Cochran's Chapel, Dallas County, Texas
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Lumber for Edifice Was Hauled Many
Miles in Wagon and Planed
by Hand.


     In the primeval days of Dallas County, when the possession of a couple of churches, a tannery, a shoe shop and a school gave to Farmers Branch, then not infrequently known as Mustang Island, a standing far ahead of that of any other settlement in the entire Peters' Colony, and when the little village of Dallas--some knew it as "Dallas," as indicated by their diaries--was a settlement smaller than a number of others in this county, life was then worth living, if the statements of old settlers, assembled yesterday in reunion at Cochran's Chapel, are to be accepted. Then it was, they say, that every man was independent, with a livelihood that was sure and abundant. Then it was, they say, that theft, except by the Indians, was unthought of, and every man trusted his neighbor. Then it was, they say, that the exactions of modern life were unthought, and every man lived as best suited his comfort.

Anniversary of Old Chapel.

     Relation of very interesting reminiscences touching early life in Dallas County was made yesterday on the occasion of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the building of Cochran's Chapel, which was built and now stands some seven miles north of Dallas. There were about 300 in attendance upon the celebration, which will be continued today, and many of these, indeed, a very large per cent, were from Dallas. Among the visitors from the city were Mr. and Mrs. Alex Cockrell, Mr. and Mrs. Lee Hughes, Rev. W. H. Hughes, William R. Harris, Mrs. William Harris and Misses Mary and Clara Harris, Mrs. H. H. Jacoby, John D. Cochran, Epps G. Knight and others.

Farmers Branch History.

     "Outside of the blockhouse built by the founder of the city of Dallas, John Neely Bryan, in the fall of 1842, the first settlement made by white people in Dallas County," declared Judge John H. Cochran of Decker, Nolan County, formerly postmaster at Dallas, and before that time a resident of Farmers Branch, "was on Farmers Branch, five miles north of Cochran's Chapel, in December, 1872, and February, 1843."
     Judge Cochran was one of the three speakers of the day, his address following those made by Uncle Buck (W. H.) Hughes and Rev. O. S. Thomas, both of whom told of the early history of Methodism in this county, and particularly of the history of Methodists in the Cochran's Chapel neighborhood.
     "The entire neighborhood of this first settlement, and it was the first important settlement, consisted for nearly a year of Thomas Keenan and family, John and Simpson Pulliam and Steve Webb, the last three being bachelors, and William M. Cochran and wife, Nancy Jane Cochran, and their family. The only survivors of this settlement, as it was then constituted, are my brother, Dr. A. M. Cochran, and myself.

First Methodist Minister.

     "Thomas Brown, a Methodist itinerant preacher, was the first minister to visit the colony, and the first sermon in the county was on the text from Romans: 'Ii am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.' This was in 1845. In 1846, the first school was established by T. C. Williams of Tennessee. Shortly after the Methodists, who had organized a society in 1845 at Farmers Branch, had erected a church, the Baptists erected at Rawhide, near by, what was known as the Thomas Keenan Chapel. This was the first Baptist Church, and was erected in September, 1846. The good Baptists were aided by the Methodists, who had likewise helped the Methodists in the building of their church.
     "Parson William Boll, of the Baptist Church, erected the first mill, building it on Farmers Branch, and about this time, the first blacksmith shop established in the county was built, and it was presided over by 'Uncle Jordan,' a slave owned by the parson.

English Immigrants Come.

     "About this time, the settlement was recruited by the arrival of English immigrants, who were very acceptable, being well educated and god-fearing. J. J. Jackson, Lionell Simpson, William B. Rowe, Sims and William Kingwell and Mr. Ramshead, where in this settlement. Dr. Perry Daken, who came in April 1847, was the first physician. The Englishmen established themselves in the northern part of Dallas County and in the southern part of Denton County.
     "The first tannery was established by R. J. West, father of John West of Dallas. The materials used by him weren't easy to get, because of transportation difficulties and the activity of Indians, and so, the leather on hand was disposed of. As it was hardly tanned, but was rawhide, that particular settlement near Farmers Branch was called Rawhide for years.
     "The granting of land claims was done at Farmers Branch, and this place was the very nest egg of civilization in Dallas County. It was far more important and much better known at the time than Dallas.

