History of Casa Grande church of Christ

Our Preachers

During the 1930s, we met at 4th & Florence St. in a TENT.
1936, when Prettyman’s Market was built on the lot, we met in his STORE

Met at Central School
  • 1936                Bill Price
  • 1937                Adrian Hon
  • 1938                Dupert Waller
  • 1938                Adrian Hon
  • 1943                Woodrow Wilson
  • 1943                Adrian Hon
  • 1944                Odes Forshey
Met at New Bldg, 400 E. 3rd at Dry Lake St.
  • 1945                Gray Carter
  • 1946                E. S Lambert
  • 1946                Wayne Lowe
  • 1949                Urie Poisall
  • 1950                E.D. Hammons
  • 1951                Olen Holderby
  • 1953                Lloyd Rice
  • 1954                Preson Winchell
  • 1958                Frank Whisler & Glenn Merrit
  • 1959                Kenneth Engel
  • 1964                Cleon Crosby
  • 1969                Weldon Paxton
  • 1970                Preston Winchell
  • 1971                Don Bunnell
  • 1980                Elvin Upton
  • 1981                Jack Farber (Youth Dir)
  • 1982                Keith Cain
Met at New Bldg, 805 E. Racine Place
  • 1987                James Dubose
  • 1991                Allen Daves
  • 1992                Keith Cartwright
  • 1997                Alan Hicks (Youth Dir)
  • 1998                Earnest Underwood
  • 2000                Matthew Pitrucha
  • 2002                Stewart Gillispie
  • 2005                Ray Kesler
  • 2007                Rio Evans, Ross Turner, Jerry Odom, Pat Curo
  • 2009                Lester Bagley

PHOENIX BEFORE IT WAS PHOENIX

CHURCH OF CHRIST 1877

The Cartwright family left Illinois in 1869 and slowly made their way across the dangerous frontier to the Sacramento Valley in California. One of the brothers, John, was a minister of the Gospel, supporting his family as a wheelwright and blacksmith. Wherever John Cartwright went, the New Testament Church without any frills was preached and established.

In 1874, one of the brothers, Jasper Reddick “Red” Cartwright (pictured with his wife), saw government advertising for warmer forested northern Arizona. He hired an extra hand and had a cattle drive to the new land. But the trip crossing rivers, mountains, valleys, and desert was so hard, they had to sell their barely surviving cattle. Their faith in God’s protection kept them going. They arrived in Phoenix in 1877. It had 50 families ~ about 250 people ~ living in adobe shacks with brush roofs.

Reddick Cartwright built an adobe house near what is today 19th Avenue and Thomas Road. By 1880, he had eleven children. He converted some of his neighbors and gradually their congregation of the Church of Christ of one family grew to several families.[i] A few years later, he homesteaded another 160 acres in the area of today’s 51st Avenue and Thomas Road. Eventually Red Cartwright owned a 6500-acre cattle ranch northwest of there.[ii]

In 1884, the Cartwrights donated land on which to build a school house. Then the Church of Christ met at Cartwright School on Sundays. Baptizing was done in a nearby irrigation ditch or a neighbor’s big fish pond. In 1906, the Cartwrights and neighbors put up a church building on their cattle range in today’s Glendale, a suburb of today’s Phoenix.  Jasper’s son, Elmer, who taught the Bible to his family every evening, drove the first nail in their first building.[iii] Elmer was the grandfather-in-law of our first full-time preacher, Adrian Hon.

Our Congregation in 1917

Our congregation began with three families. Two of them, the Larison brothers married to the Sharp sisters, were in Phoenix as of 1911. The Darters were in Gilbert as of 1915. Both were located in Maricopa County near Pinal County. Casa Grande is in Pinal County.

Both the Sharps and Darters came from very strong Christian families who were at the heart of the Restoration Movement in America, both families having become part of that movement in the late 1700s and early 1800s in Tennessee.

The Larison-Sharp families moved to Casa Grande in 1917. Alan Larison opened a tire vulcanizing business here the first of January 1918. His brother, Frank Larison, began a tractor sales business here. Both had to have time to settle their families here, scout around for a lot and building in which to start their businesses, bring in supplies, equipment and stock, and get set up the year before, in 1917. Who were they? Names and ages are from the 1920 census of Pinal County:

In the mean time, the Darters had arrived in Gilbert, in the far eastern part of Maricopa County, in 1915.  Being faithful members of the church who would never dream of missing the weekly “gathering around the Lord’s Table” (communion), they probably attended worship with the Cartwrights who had established the Church of Christ in Phoenix in 1877. By now, that congregation had built a building in the northwest outskirts of Phoenix. But, being the closest congregation, the Darters would have made the weekly journey. It was there that the two Larison families, still living in Phoenix at the time, met the Darters.

Gilbert is at the far east edge of Maricopa county close to Pinal County. When the Larisons moved to Casa Grande, it would have been just as far for the Darters to begin worshiping in Casa Grande as it had been to travel to north-western Phoenix. It is common knowledge among today’s members of our congregation who knew Mae Darter for so long, that she and her family helped start our congregation. Who was in this family in 1917?

And so, our congregation began with six adults and seven children in 1917

Our Congregation in 1918

The Griffiths arrived in 1918 from Texas. They settled in Gilbert, the same place the Darters lived in. They could have attended the Glendale congregation in the far northwest outskirts of Phoenix, but it was just as close to meet with Christians in Casa Grande. We know they established their ties in Casa Grande because they later moved into our town, and eventually Glen became one of our elders.

The Griffiths and Darters lived fairly close to each other. In the 1920 census, the Darters were listed on page 11, and the Griffiths on page 12.  Did the Griffiths and Darters know about each other before Arizona? Guy Darter had been raised in Tarrant County, TX, where Fort Worth is and where the church was strong. Many Darters still lived there. The Griffiths lived one county away in Ellis County.  The Griffiths may have heard about opportunities in Arizona from nearby congregations in Texas.

How many Griffiths were there when they arrived? Again, names and ages are found in the 1920 census:

So now, our young congregation had 21 members ~ 8 adults and 13 children.

The Griffiths with their large family probably drove two wagons in to Casa Grande, and the Darters a third wagon. The four families probably had “dinner on the ground” each Sunday as so many congregations did in those days.

