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GOD & TEXAS: Bells Texas

My Caller ID displayed “Bells Texas.” Though the caller left no voicemail, I wondered where this town got that charming name.

Bells is in Grayson County, 12 miles east of Sherman. In early 1800, this area of rolling hills was teeming with wild game, fruit and nut trees. The soil was fertile, and natural springs flowed into meandering streams. Many early settlers called it their “Promise Land.”

The community had several names before Bells was selected. Historians say it was called Dugan’s Chapel and then Dugansville. The townsfolk dubbed it Gospel Ridge because there were so many churches there.

The government named the local post office Choctaw. But when the post office closed, the railroad had to find another name. One source claims that Bells was named for Edward R. Bell, Vice President of the Denison & Southeastern Railway Co. But locals recall that when the railroad finally came to town, all the church bells rang so loud that they named it the “Town of Bells,” or simply Bells.

Among the historic churches in and around Bells that still minister today are Virginia Point Methodist (1834), Antioch Baptist (1861), Hebron Baptist (1871), First Methodist (1880), and First Baptist (1884). But, why were there so many churches in such a small community?

The hunger for worship can be traced to the first Anglo-Americans who arrived in the area in the mid-1830s. Daniel and Catherine Dugan brought seven children to Texas before it was a Republic. Their 4,602 acres of land were covered with uncultivated prairie, cedar and oak forests, Mill Creek, and several springs. They also had to battle savage Indians, harsh weather, and numerous epidemics of disease.

Family history recollects that the Dugans sang hymns as they traveled from Missouri to Grayson County. Not long after they arrived in Texas, the Dugans built a sizeable family homeplace. The dog-trot style cabin featured a large gathering area that Daniel used for family fun and Bible studies.

Daniel invited circuit-riding preachers to rest and minister in his home. Neighbors were notified of the meetings, and a path through the woods was made to the Dugan house. That well-used trail became known as Dugan Chapel Road, and it is still used today. Soon, churches were born out of these humble beginnings as the area attracted people of like precious faith.

Those who traveled the path to the Dugan home must have been filled with joyful anticipation. The settlers knew that they would meet old friends and new immigrants, while experiencing a time of inspirational worship. They understood Hebrews 10:25 NLT, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.”

Remember, we are weaker alone, but stronger together. As Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 NIV, “For where two or three gather in My name, there am I with them.”

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