Campmeeting in 1845.

     "The first campmeeting ever held in the county was in the fall of 1845, and was south of Cochran's Chapel, near the place were the Katy track now runs.
     "In the latter part of 1850, Dallas began to grow, and in the course of time, it outstripped its neighbors, which at the outset, seemed to have the advantage over the little Trinity River village. I was postmaster of Dallas from 1885 to 1889, and in my last year, the total receipts amounted to $100,000.
     "Through the knowledge obtained in the memoirs of Isaac B. Webb, the first postmaster of Farmers Branch and the class leader of the Methodist society there, I am enabled to go into great detail."
Judge Cochran paused to exhibit a well-worn, yellowed page book---the diary of Isaac Webb.

Chains Horse by Leg.

     "I can tell you that the first horse ever seen in these parts, outside of the mustangs, was owned by Mr. Webb, who, knowing the inclination of the Indians to appropriate without asking leave, chained his horse by the hind leg to one of the stout logs of his cabin. That horse certainly stuck by that cabin.
     "It will be noticed that Mr. Webb always referred to his place of abode as a cabin, and not as residence or house. It was, in fact, a cabin, being built, like the others, of logs.
     "Following the settlement of Farmers Branch, Cedar Springs was settled by Messrs. Hughitt, Cole, Tilly, O. W. Knight and others with their families. In 1845 and 1846, Lancaster was settled with the Rawlins, Bledsoe, Lavender, Green, Perry, White, Gray and Weatherford families. Then Duck Creek, near Garland, was settled."

Form Historical Association.

     On the suggestion of "Uncle Buck" Hughes, a Cochran's Chapel Historical Association, whose purpose is to preserve the history of the church and to incidentally amass and preserve information relative to pioneers of Dallas County, was formed. With Rev. Hughes as chairman, the following committee was appointed to obtain this information for the association: S. J. Smith, Lizzie Cox, John D. Cochran, Epps G. Knight and John H. Cochran.
     Rev. Hughes told how the observance of a semi-centennial at Cochran's Chapel had been suggested to him by a visit to a Maury County (Tenn.) church, which celebrated its centennial anniversary.
     "The Bible," said he, "which had been preached from a hundred years ago, was read by me with difficulty. The s's were f's, and there were other peculiarities. When I went there, I intended preaching on the doctrines and discipline of the church, but I found the graves in the graveyard near by had greatly multiplied, and before me were none of those that I had known, though their sons and daughters were there, and I changed my program and preached from the text, 'I have been young, and now an old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.' They were a prosperous people, and there, as here, that text has its fulfillment.

Reason for Meeting.

     "I give this as the circumstances which led to this meeting. I realized then, as I do now, the importance and the necessity of preserving history. There, as here, the records are all gone, and we are simply left to traditions and the memories of the living. This is one of the great faults of the American people. The English can tell you their genealogy, and they know their ancestry for years back, while we can't tell who our grand-daddies were.
     "The only record I can find of importance in connection with this church, is the deed that points out the trustees. This is the first church built and dedicated to the services of Almighty God and deeded to the church permanently in Peters' Colony. I am determined to go back to the organization of Methodism in Dallas County as far as I can get the information, and trace as far as I am able up the building of Cochran's Chapel. The record shows the chapel to have been deeded in trust to the following nine trustees: W. H. Hughes, O. W. Knight, James A. Smith, George W. Record, F. A. Winn, M. F. Fortner, I. W. Webb, J. B. Bachman and John Howell. All are dead except myself.

Methodism in This County.