We do not know of any other additions to our congregation this year. There may very well have been, but we have not been able to locate any others.

The congregation must have solidified further this year as the four families grew closer and prayed for “workers for the field that is white unto harvest” as was commonly prayed in those years. Next year, yet another family will come ~ another family that will remain with us for decades, just like the Darters and Griffiths will.

Our Congregation in 1919

This is the year the Preuits arrived. Over and over we have attracted great soldiers of the Lord. The Preuits, too, had come from a family at the heart of the Restoration Movement. Whereas the others had been involved in Tennessee and then Texas, the Preuits were involved in Alabama, and then Texas.

There were two generations of Preuits who came.  The eldest, Talbert Fannin Preuit was 76 and his wife, 69. They settled in Buckeye, where they lived with their daughter’s family. Buckeye is on the western outskirts of Phoenix south of Goodyear. His daughter’s family is likely to have attended the congregation in Glendale about 30 miles away, which was an old, well-established congregation, already 42 years old.

However, because of his family’s experiences with new congregations in Alabama, Talbert might have travelled the extra twenty miles to worship with his son in Casa Grande and to encourage our new congregation. Surely he came to see his son and family and worshiped with us at least part of the time.

The second generation was John Tolbert Preuit. He homesteaded in the Casa Grande Valley near town. These parents and their son’s family consisted of these individuals, again with names and ages taken from the 1920 census:

So now we had the Allen Larison family of 6, the Frank Larison family of 4, the Darter family of 3, the Griffith family of 8, and two Preuit families of 6. We now had a membership of 27, just two years after our founding.

What a spirit of kinship must have permeated these earliest families, all coming from strong Christian families themselves, and not saying, “Well, no one knows me here and the church isn’t very big, so we don’t think we want to be part of the church here.” Instead, they rose up and were counted. They were the foundation of the congregation we have today.

Of course, there may have been more. We relied a great deal on the newspaper, to find members, and some families never “made the news”.  Still, we have found many who definitely were members of our congregation. In fact, in the following year, we will nearly double.

Our Congregation in 1920

The patriarch and matriarch of the Sharp family, Dulcie and Mary Larison’s parents, arrived. Their father, Glassville, was 70 years old, as was their mother, Elizabeth. They had been living in Cochise County, AZ, since 1912.

The Sharps brought with them their married son, Benjamin Sharp, and his family; their married daughter, Owen VanWinkle, and her family; and their adult son, James Sharp, who had been married but may now have been widowed. Now we had the following members

 

The Sharps’ daughter, Owen VanWinkle, and her family, lived in Goodyear, Maricopa County, which was about 25 miles north of Gila Bend, just northwest of Casa Grande. So we believe they united with our congregation then. Robert was a clerk for a large cotton farm. James sometimes lived with his parents, sometimes his brother, and sometimes one of his sisters.

 

However, they had another daughter, Clara Gibson, who lived in the heart of Phoenix where her husband worked as an electrician for the Phoenix Electric Company.  They probably attend the Glendale congregation founded by the Cartwrights and located on the northwest outskirts of Phoenix.

So, the senior Sharps were 2, James was 1, the younger Sharp family 5, and the VanWinkles 3, totaling 11 more members.

The McNatts came this year we think. They may have come earlier since their grown sons were already established in Casa Grande. Pierce McNatt’s father, Carr McNatt, was born in Lincoln County, TN, in the 1820s where the Restoration Movement was strong. When they moved to Missouri and later to Arkansas, they were members of congregations there.

Also this year, the Griffiths’ oldest daughter, Oma, married Earl Tindale. The Darters and Griffiths both had new baby girls

Adding these 16 to the previous 27 members, and we now had 43 members in our Casa Grande Church of Christ. We were three years old.

Our Congregation in 1921

We lost most of the Griffiths late last year. One of their daughters died in a terrible accident, and the family went back to Texas. They were gone eight years. However, their daughter, Oma Griffith Tindall stayed here. The Tindalls were established in the Casa Grande Valley, having been here since 1918.

When Robert Jefferson Tindall, Oma Griffith’s father-in-law, passed away 24 years later, his obituary said he was a member of the Church of Christ. When his wife, Mattie, passed away four years after that, she was a member of a denomination. Perhaps she changed after her husband passed away. We do not know when they were converted. We can guess it was about the same time that the Griffiths converted Oma’s new husband, Earl Tindall. The senior Tindalls had children, but since we are guessing when their conversion occurred, we will not include the children in our count.

The Fritzingers came to us in 1921. What grand people! Everyone always liked them. They arrived with two teenagers ~ Edna and Merle. They and their children were:

Fritz grew up in Republic County, KS, and apparently belonged to the Christian Church (which at that time was often identical except in name to the Church of Christ) that had existed there since the mid-1870s. In 1891, the Church of Christ was organized there, possibly due to a split over the use of instrumental music.

Esther’s family had come to Kansas from Daviess County, MO. The Church of Christ was organized there in 1856. The Old Scotland Church of Christ still exists today. So Esther Smith Fritzinger came from a strong Christian background.

Allen and Dulcie Sharp Larison had a new baby boy this year.

Although the Griffiths with their family of 8 returned to Texas late last year, reducing us from 43 to 35, we had three additions:  The senior Tindalls (2), the Fritzingers (4), and the Larison baby (1). So we ended this year with 42 members of our still-young congregation of the Casa Grande Church of Christ.

Our Congregation in 1922

The early history of our congregation has been lost. We have reconstructed what we could by tracing individual members. After all, that is what the church is: The People.

This year, Benjamin Sharp and his family of five left and went to Tombstone, Cochise County, AZ, where he thought the city had a better chance than Casa Grande of growing. Besides, Cochise County is where the Sharp family had lived since their arrival from Texas in 1907. He still had a brother and sister living there in Douglas near Tombstone.

Life was hard out here in the desert with a town only a couple of blocks long on three streets. But, most people who left, came back. Benjamin would too. He and his family stayed gone eight years until they heard Coolidge Dam was being constructed.

In 1922, Edna Fritzinger married young Mr. Curry. They became an active couple in our congregation.

So, this year, we lost five and gained one. Our membership went down to 38.

