The Liberty County Historical Commission recently dedicated a special Sesquicentennial Commemorative marker honoring Rural Shade Baptist Church of Tarkington to mark their 150th anniversary. The sesquicentennial marker is in addition to the Texas Historical Commission marker that has been in place since 1996.
The church was founded in 1870 by at least 14 members of the Tarkington Prairie community. The historical marker explains the rest of its history:
Land was deeded in 1878 for a combination Baptist church and Masonic Hall structure. That year a two-story building was erected, with the second floor housing the Masonic Lodge and the church on the first floor. Many early church members were also active in the Lodge. D. D. Forman was a master Mason and the first church pastor from 1874 to 1876 and again in 1882.
In the early years pastors were elected from the congregation members. Worship services were held once or twice a month, usually on Saturdays. “Meeting of Days,” later called revivals, were held at the church building.
In 1908, the Ryan Cemetery was deeded to the Rural Shade Baptist Church by Washington Berry. Located five miles south, the church held ownership to the land until 1989, when it was transferred to the Ryan Cemetery Association.
Since its founding, the congregation has continuously supported a variety of Christian programs for its members, as well as outreach mission work in domestic and foreign fields.
The church is planning a special service of celebration on Sunday, Oct. 31, to recognize its long history in the community. The pastor is Rev. Brad Dancer. Rural Shade Baptist Church is located on CR 2774, just off SH 321 in Tarkington.