by: Reyna Revelle
HENDERSON, Texas (KETK) — Pine grove Cumberland Presbyterian Church has a history that dates back to 1850, and East Texans are asking the community for help in preserving the church buildings and its cemetery.
The church is located off of County Road 364 in Rusk County and has been standing on its current property since 18962 and pronounced as a historical landmark since 1966. It is used only for special gatherings.
“People moved away to start other churches and they haven’t had church in this building as far as an actual worship service since 1904,” said Vice Chairman of East Texas Sacred Harp Convention, Robert Vaughn. With no current congregation established for the church, caretakers like Robert Vaughn are working to keep the historical landmark alive. The lack of funds has impeded the necessary work and attention it needs.
“We are hoping to raise some money to make it much nicer and level it up and fix some of the rotten places and it probably needs some work on the roof,” said Vaughn. Though, the cemetery is in consistent need of upkeep with veterans and ancestors who have passed dating back to the mid-1800s.
“Mowing, weed-eating, and we try to keep all the trash picked up, fence repaired, and even the tables we eat at- we have to repair those,” said Old Pine Grove Treasurer, Melinda Rice.
Elements of nature and time have caused the structure to suffer from broken shutters and woods floors needing repair. Though it doesn’t stop people from gathering on the grounds. In April, they will be hosting The Pine Grove Cemetery Annual Homecoming and The Rusk Country Singing Convention.
“On our annual picnic in April, people usually come out on Saturday and put out fresh flowers and then they come back on Sunday to hear the singing and we all get to visit and have a really good meal,” said Rice.
Pine Grove has a long-standing history with Sacred Harp Singing and the songbook used in their church services is still in use today. Vaughn said in his side of the family, he’s connected to Pine Grove through singing.
“It’s an old tradition- sacred harp singing. It’s acapella without the use of any musical instruments. This is something that goes back to a lot of our families in East Texas and it’s spread all across the country now.” All in hopes of saving the beautiful East Texas historical gem.
If you are interested in helping save the Old Pine Grove Church, anyone is welcome to attend the Annual Homecoming picnic which takes place the fourth weekend of April. Donations through their GoFundMe page are also welcome.