Glimpse of the Past, December 2014
Christmas Spirit in Hillsboro… 1914
December 1914 saw the end of an eventful year in American history ... In May, Mother's Day became a national holiday, and in June, the assassination of the Archduke in Austria led to the opening of hostilities that became World War I. In July, Babe Ruth launched his baseball career at age 19 with the Boston Red Sox, and in August ships began to sail through the Panama Canal. The Federal Reserve Bank opened with locations in 12 cities across the United States. And in football, the Texas Longhorns had a perfect season by defeating Baylor, Rice, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and Wabash.
But the outbreak of War in Europe contributed to a sense of unrest and anxiety among residents of Hillsboro, and newspaper accounts reported that churches decided to focus on needs of the Hillsboro community in preparation for Christmas, 1914. The Sunday Schools of various churches in the city worked through a joint committee to determine priority of needs and to allocate areas of responsibility so that there would not be duplicates or omissions from distribution of basic foodstuffs for Christmas.
First Baptist planned a Christmnas event at the church for Tuesday night, December 22, and the prime emphasis of the program was bringing of gifts that would be distributed on Christmas Eve throughout the community. Gifts were to be basic necessities of life plus fruits and candies. The Men's Co-Operative Class agreed to each bring a full bag of corn meal and the Ladies' Baraca class completed the range of staple groceries with announcement that each would bring a half sack of flour. A cash offering was also taken to accommodate those who could not bring staples for distribution.
First Methodist Episcopal Church and other Sunday Schools across the City also worked to bring staples for distribution on Christmas Eve, but they planned a program featuring Santa Claus in the large basement of the new church on Christmas Eve, 1914. The basement was outfitted as a Colonial Hall, with a large brick fireplace, hall clock, and Christmas tree. All in the community were invited to the event at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
A century later (2014) the spirit of Christmas continues to focus on collaboration of local churches, civic and social organizations, and individuals to meet real needs in the community through the food drive for Hillsboro Interfaith Ministries and ''Operation Christmas Child.'' Local groups worked to support the ''Operation," part of the Samaritan's Purse Ministry. This year 925 shoeboxes were shipped from Hillsboro containing toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for those suffering from natural disasters, violence, and desperate poverty.
Photo Caption: First Baptist Church was erected in 1905 on the SE corner of Franklin and Pleasant Streets, replacing a frame structure erected in 1876 at the NW corner of Church and Gould Streets. In 1963 the 1905 structure was replaced by a new sanctuary and was considered a classic example of Greek-Revival church architecture. The original brick structure was later stuccoed and a basement was opened. The towers were removed in the 1950's. An Education Building was constructed in 1950 on the Franklin Street side of the church property.
First Methodist Episcopal Church, South was erected in 1914 on the SE corner of Elm and Lang Streets, replacing a frame structure that stood on the site of the current Brookshire's at Walnut and Waco Streets. The sanctuary as constructed was known for its beautiful woodwork and stained glass windows. The basement of the church housed a large assembly room with a stage, and a kitchen and class rooms. The interior of the building was destroyed by fire in January 1928, and rebuilt in 1929. Today the historic property continues to serve the congregation of First United Methodist Church.