Our Congregation in 1923

Our sweet Viola McNatt passed away this year back in Texas where she and Pierce always spent the summer. Her obituary said she was “beautiful and greatly beloved.”

Otherwise, our congregation remained pretty much the same. We encouraged each other, worshiped together, survived “the wilderness” together, and built life-long friendships with each other that would some day be extended into eternity.

Our Congregation in 1924

We gained a new young couple this year. Once married, their family would be like the Preuits and Fritzingers: they would stay through thick and thin, good seasons and drought, cool and unbelievable heat.

Ormall’s family was denominational and lived on the western outskirts of Casa Grande.

The family of his future wife, Laura McCormack, arrived in Phoenix from Terrant County, TX, in 1922.  Laura was born and raised primarily in the part of Austin, Texas, that is in Hays County. The first congregation of the Church of Christ there was established in 1853. Laura’s oldest brother, Charlie McCormack, led singing there. Laura’s family was strong in the Lord.

When the McCormacks came to Phoenix, Laura’s parents were 57 and 49. They had nine children with them, including Laura’s two older brothers Rudolph 21 and John 19. Laura was the oldest daughter at 18.

Though she was living in Phoenix and he in the Casa Grande area, somehow Ormall and Laura met. We know that Ormall became a member of the church, so apparently Laura’s strong Christian father or older brothers converted him.

Ormall’s and Laura’s first child, Leatrice, was born in 1928, the next child seven years later, and the last one four years later. Therefore, we have estimated that they married around 1925.

In order to encourage Ormall, Laura may have decided to come to Casa Grande and worship with him here while they dated. They probably dated around 1924. Of course, back then, young people didn’t date. The young man got permission to “call on” his sweetheart. Sometimes he was called a “gentleman caller.”

Thus, our membership increased by two probably around 1924, going from 38 the previous year to 40 this year. Our congregation was seven years old.

Our Congregation in 1925

This year was hard. We lost another family. This time it was one of our founders ~ Guy and Mae Darter and their two little children. They would be gone four years.

There was always talk of a dam going in, but it hadn’t happened yet. Many were beginning to give up and move on.

The Benders probably married this year.

We did gain one “member” ~ The Currys’ new baby girl:

We were now down to 37 members, with the 4 Darters gone and the new Curry baby born. We were the lowest we’d been in five years.  But we prayed for rain and for the dam to be built. We knew then our old friends would be back. All we had to do is “keep on keeping on” until their return. Maybe even more new people would come.

Next year, the wonderful immigration will begin and last ten years.

Our Congregation in 1926

Merle Fritzinger got married this year to Grace Cupp and settled down here in Casa Grand.

A family from Arizona joined us this year ~ the Tacketts from Pope County in northern Arkansas. The Restoration Movement had begun in Arkansas in 1836 and was concentrated in the northern part of the state for many years. Pope County is in that northern part. The Tackets will become beloved members of our congregation. Further, the Sanders with whom the Tacketts intermarried, will come here in three years from a county next to Pope; the Sanders were very strong Christians.

The Lee Tackett family was the first of the clan to come here from Arkansas. He and Mary had four children. One of them, Burl, will grow up and become one of our deacons.

William Pierce McNatt passed away this year. People around Casa Grande had called him Grampa McNatt.

We began the year with 37 members, lost 1, gained 1 in marriage, and 6 came to us from Arkansas. So we ended the year with 43 members. From now on, as completion of the Dam grew closer, and as it became a ready source of water for farmers and cattlemen, more and more moved here.

Most of the time, often because of obituaries, we could tell which ones were part of the Restoration Movement when they came here. But we could not always tell. Regardless, we began once more to grow.

Our Congregation in 1927

This year was our tenth anniversary.

Margaret McGee German came to us this year from Oklahoma. By the time she arrived, her two oldest sons ~ Marvin and Russell~ had gone out on their own. But she still had five children to raise alone.

She had lived in Pushmataha County, OK, since 1920. The Church of Christ was strong there. There were congregations in at least three towns in the county by the early 1900s.

Her family was originally from Lamar and Fayette Counties in northern Alabama. The church was well established all over these two counties by the middle 1830s.  Margaret’s family moved to Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory when Margaret was six years old. Margaret’s family may have helped bring the church to that part of Oklahoma.

We know Margaret was a strong Christian, for in 1942, she, along with a few other families, will begin a congregation of the Body of Christ in Coolidge, a few miles north of Casa Grande.

The Currys left to go into business elsewhere.

We began the year with 43 members, and lost a family of 3. The German family was an added 6, so we ended the year with 46 members in our Casa Grande Church of Christ.

We were just coming out of the three-year drought. Things will be better now.

Our Congregation in 1928

Herman Ambler never married, but had a very interesting background. The Amblers came here in 1912. His father was a much-in-demand mining engineer.

We believe it was around 1928 that Herman Ambler was converted. This is the year his father passed away. His family had identified with a Friends Church here in 1915. Quakers believed in the priesthood of all believers, opposed alcohol, and believed in the sole authority of the Bible. Although, in many places, the Society of Friends did not believe in the Lord’s Supper and baptism, the Friends Church Southwest approved of and encouraged both.

Because of the closeness of their beliefs to New Testament Christianity, we do not know if any of the Amblers became part of our congregation other than Herman. Maybe they all did. The only one we have verification of is Herman.

The Benders had their first child this year ~ Leatrice. We did and still do love the little children.

Ella Wilson came here from Texas with her two grown sons who she had raised almost completely by herself since her widowhood only three years after her marriage.

Ella’s mother’s side of the family ~ the Grubbs ~ were pillars of the Church of Christ in Coryell County, TX, where Ella was born.

We began this year with 46 members. Add to that Herman Ambler (1), baby Leatrice Bender, (1), and the 3 Wilsons, and we ended this year with 51 members of our congregation of the Casa Grande Church of Christ.

Our Congregation in 1929

We nearly doubled in size this year. First, our beloved co-founders, the Darters, returned from New Mexico. They had two more additions to their family.

But spinal meningitis was going around, Guy caught it, and passed away.

Another family that returned was the Ben Sharps from Tombstone.

