Vol. 2 - No. 4
Voices From The Past:
The Organ At Thorpe Springs
by C. A. Norred Gospel Advocate January 19, 1939
(Publisher's note: Notice the date of this writing and the source, The Gospel Advocate, which was then called "the old reliable." Brother Norred was a regular contributor to the G.A. and was deeply concerned about what they were calling "progressionism," which was actually "digressionism." So, like the Christian Church and the organ, Churches of Christ of the present have opened the door of what they might also call "progressionism," but call it what you will, it is still "digression." Read it and profit.--RLC)
(Although comment is generally made on the great number of younger persons in Southside church (Fort Worth, Texas--RLC), the church is blessed with the finest wealth of elderly persons I recall to have seen anywhere. Among these is Sister Betty Taylor, familiarly known as "Mammy" Taylor, who one day took my breath by relating in the most casual manner the story of the introduction of the organ in the church at Thorp Springs. Sensing the significance of her story, and desiring to secure it in detail while it was still available, I took her in my automobile to Thorp Springs and spent an afternoon studying the elements of the story she relates. No words can describe my feelings as she would point out a particular spot at which a certain person stood, and then would relate the exact words spoken. When we finished the afternoon, I felt that I had lived through that troubled night in 1895. And the more I think upon the story the more significant it becomes to me in pointing out the danger of drifting away from the simple New Testament order of things. Sister Taylor was a mature woman at the time of the story and was an eyewitness of what she relates. Those who know her would believe implicitly any statement of fact she would make. If any item in the story she gives has ever been called in question, I have never heard of it.--CAN)
About three miles northwest of Granbury and about thirty-five miles southwest of Fort Worth is the well-nigh ghost village of Thorp Springs, Texas, whose history reveals a significant story in the growth of progressionism in the Southwest.
To understand the story of Thorp Springs we must pick up the thread of the narrative in Fort Worth. Fort Worth was planted in 1849. In a comparatively short time there came to this pioneer hamlet Joe Clark and his two sons, Addison and Randolph, who immediately interested themselves in conducting a private school. Although they encountered some prejudice against "Campbellites" and some opposition from the generally irreligious, the work, all in all, did well. Then about this time the railroad came to Fort Worth. Along with the business boom accompanying the coming of the railroad, vice and lawlessness increased to almost unbelievable proportions. It was not long until the Clarks came to feel that the city at that time was no place to which they could conscientiously invite young people. Accordingly, they began to look around for another point at which they could carry on their school. Just then a Mr. Thorp, who held extensive interests near Granbury, invited their investigation there. The outcome was that in 1873 the Clarks opened Add-Ran College at Thorp Springs, Texas, the term "Add-Ran" being taken from the sainted baby of Addison, and the name of the post office so coined as to honor the man who originally owned the property and to reflect appreciation for the copious springs marking the site. In the setup Addison was president.
Add-Ran College was strictly an individual enterprise. Inasmuch, though, as the Clarks were active in the work of the Lord, the site of their school soon came to take on the nature of a central point around which Christian families settled. The circumstances being as they were, these Christian families turned to the Clarks for leadership and came to use the school chapel as a place for the meetings of the church. Thus all unconsciously the stage was set for the problem of church and school.
But societyism and centralization were even then stealing into the churches. The society had been started in the East in 1849. Then in 1866 the
Christian Standard was created and consecrated to the new order. Although communication and transportation were slower in those days, it was not long until the new order began to assert itself there. We take up one vital element of our story when we observe that in 1889 "the Christian Churches" bought Add-Ran College. Obviously this action did not so much represent the churches as it did certain agitating spirits who fastened their will upon the churches. Be that as it may, in 1889 Add-Ran College took its place as a citadel of progressionism; and along with progressionism there not only went the spirit of societyism and centralization, but the general disposition to liberal tendencies.
In 1895, M. M. Davis, pastor of the First Christian Church, of Dallas, Texas, appeared at the school for the purpose of holding a series of meetings. When the first audience assembled (it was on a Saturday night), all observed that an old-fashioned parlor organ was standing on the stage. About the time for the beginning of the services, a young lady took her place at the organ in readiness to play the hymns. At that juncture, Joe Clark, familiarly known as "Father Clark," arose and requested that he be allowed to lead the congregation in prayer. Then he asked for the privilege of reading a petition. Then there was read a petition which prayed that the organ not be used in the services of the church, and which bore the signatures of two hundred fifty-six members of the church. During the reading of the petition a woman prominently connected with the school kept remarking to Addison Clark: "Don't give an inch!" Then after a slight pause following the reading of the petition, Addison turned toward the young lady and said: "Go ahead, Miss Bertha." Immediately the young lady began playing the hymn. At the first sound of the organ, almost the entire congregation arose and walked from the auditorium. And the organ had come to Thorp Springs.
It is germane to the story to relate that after a few days those who had endeavored to force the organ on the church quietly passed out the word that if those who had walked out would return, the organ would not be used. After that the organ was not employed. In a few weeks, though, the school was removed to a neighboring city. Inasmuch as the little village was almost entirely dependent upon the school, the moving of the school just about snuffed out the life of the town. It is also germane to continue and relate that it was not long until the liberal tendencies of those back of the school in its new location caused Addison to resign as president. After several years replete with burdens from personal sorrows, declining health, and failing fortune, Addison found rest in the grave.
After many years, effort was made to restore Thorp Springs to a place of usefulness in New Testament things. Several years ago, though, the effort was abandoned. Today the timeworn, but thoroughly sturdy, old stone building stands among its memories, looking out on scenes from which about all activity has fled. Somehow it speaks to me in powerful accents of the vanity of the vainglory of life and the hollowness of worldly promise. Certain spirits at Add-Ran thought they were riding high -- and they were, and to an inglorious fall.
But the spirit of devotion to the beauty of New Testament things has not wholly departed from the scenes described. Even now (1939--RLC) a faithful congregation meets in the old college chapel. And sometimes I wonder if those who have eyes to see it and ears to hear it cannot see shadowy forms about the old meeting place and hear the thin voice of an old man praying for the peace of God's people. The measure of divine answer to that prayer that Saturday night can be traced, I am sure, by the heavenly beings alone.