New Mexico's

"Home on the Range"

 

Union Church

Union Church
Solano, NM

Story by Carus Kennady

How did it come about? Why was this little country church built? Because parents were greatly concerned and rightfully so, no doubt. Yes, most parents were poor when judged according to dollars and cents, but they were God-fearing Christians who weren't content.

From 1907-1909, worship services were held in the Hughes store and sometimes the homes or the school to study the Bible and learn the Golden Rule. The talents of many ministers from different denominations were shared. Edwin Gaskill, B.T. James and Rev. S. M. Roberts were heard.

One cold dark night, the store burned to the ground. This meant another place to worship had to be found.

In 1912, a meeting was called to make a plan. Two leading citizens, Charlie Merrell and Pete Laumbach donated a plot of land. Noel Burton, with the help of Ed Choate, drew up the blueprint and plan. The women sold ice cream to Railroad passengers to raise money.

Enthusiasm was running high, and everyone pledged to do their part. Each person was dedicated and sincerity came from the heart. There was no easy solution for this to come about. Some of the local men who worked hard were John Mackey, Walter Ross, Ed Cook, and the Criswell's were part of the crew. Others that should be mentioned are Joe Allen, Hepburn's, Frank and Harry Hughes, to name a few.

It was decided to build the church of rock because it was cheap. Wagons started rolling and hauling rock from Burro Hill and piled them in a heap. Much hope and beauty blossomed in that little town. It was as though the Good Lord had looked down. Rock came from the ranches of Ross, Mackey, and Thompson families.

Sometimes things seemed to cloud the way, but afterwards, the sun would come out, and the clouds would fade away. Young and old came to help and say, "What can I do?" Friends, neighbors, gramps and grandmas, too. The women were ambitious and worked to do their part. They brought food to feed the hungry men in wagons and a two-wheeled cart.

The work on the church was finished at last. It hadn't been easy nor had it been fast. Everyone was overjoyed because the work was done. They thought it was time to rejoice and have some fun. The church had a belfry where a huge bell hung. It could be heard for many miles when rung. When it started ringing, people started coming, some were praying, rejoicing and singing. They knew the work had been done and they were ready to join in the fun.

A piano was donated by Mrs. Cook, which came from the Mitchell's.

This little church served the community's needs. Marriages were performed, funerals conducted, and souls were won. On special holidays, parties were held, which were fun.

In 1914, Rev. L.S. Ford, who was a homesteader, supplied the growing Solano community in need. In 1916, he was supplied with an assistant, Rev. F.L. Meredith, to whom the community agreed. In 1930, Rev. Hale from Mosquero came to Solano. He was a pastor too. He had another talent, rock laying, when he had nothing else to do. He constructed buildings on the old Waggoner Ranch, and the Bell Ranch too. He also built the Solano School and gym. Nothing seemed too hard or complicated for him. Your heart feels sadness now because you don't hear the church bell chime. Because the empty little church is a victim of time. The faces of the men who worked so hard are gone. But there are fond memories of the hard work that was done.

Updates:

We, the sons and daughters must preserve this quaint little church, a landmark since 1912. After more than 50 years, this little church still stands.

In September of 1962, the church held a celebration of its 50th year. In 1982, it was still standing, but badly in need of repairs.

The Solano Homemaker's Club renovated the church in fond memory of their departed parents and loved ones. The roof needed to be restored to keep the interior from being destroyed. The club asked for donations to preserve this historic landmark.

An asphalt roof was put on in 1993. A carpenter was hired to make repairs on the roof and rock mortar, replaced one window and screen, and repainted the inside.

Again, meetings, weddings, funerals, anniversary parties were held in the little church. Since then, members of the community have taken part in the upkeep of the church.

In 2001, a local pastor began holding church services on Sundays and Bible studies on Wednesdays. Upkeep again took place - painting and minor repairs were done. Gas for heat was added and electricity was again hooked up and used. The original wood stove has been returned. The congregation disbanded in 2007. Now the church is empty again