Liberty County Historical Commission Honors Black History Month
LIBERTY, February 2, 2017 - The Liberty County Historical Commission is celebrating and honoring Black History Month in February by sponsoring county historical markers for two of the oldest and most historic black churches in the county. Turkey Creek Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty and Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Ames will receive markers honoring their long and unique histories.
Turkey Creek Missionary Baptist Church was established in 1866 after emancipation. The newly freed people gathered together to worship on a hill near Turkey Creek and later prayer meetings were held in private homes. Members gathered resources to build their first church building made of logs daubed with mud, used pine torches for lighting and a fireplace for warmth. The creek was used for baptisms. A frame structure was soon built and in 1923, members dedicated a larger and better church building. This building was severely damaged by weather and had to demolished, leaving the congregation homeless. Shortly afterwards, the pastor died, leaving the congregation with no building in which to worship and no pastor to lead the congregation. Members’ faith and dedication never wavered and several other church buildings were constructed and enlarged as the membership grew. The current church was dedicated in 2003. Turkey Creek Missionary Baptist Church celebrated its 150th anniversary in November 2016.
Our Mother of Mercy Catholic church in Ames owes its establishment to natives of New Iberia, Louisiana. Several prominent families including the Wickliffs, Tranhans and Cormiers purchased farmland in the area. Attending the church in Liberty was difficult because of road conditions prompting the Ames Catholics to build a chapel in 1897 known as Sacred Heart Chapel. Josephite priests from Houston serviced the mission. In 1912 a second building was constructed and rectory built in 1915 insured a full-time priest. With the establishment of a school in 1914, the Catholic presence grew. By 1929, the community required a larger church and it was renamed Our Mother of Mercy. Mission churches sprang forth in Raywood and Dayton. Through the years, the church complex has grown to include a parish hall and education center. Since 1937 the church has sponsored an Easter Sunday rodeo. Priests from the Missionary Society of St. Paul in Nigeria have served since 1993 and Our Mother of Mercy continues to be the hub of church and social life in Ames.
The precursor to Black History Month was created in 1926 in the United States, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” This week was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 14. Both of these dates had been celebrated together by Black communities since the late 19th century. Initially, primary emphasis was placed on encouraging the coordinated teaching of the history of American blacks in the nation’s public schools. In 1976 as part of the United States Bicentennial, the informal expansion of Negro History Week to Black History Month was officially recognized by the U. S. Government. Then President, Gerald Ford urged all Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”