Earle’s Chapel History: The Community – Part 3

In 1859, in response to the needs of the growing community, a log building was constructed on the present site of Earle’s Chapel United Methodist Church which served as a school, church, and community center for the families in the area.  The school and church will be described in greater detail in the sections to follow.  For a brief period, in 1874, the community was served by its own United States Post Office, Earl, with John F. Cryder acting as Postmaster.  Until 1850, mail to the area was sent to Gum Creek Post Office, Cherokee County, Texas and later, to Jacksonville.  With the institution of the rural free delivery program prior to World War I, Earle’s Chapel became part of RFD Route 3, its main address until recently when it became part of Route 9 out of Jacksonville.

Around 1903, very shortly after a telephone exchange was established in Jacksonville in 1899, some residents of Earle’s Chapel and its neighboring community, New Hope, constructed their own private telephone service known as Line #13.  Nine or ten homes shared a single party line for which each paid fifty cents a month, provided three telephone poles, and handled all the maintenance.  A few years later, Earle’s Chapel families nearer to Ironton joined that community in constructing Line #3, with a similar maintenance arrangement, hand-cranked telephone boxes and familiar ringing signals.  Seven of Line #13’s ten original parties—J.C. Earle, Rufe Earle, Dave Gilliam, I.A. Grimes, Dave Morris, Earl Pledger, and A.P. Templeton—are buried at Earle’s Chapel cemetery, as are six of Line #3’s charter members—Carson Brittain, Albert Earle, Fred Ragsdale, Jack Reynolds, Tom Skelton, and Jess Slider.  Regular dial telephone service did not reach the community until around 1955.

In the early days, maintenance of the roads was also a community affair.  The County Commissioner’s Court would appoint a road overseer who would then “warn out”, or summon to work on the road, the workers necessary to complete repairs.  In the Spring of 1860, for example, Drury Earle was appointed overseer of the road from Jacksonville to the Benge Settlement and he “warned out” John Reynolds, George Bobbitt, Hamby Harris, Eli Harris, Moses Reynolds, John Skelton, Adophus C. Martin, Mathew Brock, Sam B. Davis, J. M. Moore, Allen Atkinson, J. M. Green and Sam D. Moore as “hands”.  A section of the main east-west road ran on the north side of the I. & G.N. Railroad, so that the Earle’s Chapel church and school were more strategically located than today.  In 1928, the route was moved south of the railroad, roughly paralleling the present U.S. 79.