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First published in the Mineral Wells Index - Special to the Index -
Placed here with permission from the author

Palo Pinto County 's Best kept Secret
By Pat Moody

For some, that would be the "little brown church in the vale' that has decided to give something back to the county and its people

Pleasant Valley - You probably have heard the song "There's a Church in the Valley by the Wildwood." Well, that song could have very well been written about The First Baptist Church of Pleasant Valley.

It is a "little brown church" and it is in a valley, but not too many people are even aware it is there. This building was erected in 1931 and 1932 by volunteers who hauled the sandstone rocks from the field behind it using horses, mules, wagons and buggies while the women cooked meals for them on an open fire.

After it was erected, it was used as a school, a church for everyone and as a social gathering place. It later became the First Baptist Church of Pleasant Valley, but was closed in 1955 due to men going off to war or moving into town. The two last members were Minnie Harrington and her daughter, who moved their letter to the First Baptist Church of Palo Pinto.

In 1975, a young man named Marvin Earl Harvey, who was returning from 20 years in the Army and who, at the time, was not even a preacher, decided that the valley needed a church. He found this building still standing, but there were no windows, no doors, no floor and no roof. Cattle from the nearby ranch wandered in and out along with rattlesnakes and other small animals.

He saw the possibilities, so he and a few others put a roof on the building. There was no electricity; no heat, no rest rooms, no water, and the faithful few members were furnished with paper bags to put their feet in to stay during services.

Years later- and after much persuasion, hard work, blood, sweat and tears - Palo Pinto County, friends and church members saw that the road got paved; they got running water, electricity, a floor, windows, mail service to the area; a school bus route. Also built was Sunday School space and a fellowship hall that can serve as a disaster relief center - complete with a kitchen and showers - in case of an emergency.

In 2000, Harvey retired as pastor after 25 years. Following the death of his wife, he returned as pastor in 2004. But wait! There is more! On July 1, 1941 , C.H. Harrington and Maudie Harrington donated an acre of land next to the church to be used as a cemetery for the benefit of the members of The First Baptist Church of Pleasant Valley and their families.

On Feb. 2, 1986 , A.G. (Gayle) Hilley and Louise Hilley, who owned the Hilley Ranch adjoining it and who also owned and operated Hilley Pharmacy, donated an acre of land for use as a cemetery for anyone not financially able to afford a cemetery plot.

On May 15, there will be a dedication of a monument honoring the Harringtons and Hilleys who gave so much for so many for what is not known as the " Pleasant Valley Cemetery ." Recently, a sign was placed over the gate, showing to the world that this is " Pleasant Valley Cemetery ." A bronze monument will be unveiled by the Pastor Harvey, County Judge Mickey West and the four county commissioners at a special dedication ceremony inside Harrington Hall, the fellowship hall, which was named for Minnie Harrington.

On Monday, Palo Pinto County Commissioners agreed to pay for the costs of the sign and monument totaling $1,345. Richards Signs Company made the cemetery sign, and is also making the monument.

Pastor Harvey has split the two-acre cemetery in half. One acre is available for members of the church, and the other half has been given for use to any indigent county resident, a savings to the county of approximately $400 for each pauper burial. Harvey said there are currently 58 people buried in the public use side, which he said can accommodate nearly 800 plots.

The most recent indigent burial - that of a 2 day old infant whose family could not afford to buy a cemetery plot - came just a few weeks ago. Harvey said he could think of nothing better than to dedicate half the church's cemetery for those who are financially unable to buy a plot.

"If a church can't help the community, then what good is it? Harvey said. If you know of anyone who is unable to afford a cemetery plot, this is open for public use. That is the secret that not many people are aware of. Harvey said the county, as well as funeral homes, are aware of the cemetery's availability for indigent needs.

The cemetery is maintained by volunteer labor, but mostly by the members of the First Baptist Church of Pleasant Valley, which has a membership of about 50 people. Harvey said he is beginning to see more people build and move to the area located on Pleasant Valley road three miles south of U.S. Highway 180 between Mineral Wells and Palo Pinto. He said at present there are some 100 families within close proximity of the church.

If you need a church home, you are also cordially invited to attend this "little brown church in the Vale" where the people are friendly, and their slogan is "Everybody is somebody, and Jesus Christ is Lord".


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