WAXAHACHIE — Remaining as a historical and spiritual backbone for the last 100 years, the Joshua Chapel AME Church is hosting a celebration to honor its heritage, members, and community.
The ceremony is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 29 at the church in Waxahachie.
“Typically what the church does on a Friday evening is that they have speakers who come into town and they open it up to the members of the Waxahachie Chautauqua,” began James Bell, Joshua Chapel’s parishioner and organizer of the event.
“And they came to us and wanted to see if we’d be willing to have that program and I said, ‘Yes, and we’d like to expand on that,’” he added. “So we’re celebrating the anniversary for the building itself, as well as honoring some special people.”
According to the church’s history, the ministry was first formed in 1866 in a farmhouse about 10 miles outside of Waxahachie, later making North Aiken Street its permanent residence in 1919.
The history also notes the tremendous growth and change Joshua Chapel has gone throughout the years while always maintaining its strong sense of historical value by being the only African Methodist Episcopal Church in Waxahachie.
“People don’t really know the history of Joshua Chapel,” Bell acknowledged. “I went down to the museum and talked to the curator down there looking for pictures for some of the businesses on the east side, and there’s basically nothing on it except for the school and the church building. “
“So there’s really not a whole lot of history that’s remembered or documented for the east side, so that’s why this event is very special,” he encouraged.
In partnership with the Waxahachie Chautauqua Preservation Society, the church’s 100-year celebration will also incorporate a special honoring of Carroll Davis, a patriarch of Waxahachie heritage.
“Waxahachie is home to the Joshua Chapel AME Church, and the congregation is one of the longest continuous congregations, but it also has an important place in history,” expressed Kirk Hunter, President of the Waxahachie Chautauqua Preservation Society.
“What we're going to do is we have a 96–year-old member, Carroll Davis, who has gone to Joshua Chapel all his life, and he knew all the members of the cornerstone of the church,” Bell explained. “So his memoirs are going to be presented in the program of the early members and the early church, and we’re going to honor him.”
“We're also going to honor him with a flag over the courthouse, and that will be presented as well,” he included.
Bell also notes that the program will also collect donations along with serving a spaghetti dinner to help support the “burning the mortgage for the church” in their next event scheduled for Oct. 22.
Though the celebration won't be limited to Friday night, it will also host guest speaker and founder of “Remember Black Dallas,” Dr. George Keaton, who will be teaching about the life and influence of William Sidney Pittman on Saturday.
“George Keaton will be in attendance on Friday, and he’ll be speaking later on Saturday during the Chautauqua event about William Sydney Pittman,” Bell articulated.
“The church was designed by William Sydney Pittman, the first black architect in Texas,” Hunter jumped in. “Pittman had designed several buildings in Dallas along with Joshua Chapel, and Dr. George Keaton will tell the story of Pittman and his accomplishments.”
As stated by the Texas State Historical Association, Pittman was the first practicing black architect in Texas, and during his 16-year practice in Dallas, he designed at least seven major projects in the city, as well as in Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Waxahachie.
His known structures included the Colored Carnegie Library of Houston, Allen Chapel AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church, United Brothers of Friendship Hall of San Antonio, Joshua Chapel AME Church, Grand Temple of the State Grand Lodge, Knights of Pythias, and the Saint James AME Church.
With an uninterrupted history of continual service, Bell and Hunter invite the community to celebrate the Joshua Chapel AME Church's legacy, as well as the people who have made it what it is today.
“I hope people learn about this history,” Bell encouraged. “And we hope to get as many people there as we can to celebrate with us.”
The Joshua Chapel AME Church’s Friday night program is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 29 from 7 p.m. - 8 p.m. The celebration will be held at Joshua Chapel AME Church on 110 North Aiken Street. The event is free, and donations are appreciated. To register, call (214)-228-4280.
To hear Dr. George Keaton speak on William Syndey Pittman on Saturday, Sept. 30, join The Waxahachie Chautauqua “Public Places” festival from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. in the Chautauqua Auditorium and Getzendaner Park on 400 South Grand Avenue. Admission is free. For more scheduling information, visit waxahachiechautauqua.org
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer