lamentation, Murello’s Lesson, Prospect, Coronation, Portuguese Hymn, Holy Manna, Pisgah, Happy Day, Zion, Windham, Pleyel’s Hymn. I pen them from memory. The leader holds the class for a half dozen selections, perhaps, when the class follows for thirty minutes a new leader. For three days, the Convention lasts. Voices never grow hoarse; provisions never give out. Church[es], as a rule in East Texas, were located near a gurgling spring of crystal clear water where man and horse could drink. The culinary art reached its highest perfection in the countryside. No recipe, formula, cook book or demonstrators were ever referred to by an East Texas housewife, and no dietition was consulted by those who ate the wholesome food. Spoonfuls, cupfuls, handfuls, were the measure for sugar, lard, flour, butter, eggs and other ingredients that went most unstintingly into the viands spread for these “dinner on the ground” occasions.

These reflections, Friend Coston, are my contribution to the first issue of the Music Journal. I trust the publication will be received by generous music loving spirits, and that the Old Sacred Harp will take her proud place again in the musical program of our state.




-- Smith, Lon A. “From Lon Smith, Railroad Commissioner of Texas”, Sacred Harp Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, August 1931, reprinted in the National Sacred Harp Newsletter, October 1987, p. 2. Lon A. Smith was from the New Prospect/Oak Hill area northeast of Henderson, Rusk County, the son of Mr. & Mrs. J. A. Smith. He served in several aspects of political life, including County Clerk, Rusk County 1902-1914; Texas State Senator 1914-1920; Comptroller 1920-1924; and Railroad Commissioner 1924-1940. He was a school teacher in Rusk County circa 1886-1902, a Baptist Deacon 1900-1947, and the clerk of the Mt. Zion Baptist Association, 1894-1900.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

James Foreman: London Baptist Church


Excerpt from “London Baptist Church Has Interesting and Historic Past,” Sandy Warren, Kilgore News Herald, Sunday, June 21, 1992, page 9A

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

James Foreman: SC to AL to TX

I found the following document in the South Western Baptist, related to James Foreman leaving the Mt. Calvary Church in Tallapoosa County, Alabama after preaching there seven years – because he was moving to Texas.[i] After leaving Alabama, presumably sometime in 1855, James Foreman arrived in Rusk County, Texas.

South Western Baptist, Tuskegee, Alabama, Thursday, January 11, 1855, p. 1
Samuel Henderson and J. M. Watt, editors. Volume 6, Number 35

It is my understanding, subject to correction, that James Foreman was the son Benjamin Foreman and Sarah Winborne, and a brother of Mahala Silvester Foreman Harmon and Benjamin Samuel “Ben” Foreman – both of whom are buried in the old Cool Springs Cemetery in Rusk County, Texas.

James Foreman was born in Chester District, South Carolina in 1811. By 1833 he was in Talladega County, Alabama, when he married Sarah D. Row on September 6, 1833. In the 1840 Talladega County census, his middle initial appears as J. In the 1850 Talladega County census his occupation is listed as Missionary Baptist minister. He and Sarah had 9 children: William, Joseph D., Elizabeth, Mahala, Malinda, Elliott, Bowdon, Benjamin, and King Foreman. In 1860 he and Sarah are living in Rusk County, Texas with a New Salem post office (occupation, Missionary Baptist minister). Children listed are: Malinda, Mary, F. B., Benjamin, Jacob C., Martha, John, and C. M. Foreman.[ii] 23-year-old Sarah Powell (apparently a widowed daughter) is also in the household with 2 children, as well as Robert Haynes, a farm laborer.

The Cherokee Baptist Association in 1856 lists James Foreman as pastor of the London Baptist Church in Rusk County.[iii] This church was organized in 1856 and perhaps Foreman was its organizer as well as pastor. At the 5th session of the Judson Baptist Association in August 1856, “J. Forman” is listed as the pastor of Holley Springs Church in Rusk County.[iv] The “Foreman” surname is sometimes spelled “Forman” as well. This pastor probably is James Foreman.

