Remember When? by John Black
There was a time not too many years distance when almost every crossroads community had a Tabernacle that provided a place for worship for the various denominations. For those who have forgotten, the Tabernacle was nothing more than a roof on stilts and usually had no sides. At times a side wall might be provided but it was never more than about three feet high. This open sided structure was provided with benches or crudely constructed pews that were usually painted white. Quite often the Tabernacle in larger communities had a raised pulpit in the front on which stood a piano to furnish music for the congregation to to lead the singing.
The Tabernacles were mostly used in the summertime and the cool south breeze would often make the congregation more comfortable than they would have been had the services been held in the regular church buildings. When the nights were still and the services long it could sure get hot if the crowd was large. Fortunately, nearly everyone had a fan which had been conveniently provided by the local undertaking establishment. Fans were considered to be excellent advertising material for the funeral parlors and so they provided them free of charge. Not to be outdone, the snuff manufacturers prominently displayed on their fans pictures of grandma or grandpa contentedly sitting on a rocker on the front porch, keeping cool with the free fan. Naturally they increased their please by dipping their favorite brand of snuff.
The Honey Grove tabernacle hosted many a summer revival and countless souls were saved because of them. Our Tabernacle stood just one block west of the public square on Main Street. (This is rather ironic as records show that the first structure on this site was a saloon). The principal denominations of our community shared the use of the structure and took turns having summer "Revivals." The revivals lasted at least two weeks and at times went on longer. Services were held every night in the week and they were nearly always conducted by an out of town minister. In the old days most of the preachers delivered "hellfire and damnation" sermons that lasted for hours and on a quiet summer night their voices could be heard all over town. There certainly was no need for microphones in those days as a preacher without a strong voice was doomed to failure. If the congregation did not have room enough to get into a pew they could always sit in their wagons or cards on the grounds outside and have no trouble at all hearing the preacher, except when the babies in the crowd got restless and started crying in unison.
It was not at all unusual to see many converts to Christ at any given evening service and Baptisms were often done on the spot except in the case of "deepwaters" as they were affectionately called. The "deepwaters" believe in submersion only for Baptists and in the old days this posed something of a problem as our local churches did not have the proper facilities. In that event the Baptisms were usually done on a Saturday afternoon in a convenient pool or swimming hole. Honey Grove's Baptism pool when I was much younger was the "Yeager pool" just beyond the north end of Second street. Sometimes they used the pool at the "compress" but mostly the Yeager pool was the favorite.
In addition to the church buildings, Honey Grove also had a tabernacle that was used by various congregations. It stood one block west of the public square on Main Street. "The principal protestant denominations of Honey Grove shared the use of the structure, taking turns having summer revivals, which sometimes lasted two weeks or more. During a summer revival, services were held every night in the week and were nearly always conducted by an out-of-town evangelist." (John Black's Pictorial History)
An article in the June 28, 1907 Honey Grove Signal described the new tabernacle:
Honey Grove's splendid union tabernacle is now ready for use and the first regular service will be held Sunday night. Of this structure every person whose heart swells with pride at the mention of the name of his town or who feels an interest in the deepest and most abiding interest of his fellowmen must feel proud. There may be tabernacles as spacious and as well arranged elsewhere, but no town can justly boast of a better one. The seating capacity is about 1200, and so well has the committee performed its work that every seat is a good one. A fine grand piano, the largest and one of the best instruments ever placed in the county, was put in this week and when to-morrow's sun quits our western shores to light up the path of the heathen Chinee, everything will be in readiness for the dedicatory service. The Rev. L. S. Barton, who touched the much-needed structure into, will preach the sermon, and we can say even this far in advance that there will not be a vacant seat.
The following program for the dedicatory exercises was handed us for publication:
Services will begin promptly at 8:15 p.m. Everybody cordially invited to be present.