The Griffiths came back too ~ from Texas. They had another addition to their family also, born in New Mexico on their way back to Texas eight years earlier. What a grand reunion we all had!

Leola married and stayed behind in Texas.  Son Irving brought his new bride.

The senior Talbert Fannin Preuits went back to Oklahoma.

Dan Shelton and family arrived from Missouri. They were living in Liberty, south of Buckeye, and a few years later moved into Casa Grande. We were blessed.

The Wise family came from Arkansas. Elva was a Sanders, the first of many Sanders to come our way in the next few years ~ a strong Christian family.

We began the year with 51 members. We had 25 additions and 3 losses. Now our congregation of the Casa Grande Church of Christ had 73 members.

Our Congregation in 1930

Another of the Sharp clan joined us from Phoenix ~ Glassville and Elizabeth’s daughter, Clara Gibson.

Olita Griffith met Jack Morrison last year and married him this year.

Another death of another baby wrenched our hearts. It was little Evelyn Wise. But Elva Sanders Wise and her husband were brave. Instead of going back to Arkansas, they stayed. In a couple years, many from the Sanders family will come and stay. One of them will some day become one of our elders.

Emma Hendrix and her daughter and children came to us from Texas.  Emma’s father lived in Dent County, MO. The Church of Christ was there by the mid-1800s. One of their members was founder of the Dent County Christian Harmony Singing School, an annual event that was completely a cappella. It was a local forerunner to the monthly “singings” the Churches of Christ are still renown for having.

Emma had been widowed three times, but her daughter, Nora, was always nearby. Mother and daughter were a strength to each other, and to us.

We began this year with 73 members. One passed away. The Gibsons came with 5, Jack Morrison married Olita Griffith (1), and Emma Hendrix and her daughter and granddaughter came (3).  We ended the year with 81 members of our congregation.

Where were we meeting? Perhaps in someone’s barn. Perhaps out in the open on someone’s land. Open-air meetings were not unheard of. Perhaps sometimes in a tent on someone’s land. We do not know. We found no mention of us meeting right inside Casa Grande proper for a few more years. We had no building that we know of, but it didn’t stop the first-century Christians with their thousands in one city, and it didn’t stop us.

Our Congregation in 1931

Our co-founders, the Larisons, left this year ~ Allen and Dulcia Sharp Larison and their family of 7, Frank and Mary Sharp Larison and their family of 4. So did their sister Robert and Owen Sharp VanWinkle and their family of 3. Their brother, James Sharp, became sick and passed away, a sadness shared by all of us.

The Eastridges arrived from Arkansas with a rich heritage in the Restoration Movement going back to Hardeman County, TN, where Edith’s grandfather grew up. The New Hope Church of Christ, begun there in the early 1800s, built a church building in 1848 that is still being used today. In another part of the county is a sign in front of an old church building reading, “Birthplace of Freed-Hardeman University” which is affiliated with the Churches of Christ.

Also the Fosters came from Oklahoma in the same area that the Darters had come from. Prior to that, they were in Boone County, AR where the Restoration Movement was established after the Civil War.  Who was in the Foster family?

We began the year with 81 members. We lost 15, including one in death. The others would come back for periodic visits because their parents, The Sharps, still lived here. The Morrison baby was born (1), Wanda married a Leroy Whitaker (1), the Eastridges came from Arkansas via Oklahoma(6) and so did the Fosters (5). We ended the year with 79 members.

Our Congregation in 1932

Irving and Abbe Griffith had a baby boy.

Patsy German married young Mr. Kirkland.

Cecil Tackett married one of the Sanders girls.

Elva Sanders Wise’s parents and some of her siblings came this year. Edward Nathan Sanders will become one of our elders some day. His grandfather was born in Lincoln County, TN, a stronghold for the Restoration Movement. When they moved to Arkansas, they seem to have arranged for a minister of the gospel to follow them there to spread the Good News in their county.

Priscilla Jane Sanders’ grandfather Brents came from Lincoln County also.  Joshua Brents’ cousin was first president of a Christian college established nearby in 1878. He also published tracts that led many to be baptized into Christ.  Edward, too, was a writer and publisher of tracts with his own mimeograph machine, which he regularly distributed around Casa Grande. He brought his family including his oldest son who was married.

We began this year with 79 members. The Griffith baby was born (1), Cecil Tackett married (1), Patsy German married (1) and the Sanders came with two families totalling 7 more Christians. We now had 89 members of our congregation.

Thus far, we have only accounted for who came and went among us. Our founders did not report anything in the newspaper, the source of our information on congregational activities. Perhaps they were contented the way things were.

Our congregation had several men capable of teaching classes and preaching, and probably leading singing. But certainly there were other preachers who came from Phoenix or Tucson to help out sometimes.

Our Congregation in 1933

This is the first year that anything was in the local newspaper about a member of the Church of Christ. Our dearly beloved Elizabeth Sharp passed away. She had been a New Testament Christian for 71 years. Two of her daughters and their families ~ both married to Larisons ~ were co-founders of our congregation with the Darters.

Obituaries was one of the major sources of us locating members long forgotten. Now, through us today, they will never be forgotten.

The Whites came to us this year. The Sweets (Charlotte’s maiden name), Whites and Darters crossed paths many times over the previous half a century.

John had been raised in Bosque County, TX, where the New Testament church had been present at least since 1893. In their early married years, John and Charlotte went to Hamilton County, TX, where one of our most well-known hymn writers lived. Charlotte’s father was brother-in-law of Alexander Sewell who may have been related to the first president of today’s Abilene Christian University, Jesse P. Sewell. Who were the Whites?

The William family moved here from Arkansas. The Church of Christ was established in their Logan County in the mid-1800s. A well-known gospel hymn composer was born and raised there, and went around the country holding what people called “singing schools” so we could all learn to read music; throughout the country, our a cappella singing reverberated in both the places where we met and in our hearts. The Williams family consisted of the following:

We lost 1 and gained 8 souls. Our congregation now had 96 members.

Our Congregation in 1934

Merle Fritzinger and Grace moved away. The Morrisons had another baby, a boy. The Wises had another baby, a boy. The Blalocks had another baby, a girl.

