This early photo (about 1895) is from my great-grandfather George Washington Forster’s pond in the Elm Grove community. This area, located northeast of Rowlett, Texas, is one of the last remaining unincorporated communities in Dallas County. This one of the very few ponds in the community in those days and the site of many early baptisms.
Those being baptized are thought to be members of the Cottonwood Church of Christ which originally started meeting at Scaggs School on Sunday, July 22, 1866. The church selected officers as follows: R. B. Skaggs (Rockwall) and I. W. Lacy as Elders and L. J. Ballard and J. L. Wells as Deacons. Both R. B. Skaggs and J. L. Wells departed this life in the Fall of 1867 and it became necessary to fill their places. In September 1868 the Church met near Well’s Bridge and elected Samuel King, Elisha Sims (Cottonwood area) and Thomas J. McClain (Pleasant Valley) to serve as Elders and Michael Coyle (Rowlett area) to serve as Deacon.
Scaggs School was in Rockwall County. The members later began holding their meetings on the old Wells Bridge which served for many years as a toll bridge across the East Fork of the Trinity River. This bridge is now under the waters of Lake Ray Hubbard. Church services would last most of the day back then. There would be dinner on the ground after service and baptisms were always in the clear east fork water near the bridge.
Now known as the Cottonwood Church of Christ, they met on the second Sunday in January of 1876 for the purpose of more fully organizing as Michael Coyle was excluded and L. J. Ballard (Rockwall County) had neglected the assembling. It appears that Mike
Coyle of Rowlett had faced off with Benjamin Page, in a duel. Mike shot Benjamin and Benjamin shot Mike in the stomach.
Members constructed a meetinghouse later that year without the help of modern tools. The building, located on a sloping hillside, was on Vinson Road near Cottonwood Creek. Members also dug a well nearby that served both the congregation and their horses.
James Vaughn Russell “Uncle Jimmy” (as he was widely known) was born September 15, 1827 at Russellville, Kentucky. He was a volunteer in the Mexican War of 1846 and then again in February 1862 he signed up with the Confederate Army. Captain John McKinney of Collin County, Texas commanding.
It was in 1850 that Uncle Jimmy joined other fortune seekers and headed West for the California gold rush. It is said that he walked all the way, carrying his famous walking stick, which is reported to still be in possession of family members. The walking stick was whittled from bois d’arc and polished with glass.
Uncle Jimmy, his wife Nancy, along with their children and Nancy’s mother headed to Texas in 1850 and settled at Wylie. It was in 1887 when the minister from the Cottonwood Church of Christ and an elder by the name of Thomas J. McClain (grandfather of Jack McClain) meet at the home of Uncle Jimmy and made plans to form the Christian Church. The rift developed after a piano had been brought into the building during a singing school. The Wylie Christian Church was officially organized and began holding services in 1888.
The faithful members continue meeting today in a newer, more modern building located nearby on Elm Grove Road near Whitely Rd in northeastern unincorporated Dallas County.