James Foreman was involved in the organization of the Mt. Zion Association of Missionary Baptist Churches in Eastern Texas on October 30 and 31 of 1857.[v] He represented as a delegate from the Cool Spring(s) Church, along with Thomas Lacy and L. Newsome. Foreman served as chairman of the committee for a constitution and on the resolutions committee. He was also elected as a correspondent to the Central Association and to the Baptist Convention of East Texas. He is, of course, listed as an ordained elder, whose post office is New Salem.

The New Salem Baptist Church petitioned for membership in the Mt. Zion Association at its 2nd session in 1858, suggesting the church was probably organized after the October 1857 initial session of the association. Foreman was sent as a delegate to the association from the New Salem Church, and probably was involved in its organization. He was sent as a delegate in 1859 as well.

James J. Foreman apparently died before the 1870, at which time he is not found in the census. In 1870 Sarah was living in Van Zandt County, Texas with her daughter Malinda and son-in-law George W. Davis. In 1880 Sarah is still living with the Davises, now at Goshen in Henderson County. Some family tree resources suggest she died in 1881. These same sources, without documentation, give James’s death as either 1868 or 1869, and either in Rusk, Van Zandt, or Henderson counties. If he died in Rusk County, it seems a good possibility he could be buried at either Cool Springs or New Salem. I am hopeful that I might in the future find a some Baptist Association minutes that will list him in their obituary report – at least giving a better idea of when and where he died.[vi]

[i] An obituary of Sarah Elizabeth Miller Hood records her baptism in 1847 in Alabama by James Foreman. |
[ii] Elliott and Mary are one person, Mary Elliott Foreman. F. B. corresponds with Bowdon (F. Bowdon Foreman), and Jacob C. corresponds with King (Jacob King Foreman). By 1860 the Foremans had 12 children: William, Joseph D., Sarah Elizabeth, Mahala S., Malinda, Mary Elliott, F. Bowdon, Jesse Benjamin, Jacob King, Martha, John, and C. M.
[iii] Cherokee Baptist Association minutes, 1856.
[iv] Judson Baptist Association minutes, 1856.
[v] Mt. Zion Baptist Association minutes, 1857. Cool Springs had been in the Judson Association in 1856.
[vi] Some people claim James and Sarah Foreman are buried in this cemetery. However, I am somewhat skeptical but hopeful his holds promise for better future confirmation. Concerning the cemetery itself, Holli Kees and Kristi Willard provide this information: “Located on the John D. Chappell farm in the Pauline Community, just north of Hwy 175 West about mid way between Eustace and Mabank behind the Holstein Dairy. From the intersection of FM 316 South and Highway 175 in Eustace at the red light, go 4.4 miles west towards Mabank on Highway 175. At the Dairy (John Chappell Farm) turn right. Follow road beside house, but between cattle pens. Cross several cattleguards and pass two stock tanks. Cemetery is 7/10 mile from Highway 175 and is located on the right side of road before large stock tank. Graveyard is surround by numerous trees and cannot be seen from the road. Must get landowner’s permission to enter property. Abandoned many years, this cemetery contains many graves marked only by native rocks and illegible sandstone markers. Evidence of about 30 to 40 graves marked by the stones.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Sarah Devereux, Baptist church member

“Sarah was a faithful lifelong member of the Baptist church…” Sarah is not mentioned as a member of Mt. Carmel in any currently available records. However, it is known that he father John Landrum was a member there at one time.

Sarah Devereux: A Study in Southern Femininity” by Joleene Maddox Snider, [The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994 (Number 3, January 1994) Texas State Historical Association, pp. 479-508] tells about Sarah Devereux, wife of plantation owner Julien Sidney Devereux.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

An Obituary of John Sanders

An Obituary of John Sanders, who died in February 1926.

John Sanders, age 61 years, 9 months, 13 days passed away at his home two miles East of Salesville, in Parker County, on Thursday, February 18th, and his funeral took place on Friday morning at the Rock Creek Baptist church, of which he was a member when death came. Rev J. W. Isabell conducted the funeral service and he was laid to rest in Ballew Springs Cemetery. B. H. Lattener of Mineral Wells had charge of the funeral. Active pall bearers were: Henry McMillan, Henry Graves, O. L. Green, John Davidson, Dick Beeler and Chauncy Withers.