Young Mr. And Mrs. Whitehead came from Oklahoma. Hershel had been born in Alabama where the Restoration Movement had been strong since around 1835. Clara’s father was born in Warren County, TN, where around 1800, the local people decided on their own to restore original Christianity and began worshiping only by the pattern set in the New Testament. The Whiteheads were:

The Mastersons arrived from a different part of Oklahoma. They settled among us, then sent for her mother and siblings. They were all strong Christians.

In 19__, Jerry Odom, associated with our congregation since the mid-1940s, wrote “A Short History Of the Long Presence of the Church in Casa Grande” with the aid of a few original members:

This is written some from personal knowledge and some information given to me by others…to give us encouragement…and to praise God and to thank Him for His blessings that the church not only has prospered here, but has also remained faithful to His word. In the early 1930s, a group of Christians began meeting in a tent on a vacant lot at the southeast corner of Fourth and Florence Streets.

Up to the mid-forties, many people lived in tents in Casa Grande simply because lumber was so scarce here in the desert for so long. In the spring of 1932, the Casa Grande Dispatch printed a notice about a denominational revival being held in a “big tent” at Fourth and Florence Streets  In the summer of 1933, a similar notice appeared, once again regarding a denominational “tent revival”

Since Casa Grande was often called the “white city” in early years because of all the tents, our congregation may have been using the tent at another location in town, or on the property of one of our members before coming to town. We just don’t know.

We had many members and plenty of time to build a building, but didn’t. Some people in those years did not believe a permanent building was necessary. The lack of one did not seem to hinder our growth.  With 2 leaving us, 3 babies, and 4 coming to us, we now had 101 people in the Casa Grande Church of Christ.

Our Congregation in 1935

We had five babies born this year!

The Lee Tackett clan of Arkansas came a few years ago. The first of brother Samuel Tackett’s clan came this year ~ Hallie Tackett Bell.

The Polsons arrived from Arkansas via Oklahoma like so many members.  The Polsons will intermarry with the Eastridges and be converted by them this year.

The Frasers, both senior and junior, came to us from Texas. In 1920 they lived near Abilene, and in 1930 they were living right in Abilene, the home of Abilene Christian University. Who were they?

This article appeared in the Dispatch September 13, 1935. Jean McNatt Grubbs, a current member of our congregation in 2012, was a child at the transition time from us meeting in the tent, to Don Prettyman building his store on that lot. She recalled two things: We had a sizeable congregation, and Mr. Prettyman let us continue meeting on the lot even while building his store until he was ready to stock it.

Jerry Odom’s “A Short History Of the Long Presence of the Church in Casa Grande” continues:

 After a short time, Don Prettyman purchased the lot and began to build a grocery store. At that time the church started meeting in the auditorium at Central School (now demolished), which was located at the corner of Fourth and Sacaton Streets where they intersect with Florence Boulevard.

Pictured here is the school in which we began meeting in 1935.

This year we added 5 new babies, 8 in the Bell family, and 6 in the Polson family. We now had 120 in our congregation of the Casa Grande Church of Christ.

Our Congregation in 1936

It was the middle of the Great Depression, and Casa Grande farmers were actually hiring. This year, eight more families moved here. This will be the last year this book will try to keep track of memberships because there were getting to be so many, and because there were more and more conversions we do not know about. Further, if any were “going astray” and dropping out, we would have no way of knowing it.

We said goodbye to our beloved Glassville Sharp, a patriarch in our congregation, who passed away this year. He was 86 years old. Vada White married young Mr. Latham. The Polsons had a baby boy.

Leola Griffith Hise finally moved here from Texas to live near her parents and siblings.

The Mastersons finally convinced her family, the Halls, to join them here. Their mother, Mollie Hall, we began calling Grannie Hall. Mollie was a Eubanks and her grandfather was a founding member of a denominational church in Tennessee. But her uncle broke away from that denomination to join the Restoration Movement around 1865 and had been a gospel preacher around twenty years before Molly was born.

Mollie’s daughter, Mittie, and family came with her ~ the Holloways. Her daughter, Myrtle, and family did too ~ the McNatts. John McNatt will become one of our elders some day.

Grace Enyart Gebhart arrived this year with her large family. The Church of Christ was at her home county in Texas probably before she was born. She had been baptized in 1904 apparently at the annual gospel meeting by Foy E. Wallace’s uncle. The Wallaces traced preachers in their family every generation back to a martyr in Scotland.

The Hills were converted by the McNatts after they arrived. They were:

The Wittens came from Texas. The county where Henderson’s father grew up in Missouri had a Restoration Movement extraordinaire beginning 1857 with hundreds of people all over their county wanting to be Christians only. Henderson’s large family consisted of:

Surely arrangements had been made through the years for someone to come preach for us sometimes. We had men in our congregation who could preach, but they had families to support, most often with hard work out in the weather, and had to have time to rest. Just because a visiting preacher was not announced until 1936, it does not mean we did not have them.  We can only guess.

On July 3, this article was in the Church Announcements, page 5 of the Dispatch: It announces that Bill Price of Phoenix was preaching for us the first and third Sundays of each month.

On July 10 was the following announcement in the Church Announcements of the Dispatch:

No other ads or articles ran in the newspaper during the year. They would resume again in 1937, and would remain steady for the next 75 years. Sometimes the ads were brief announcements, but often they were actual lessons and even question-answer columns.

We began this year with 120 members. Our beloved Glassville passed away, and Virgil Polson was born (1) These families moved here: Hise (4), Hall (3), Holloway (3), McNatt (5), Gebhart (7), Hill (5), Witten (8).  We ended the year with 155 members of our Casa Grande Church of Christ. Our congregation was now twenty years old.

Our Congregation in 1937

People were moving here from everywhere because we were one of the few places in America (and some places in the world) during the Great Depression with a labor shortage. Anyone could get a job here as long as they were willing to do physical work.

Even though we had 43 families, some of our families had a lot of children. They were all young couples moving in; no newcomer was “old” unless s/he accompanied grown children and grandchildren here so they wouldn’t be separated.

