NRHC to dedicate historic rural church on Friday, September 17

Local News

(Photo provided by the National Ranching Heritage Center)

LUBBOCK, Texas (PRESS RELEASE) — The following is a news release from the National Ranching Heritage Center:

Dedication of a 1920s rural church with its original pews, pump organ, podium and altar will be open to the public at 10 a.m. Friday, September 17 as the National Ranching Heritage Center adds its 54th structure to the 19-acre Proctor Historical Park.

Although the church was donated by The Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas, 14 donors from four states contributed more than $100,000 to move the church to Lubbock and restore the structure to the original appearance it had as a one-room church serving the Spur, Texas, ranching community.

“The center has searched for a frontier church almost from the beginning of its founding in the late 1960s,” said NRHC Executive Director Jim Bret Campbell. “Churches served as a central gathering point and unifier for many ranching communities. Faith and community were critical in places where neighbors were scattered across many miles.”

Guests attending the dedication will be seated under tents near the church entrance, and the historic structure will officially be open to the public after the dedication. To accommodate seating, refreshments and tours, guests who want to attend the dedication are requested to RSVP by emailing lea.lust@ttu.edu or responding online at ranchingheritage.org.

Campbell explained that all structures in the historic park are intended to represent the birth, growth and maturity of ranching during the westward expansion of the nation. The one-room church was built in the 1920s on land donated by Spur Ranch owners descended from S.M. Swenson, who moved to Texas from Sweden in the 1830s. Swenson’s sons purchased the ranch in 1906 from the Espuela (Spur) Land and Cattle Co. of London. The Swenson brothers platted the town of Spur in 1909 on land that belonged to the ranch.

New residents to the frontier town began to inquire about a church on ranch land donated by the Swenson family. “Your settlement is so new that it does not appear on any map to which we have access,” responded the Episcopal Archbishop of Dallas in 1910.

Determined to prove their commitment, members of the new community wrote a joint letter to the Episcopal Diocese committing financial pledges to building the church and their willingness to meet as a congregation in alternative locations until a church could be built. They chose to name the rural church Trinity Mission, and Campbell said Trinity Mission will continue to be its name.

From the early 1880s through the turn of the century, European financiers and their descendants were heavily involved in cattle ranching and land purchases in Texas. Because the Episcopal Church is

the American branch of Europe’s Anglican Church, a strong Episcopal presence developed among early ranching families and their cowboys.

Trinity Mission became the property of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwest Texas in 1949, and the diocese moved the church 153 miles to Hereford, Texas. When the Hereford congregation outgrew the building during the post-war boom, the diocese moved the church again in 1955 to Brownfield, Texas.

Negotiations between the diocese and board members of the Ranching Heritage Association, a non-profit member organization that supports NRHC programs, resulted in the diocese donating the church to the historic park. The RHA fundraising efforts provided the money to move the structure 40 miles to Lubbock in October 2020, set it on a foundation, restore the building to its original appearance, add sidewalks and signage, and support ongoing maintenance and preservation.

The NRHC is open to the public free of charge from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The historic park closes daily at 4 p.m., but the indoor museum remains open until 5 p.m. For additional information, see ranchingheritage.org or call 806.742.0498.

(News release from the National Ranching Heritage Center)

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