Pelham, the largest of the three all-Negro communities treated in this historical account, is located in the extreme western portion of Navarro County.  It is twenty-five miles west of Corsicana, the county seat, and ten miles north of Hubbard, five miles east of Malone, and four miles south of Irene, in adjourning County.

The center of Pelham's community life is less that one mile from the Hill-Navarro county line, and a portion of the territory included in this rural settlement is in the first-named county. Approximately 5,500 acres of land are included in the community area.  At one time its population was 350 inhabitants.
On FM 744 a sign on either end of the community boundaries does not list the population, but a good guess would be less than 75 residents live in Pelham today.
                                                                                    - Navarro County Geneology Information

The Movement to Pelham

"Forks of the Creek" was a short distance southeast of the later and permanent settlement at Pelham.  The first location was in the Ash Creek bottomlands where wood, water, and tillable soil were available.  But cultivation of the soil was hampered by frequent overflows from the creek channels.
Undoubtedly, this condition was an important factor in causing the establishment of a settlement on the higher ground in the Pelham area.  The decision to abandon the "Forks of the Creek" section and move to the new location was also influenced by the development of farm implements that made possible the cultivation on the heavier and more fertile soil in the Blackland Prairie around Pelham.

Pelham Post Office

The new settlement developed rapidly at the turn of the century. In 1898 a post office was approved for the community. It and the community were named by Lewis R. Ritchie, whose wife came from Pelham, Alabama.
Mail came to the Emmett post office, a few miles east of the village, and was brought to the Pelham office by Jeff Carruthers.  When the rural free delivery mail service was inaugurated by the Post Office Department in 1903, the post office at Pelham was discontinued.

Business Houses

In 1895, A. Lockhard opened a store on the Quince Henry farm and named it "Need More."  Other grocery stores were established at the new townsite by George Carruthers and L.B. Porter.  Bertha Porter had a grocery store that was in operation until 1949.

Pelham's Churches

Wesley United Methodist
The first Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in the late 1870's.  The building in which the congregation met was a combination log church and schoolhouse, which was located on the John Carruther's farm.  Later it moved near the cemetery, and a building was constructed out of lumber.  Subsequently the church and school were separated.  The first school teacher to use the combination building was John Carruthers.
In 1911, during the pastorate of Rev. Daniels, the church was moved to its present site.  It was destroyed by fire in 1931, but rebuilt in 1933.

Brown Chapel, A.M.E.
Tom Cook gave land for a building site for this church.  The first pastor was Rev. G. R. Pearson, and the first Sunday School Superintendent was Pat Cook.  Rev. Carver was the second pastor.  The church was named for Mr. Pompey Brown, the oldest member and the father-in-law of Tom Cook.  

Brown Chapel AME was organized in 1905.  It was on the Blooming Grove Circuit in the Waxahachie District.  The district was composed of the St. Andrews, Richland, Blooming Grove and Brown's Chapel congregations.  The church was destroyed by fire in 1937, and was rebuilt the following year.

Union Baptist Church
This church was organized in 1916 by Rev. W. M. Thornton.  A brush arbor served as the first meeting place.  The church was destroyed by a storm in 1937, but was rebuilt in 1954. 

The Pelham School

The first school in the Pelham community was housed in a church building.  Like many of the white schools, it was probably operated on a subscription and tuition basis for several years.  John Carruthers was the first teacher.
For many years, the school operated as a twelve-grade system that included an accredited high school.  It had a well-rounded program of studies, and its graduates were permitted to enter college upon graduation from school.  Many of the students took advantage of this opportunity.
Pelham claims to be the first school in this area to operate on an integrated basis.  This was begun in 1950 when a Spanish family, with five children of school age, moved into the area.  Permission to enroll in the Pelham school was given by the district's trustees. 

Pelham--A Farming Community

From the time of its establishment the economy of the Pelham community has been supported primarily by revenue derived from the tilling of its fertile farmland.  It is in the heart of the Blackland Belt that traverses a considerable portion of Navarro County.  Some of the most productive land in Texas is located in this area.
There are several large landowners in the section.  Lewis Martin had 897 acres in the community.  Elmer Porter owns approximately 2,000 acres within and outside the Pelham territory.
The businesslike and efficient manner in which these people have operated their farms has made it possible for them to construct attractive and well-furnished homes (some built with brick and Austin stone); to send many of their children to institutions of higher learning.

Pelham--A Model Community

It can be said that Pelham is an example of what can be accomplished by a group of hard-working and industrious people, regardless of their racial background.  They have made a worthy contribution to the development of the section in which they located, and to the county of which it is an integral part.

The Pelham Community
By L.L. Wilkes
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", 1966
Parts Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society
Of the Past
Movement to Pelham
Post Office
Model Community
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Wesley UMC - 2001
Wesley UMC Historical Marker
Brown Chapel - 2001
Union Baptist - 2004
The Pelham Community was commemorated with a Texas Historical Marker in 1975.  This event marked the first black community in Navarro County to receive this recognition.
Pelham is a community full of rich history. That history consists of a lineage of families who believed in not just to be the best you can be, but to do the best you can do.
Map to Pelham

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