The small log building which the community erected to house their school also served as a meeting place for worship, although it was not formally established as a denominational church until some time later. Several references to participation in church-related activities suggest that Earle’s Chapel, as a religious site, pre-dated its first recorded organization as a Methodist Church in 1875. Both a published family history and his 1894 obituary refer to Thomas Jefferson Skelton’s marriage to Mary Elizabeth Earle in 1858, “…both being members of Earle’s Chapel Methodist Church”. Calvin Henderson and Rebecca Jane Reynolds were married at Earle’s Chapel on February 23, 1868. Their descendants have the original marriage license issued to this couple, reflecting the solemnization of the marriage by Geo. S. Gatewood, Gospel Minister. The title is appended to the Rev. Mr. Gatewood’s signature on the the license without reference to his denominational affiliation at the time. The phrasing of the 1874 school deed stipulation that the school building could be used “…for the worship of the True God…the Methodists being given preference,” suggests that the school house had been used as a community church.
The congregation became a formal part of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, on July 27, 1875, under the guidance of E. P. Rogers, P.C., that is, Preacher in Charge, a ministerial member of the East Texas Conference. The original Class Roll Book contains the names of twenty-five members of the first Earle’s Chapel Society along with information as to “…St. of Life…”, indicating marital status, “…when & how rec’d…” and “…when & how disposed of…”.
An examination of the date of admission to the society would suggest that it may well have been formed during a “Protracted Meeting” or “Camp Meeting” that extended over several days, from July 17th through July 29th, during which members were received through various forms, that is, transfer from another Methodist church after having been previously baptized, or by baptism. Later undated notations in this section of the book indicate that Julia Chandler and Pauline Williams were “Dropped” and J. L. Cottrell “Transferred to Union Grove.”
The following page in the book contains an exhortation from the Presiding Elder (P.E.) and the Pastor in Charge, (P.C.) dated Marchc 1st, 1877;
Remember to observe Friday before each Quarterly meeting as a day of fasting and prayer for the prosperity of Zion and us your ministers.
R. W. Thompson, P.E.
A. Little, P.C.
March 1st, A.D. 1877
The exhortation is followed by a listing of members under the notation, “1877, List Renewed”, with a section for “Remarks.” Of the original twenty-five members, C. B. Dyer was “…Droped for being gone over 12 months and not knowing his whereabouts” and Nute Henderson had “…withdrawed under charges.” New members included Wm. Campbell, M. C. Hillyer, M. E. Humphreys, J. R. Humphreys, J. E. Walker, S. L. Coker, Z. T. Mann, Wilon L. Slider, Wm. B. Ragsdale, H. Duff, Peter C. Ragsdale, Laura N. George, A. E. George, Lula Dennison, Fannie A. Earle, H. G. Dennison, Wm. R. Dennison, DeWitt Ragsdale, Wm. Buford, Mary Buford, Ansobel Acre, and Angeline Lane. Again, the dates of reception from September 27, 1877 through September 30, indicate the possibility of a protracted meeting or revival. The method of reception is not indicated in this section but there are undated notations that J. R. Humphreys, J. E. Walker, Catherina Walker and B. L. Coker were “…droped by church conference,” generally an indication of the individual’s having moved from the community rather than the existence of a problem in their church relationship.