Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I have a book due at the end of this month and the last few weeks heading toward a deadline are always pretty intense for me. So I hope you will forgive me for pulling out an old post and dusting it off to share once again. This one appeared during my first year as a filly, 2009. Wow, hard to believe I’ve been part of this fabulous fun group for 11 years now!! Time really does pass fast when you’re having fun 🙂
‘Saving’ The West
I came across an article when researching circuit preachers for a minor story thread in one of my books. The article covered a unique tool utilized by missionaries who were attempting to do their own brand of ‘taming the west’ – namely Chapel Cars.
These were railroad cars that were modified to serve as traveling churches. They rode the rails from town to town, shifting over to sidings for as long as they were needed, then continuing on to the next stop. They included modest living quarters for the missionary and, if he had one, his wife. The rest of the space was utilized for the church itself.
Most western movies and tales glorify the gun-toting lawman or vigilante, portraying them as the tamers of the wild and woolly west. In actuality, the peace-minded missionaries who rode the rails played a larger, more influential part in bringing peace to the lawless west than any of their more aggressive counterparts. They traveled in their mobile churches to remote areas of the country, bringing spiritual direction and a civilizing influence to people who were starved for something to offset the violence and loneliness of their existence.
These Chapel Cars traveled throughout the west and mid-west – including North Dakota, Nevada, Minnesota, California, Louisiana, Texas, Oregon and Colorado. They stopped at mining towns and logging camps, tent cities and newly established towns, bringing their gospel message and the reminder of civilization to people who had seen neither for a long time – if ever.
And, given the unfettered existence of those in the camps and towns, their appearance was surprisingly well received more often than not – especially by the ladies of the area. The arrival of these Chapel Cars signaled not only the chance to attend Sunday services, but brought with them someone to perform weddings, funerals, baptisms and also a welcome excuse for social gatherings. In addition, many a rough and tough cowboy who would have balked at attending a traditional church, seemed to feel differently about these side rail services. In fact, the very novelty of the Chapel Car brought folks from miles around just to have a look.
Of course, they didn’t always receive a warm welcome. There are recorded instances of the Chapel Cars being pelted with eggs and refuse, defaced with graffiti and even set on fire. But these were rare instances and the cars and their custodians survived to continue their mission.
These repurposed rail cars were furnished with pews, a lectern, an altar table and in some cases an organ. Depending on the construction, they could seat over 70 people inside. The Chapel Car was a multipurpose unit, serving as a home, church, Sunday School, social hall, library and meeting place. They carried bibles and tracts which were distributed all along the lines. The missionary and his wife, in addition to their usual ministerial duties, were expected to function as singer, musician, janitor and cook. They helped organize permanent churches, including raising the necessary funds and helping to construct the buildings.
There are records to support the existence of eleven Chapel Cars in all, though there is some evidence there may have been as many as seventeen. Of the eleven known cars, three were utilized by Catholics, seven by Baptists and one by the Episcopalians.
Chapel cars remained in use throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With the advent of World War I, however, the railroad tracks had to be kept clear for troop movement. In addition, new regulations prohibited the railroad companies from giving ‘free rides’ to the Chapel Cars, something that had been common practice up until that time. And as paved roads and the automobile became more prevalent it became easier for folks to travel longer distances on their own to attend church. Thus, the Chapel Cars that had brought their spiritual message and civilizing influence to the rough and tumble west faded into history.
So, where’s the most memorable place you’ve attended a church service?
And on the good news front, Love Inspired is re-releasing one of my previous titles this month in a 2-in-1 volume with former Filly Cheryl St.John. Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a signed copy.
SECOND CHANCE FAMILY
Mitch Hammond is a man of his word. And as far as Cora Beth Collins is concerned, that’s a problem. The stubborn sheriff has vowed never to love again, for fear of wounding someone else. The most he can offer Cora Beth is marriage in name only. And with no other way to adopt two runaway orphans and keep her patchwork family together, she accepts.
Mitch is doing the honorable thing. So why does it feel so wrong? Despite his intentions, Mitch is starting to want more from Cora Beth…and from himself. For in her trusting eyes he sees everything he hopes to be—as a lawman, a father and a husband.