We had begun meeting in the grade school late in 1935. It is not known when Brother Price no longer preached for us, but Brother Hon came to us in May this year. At first he, too, preached every other Sunday, the first and third during May through June;[i] then the second and fourth during July through August; and finally every Sunday.[ii]

In August E. J. Biles, Buff Wiggley, and B. L. Bryant, visited here from Oklahoma where the latter was a minister of the church of Chist. E.J. Biles was here visiting his daughters, Mrs. Hershal Whitehead and Mrs. Jack Crisp.[iii]

What is most interesting is that, a week after their visit, our congregation quit meeting on Sundays, once in the afternoon, and began meeting both mornings at 10:00 and evenings at 8:00. The same new meeting times and ads continued through the end of the year.[iv]

 Our Congregation in 1938

We began the new year with a gospel meeting held by the grandfather of our next preacher ~ A. F. Waller. See the news article from the Dispatch below right.[i]

February 4 was Brother Hon’s last Sunday with us[i] while he took off four months during good weather to take care of his construction business. He never charged us for his preaching.

Our new preacher, Dupert J. Waller, was young ~ twenty-three years old ~ with a new bride. He began a special young people’s program, and our ads listed the time of their regular weekly meeting, although they undoubtedly got together at other times of the week in each other’s homes.

We also added a Thursday evening Bible study, and the weekly ad published what we were studying.[i]

On April 15, we had a visiting preacher: J. D. Brigham.[ii]

In June, Brother Hon was back with us. We got a jump start with a two-week gospel meeting, and different news articles each week.

This article below appeared on June 10:[iii]The article to the right appeared on June 17:[iv]

Because Brother Hon was commuting from Tucson every week, the mid-week and young-people’s meetings ceased, and our ads resumed the same format they had when he was with us before.[v] However, his idea of having a question box was the forerunner of new things he would do in 1939.

Our Congregation in 1939

People were flocking to us, especially from the Dust Bowl. Our area was one of the few in the entire US that was hiring in the middle of the Great Depression. We were an oasis in the middle of the desert of economic despair.

We were a healthy congregation spiritually and physically. We apparently had a good amount in our bank savings account because the first of this year, we purchased land and began to build our own building. This article on the left was in the Casa Grande Dispatch, February 24.[i]

We had only one ad in the newspaper showing times and place of meetings. Instead, on May 26, Brother Hon ran an article explaining that he would begin a regular Bible Question-and-Answer column, and explained how people could send him their questions. These columns were actually paid for by us. [ii]  They appeared each week except around major holidays and the hottest part of the summer when many people leave.

On September 15, he began a series of four long articles in the Dispatch entitled “Church of Christ Origin Explained,” each one prefaced by the editor: “This is the ___ of a series of four articles on the origin, history, doctrine and purpose of the Church of Christ sometimes erroneously called the “Campbellite Church.” Pre-pared by A. C. Hon of Tucson, who is also pastor of the Casa Grande congregation. They are published as of interest to all those interested in the origin etc. of our ecclesiastic organizations.”

In December a full-page article was in the Dispatch re-regarding our building being built and other “temples”.[iii]

Following are newspaper columns that were carried in the Casa Grande Dispatch and written by Adrian Hon….

Our Congregation in 1940

Our minister, did much work last year in putting forth the Church of Christ through the newspaper. He continued his Question-&-Answer column the first quarter of this year. [i]

We met at 10:00 for Bible study and 11:00 for worship and preaching on Sundays in January.[ii] In February we discontinued Sunday School classes, and replaced that time with an evening service at 7:00. It was announced in the newspaper that on February 2, both morning and evening sermons would be a discussion of the beliefs of all denominations represented in the city.[iii] The series continued to the end of the month.

There were no more church ads in the newspaper until the last week in December. By this time, we were meeting three times on Sunday ~ Morning Bible study; then worship, communion and preaching. The evening service was for worship and preaching.

The sermon for Sunday morning, December 26, was “The Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” We were still meeting at the grade school.[i]

In March, the newspaper ran an article about our ladies….

 Our Congregation in 1941

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, over twenty new families moved here. With an average of 5 members in each family, that raised our membership another 100 people. During the 1940s, just as many more came. Some of the new arrivals just stayed a few years and left. Most stayed. Some “fell away”. Still, Our membership mushroomed.

We ran ads 23 times during the year, three out of four weeks of each month. They all said the same thing, and did not list the name of the preacher. This year for the 11:00 service, instead of calling it “preaching”, we called it “preaching – communion”. [i]

In May, our ladies gave a stork shower for Lela Hon, our preacher’s wife. [i]

She had their baby in August.[ii] That baby, Linda Hon, has provided much information to us on both her father’s Hon family and her mother’s Cartwright family for this book. She lives in Michigan.

ith so many federal government restrictions, we found it ever harder to get materials for our new building.

Jerry Odom, who wrote “A Short History of the Long Presence of the Church in Casa Grande,” recalled this period in his history of our congregation:

The building was started in March of 1939 with the members doing most of the work before and after their regular jobs. With the beginning of World War 2 in 1941, work was slowed ….

In mid-June, we had a two-week-long gospel meeting with 30-year-old Wallace Layton of New Mexico.

Our ad was shortened somewhat for the months of September through December.[ii]

Our Congregation in 1942

This was a rather quiet year as far as activities involving the community go. We had no new members move in.

Our minister, Adrian Hon, was an architect[i] and also did construction work, and was instrumental in pulling everything to-gether for us so we could build a building. Now and then we could get materials in to add a little more to its progress. Jerry Odom’s “A Short History Of the Long Presence of the Church in Casa Grande” explained:

The building was started in March of 1939 with the members doing most of the work before and after their regular jobs. With the beginning of World War 2in 1941, work before and after their regular jobs. With the beginning of World War 2 in 1941, work was slowed and it wasn’t until January 3rd of 1943 that the first Worship Service was held in the building.

We ran this ad in the newspaper an average of every other week thru August. [i]

One of our members, James Bentle died. Our minister could not always be with us because of his own business that took much of his time in the winter and early spring months when the weather was cool enough to work outside. A minister was called in from Tempe, but members of our congregation sang hymns to comfort the family.[iii]

The congregation in Coolidge began this year. Some of our members went here including Margaret German, the Kirklands (Margaret’s daughter), the Turners, the Davises, and Mollie Hall. Some would move back to Casa Grande in a few years ~ the Turners and Davises are still with our congregation today.

