The Baptizings
by Myrtle Estes

from A History of Coleman County and Its People, 1985
edited by Judia and Ralph Terry, and Vena Bob Gates - used by permission
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We went to church when I was young at the Harper school house.  About the time I was eleven, we started going to the Church of Christ in Rockwood.  In those days our summer revival was held in a large tabernacle in the middle of Rockwood.  Large crowds did lots of singing.  The preacher would preach for at least one hour and maybe longer.  Babies would sleep on quilts on the floor.  Our lamps were coal oil burners hanging on posts inside the tabernacle.  The things smoked terrible, but that didnít stop the preaching or the singing.  In about 1916, we got gasoline lanterns; then in the 1920ís, gaslight.  Then in the 1930ís, the electric light.  About 1910, we went in wagons, leaving home before sundown and back home about midnight.  Another rough ride.  But everyone got religion.  Those meetings would go on maybe for six weeks during the summer.  It would be Methodist, Baptist, and Church of Christ.  We were glad to go.  That would be about the only gathering in the summer.  People would come as far away as ten miles to the revivals.  When they came to an end, there was always a large number of people to be baptized in the Colorado River.

I was just a teenager when I first remember the crowd and all the baptizing in the river.  Everyone would go to the river in their Model T cars.  The ones to be baptized were dressed for the occasion.  We always sang religious songs.  The most popular was ďOh Happy Day.Ē  Sometimes it was sung over and over.  The weather was hot.  Some women wore large hats.  The older women wore sun bonnets.  Lots of people had umbrellas and a few times during the baptizing a whirlwind would come along.  The women would grab their hats, but while they were trying to hold their hats, the wind would be turning their umbrellas wrong side out.  No one laughed.  The preacherís voice would be heard echoing down the river for a half mile.  I always feared the people wouldnít come up out of the water safe.

Some of the younger men would go across the river and sit on tree limbs so they would have a better view.  When the women came out of the river, they would go to the bushes to put on dry clothes.  Some older women would follow so they could all form a circle with their full skirts so no one could see the younger ones dressing.  And I can tell you, no one came from behind the bushes not fully dressed.  When it was over, everyone would get into their cars and a few buggies.  When those old cars were cranked up, I never heard such a clattering and splashing because we had to go back across the river.  The men shot the gas to those old cars.  The women and kids held on for sure.  They stayed with their hats.  We had two steep banks to get up.  All the sputtering and pushing took place.  If one didnít give it a lot of gas, the car would go backward.  Some times the old ladies and kids got out and helped to push the car up the hill.

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Baptizings in Coleman County

Baptizing at Santa Anna, in a stock tank at the end of the west mountain - 1907
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An early day baptizing in the Colorado River near Rockwood - 1920
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This page updated January 23, 2006
 
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