John Sanders was born in Mississippi, his parents having moved from that state while he was a very small boy, to Rusk County in the Eastern part of this state. At the age of 14 he was converted and joined the Baptist church, having lived a consecrated Christian life until death came. His many friends will mourn his passing, but his Christian influence will ever live in their presence, and will live on down through the time to come. At the age of 26, Mr. Sanders was married to Miss Martha Columbia Haskins, also of Rusk County and they lived there until 1906, at which time they moved to this section of the State. He was engaged in the farming industry and had lived near Garner and other places in the West part of Parker County all the time.

He is survived by his wife, and thirteen children and twelve grandchildren. One child, a son, preceded him into the land beyond. One of his eight sons, J. E. Sanders, lives in Mineral Wells and is the proprietor of the Crazy Barber Shop, and one daughter, Mrs. Nealy Tidwell also lives in Mineral Wells and is employed at the American Printing Company. The others are: Mrs. Nettie Peugh, Seymour, Texas; Mrs. Lacy Baker, Fort Worth, Texas; H. H. Sanders, Shamrock, Texas. All the other children living with him and near him, were at his bedside when death came. His children offered an impressive tribute at the funeral. “If before coming into the world,” they said, “We could have chosen our father and chosen him with all the understanding that we have today, he is the man we would have chosen for our father. Whatever we have inherited from him in strength or health or gifts or understanding of life, we count as more precious than all the riches of the world.”

Monday, September 25, 2023

John Sanders, Baptist singing school teacher

The obituary below is from a scrapbook belonging to my Mother & Father. I believe it is a memorial that was adopted by the Oak Flat Singing Class (since it references singing but not church). I suppose it was printed in a local newspaper, but do not know which one.

John Sanders was the son of Edmond Harris Sanders and Nancy Hinson. He was born in Mississippi, May 5, 1865, a few years before the family left for Texas. The Harris Sanders family is recorded in the 1870 Sabine Parish, Louisiana census. E. Harris and Nancy Sanders joined Smyrna Baptist Church in Rusk County, Texas by letter May 20, 1876. He was received as a deacon, becoming the 4th deacon of Smyrna Church.

John Sanders joined the Smyrna Baptist Church by experience and baptism – possibly between October 16, 1880 and October 19, 1881, based on where his name is written in the church roll (but possibly before May 5, 1880, based on the age mentioned in his obituary). At the time of his death, February 18, 1926, he was a member of Rock Creek Baptist Church in Parker County, Texas (org. 1884). Interestingly, John Winfield Isbell preached his funeral service. J. W. Isbell was a nephew of John Birdwell Isbell, John’s pastor at Smyrna 1889-1893. 

John Sanders was an active singer and teacher of Sacred Harp. He moved away from East Texas looking for a climate more conducive to improving health issues from which he suffered.

In Memory of John Sanders.


Who was once a member of the Oak Flat Singing Class, a strong supporter, and also a teacher of Sacred Harp. He has been gone from us for twenty years, having moved west in 1906. Though his works with us still remain. He surely did enjoy singing those sacred songs.

Soon after his death which was February 18, 1926, his dear daughter of 13 years wrote us that she could almost hear him sing:

Jesus lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly;
While the raging billows roll,
While the tempest still is high;
Hide me oh, my Savior hide,
'Til the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide
Oh receive my soul at last.

We feel sure that this dear friend and brother has realized an answer to this prayer in song and as he did so frequently sing:

How happy are the souls above
From sin and sorrow free;
With Jesus they are now at rest
And all his glories see.

He is gone but not forgotten. May we follow his example and still sing until we too can join that heavenly host in singing Hosanna’s to the Lamb of God which was and is to come.

So sweet are the memories of his past life in singing and teaching these sacred songs, and how sweet the thought that soon we will meet him in that home over there by the side of the river of life, where the saints all immortal and fair, are robed in their garments of white.

Read and approved September 26, 1926.

Charles Pruitt, Chairman,
M. L. Vaughn,
E. F. Scruggs,

The next writing about John Sanders is by his granddaughter, Nancy Norene Sanders McConnell – daughter of Hubert Sanders and Billie Sue Harris.

