The Earliest Days of Broadway

by Deborah Bigness

On Sunday morning, May 25, 1890, about twenty people gathered at George Singer’s store in Yellowhouse Canyon for what was the first recorded religious service in the yet-unorganized Lubbock County. This multi-denominational group was 60% of the entire population of the county recorded in the 1890 census a few weeks later.

George Singer, his wife, Rachel Underhill Singer, and their children became the first permanent residents of Lubbock County in 1883, when they moved west from the Quaker colony at Estacado to establish a store at Long Lake, now known as the Lubbock Lake Landmark. The area had been occupied for thousands of years by nomadic, indigenous people, and already was a well-known crossroads when the Singers took up residence there. Five years later after their first store burned, the Singers built a second store further down the canyon at a location about where North Loop 289 crosses it today. It was here that new arrivals and those already in the area met to hear the service conducted by H.M. (Hubbard Milton) Bandy that May morning.

Members of the Clark family had arrived from Thorp Spring, Texas, on Thursday before the service after a 14-day trip. W. S. (William Sanford) Clark, his wife Ida, their sons Sid and Add, his brother Albert, and cousin Zack Miller had made the trip by covered wagon. The Singer family, W. D. (William Dorsey) Crump, Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Cobb, and Dave and Bob Crump were among those who joined the Clarks and Bandy for the service that morning.

Bandy, also from Thorp Spring and married to Nancy Elizabeth Thorp, has been described in various sources as a Christian, Church of Christ, or Disciples of Christ preacher. On that Sunday morning in May, any and all of these descriptions were accurate. The differences of opinion and changes within the churches of what was known as the Stone-Campbell Movement would play a role in the lives of the churches in Lubbock – but that was still in the future. The importance of Thorp Spring was much more immediate.

Thorp Spring was home to AddRan College (now Texas Christian University). The co-educational school had moved there in 1873 from Fort Worth, forty miles to the northeast. Albert Clark who worshipped at Singer’s store had been a student at AddRan and over the next few years a large percentage, if not a majority, of settlers in Lubbock had educational, religious, or family ties to that community.

By October, Bandy had returned to Thorp Spring specifically to recruit members of the church to settle in Lubbock. Fourteen wagons carrying forty-one people, their furnishings, and fifteen head of stock arrived on November 12, 1890, more than doubling the number of residents in the county. Arriving with Bandy were his family, and the families of S. W. Smith, D. M. Alley, John Green, W. N. Green, George Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Hastings, and Mr. J.B. Lowry.

The Bandy caravan arrived in the midst of important changes. North Town, also known as Old Lubbock, was already established in the area of today’s Lubbock Country Club while South Town, also known as Monterey, was just north of today’s Jones AT&T Stadium. As the second group of settlers from Thorp Spring arrived, both settlements had an eye towards becoming the county seat, but knew that their chances for property were better together. Negotiations led to the selection of a third location, around today’s Lubbock County Courthouse and both fledgling towns moved their populations and buildings to that location in February 1891. One month later, an election was held to organize the county, officers were elected, and the new town of Lubbock was chosen as the county seat. W. S. Clark was among those elected and served as the county’s first Tax Assessor.

One of the first priorities for the new county was to build a courthouse. It was completed by summer. The courthouse was used for many purposes in these early days, including church services. The two-story Nicolett Hotel had been moved from North Town to the new town square and was the only other large building in town. By July 1891, the Christians met there every Sunday, the Society of Friends (Quakers) met every second Sunday, and the Baptists met there every first Sunday. Sharing of spaces for religious services was a common practice for years until individual churches were built over time.

Change was a constant in early Lubbock, as in any frontier town. By the time the courthouse was completed, Albert Clark had brought his wife to town, and the Clarks’ sister, Laura Naoma and her husband, P.F. Brown had joined the family in Lubbock. The Clarks’ parents, James and Vitura Edna Clark moved to town soon after and their widowed sister, Elizabeth Boyd, and her children arrived by 1908.

Within a few months of Lubbock’s relocation in 1891, S.W. Smith moved about 10 miles northeast to the Canyon community. His three married children and the W. S. Clarks also lived in that area. Primary church services for these members, with Smith preaching, also moved to the Canyon community, meeting first in homes, then in the new Canyon School. Other members continued to regularly meet at the courthouse in town, occasionally joined by those from Canyon and visiting them in return.

The Canyon congregation’s structure was formalized in 1896, with the selection of James Clark, W. G. Nairn, and J. A. Shackleford as elders and W. S. Clark and Jeff Wood as deacons. That same year, Smith moved again to assume a position as President of Lockney Christian College and P. F. Brown, a teacher by trade, temporarily assumed preaching duties. In 1898, Liff Sanders, visiting from his home in Lockney, preached his first sermon in Lubbock at the Nicolett Hotel. With the encouragement of local church members, he moved to Lubbock in 1899 and made it his home.

The Stone-Campbell Movement was born in Kentucky by the union of two Protestant reform movements, the “Christians” led by Barton W. Stone and the “Reformers” or “Disciples of Christ,” led by Alexander Campbell. From its beginning in 1832, the united movement was a religion that moved with the frontier. Its members were known as Christians or Disciples of Christ and its churches as Christian Churches or Churches of Christ. For decades, these terms were used interchangeably.

Following the Civil War, differences of opinion about Biblical interpretation and acceptable practices began to appear within the Stone-Campbell Movement causing schisms among churches, members, and sometimes, even families. By the final years of the 19th century, those rifts had reached the High Plains. There were two recognizable groups, known as the Conservatives and the Progressives, within the church in Plainview by 1897. There is nothing in the historical record to definitively indicate when members in Lubbock began to worship separately, although there are indications that it may have occurred over several years.

By 1901, much like two lines of a single family tree, members of the Movement in Lubbock had diverged. In July, Elder Lay, Pastor of the First Christian Church in Colorado City, traveled to Lubbock and formally organized a congregation that retained the name Disciples of Christ and is known today as the First Christian Church. It included County Judge W. D. Crump, who had been present for the service at Singer’s Store, future Judge John R. McGee, and Mr. and Mrs. John R. Jarrott among its charter members. The congregation known today as Broadway Church of Christ also re-organized in 1901 under the leadership of Liff Sanders with many of those from the Canyon School years in leadership positions.

Erecting church buildings in early Lubbock was a community effort and cause for celebration among all of its citizens. The Church of Christ built its first church building in 1906 at 603 Main Street. The Christian Church followed in 1908 with its building at 16th Street and Avenue J. While the two congregations grew and thrived, their members worked together as neighbors and friends to build a community, a town, and then a city.

Deborah Bigness
Lubbock Lake Landmark
Manager of Site Operations

This is an exert from a presentation Deborah was going to give earlier this year. Unfortunately, the pandemic interfered with the conference. Deborah is a member of First Christian Church, and she has done extensive research into the history of our common heritage in Lubbock County.

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