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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Houses of Faith in the Doyle School Neighborhood

Mount Olive Baptist Church and Barnett Chapel United Methodist Church,
the main churches in the Doyle School neighborhood, as they appeared in February 2020.
Click on any image to enlarge.
The neighborhood around today's Doyle School Community Center has a rich history, centered on the old Doyle School and the businesses of that area, including the Famous Door, which was a cafe and dance hall honored with an historical marker a few years ago. For many years this area was primarily an African-American neighborhood, segregated from the rest of the community, denied access to many important parts of our community, including health care, better education facilities, and access to many public businesses.
Mt. Olive Baptist
And yet, despite these obstacles, that neighborhood is remembered fondly by those who grew up there as a place of community and warm fellowship.
Over the past few weeks I've written about the Doyle family for whom the Doyle School is named, about a brave young man named Jack Hardy who survived capture by Comanche raiders, and about a few of the businesses that served the neighborhood.
There's another part of the history there I haven't written about, yet: its two main churches, Mount Olive Baptist Church and Barnett Chapel Methodist Church. I've found the story of these churches in the Kerr County Album, which was published in 1986 by the Kerr County Historical Commission.
Mt Olive historical marker
"Mount Olive Baptist Church was organized in 1902 by the Rev. G. W. Merriweather of San Antonio. The church met in a small schoolhouse located on Paschal Street where the Barnett Chapel now stands. The church later moved to the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Owens."
When the congregation built their first church building, it was "a simple building without a bell, pews, or musical instruments. Members would bring chairs from home to be used for church services."
Charter members of the church were Rev. Robert Evans, Mrs. Zula Blanks Gilliam, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher, Mrs. Henrietta Blanks Mosby, Mr. and Mrs. George Owens, Mitchell Grinder, Mrs. Celeste Campbell, Mr. and Mrs. Buck Elias, and Mrs. Helen Blanks Neal.
Over the years the church enjoyed milestones: its first Sunday School Congress, its first Young People's Union, and its first piano, which "was donated through the efforts of Mrs. T. H. Allen," and its first baptizing facilities, which "were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Mose Walton."
The white frame church building was replaced by a brick building in 1961, which included "central heat and air, modernized baptistry, spacious classrooms, kitchen facilities, a grand piano and a Hammond organ."
The congregation has been served by many pastors, including one, the Rev. C. V. Everage, who retired "after forty-one years of service," according to the Kerr County Album.
Barnett Chapel UMC
Barnett Chapel United Methodist Church began in 1896, according to Finding History In These Hills, a history blog by my friend Deborah Gaudier.
"Barnett Chapel United Methodist Church, 710 Paschal Street, was established in 1896. It is the oldest historically black church in Kerrville," Gaudier writes.
"Recognizing the need for a church and school, Jim and Josephine Barnett were instrumental in organizing the first religious observances, first in homes then in a small, one-room building in 1897. Later the congregation met in an old schoolhouse.

Barnett Chapel
historical Marker
"In 1898 they bought the land they still own today and have worshiped at this location continually since. The present house of worship was erected in 1963, adding a parsonage in 1976 and a multi-purpose building in 1982."
Early families who were members of Barnett Chapel include the Bensons, Fifers, Colemans, Butlers, Wares, Dimerys, Lotts, Knoxs, and Allens, according to the Kerr County Album.
Barnett Chapel was served by circuit-riding preachers until 1902, when Rev. W. M. Mosby became the first full-time minister at the church.
These churches are still a very important part of their neighborhood, and have served our community for more than a century.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has fond memories of attending services at each of these churches, though decades ago. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 22, 2020.

I have two books available, both filled with historic photographs of Kerr County.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

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