Monday, September 22, 2008

Pony Creek Baptist Church - The Comanches - And Today - "The Church that Wouldn't Die"

About ten miles over from the W bar E is Pony Creek Baptist Church. The church had been established in 1865 when this was all Indian Territory. It met every third Sunday. They posted members outside with their rifles to ward off the Indians. A story goes that the second preacher and his 18 year old nephew were caught by Indians at the church and the preacher was killed and hung in a tree in front of the church and then he was burned. The nephew escaped and made it five miles away before the Indians overtook and hung him. No one really knows which tribe the Indians were from, the Apaches, Comanches, Lipans, Kickapoos, there were various different tribes that hunted down and massacred early settlers to this area. However, the Comanches were the most active in this area, with the other tribes being more active 100 miles west of Pony Creek at that time.

The Texas Rangers along with some help from the US Cavalry (inluding the 10th Calvary, known as the Buffalo Soldiers), along side the Mexican militias along the Rio Grande, and finally working along with the Mexican Military in a major battle with the Apaches just south of the border of Mexico near the Candeleras, for the most part pushed the Indian raiding parties out of Texas in 1887. There was still one small group of Apaches that escaped the battle at the Candeleras, and after killing over 200 Mexican civilians in Mexico in revenge, that party slipped back into Texas. They were shortly tracked downed by the Texas Rangers based in Ysleta, near El Paso, and were wiped out. That was the last Texas Ranger/Indian fight in Texas, for the Indian threat was at last eliminated. Several of these battles are well described by Texas Ranger James B. Gillett in "Six Years as a Texas Ranger" published in 1925.

A 100 years after the church was established, the church quit services in the early 1960's and the building sat empty for 45-50 years slowly decaying. However, very recently a group of local people restored the building, clearing out rattle snakes and yellow jackets.

Pony Creek is now a thriving church with weekly attendance at about 50 people from the big ranches in the area. I've been there a time or two and I swear, everyone of them can play quitar and sing just as good as anyone I've ever listened to during the music part of the service. A second building has been added, the new fellowship hall that will also be used by the folks in the area for community events such as reunions, weddings, etc.. Over a 100 people attended the recent dedication of the new fellowship hall. That is a large number of people considering how sparsely populated the country side is around the church.