Our Congregation in 1943

Much happened this year. Our building was finally ready to move in to. After a year of hard work on it, we agreed for Brother Hon to take some time off for a few months, and we hired Woodrow L. Wilson as an interim preacher. He was here March through October. Brother Wilson followed the example Brother Hon had set in 1940 with newspaper articles. His was in the format of a brief “Bible Lesson” each week. His family profile is within the next few pages.

On April 9, our regular church ad, a Bible Question- & Answer column, a thumbnail quote of Romans 16:16 with our address, and an article about a special series of lessons on the Bible and science, etc. all appeared on different pages of the same newspaper issue.

We were saddened for the family of another of our members who passed away in a tractor accident on April 23.

Charles Emmet Hill, 41, was killed on April 23 when the tractor he was driving overturned while crossing a ditch. He was crushed when pinned under the machine. The fatal accident took place on the N. S. Cooper Ranch, 12 miles west of town in the Stanfleld district

Mr. Hill, who has lived in this vicinity for 12 years, is survived by his wife and three children, Charles Jr., J. W. Hill, and Bernlce. Mr. Hill, who has lived in this vicinity for 12 years, is survived by his wife and three children, Charles Jr., J. W. Hill, and Bernlce.

…. W. L. Wilson, Minister of the Church of Christ officiated. The pallbearers were Charles San Filippo, John McNatt, John Richards, John McGrinels, Gale Wilcox, and A. A. Fearn.

We had a Gospel Meeting the last two weeks of May. Our display ad did not say who was preaching, so it was probably our new minister. The ad stated: We teach the Bible only. No Creeds. No Manuals. Nothing but the Bible.

“Offering to obtain Bibles for people who did not have one was the focus of an early-summer new article. It appeared in the June 18 issue of the Dispatch.

On July 23, we ran an ad for a gospel radio program.

We had learned to love Mamie Grubbs as soon as she moved here in 1940, and admired her courage in caring for children and a sick husband. But on July 28, Nathan Harrison Grubbs passed away. We comforted her the best we could.

On August 27, we announced that common questions people have about heaven and hell were going to be addressed:

We announced a pulpit exchange wherein the minister in Temple preached here, and our minister preached in Tempe.

On October 8, Brother Wilson, even though he had no children yet, was asked by the Lion’s Club to speak at their weekly meeting on problems of children.

While Brother Wilson was with us, he resumed a weekly “Young People’s Class”. Our regular ad that appeared on the weekly Church Announcement page: of the newspaper….

Our newspaper carried one article on October 15 about Brother Wilson leaving to pursue his college studies in Texas, and another article in the same issue about Brother Hon returning.

We held a gospel meeting November 1-14, this time with Brother Hon doing the speaking, and Choice L. Bryant of Yuma leading the singing. We do love to sing!

In December, we lost our dearly beloved Priscilla Jane Sanders, born 1878. She was the grandmother of two of our present members.

Our Congregation in 1944

Our first full-time minister, Adrian Hon, had come back the previous October. The ad in the Casa Grande Dispatch ran the same now as before.

He had been with us since 1937 as our first full-time minister. He and Lela stayed with us until late spring of this year, then left for good. He would come back for visits, but no longer as our minister. To this day, our older members who were children when the Hons came, remember Adrian and Lela with special admiration and warmth.

Several of the men of our congregation had been deployed to Europe, North Africa, or the Pacific during the war. Some were missing in action. Some had been killed in action. Roderick Darter had been missing in the Pacific since 1942. His brother, Cedrick Darter, joined the Navy to carry on for his brother.  His brother, Frederick Darter, joined Merchant Marines. Harold Bell was in the Marines in the Pacific and received the Purple Heart. Merle Fritzinger was in the army. Leatrice Bender Hargus’ husband, Richard, was in the army. Tom Wilson was in the army in France. Leonard Coyle was in the army. Wayland Wright, Leonard’s cousin, was in the Philippines. Albert Wilson was in the Navy. Foy Foster Jr. was in the air force in England. Jack Foster was in the Navy. Eugene and Earl Gebhart were in the army. Ray Zenzen, husband of Gladys Witten Zenzen, was missing in action in the Netherlands. Jack Grubbs was in the army. Wynona McGinnis’ husband, Dewey, left with the army right after they married. Earl Miller, Christine Witten Miller’s husband, was in the army. Norman and Melvin Bentle were both in the Navy. Elvis Key was in the Navy. Ralph Hicks was in the army. The brother of Ray Kinser, whose family had just moved here, was in the Marines and killed in action, receiving the Purple Heart. Nearly twenty of our young men were gone now. Sometimes the wives went to the town they were first stationed in, but eventually, when they were deployed overseas, the young wives would return to us and wait. And pray. Hopefully, no more would die and would come back to us soon. (See profiles of individual families for details.)

In mid-August and again the last half of October, Kenneth Engle of Phoenix preached for us Sunday, both morning and evening. Brother Engle came back a third time to hold a two-week gospel meeting November 27 to December 10.

Besides, souls, we also ached for lives. We ended this year praying the war would soon be over and we would all be together again. Even then, no one would be the same. Our older men who had been in World War I understood.

Fifteen years later in 1960, Kenneth Engle, who was a visiting preacher here on three different occasions in 1944, would report that we only had about 50 members in 1943. Perhaps our new preacher confirmed that belief. But our membership was over twice that. They did not see our over 20 members who had gone off to war. They did not see our members who couldn’t walk to church because they lived too far out and gasoline rationing was so rigid. Perhaps they came in to worship with us at our building once a month. Probably when they couldn’t, they did what our congregation did in the beginning: Worshiped in their home. Scattered though our congregation may have been during the war, we were still united in heart and soul, and hopefully would soon be reunited in body.

Brother Forshey combined the various columns submitted to the newspaper in addition to schedule of services into one ad. He changed it each week to reflect what his next sermon topics and Wednesday Bible study topics would be. Once again, the young people’s class was discontinued. In mid-July the mid-week service was discontinued for awhile.

Our Herbert Taylor passed away. He was only 43. We comforted his wife and children the best we could. The family requested Bro. Hon preach the service.

