Orchard, Texas. Population 404 (2020). Salute!
The community of Orchard was built on hope. Former sea captain S.K. Cross purchased land on the south side of the Brazos River from Gail Borden Jr. and Sarah Kennedy. It was his dream to build a working ranch with a self-sustaining town as the hub.
In 1880, the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railway built tracks through the area hoping that commerce would bring prosperity.
In 1890, Cross divided and sold parcels of his land to recently arrived German, Bohemian, and Polish immigrants. At that time, the vicinity was known for its’ many groves of fruit-bearing trees, and the settlers called it “Fruitland.” They hoped their produce would attract customers.
In 1893, 12 families moved to Orchard from Akron, Ohio, hoping to create a thriving community. And for a while, the area grew to include three general stores, a filling station, a cotton gin, a church, and a drugstore. The citizens petitioned the government for a post office naming the town “Fruitland.” But because there was already a Texas town with that name, they changed the request to “Orchard.” The future looked hope-filled until it didn’t.
In 1900, the devastating Galveston hurricane destroyed many of the fruit trees in Orchard. They never recovered from that storm and many people lost hope. But in the middle of their sorrow, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Oyer heard about Pentecostal revival services that were occurring in Kansas.
In 1903, they traveled to Galena, Kansas, and heard the ministry of Charles Fox Parham, founder of Bethany Bible College. They were overwhelmed with the power and presence of God, and invited Parham to come to Orchard to preach.
On Easter Sunday, 1905, Rev. Parham preached his first of many sermons in Orchard. An amazing Pentecostal revival broke out that stirred the entire community. Reports stated that people were saved, healed, delivered from habits, slain in the Spirit, and baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues!
The whole community was affected by the power of God, and some said that everyone in town began living for Christ. Nearly 116 years later, books and news articles still recount the events of the historic Orchard Revival.
The story of the revival in Orchard reminds me that when people get hungry for God, He honors their request, and sends His power and blessings (2 Chronicles 7:14). One couple placed their hope in Christ, and many lives were transformed.
Since God has not changed, He still welcomes your prayers. Perhaps now is a good time to pray for a revival in our community. No town is too small or too large for God to send it His mighty refreshing.
Please join me in this prayer: “Will you not revive us again, O Lord, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6 ESV)