Nine miles south of Rockdale, Texas, on Highway 77 is a community well known for its active church work, as well as for its political and other community activities. In Forest Grove, as in many similar Central Texas communities, the Christian Church has contributed outstanding leadership.
In the early days of the church at Forest Grove, all regular services were held in the homes of the different families in the community and a meeting was held under brush arbors each summer. The first of these protracted meetings was conducted by C. S. Watson who is still living and is now in his nineties. Brother Watson continued his work with the church each year with very small financial aid.
When first organized, the Christian Church at Forest Grove had as its elders, W. W. Kyle, J. R. Lothlin and R. S. Stanley. The deacons were Richard Boswell, H. B. Duncum and Frank Bounds.
The information and data collected for this paper is taken from records left by the author’s grandfather, W. W. Kyle, now deceased, who was church clerk from 1898 till 1918; from R. L. Stence, who held the same office from 1918 till 1923; and from Mrs. H. C. Spence, mother of the writer.
On September 13, 1902, the congregation met at the Oak Hill School house for re-organization and to make plans for the building of a church house. The name, Forest Grove, was selected and the location decided. The new building was to be east of the Hat Prairie Cemetery. It was erected at a cost of $300, and was dedicated the fourth Sunday in January 1903.
The interest in the church has continued through the years with summer meetings each year, and a pastor part time. A lively Sunday School is yet maintained with an average of 60 in attendance. The membership is 138; however some live elsewhere.
The Christian Church at Forest Grove has been invited to consolidate with the Rockdale Christian Church, but the members have chosen to maintain the church in their community, for they realize that it is a link, which holds the community together. A number of young men have been trained to be leaders in the church work. The Kyles, spences, Watsons, and others are noted for their good singing; and people form miles around come to visit the church on special occasions.
Family nights, for the entire community to assemble, to have supper, and to visit, are held several times a year.
Both the church house and the recreation center have electric lights and Butane heating system. A deep well, equipped with an electric pump, was added in 1952.
The rock retaining wall in front of the church house was built several years ago to prevent the washing away of the soil. The terrace created thereby is very attractive. Behind the church building is an outside room to be used for summer meetings. This permanent meeting place far exceeds the temporary arbor.
The first and only wedding ceremony performed in the Forest Grove church building was that of Ollie Kyle and Miss Alice Alford on January 9, 1907 with C. S. Watson officiating. Fayette Flake and Miss Beulah Davidson, now Mr. & Mrs. Flake were the only attendants.
The cemetery which joins the church grounds on the west is much older than the Forest Grove Christian Church. It was once known as the “Hat Prairie” Cemetery because the natural open space, surrounded by trees, was in the shape of a hat. The care of the cemetery is a community project. There is a day in the Spring and a day in the fall when everyone carries his lunch and spends the day at the church center and works the cemetery.
The present elders of the church are O. A. Kyle, H. C. Spence and W. C. Lynn. The deacons are L. L. Keen, H. P. Watson, A. O. Watson, A. T. McDaniel, T. J. Kyle, G. L. Owens and Cliff Currey. The Chairman of the Board is L. L. Keen. Mr. Pete Keen is the only living member of the Forest Grove Christian Church Board who served at the time the church building was dedicated in 1903. He has been a very faithful worker through all these years, and like the church he serves, a symbol of strength throughout the neighborhood.
Created on 19 Mar 2004 and last revised on 25 Mar 2004