Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Birth of Baptist Temple

Lizzy Elkins
Nellie (Johnson) Taylor
On a sultry spring Sunday afternoon in 1906 the some fifty-three thousand souls of San Antonio confined themselves to the ordinary things people did in those days. Some took streetcar rides out to San Pedro Springs, or strolled along the sidewalks downtown to watch the horse and buggy traffic, sprinkled with a few noisy autos bumping over the chug holes in the mesquite block pavements of Commerce and Houston streets. Streetcars clanged in the relative quiet of a city accustomed to Latin leisure.

The everlasting, but half-forgotten Alamo dozed in the warm sun, and farther east of downtown, another ancient little building built of caliche squatted on its corner at North and Water streets and waited for a momentous meeting of a group of devoted young Baptists to arrive.

All was in readiness inside the little house that faced south on North Street and bore the number of 301. The cool parlor was crowded with all the chairs of the house in anticipation of the fifteen or twenty visitors from First Baptist Church and the mothers and their children who had been invited to attend the special Sunday School that would eventually grow into Pegues Memorial Baptist Church and then to San Antonio’s second largest Baptist Church, Baptist Temple.

The piano stood in a corner and the quick-moving, attractive little woman took a final glance about her parlor to make sure all was ready as the hour approached and noted the palm leaf fans were in place on the chairs. She made several hasty trips to the open door and peered into the glaring sun-washed, unpaved street and onto the porch to see if her visitors were nearing.

Her face lit up when she saw two mothers with their children dressed in their Sunday best walking along the dusty street toward the house. Her blue eyes danced and her laughter rocketed out to them as she greeted her visitors. Soon the joy of Mrs. Elizabeth “Lizzy” Elkins was complete as a few buggies pulled up and hitching blocks were dropped at the curb and happy young people trooped up onto the porch.

Within a short time other young men in their high-buttoned coats, narrow trousers and toothpick shoes, and young ladies with their skirts lifted just enough to prevent them from dragging in the dust, stepped onto the porch. Some of the young men carried stacks of paperback hymnals. Soon Robert O. Huff, president of the Baptist Young People’s Union over at First Baptist Church, accompanied by his young wife, Carrie, and her sister Miss Nellie Johnson with her violin arrived. Carrie was to play the piano while Nellie played the violin to accompany those who would sing the hymns.

The half dozen children took the chairs in the center of the room while the adults occupied those against the walls. Mrs. Huff sat at the piano and Miss Johnson tuned her violin and the Sunday School was ready to begin as Mr. Huff, a tall, handsome young attorney, called for God’s guidance in this undertaking for the Kingdom. In the quiet of worship the clop-clop and rattle of a passing horse and buggy drifted into the parlor from the hot sunshine and from the distance could be heard the clanging of a streetcar mingled with the squeal of steel wheels turning at a curve down at Joske’s corner. But none in Mrs. Elkins’ parlor was aware of the outside sounds, nor that this little gathering of devoted young Baptists was establishing a destiny in answer to prayers.

This impromptu Sunday School was the answer to
Mrs. Elkins’ prayers.  She combined action with her prayers and had presented her challenge to the Baptist Young People’s Union at First Baptist Church because that church was closer to her home at 301 North Street than her own Central Baptist Church.

Irish good humor and enthusiasm and English determination for the thing she believed in characterized Mrs. Elkins, who stood only five feet three inches tall, but made up for petite size with boundless energy that was directed toward concern for young people whether children or young adults. Her home was open to many ambitious business college students who had come to San Antonio to prepare for careers. Besides offering her home, Mrs. Elkins also devoted much time to the welfare of youth in connection with her work in the Bexar County Juvenile Office. 

An account from Nellie (Johnson) Taylor
From HISTORY OF BAPTIST TEMPLE 1911-1976 By Ralph M. Fritz

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