Meeting on June 28 will address future of 100 year old building
By Stephanie Hood
A renewed effort to preserve the Willingham Spring Baptist Church and School is underway and interested community members are invited to tour the site and discuss the future of the 100 year old building. A meeting of descendants and preservationists will be held 2 p.m. on June 28 at the Willingham Spring Baptist Church on FM 2843.
The small wooden Baptist Church was built between 1911 and 1914 on land donated by Wilson Willingham.
His grandfather Archibald Willingham was the first Anglo settler in Salado. What began as a church at the center of the Central Texas Community of Willingham Spring doubled as a one room school house in 1914. The Willingham Spring School was consolidated in July of 1929 along with Amity, Bell Plains, Elm Spring (Gooseneck) and Prairie Dell to form the Salado Rural School District. Later Cedar Knob, Cedar Valley and Union Grove School were added and the district would become the Salado Independent School District in 1934. The building of the red brick schoolhouse on Main Street caused the closure of the one room schools and many of the school buildings were moved.
Willingham Spring remained with its community and church services continued until the impact of World War II in 1941 caused the building to be shuttered for a time. The surrounding community came together in 1950 to revitalize the church and a tabernacle was added for open air meetings. Over the years Willingham Spring Church experienced declining membership and services haven’t been held in the historic building for several years. Today the building lies ready and waiting for future generations to make use of it.
Preservation of the building has been an ongoing project for many generations. In 1999 a Texas state Historical Marker was placed at the building. Honored on the inscription are farmers Bennie Brooks, John and Zola Kidd Lankford, Mart and Minnie Brinegar Van Dyke, H. L. and Clemmie Kidd Thomas and Arthur and Eula Housewright who helped build the structure. Hanna Elizabeth Kidd Myers is said to have driven the first nail for the church building.
Current restoration efforts will insure that the Willingham Baptist Church remains as an example of what the book Pioneer Buildings of Texas calls “the simplicity of the western pioneers’ Protestant churches. Like this one, the early western Protestant churches generally had no steeple and little or no ornamentation. Church was not a fancy affair in this place and that time.”