Started by African Americans more than 150 years ago, Beulah Baptist Church in Elkhart is one of the latest historical sites in Anderson County to receive an official marker from the Texas Historical Commission. Roughly 200 or more landmarks have received them, but Beulah Baptist may be one of the most distinctive.
At a dedication of the church’s historical marker Saturday, members and guests celebrated the survival of one of the county’s oldest congregations. Singing “Troubles in My Way,” the choir paid tribute to the church’s past as the spiritual home of former slaves, as well as their descendants who continue to participate.
Among the oldest churches in Anderson County, Beulah Baptist claims descendants from up to six generations.
Andrea Crawford, a sixth generation descendant — read a “Brief History of the Beulah Baptist Church,” written by fourth-generation descendant Dyna Tutt.
Tutt organized the ceremony and led the effort to obtain the official marker from the Texas Historical Commission.
Tutt, a 65-year congregant and Palestine Independent School District board member, revised the application several times over two years to meet the Texas Historical Commission's specifications, before it finally was approved.
The project’s timing was critical. At least two members of the congregation died during the time she was writing the history, Tutt said.
The marker reads: “Organized in the latter part of 1861, the Beulah Baptist Church first held worship services under a brush arbor.” That same year, Texas joined the Confederacy, and the Civil War began.
A group of seven, led by Rev. John Briscoe, struggled to establish a church when freedom was just a dream.
Members of the Anderson County Historical Committee also celebrated the dedication. Andrew Petty of ACHC noted churches were among the first organizations a community established.
Anderson County, he said, has more historical markers than almost every other county in Texas — except Galveston County, which has nearly 800.
“These markers are a way to record the history,” Petty said. “if we choose to forget our past, we will not have the kind of future we’d like to have.”
Dave Davidson, a church deacon; Voida Reed of Houston, and “Aunt Katherine” Fain of Elkhart shared loving and humorous reflections of the church.
At 102, Fain said she didn’t know how she had lived so long, but was glad she made it to the ceremony. Fain was accompanied by her granddaughter, Rose Fain Winters of Dallas.
“I’m so glad to see all these beautiful people,” Fain said. “I’m shedding tears, but I’m glad to be here.”