Forest Folk, Prairie Folk: Rural Religious Cultures
in North Texas
TERRY G. JORDAN*
TEXAS WITH ITS DIVERSITY OF CULTURES AND ENVIRONMENTS, OFFERS
abundant and largely untapped resources to the student of folkways.
Many ethnic and racial groups founded colonies in the woodlands and on
the prairies of the Texan countryside, fashioning a human mosaic whose in-
dividual hues are still discernible even after a century or more of assimila-
tive blurring. North Texas, represented in the present study by the coun-
ties of Cooke and Denton, as well as adjacent parts of Grayson, Collin,
and Wise, is in many respects a Texas microcosm, containing within its
confines great environmental and cultural contrasts (Figure I). The rem-
nants of once impenetrable forests stand beside expanses of open prairie, and
sons of Central European immigrants are neighbors to descendants of
The multiple cultures of North Texas find expression in features as
varied as folk architecture, dialect, political party allegiance, livelihood,
diet, and religion. To illustrate the regional contrasts, the example of reli-
gious material culture has been chosen for more detailed attention here.
The widely divergent origins of rural North Texans are expressed by equal-
ly contrasted religious faiths, including fundamentalist Protestantism, in-
troduced by old-stock Americans from the Upper South; Roman Catholic-
ism, implanted by immigrant farmers from the German lands and Bohemia;
northern Methodism, brought to this southern state by Midwesterners;
and a scattering of smaller sects, such as the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.2
*Mr Jordan is professor and chairman of the Department of Geography at North
Texas State University. Funds to support research for this paper were granted by the
Faculty Research Committee of North Texas State University, Grant No. 34315. Included
was field research in North Texas and the United Kingdom, 1973-1975.
'Terry G Jordan, "Annals Map Supplement Number Thirteen: Population Origin
Groups in Rural Texas," Annals of the Assoczation of American Geographers, LX (June,
1970), 404-405 and colored fold map.
"Worth S. Ray, Down in the Cross Timbers (Austin, I947); Ruth S. Holmon, "Some
Morphological Aspects of the Speech of Cooke County, Texas" (M.A. thesis, North
Texas State University, 1950); William Pulte, Jr., "An Analysis of Selected German
Dialects of North Texas and Oklahoma," in Glenn G. Gilbert (ed.), Texas Studies in
Bilzngualism: Spanish, French, German, Czech, Polish, Sorbian, and Norwegian in the
Southwest (Berlin, 1970), 105-141; Albert M. Schreiber, Mesquite Does Bloom: An
Historical Account of the First Fifty Years of St. Mary's Parish and Community,
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 80, July 1976 - April, 1977. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101204/. Accessed January 28, 2015.