In the Redwood forests there stand towering giants that point heavenward. Their root systems interconnect beneath the surface of the earth providing stability when the winds blow. For 170 years, great Redwoods of Faith in Fort Worth have stood tall and strong heralding Good News of Christ Jesus. The roll call of countless elders, deacons, and ministers who have championed the Gospel in our city is inspirational. The church of Christ/Christian church was started in 1855 in the home of Dr. Carroll Peak, Cowtown’s first physician.
But we mustn’t forget that among these gargantuan trees of elders, deacons, and ministers there have been many women of similar spiritual stature. Mrs. Florence Peak gave birth to four children as she assisted her husband in giving care to the early settlers of our town. Her first son Howard, with flaming red hair, was a great curiosity to the Native Americans who came to trade in the small settlement. Howard would become a successful businessman and later an early mayor of San Antonio. Her first daughter, Clara Peak Wilson, was a career educator in Fort Worth and along with her father actually helped start the Fort Worth Independent School District, with Dr. Peak serving on its first Board of Trustees. There still stands a Carroll Peak elementary school just a few miles east of the Southside church. Florence Street in downtown is named in honor of Florence Peak. Howard and Clara were the first two children born in our city.
Florence started the first Sunday School in our town in 1855 and continued to teach for 45 years, till the turn of the new century. Among her students was a child named Alice Purcell. The Purcell family were charter members when the downtown church planted the Southside church in 1892, seeing that the growth of the south side of town warranted a new congregation. Alice Purcell never married and was herself a lifelong educator in our city and a lifelong Sunday school teacher at Southside. Among Miss Purcell’s students in the WWII years was a little girl named Janet. Janet remembers Miss Purcell’s dramatic, histrionic style of teaching Bible stories. Years later Janet’s face still lights up as she recalls her Sunday school teachers’ colorful style of retelling the “Old, Old Story” at Southside’s College & Leuda location. Miss Alice Purcell died in March of 1967, the last surviving charter member of Southside from 1892.
Janet McKee will meet Gene Kile in the singles ministry at Southside in the early 50s and marry the handsome Gene in 1957. These two soaring redwoods will teach hundreds of youngsters at Southside through the decades that follow. In outdoor Bible camps, in rickety old church buses that wove through the south side of town picking of scores of neighborhood children, in the pioneering Bible Hour that they started, and of course many years in our church classrooms this dynamic duo enthusiastically taught the Timeless Truths. Their three sons—Bruce, Terry, and Kevin—have that same gift of enthusiastic, creative, and compelling teaching modeled by their parents.
Florence, Alice, Janet--- three women all connected by their love of children and love of the Gospel. Three women, standing tall, roots intertwined, pointing heavenward, making an eternal difference in the lives of children of Fort Worth since 1855.