Churches Galore, But Room for MoreMay 01, 2018 ● By Bob Warren
I hesitated, and said, “Good point. There are some who, for various reasons, are not interested in churches.” For example, the age-old story of the fellow who was invited to church. He said, “No, thanks. I was drugged when I was young. My parents ‘drug’ me to church every time the church doors were open, so I do not want to go now.”
So, please, readers, stay with me. I promise not to preach. I just want us to look at the history of our churches here in Frisco. We will see some of the many struggles and successes people encountered as they worked to establish places of worship in our fair city.
This town that was first called “Emerson,” but would later become Frisco, was started in 1902. That was after the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad (later called the “Frisco Line”) had laid a rail line from Denison to Carrollton, built a depot here and laid out plans for a town. It was located about halfway between the two existing towns of Little Elm and Lebanon. On February 13, 1902, the railroad held an auction selling lots in the little town they had planned.
There were churches in the area — some at Lebanon and Little Elm, and one in the Bethel community, about four miles north of the place that was to become Frisco. The Methodists at Bethel soon moved their church building, pulled with teams of mules, to a lot in the new town.
Before long, other denominations started eyeing the little town, and in August of 1902, a group met to organize a Baptist church here. The meeting produced what became the First Baptist Church of Frisco. On a personal note, two of the organizers, John and Alice Hill, were the grandparents of my wife, Beth.
Records show that only 13 days after the Baptist church was officially organized, the group bought a lot at the southwest corner of Main and Seventh Streets and began construction of their church building. During the two years it took to complete the little wooden building, the Baptists held preaching services only one Sunday per month, actually meeting at the Methodist church.
It was common, in the early 1900s, for churches with small congregations to employ pastors who also preached at other area churches. Money was scarce, and that was all little congregations could afford. Frisco’s Baptist Church paid its preacher the hefty sum of $12.50 to preach one Sunday each month. The Methodists, Baptists and two other congregations held services in the only available building — the Methodist church. With services held there for one of the churches each Sunday of the month, people of Frisco could, if they wished, hear a sermon every Sunday. Believe it or not, many chose to do so!
As years passed, other churches were organized in Frisco. For example, in 1914, long before de-segregation, the Hamilton Chapel Baptist Church was built to serve the black community. That little church stands today at the corner of First and Ash Streets.
Churches, in Frisco’s early days, were not only a place of worship, but they were also a big part of our social lives. Frisco was a farming community, and life on a farm often meant working until dark. That left little time to mix and mingle with more than just immediate family members, so the lure of church fellowship may have helped fill the pews in those days.
For example, there were the week-long summer revival meetings that three or four Frisco churches held each year. Timing of the revivals was such that one followed the other filling most of the summer. That allowed the town’s people, regardless of their faith, to attend several of the meetings, and many did so. This was long before air conditioning, and open windows with the little hand-held funeral home fans were no match for the summer heat. So, the meetings moved to the outdoors. Boards borrowed from the lumberyard served as benches for the congregation, and the mood seemed exciting, especially to us youngsters. The singing and preaching set the stage for an appealing, and sometimes long, invitation each night.
The years passed and the early churches outgrew their buildings — a pleasant problem. In 1939, First Baptist Frisco saw the need for more space, and that required relocating the building on the lot and turning it 90 degrees so that it faced Seventh Street, rather than Main Street.
According to a story in the church’s centennial year history book, “From Then to Now – 100 Years of Prayer,” planners called on a member, Leroy Hill, and his faithful horse “Billy” to help turn the church. They jacked the building up and placed it on a turntable with wheels, devised a turn-pull, hooked Billy to a 15-foot pole that turned and wound a cable attached to the church. With every trip Billy made around the turn-pull, the building moved one-third of an inch. It took several days to turn the building 90 degrees, but Billy got the job done.
Through the years, that building has seen many changes. The Baptists, in 1974, moved to their present worship center at Main Street and Hummingbird Drive. Today, after having served as the Abbey Restaurant for a few years, the fine old building again serves its original purpose, that of a church. It houses a vibrant fellowship called the Life Changing Faith church.
Personally, I was glad to see the building become a church again. It houses many memories for me. It was there where I, as a lad, first attended Sunday school. Then, at age 13, I was baptized there. It was there, in 1941, that I met my bribe to be, later the mother of my five children. And, it was there, in 1962, that I attended my father’s funeral. Again, in 1970, I attended my mother’s funeral there. So, you see, that building holds many memories for me, and I am glad it is still a church.
In recent years, people of many other faiths, more than I can name, have moved to Frisco and built their chosen places of worship. The Catholics’ first church here was a small building at Elm and Third Streets. They soon outgrew that little facility and have since built a fine place of worship to serve the area’s growing Catholic population. Several other fellowships that started here have grown to what I call “mega churches.” Two examples that come to mind are Stonebriar Community Church and Elevate Life Church. The influence and memberships of such churches extend well beyond Frisco’s borders.
A recent survey shows about 40 churches in Frisco, a city of about 172,000 residents. That amounts to only one church for every 4,300 people. In the 1920s, there were four churches and 700 people in Frisco — one church for every 175 people, which is quite a difference. What is a reasonable ratio of churches per capita? I certainly do not know, but history shows that Frisco is a good place to grow a church, so I say, “With churches galore, there is still room for more!”