Our Congregation in 1945

Our minister, Odes Forshey, continued with his ads, often bi-weekly, which included our meeting times, announcement of sermon topics the next Sunday, and a short sermonette, always with three or four numbered points.

Another member of our congregation passed away ~ Lige Hicks. It was announced March 9 in the Dispatch.

Our congregation was mentioned in an Easter-egg hunt at the home of the Wittens for our Sunday School children. The Dispatch article was printed April 6.

Gradually “our boys” in the war were coming home. But some didn’t. Wayland Wright whose mother was a Coyle, was killed in action in the Philippines. Ray Zenzen, Gladys Witten Zenzen’s husband, turned up as a prisoner of war in Germany. Roderick Darter still hadn’t been heard from since his ship went down in the Pacific a couple years earlier. Our hearts ached for them and their families.

The announcement was made in our newspaper on May 25 that Odes was leaving to return to his home state to preach near his old home congregation.

That same issue, the newspaper carried this display ad. There was no article about Gray, but he came from a very interesting background, as you will see in his profile in the following pages.

C. C. Jones from Oklahoma City, OK, was a guest speaker here on June 15.

In July, our congregation celebrated Independence Day.

Our Congregation in 1946

The war was over and our men were coming home from the armed services. But not everyone. On the front page of the January 11 Dispatch was this article about one of our founders who would never be coming home, even for burial.

We learned the sad news about the Darter “boy” who had grown up here about the same time we learned of the passing of Sanford Fraser. They had come to us from Abilene, Texas, and were such a blessing to us. He was only 59. His widow, Eunice, took him back to Abilene, buried him there, and stayed. We had only known them six years, but they had been a blessing.

 During the year that Gray Carter served as our minister, we had only a few weekly ads with list of services on the church page. One such ad was February 8, mentioning Gray, but also stating we would have a guest evangelist next Sunday ~ “Evangelist Sherman of Tucson”.

Our Emma Hendrix ~ Nora Blalock’s mother ~ passed away in mid-February.

In mid-April, our beloved Adrian Hon returned to preach for us one Sunday. The newspaper reporter commented, “He is a fine speaker.”

Once again, the Wittens had an Easter-egg hunt at their place, in addition to a picnic for anyone else who wanted to come.

After Gray Carter’s year was up in May, Ed Lambert came to take his place as pulpit minister. Whereas all the earlier preachers had been young, this time we hired a man who was 65 years old. He had spent several months here back in 1931, living in El Paso at the time. Perhaps he was looking for work (most preachers back then supported themselves) and changed his mind.

Or perhaps he came specifically to preach for us. In 1931, we had the Darter family (4), three Sharp families (10), five Griffith families (15), the Preuit family (4), two Fritzinger families (4) the Bender family (3) three Tackett families (13) and the German family (6) ~ eight families.

Ed (E.S.) Lambert had agreed to be an interim preacher for us until we found a permanent preacher. He immediately began writing ads for our congregation. Sometimes he used the old format of listing all services, and other times, he just listed the Sunday-morning service along with scriptures and comments.

In June we had a wedding. The Benders’ daughter, Anita, married J. C. McGee.

On August 2, the Dispatch reported that our congregation gave a miscellaneous shower for Mr. And Mrs. Eddie Westmoreland whose house and contents had burned down. They also presented to the Westmorelands a check to be used toward building a new home.

The following Sunday, we had a picnic at Peart Park, and a “songfest” after-wards at our building. Our congregation has always loved to sing.

 A treasure hunt was given for the entertainment of our intermediate students the last week of August:

We believe WAYNE LOWE joined us as our regular minister in August or September. His work is covered In our 1947 congregational account.

Our Congregation in 1947

Most issues of the Casa Grande Dispatch were not available for searching for this year except November and December. Most of this account is what was re-create from indirect sources.

Wayne Lowe became our minister in late August or early September the previous year.  Wayne did not write articles for the newspaper as most of his predecessors did. However, he was always listed in our congregational ads.

Jerry Odom’s A Short History of the Long Presence of the Church in Casa Grande gave this information about Brother Lowe:

My first personal knowledge of the church’s presence was in about 1946 when Wayne Lowe was the preacher. He was also my school bus driver and I remember him drop-ping off the high school students and 1st through 4th grade students at their buildings, and the stopping the bus at the church building. I believe he lived in the basement of the building. After that, he continued on to South School where the 5th through 8th grades were. This was also where the bus garage was and where John and Charlotte White lived. John was a custodian at the school and was furnished the house located by the garage to be a watchman over the school.

According to Lee Tackett’s obituary in 1949 and her death certificate, Tackett passed away on May 19 at her home, 3 ½ miles east of own of cancer. She was only 57 years old. She was buried at Mountain View Cemetery where so many of our members are buried. She and her mother, husband and children arrived here from Pope County, Arkansas in 1926. She had lived in the same house 18 years.

She left behind her grieving husband, Lee, two sons, Burl and Cecil, and two daughters, Laveta Sanders and Aleta Killingsworth. Wayne Lowe preached her funeral.  We had done what we could to make Mary comfortable during her long illness, and comforted her husband, children, and grandchildren.

A Ladies Bible Class at 2:30 on Wednesdays was begun. Who taught? Since it hadn’t been going in the last congregational ads in August last year, they were apparently taught by Ergeal Lowe, Wayne’s wife. The Caruths came in 1947; it may have been Ida Caruth who began the class and taught it. We don’t know.

Esther Fritzinger went to be with her Lord on November 21. She and her husband and son had arrived here in 1921.

Mrs. Fritzinger was born on March 2,1874 at Concordia, Kansas, and had been a resident of Casa Grande for 26 years. Surviving her are her husband C.E. Fritzinger, one son, C.M. Fritzinger, one daughter Mrs. Joe Curry of Bisbee, one grand daughter Mrs. Betty Jo Triainer and a great grand daughter Hughella Trainer.

Funeral arrangements were in the hands of Cle and Maud Mortuary pallbearers were Messrs. Wes Cummings, Douglas Zimmerman Harold Williams, Burl Tacket, John White, Erby Dodd. Interment was in Muntain View Cemetery.

~~Excerpts from UP FROM THE DESERT:

A HISTORY OF CASA GRANDE AND THE CHURCH OF CHRIST