Pilgrim Church, Elkhart
Mr. Ben Parker of Elkhart, the great-grandson of the Elder Daniel, tells us that a group of neighbors, friends and relatives had joined forces with the travelers and accompanied them to Texas. Their method of transportation was the ox wagon, about twenty-five vehicles being required to carry the pilgrims and their household effects to the new home. The roads were merely trails in places with numerous streams to be forded. Many times all hands had to stop and build bridges or cut paths through the forests. Sundays the travelers rested—always holding services—always rejoicing that they were one day nearer their journey's end. And to quote from the old minutes, "on the 20th day of October, A. D. 1833, in Clayborn Parish, Louisiana, Pilgrim Church on her travels and on the camp ground sat in conference and attended to business in order: (First) Called for the peace of the church; all was in peace. (Second) They extended an opportunity for members, and received by letter the following members: Elder Garrison Greenwood, Richard Eaton and, Polly, his wife; Joseph Jordan, Nancy Faulkenberry, Rachael Eaton, and Elizabeth Eaton. There being no further business, they adjourned in order. Signed, Elder D. Parker, Moderator. Robert Davidson, Clerk."
One likes to vision that scene, as few like it have been pictured since the world began. Picture, if you please, a shady spot in a forest primeval. A motly crowd of travelers are grouped on the banks of a little stream, which trickles musically over mossy stones. Near at hand, the only homes known for nearly three months, covered wagons stand—while tied to their rear the patient oxen are eating their well earned rations. All countenances beam. To receive substantial additions ever occasions, in any church, the purest joy. But, when one reflects upon the peculiar circumstances surrounding this incident, one realizes that the general happiness knows no bounds. Who can deny that visions of a commodious church in which all these, and others they may influence, meet together "all in peace" flit through all minds? But, Providentially, the future to mortals is veiled. The many weary months of homelessness and privations to be lived through cast no "shadow before" that beautiful October day. The Pilgrims "went on their way rejoicing."
The safe arrival in Austin's Colony, January 28, 1834, the church conference held "at the home of Elder Daniel Parker" the same date, the selection of "Saturday before the first Lord's Day" as the regular Conference day are all recorded in the old "minutes." The thoughtful reader would ask, what kind of a "home" did Daniel Parker possess the day of his arrival in the new land? Mr. Richard Bennett, a native of Anderson County, and a direct descendant of Levi Jordan, one of the early members of Pilgrim Church, who became one of the large land owners of the county, says: "Grandpa Jordan lived in a dug out the first year or two after coming to Texas. Many of the colonists did so. Others made houses of pole frames to support the moss sides and roof." The early meetings of Pilgrim Church were held in some such primitive place. Did the worshippers liken their experiences to the secret cave meetings of the early Christians? If so, we can rest assured they thanked God that the reasons for their deprivations were not so terrifying.
On October 11, 1834 the church in regular conference at the home of Elder Daniel Parker agreed that, "inasmuch as their members were becoming scattered in a wilderness, that when a majority of their members settled, they should meet and hold a meeting to the glory of God."
For the next several years, Pilgrim Church led a precarious existence. The revolution passed leaving Texas free. The Indians terrorized the land, perpetrating the cold blooded massacre of Parkers' Fort, the account of which is given elsewhere in this book. But Pilgrim weathered the storms. The members who had dispersed in the days of the struggle against Mexico came back to Houston County, as this was then. Services were once more held with a semblance of regularity. And on Saturday, April 13, 1839, the minutes say, "The Church took under consideration building of a church house or a meeting house and appointed E. Bowen, Daniel Parker, and J. White to select a place where same could be built." The selection of two and one-half acres of land "on the north side of the bluff of the Harrison Fork of Bayou Blue near Daniel Parker's house" is recorded in the next minutes—and following that the plans went forward until a log house was erected and the adjoining ground cleared and enclosed for a burial ground. The first church, humble though it was, gave great comfort to its congregation. Here Daniel Parker preached the Word until he was "gathered to his Father's."