Tornado Leaves Providence Gone With The Wind
By Dana Goolsby
Providence, Texas- At least six towns in Texas were named Providence. Providence, Texas in east Anderson County isn’t even a ghost town any more; Providence has been forgotten. But those who visit the site, cemetery searchers, and others who take a wrong turn off of FM 323 in Anderson County know the beauty on top of the hill, but few know the quickly fading history of Providence.
It isn’t hard to imagine why people would want to form a community on top of that hill at the end of Anderson County Road (ACR) 1223. The view is outstanding all year round.
March 20, 1858, W.T. Miller donated eight acres for a cemetery, school, and a church. He deeded the property “to trustees Lemuel Mullins, Chairman, D. Capp and Wm. Webb, for school purposes and burial ground.” W. M. Hardy added a half-acre to even north line. These donations helped form a central place to educate the children of this farmland area.
By the 1870’s, local residents and the Masons had constructed a two-story combination school and church building. Providence Lodge No. 400, A.F. & A.M. (later to become Elkhart Lodge), held their meetings upstairs. Downstairs Anderson County’s second Missionary Baptist Church- Providence Missionary Baptist Church held church services downstairs. In 1897, Providence had a district school serving forty-eight black students, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
In 1900, the community was struck by a tornado, which caused excessive damage to the lodge. The wheels of change and progress came screetching to a hault when the twister plowed through Providence. The Masons did not reconstruct the lodge in Providence, but rather, relocated to nearby Elkhart in 1905. The school was also not reconstructed after the tornado and therefore closed. Local children went to other schools in the area following the destruction of Providence School.
Church members worshipped under an arbor, which is still on the grounds today, until a one-story building was constructed from salvaged materials among the debris the tornado left behind. Regular church services were held until 1935, when the church voted to disband.
Providence celebrated its centennial July 4-18, 1958. Today the little wooden church still stands and each year an annual homecoming is held on the first Sunday in June.
Providence Cemetery is the final resting place of settlers who arrived in the Republic of Texas days, and is still use for burials today. The cemetery grounds are neatly kept and fenced in.
Sometimes it is hard to understand how communities disappear. The definition of Providence, the little Anderson County Community’s namesake, is interesting when factored in to the devastation this community endured and which eventually lead to the abandonment of an era and community. Providence is defined as the forseeing care and guidance of God or nature over humankind, and conceived as omniscient direction of the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence. Perhaps more simply put- Some things just aren’t meant to be.
Providence is approximately 16 miles southeast of Palestine off FM 323 on ACR 1223.
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