     "The first thing I propose to do is to discuss Methodism as I learned it in 1852. The beginning of Methodism was in 1844, when a little society of five was organized in Isaac B. Webb's cabin at Farmers Branch. Webb was postmaster and class leader of the little society, and the pastors who served the charge until the building of Cochran's Chapel were Joab Biggs, Andrew Cummings, W. K. Masters, Harvey Cummings, W. K. Masters, Harvey Cummings, William E. Bates, John Beverly and John W. Chalk.
     "I find that Farmers Branch is a very fortunate place at which to begin the history of Methodism in this county. Farmers Branch was better known a in the old States by a thousand times than Dallas was, and the first postoffice of the county was established there. Methodism was vigorous at Farmers Branch before it was organized elsewhere.

Calls for a Preacher.

     "In January, 1845, Isaac Webb, with a few scattered children in Israel, wrote his old friend, John W. P. McKenzie, in Red River County, and asked that a preacher be sent to minister unto the people of the Farmers Branch settlement. Responding to this request, Rev. Brown, the first itinerant Methodist preacher who ever visited this county, came. In the little Webb cabin, fourteen or fifteen feet square, the first Methodist church of the county was organized, the following being members: Isaac and Mary Webb, Nancy Cochran, Franklin Fortner and his wife.
     "Now, I want it understood that in speaking especially of Methodism, I would not disparage the work of other Christians. The Baptists and others have done a great work, but we are here and the occasion is to celebrate the origin and triumph of Methodism in this community.

Local Preacher's Efforts.

     "In 1846, Rev. James A. Smith, a local preacher, a man of God, a man of ability, a man of sweet spirit and earnest in his labors, joined in the efforts of the little church to establish permanently, a Christian community, and he probably did more than any other man to give us the best community in which it has been my privilege to live. Before Cochran Chapel was built, the little five-membered church organized in Webb's cabin thrived, and its membership was greatly multiplied, with the result that the church became too small. So, a second church was organized at Cedar Springs between the old Tom Williams place and where Johnson lived. They had a prosperous society at the new church, but they were apart from Webb's, and it was finally decided to unite and build a central church, and the site now occupied by this church was chosen, being middle way between the two.

Plane Lumber by Hand.

     "Lumber for the new church had to be brought by wagon from the pineries, more than a hundred miles distant, and it cost from $3 to $5 a hundred. Not only was the lumber high, but there was no planing mill in all this county, and the workmen had to plane it by hand. We had to go to the woods and use postoak sills. At great expense, an excellent church was built, 30x40 feet in extent, and it was dedicated by Brother McKenzie of McKenzie Institute, near Clarksville. I will never forget the sermon he preached on that occasion. He spoke of the tolerance that should be exercised by Christians and of the liberality that should be exercised by them. He condemned the vilifying of other denominations and the engaging in controversial arguments not conducive to the strengthening of the Christian spirit and not in harmony with the Christian religion.

Heads of Families.

     "As near as I can remember, those who were heads of families in this community fifty-two years ago, were I. Webb, W. M. Cochran, M. F. Fortner, John Pulliam, Rev. J. A. Smith, John Howell, Perry Winn, Homer C. Williams, Dr. S. H. Gilbert, the widow Moon, Mr. Shahan, S. Armstrong, R. J. West, Ed Hunter, Mrs. Frances Daniels, Rev. Jesse Daniels, Capt. W. C. McKamey, O. W. Knight, G. B. Knight, G. W. Record, Rev. John Bachman, Nathan Yeargan, Dr. Staton, J. Smith, Dave Lain, R. M. Cooke, Ned Wilburn, Rev. Anderson, Jack May, John Harvey, Mr. Bird, William Edmondson, J. M. Wright and Foster and Jefferson Dunaway. These have many descendants living, but all of these old pioneers are dead, save perhaps, Foster and Jeff Dunaway, one of whom lives in Collin County, and the other in Ellis County. They are gone, but they have indelibly left their impress in this county.
     "I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their seed begging bread. The prosperity of this community, and of the descendants of those I've name, speaks well of the godliness of their ancestry.

All Are Law Abiding.