John passed on before I was born; however, I heard many descriptions of him from my father, aunts, and uncles. By all accounts he was a fairly quiet man, a disciplinarian, a music teacher/leader, and a Bible Literalist. My father (Hubert) said of his father, “He never raised his voice to us. If we were misbehaving, he would call our names, give us a stern look, and that was all that was usually needed to straighten us up. However, if more was needed he would tell us to ‘get a switch’ and we knew exactly what he meant.” He believe the Bible to be a primer for life and taught this to his children. He organized and conducted “church singings” and encouraged his children to participate. John was a farmer by occupation. He was ill most of the last ten years of his life. In letters to his father (E. Harris Sanders) he referred to his illness as palegra. He also wrote often to his father of his desire to go back to Mt. Enterprise for a visit, but did not feel strong enough to make the trip. In the 1910 Parker Co. census it lists John as being married twice, his marriage to Martha Columbia Haskins being the second marriage. After polling all the relatives that may have knowledge of this, the consensus is that his first wife died of unknown causes and there were no children born in the marriage.

Note 1: Harris Sanders, the father of John, was a Sacred Harp singer. He was born in Morgan County, Georgia, and grew up in Meriwether County. Meriwether is a neighoring county to Harris County, Georgia, where Sacred Harp composer and compiler B. F. White lived. It is in the realm of possibility that Harris Sanders was taught by B. F. White, and this deserves some future research.

Note 2: The first wife of John Sanders was Mary Elizabeth Holleman, a sister of my maternal grandmother. They married in 1888, and she died that same year. In 1890 John Sanders married Martha Columbia Haskins, and they had 14 children.

Note 3: Pellagra is a nutritional disorder caused by niacin deficiency, which seems to me sort of an odd diagnosis for the 1920s, but probably not. The immediate cause of John’s death was pneumonia, and some people have believed his primary medical problem was asthma. I seem to remember my father saying something about him being bitten by something, so perhaps it was an asthmatic condition brought on by an allergic reaction to something. I do know from stories repeated here and among his more immediate family that John Sanders moved trying to find a better climate for his health.

The Weatherford Democrat, October 11, 1992, p. 10

Monday, August 21, 2023

Church in early 20th century Rusk County

Memories of the Ben Gamble Family, by Banna Gamble Houston, 1976 (1888-1987)

She describes her father buying 100 acres of land “about nine miles southwest of Henderson – 1 mile off the New Salem Highway.” p. 6

We attended all the Churches, Methodist, Baptist and others. The preacher would preach so long that we would get so tired and hungry! A pitcher of water was placed on the pulpit so he could take a drink when his throat got dry. Good old songs were sung like “Washed In the Blood of the Lamb”, “Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown” and the good old song that we sing today: “Amazing Grace”. There was one church near us named Primitive Baptist but was called “Hard Shell”. We would go to their church sometimes. They practiced “foot washing” twice a year. The preacher tied a towel around his waist and washed and dried the men’s feet. The women had a curtain in front of them so they could not be seen washing their feet.

In my younger days, protracted meetings were held – always in late summer when the crops were laid by. The church house was too warm in late spring and summer – there were no fans except palm fans – and only dim lights, so the men would build brush arbors under the shade of the beautiful pines. The Church benches would be moved out to the arbor and oh, the good times we had!

The preacher preached long and loud and we’d sing “How Firm a Foundation” and other old familiar song. Sometimes a good old saint would get so happy, she would shout “Hallelujah, Glory to God” and then hop and jump over the children sleeping in the aisles and on the pallets, to shake hands with everybody. Usually the invitation song was “Oh, Why Not Tonight”. The converts would all go down to the creek and they were baptized in a hole of water in the creek. They would sing “On Jordon’s (sic) Stormy Banks I Stand”. After services, we would all go home and there would most always be company to go home with us and of course, they always ate first! That was awful because we children were so hungry and had to wait while the visitors ate and laughed and talked – not thinking how hungry we children were! pages 9-10

All the members of our family were members of the Missionary Baptist Church but we attended the Methodist and other churches too. page 21