Mr. Charles Freeman wrote the book History of Pearl, Texas in 1969. His daughter, Mrs. Inez Arnold remembers that he drove many miles to collect photographs, stories and genealogy for the book. His brother, Byron Freeman, owned a printing business in Gatesville and later in Copperas Cove and he published the book. Charles was born and raised in Pearl, and spent his entire life with the people and the soil he loves.
In History of Pearl, Tx, Mr. Freeman writes about burials in Pearl. He states that it is doubtful if there was ever an undertaker in the Pearl community before the days of the automobile. When a person died in those days it was most of the time, in their home. The neighbors would gather in and hunt up some good smooth boxing boards about six or seven feet long and place them across two chairs in the front room of the dead person’s home and lay the body out on these boards to cool. Someone would either go to Gatesville after a coffin or someone would get some good lumber in the community and build a coffin. Then some of the neighbors would place the body in the coffin and within 24 hours they would take the corpse to the graveyard in a wagon at a slow walk. A local preacher would preach the funeral service at the grave side.
The first funeral service Mr. Freeman ever attended was for a small boy named Franklin Austin, and he was buried in the Slater Cemetery, east of Pearl and carried to the cemetery in a horse drawn vehicle. Newt Freeman and Buddy Cates rode horses in order that they could go past the funeral procession and open gates that separated the pastures roads. George Oney of Pearl lead the song, “In the Sweet Bye and Bye,” and then he delivered a short talk appropriate for the occasion. There was no preacher there, nor undertaker. The neighbors did all the heartbreaking work of preparing the body and burying the little fellow. Today, Coryell Museum has a portable wicker casket, folding chairs and a huge velvet curtain that funeral directors would use in private homes to display their loved ones in later years.
He writes that until the 1920’s each of the churches in Pearl had a ten-day revival meeting in August. It was very hot, but all the crops were harvested and the canning done for the year. Someone in every household or neighborhood had to go home often and feed the chickens and make sure their other stock had water.
Some of the churches rented tents for sleeping, and people loaded their wagons with bedding, and cooking utensils. These revivals were the main social event of the year. I can only imagine what it was like to be there. Church services were held, probably under a tabernacle, and good food was served from picnic tables. There were children running and playing games, babies are laughing or crying, a few teams of horses and wagons, or cars were coming and going all the time. Shy teenage country boys and girls getting to know each other. The women gathered together to visit, and possibly quilt and the men formed their own group to smoke, spit, chew and talk. I wonder at night how did they ever settle down the families to get some sleep? I wonder if there was a certain time for lights out and to get quiet. I would have loved to be there, but probably not for 10 days.
Kay Pruett writes the “News from around “Pearl” and reports that there are 3 active churches in the Pearl Community. The Pearl Baptist Church and the Pearl Church of Christ have both been serving the community for well over 100 years. The Pearl Community Fellowship was established in 2008 and uses what was once the Pearl Methodist Church, which closed its doors in 1978.
By Jann Dworsky and Property of The Gatesville Messenger 2014