The grassroots of a Pioneer Town chapel

If you're looking to take a step back in time, you may want to visit the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum's latest exhibit.

"Pioneer Town" features what a thriving community would be like back in the early 1900's. At the heart of these towns, the chapel, a place for social and religious gatherings.

Religion has been engrained into the very soul of the Texas Panhandle since the early settlement days. In fact, a chapel was one of the first buildings to go up in a pioneer town.

"Every pioneer town wanted to show new residents that they were permanent, that they were there for the long haul. One of the first buildings they would always build would be a community church," said Guy Vanderpool, PPHM's Director.

The museum's chapel is modeled after one of the first in Amarillo, Parker's Chapel. Equipped with pews, an organ, and windows. In these pioneer towns, churches were small, and were referred to as "union churches" hosting different denominations at different times.

"It brought people together in experience that connected them to where they use to be from," said Vanderpool.

The chapel served as the social gathering of the towns folk, the Facebook of the 1900's. A place were towns folk received news of who moved, who was sick and who had died.

"In the 1900 to 1910 people were spread out by great distances, so to come together on a Sunday was very important and it was often the only contact you would have with their neighbors. So it was a social event, as well as, religious experience," said Vanderpool.

As towns grew and secured financial stability, so did the churches. Giving parishioners an opportunity to branch out and build their own church specified to their denomination of choice. Their designs also grew more elaborate over the years.

Those elaborate designs are more evident today. Churches in the Texas Panhandle have grown in size, denominations, and population.

"The fundamental pull of religion, religion has a variety of reasons as why people participate but one of them from day one has always been the social part of it," said Vanderpool.

"Pioneer Town" made its debut June 30th.

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