In what is now the Wesley Chapel area, there is supportive evidence of area settlers in the 1860's and some of their descendants still live in the area.

The need for a burial ground brought forth the formation of a cemetery location. Then the need for a religious meeting location was met with the deed for a church site which in turn served as school and church and this identified the area with a name.

The Church and Cemetery are located on A.W. Beckham Grant, about 6 3/4 miles NW from Crockett on FM-229 and 200/300 yards from a turnoff. The first Wesley Chapel School house was located on the tract deeded in 1903 specifically for the Methodist Episcopal Church about a quarter mile or 500 yards S/SW. A deed on record described “4 acres claimed to be owned by Wesley Chapel Church and Cemetery.” This was a conveyance deed from James C. Wootters dated Feb. 7, 1903. This deed was made to J.W. Craiger, A.W. Vince, J.T. Simmons, W.N. Brown, William Burton, F.J. Currie, David Webb and J.T. Murray and to their successors. All were identified as the Trustees of the Crockett Circuit Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1903. In 1903 the Crockett Station included four pastors who served Grapeland, Augusta, Kennard and Crockett. W.S. Easterling was pastor of Crockett Station and is likely the preacher who took on the new Wesley’s Chapel. It is this deed which defines “Wesley Chapel” as the Church and Cemetery and serves as the basis of the identification of the two which are the community.

Methodism was high around the turn of the century in Crockett and Houston County. The First Methodist church members of Crockett had just built a brick church in 1901. J.C. Wootters, who deeded the land for the outlying area residents’ church to be called Wesley’s Chapel, and school; was chairman of the building committee at Crockett. Evangelistic zeal perhaps encouraged the deed of land for this outlying church, as Wootters’ Crockett pastor was serving the NW area residents. Wootters did mention a school was to share the church acreage, but his emphasis was Church.

Acceptance of the early church name for the community identification had no dissenters. In fact, when the original church of 1903 was blown away by a tornado (unroofed and leveled) in 1953, the men of the community rebuilt the church from the remaining lumber.

This community was never served by a post-office and there was never a designated stage stop there. There is no plat or survey of a town site found of record at the Houston County courthouse. But in 1903 with the building of a Methodist Episcopal Church of acreage deeded, Wesley’s Chapel or Wesley Chapel came to be and area settlers took the same identification.

A common school district was also formed that year which took the name of Wesley Chapel Common School District. Scholastic Records for several of the early years (1904-1908) are identified as Wesley’s Chapel Dist. #16.

Records of the Wesley Chapel Scholastics begin for 1904/05 and list 47 pupils ranging in ages from 8 to 17 years old. Family names include Clines, Coatney, Crager, Ewing, Gossett, Green, Hancock, Hudson, Hughes, Hollingsworth, Long, Sims, Smith, Spence, story, Temple, Waller, White, Willis, Yates, Zanders. W.B. Sims, R.L. Waller and I.J. Spence were the school trustees.

There were 30 students in 1906/07 with Jeff Craiger, George Clines and Lee Johnson serving as trustees. Family names continue; Crager, Coatney, Clines, Gossett, Hutson, Holcomb, Johnson, Sims, Smith Sudwisher, Temple, Willis and Waller. By 1907/08, the enrollment had dropped to 23 and John W. Sims, F.A. Gossett and A.W. Waller were trustees.

In 1913, N.G. Reeves deeded two acres of land to the trustees of Wesley Chapel School Dist. #64 for the sum of $ 30.00 on which a two-room school house was built. This school served the area for 36 years, but in 1949 was abandoned with the annexation of Wesley Chapel School District to Latexo School District.

In 1949, the matter of an election to annex Wesley Chapel Common School District to Latexo Common School District came before the county School Board of which H.M. Streetman was chairman. An election was held August 13, 1949 and annexation of Wesley Chapel to Latexo carried 45 votes for and 1 vote against. Thus the school also closed with the church in and about 1950.

When the tornado touched down in 1953 and leveled the school and church, the buildings had not been used for several years. The church was rebuilt to be used in conjunction with the cemetery and as an identifying community landmark. Since the school district had been consolidated the school was not rebuilt and the property was sold. In 1987, occasional preachings were held there, not necessarily of the Methodist faith.

The present church is a third less the original size, but area residents sensed the importance of having it rebuilt though the church had ceased to be used for regular services by 1950. An area resident, Joseph R. Rawls (l871-1953) was killed during that storm and rests in the Wesley Chapel Cemetery.

In rebuilding their turn-of-the-century church, accepted as having been named for the founder of Methodism, John Wesley (1703-1791), the area residents showed their pride in the identification and recognized the church as a landmark structure, more than the school building which had also been blown down by the storm.

The Wesley chapel Cemetery which preceded the church and school continues. A survey of headstones reveals 1885 might well be the earliest marker date. Unmarked rocks as headstones are evidence of earlier burials of 30 or more unnamed residents without dates. More than 200 grave sites are marked with names and dates.

Two burial sites with 1885 headstones are for Henry J. Craiger, born December 31, 1883 and died October 11, 1885; and Margret Malone, wife of J.M. Malone who was born March 11, 1827 and died December 20, 1885. Craiger was two years of age at the time of death and possibly was a relative of J.W. Craiger listed as one of the trustees of the Crockett circuit Methodist Episcopal Church, South, who received the deed of land for a church. Mrs. Malone’s husband died June 20, 1887, another early burial. Other burials from 1887 to 1890 list area family names of Ashmore, Breshear, Coatney, Edwards, Hancock, Peacock, Rush, Shelton, Story, Waller and Yates.

Source:  Eliza Bishop



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