By NICHOLAS SAKELARIS | CoServ
Martha Anderson Beard remembers the day when Denton County Electric Cooperative (now CoServ) showed up to bring electricity to her home in Era for the first time.
A friend of theirs named Lewis C. Gandillon wired the house so they were ready to go when the power started flowing.
“I was so amazed I would push that button to see the lights go on and off. We’d always had a lantern,” Martha said.
The 93-year-old also remembers when Era Church of Christ received electricity for the first time from DCEC. In fact, the church was among the first to sign up for service when DCEC formed in 1937. Homes change owners, businesses come and go but the Era Church of Christ has been receiving electric bills under the same name at the same address since the beginning, which officially makes it CoServ’s longest continuous Member.
As CoServ celebrates its 85th anniversary, we want to recognize the Era Church of Christ for joining the fledgling co-op before we even had a single utility pole in the ground – the first power lines were energized the next year in February 1938.
The 116-year-old church operated very differently in Martha’s youth. Men sat on one side while women and children entered and sat on the other.
“Everything centered around the church and everyone came. Men wore hats and put them on the back of the seat,” Martha said. “All these people had kids and they all came on Sunday. We didn’t get any air conditioning in that building for years.”
Today, the church stands as a reminder of slower, simpler times. Most people with younger children have moved on to bigger churches that offer youth activities. However, the people who remain are dedicated to this building and what it represents for Era, a small town west of Interstate 35.
Hymns are sung in beautiful a cappella. Sermons are given on various Bible verses and communion is given. On Wednesday nights, the congregation gathers in the adjacent community building for Bible discussions accompanied by dramatic video reenactments.
History is everywhere in this building.
Joe Knox, 87, primed and painted the inside and outside of the church in the early 2000s.
On the end of one pew, there’s a photo of longtime church member, legendary high school coach and teacher Bob Grundy along with an American flag and a Bible. It’s a memorial and a reminder of a man who dedicated his life to that church before he died in May 2020.
Even in his later years, Bob, Martha’s cousin, would be up on a ladder trimming the trees at the church. One day he fell and broke his ribs but that didn’t stop him from attending the service that Sunday.
Bob also painted the picture that hangs behind the altar of the church. It shows baptisms taking place not in the Jordan River in the Middle East but in Clear Creek just south of Era.
“His handprint is all over this building, all over this ground,” said Becky Thomas, Bob’s niece. “Church and family – that was his thing. He did not miss. He would be here regardless.”
Bob started the process to have the church listed as a Texas Historical Site and now Becky said they want to continue that effort.
“We’re hoping that will still come to fruition,” she said. “I know that he was really wanting to see that happen. It’s a beautiful building.”