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Frances Hairston: A perfect day in the Prairie


Frances Hairston

Frances Hairston



Frances Hairston



October is my favorite month, especially when it was as beautiful as the one just past. Lovely days. A recent Saturday was one of those perfect days, a perfect day for taking pictures and for painting outside. 


Kevin Voller and I had talked about choosing a morning to just go out and paint. Well, a recent Saturday was the morning, so the two of us along with Debbie Alexander met at Prairie Point Chevron and in three separate cars headed for Shaeffer's Chapel Road. Driving on the back roads, we stopped to take pictures of a cotton field, catfish ponds with the white egrets poised on the banks waiting for a fish, and beautiful fluffy clouds. Two women and then a deputy sheriff stopped to ask if we needed help. Further down the road, we took pictures of a creek meandering under a narrow bridge. 


Having taken enough pictures, we returned to Shaeffer's Chapel, parked and pulled out our easels. Margaret Triplett, a church member, was there painting trim. Soon Margaret climbed down from her ladder and began pulling weeds. Margaret is the groundskeeper at the church, and what a great job she does. The grounds are beautifully kept. It is such a peaceful place, but suddenly the quiet was interrupted by the arrival of Steve Gordon and two helpers. 


Gordon is a local gospel vocalist. He picked this same Saturday to do a video in front of the church for a new CD. While we painted and Margaret weeded, we were treated to a concert by Steve. 


Years ago I did the flowers for a wedding in this church, but I had forgotten how quaint and lovely the sanctuary is. We took pictures inside of the church with the afternoon sun softly streaming through the stained glass windows and falling across the old pews where people in the Prairie have sat and worshiped for the past 126 years. 


Shaeffer's Chapel shares a link with Crawford Methodist Church. George Shaeffer was the circuit preacher for both churches and preached many sermons at Crawford. In the early 80s I had the ambitious idea to write the history of the Crawford Methodist Church. When I began interviewing older members, I soon realized the church records were missing, 150 years worth of them. 


Baptisms, deaths, ministers, Sunday school superintendents, and the quarterly conference minutes for each meeting had been recorded in a large book. Someone broke into the parsonage at Crawford and stole all of the antiques. Among them was a hall tree. You guessed it. The record book was kept in the hall tree. (A hall tree is a combination coat rack, storage cabinet.) Valuable information was gone and most likely thrown away. I am sure the thief had no idea, nor did he care what a loss it was for the church. 


Well, the Looneys, Olin, B. L. and their sister, Sarah, heard of my plight from a cousin, Sarah Frances Cox Husband. They had been active members of Shaeffer's Chapel. They offered to make copies of all of Shaeffer's Chapel records. Since Crawford and Shaeffer's Chapel were on the same circuit, they shared the same records. What a relief. Everything was right there. I was able to write the history using those records.  


A bit of history: The Crawford church first began in 1847 as Prairie Hill Methodist Church at Penn Station in 1847. The church moved to Crawford in the 1850s and became Crawford Methodist Church. Shaeffer was the Presiding Elder at the Quarterly Conference held in Crawford in 1852. 


For four years, there was no Quarterly Conference meeting because many of the men and even the minister were off fighting in the Civil War with the Prairie Guards. Many of the parishioners were either ill or some had died including the minister's wife due to the Spanish Flu of 1918. All this was exciting information for a historian. 


Debbie, Kevin, and I reached a stopping point with our paintings. Hunger had overwhelmed our artistic impulses. Though we were all painting the church, each canvas was different. One was watercolor, one was acrylic, and one was an architectural rendering. It had been a spectacular day. We had taken pictures, painted, met a new friend, treated to a concert and relived memories.



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