     "I have no recollection of a single conviction for a felony of any of the offspring of these heads of families, who, when they came to this new country to bear the hardships and dangers of a new civilization, brought with them their Bibles and their religion. It is no little thing to say; there has been no conviction in fifty years for a felony in this community. I could point out neighborhoods where infidels settled and left their impress upon the rising generation, and you would find that the descendants of these infidels have been convicted of the blackest deeds in the list of crimes.
     "From the little handful at Webb's cabin, the church has grown until the conference statistics show membership of 6,324 in Dallas County, and a Sunday school enrollment of 5,551. We are not growing worse, as some people say."
     In the address that had been delivered by John H. Cochran, relations was made in detail, in the latter part of his delivery, regarding Methodist history. He enlivened his narrative with the relation of a little joke.

Mr. Cochran Tells Joke.

     "A young man had hair as white as mine is now, but not gray. He was 'sparking' a young lady, whom he soon afterward married. A revival at Webb's Chapel was in progress. The only means of lighting was with tallow candles. The night service was always given out to take place at early candle light, and members of the congregation were admonished to bring a sufficient supply of candles. Well, during this revival, the young man went to the mourners' bench. Brother Biggs, our preacher, seeing him, but not recognizing him as an old man, laid his hand on the young man's head and prayed aloud, 'O Lord, have mercy on this poor old gray-haired sinner!" This, of course, did not contribute much to the solemnity of the occasion.:
     Judge Cochran said that his mother, Nancy Jane Cochran (nee Hughes), was the only professor of religion among the early pioneers of Dallas County. In the latter part of 1843, M. F. Fortner came from Cain Hill, Ark., and he is declared to have been the second Methodist in the county. Then came Isaac Webb and wife, and they were the next Methodists to settle in the county.
     "In 1845," said Judge Cochran, "the Shooks, Jeff and Daniel, both of them Methodist preachers, visited the county. Jack Biggs, the first circuit rider, was here in 1845. In 1856, my mother donated four acres of land for the cemetery and church, known as Cochran's Chapel. Its membership in the earlier days was scattered from near Trinity Mills on the north to Cedar Springs on the south and from White rock on the east to the Trinity River on the west.
     Rev. O. S. Thomas, presiding elder of the Terrell district, told briefly of the erection during his pastorate in 1885, of a new church at the chapel to replace the first one, which had grown old and had become too small.

Rev. McKenzie's Career.

     Rev. J. W. P. McKenzie, with whom the Farmers Branch people communicated when they wanted a preacher, was a very highly respected pioneer, preacher and educator. He was sent as a missionary to the Indians, the Choctaw tribe of Indian Territory, and labored with this tribe three years. Mrs. M. E. Ragsdale, a daughter, at that time, a babe in arms, lives in Dallas at 366 Allen street, and is familiarly known as "Aunt Patsie." Troubled with hemorrhages, Rev. McKenzie was forced to retire from the active ministry, but established a chartered school known as McKenzie Institute, located near Clarksville.
     George H. Adams is now pastor of Cochran's Chapel, and he will probably be one of the speakers at the church today. The principal address is expected to be delivered by C. I. McWhorter of Greenville, a former pastor of the church.

- July 19, 1908, The Dallas Morning News, p. 1, col. 1; p. 2, col. 1-2.
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Cochran's Chapel Exercises Close with
Sunday Service and Forming
of Cemetery Association.

     To maintain and keep in good condition the burying ground at Cochran's Chapel, a cemetery association was formed yesterday afternoon. Fletcher Taylor of Bachman Dam was elected president, and Mrs. Kate Laws was elected secretary. At present, the cemetery is in excellent shape, having been recently cleaned.
     The two-day celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of Cochran's Chapel was concluded yesterday. A large number of pioneers and their descendants were present, and a bountiful dinner was served on the grounds. Rev. O. Thomas, presiding elder of the Terrell district of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, preached in the morning, and Rev. C. I. McWherter of Greenville, a former pastor of the church, preached in the afternoon.

- July 20, 1908, The Dallas Morning News, p. 12, col. 2.
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