The Digital Journalist
Selected photos from Michael O'Brien's The Face of Texas.
© Michael O'Brien

Church Group/Bethel - Parishioners at Bethel Methodist Church in the small community of Bethel, Texas - southwest of Waxahachie - pose for a portrait. Top photo, from left to right: Oscar Curry, Yula Murdock, Jack Taylor, Lois Curry, and Stanley Murdock. Bottom photo: Julie and Jimmy Choate.

The church was founded in 1853 under a brush arbor at High Springs, site of an underground spring that bubbles to the surface, unearthing a trove of Native American artifacts. Parishioners met in a log schoolhouse at Greathouse until 1860, when services were moved to a schoolhouse at Bethel on Baker's Branch creek. The first meetinghouse, built south of the cemetery in 1872, was destroyed in a storm in 1892. The present sanctuary replaced the second meetinghouse, located north of the cemetery, in 1924. The Tabernacle, built in 1907, served for camp meetings and God's acre sales. A parsonage, erected in the early 1900s on E.M.Brack's land at Boz, was moved to the present site in 1952.

Bethel Methodist Church was the site of the first God's or Lord's acre sale in Texas. Churches held such sales - for which parishioners, most of whom were farmers and ranchers, pledged the bounty of one of their acres of land to God, and the church - to raise money for the pastor's salary, cemetery upkeep and operating costs. God's acre sales, still held in rural farming communities, are generally held the third Saturday of October, just after harvest. Bethel Methodist's cemetery is populated with the graves of wagon train pioneers, many of who succumbed to cholera on their journey.