Church to be listed on historic register

Courtesy photo The Inez Methodist Church was closed in 1996. It is occasionally used for weddings or funerals

By Karl Terry: Freedom New Mexico

It’s just a little country church. But for those few left who grew up in the mostly vanished community of Inez, memories of Christmas gatherings live on.

The memories and the little church itself may now outlive the farm families who attended services there. The New Mexico Historic Preservation Division voted at its Dec. 7 meeting to list the Inez Methodist Church, built in 1916, on the state level of the National Register of Historic Places.

Inez was a farming community approximately 20 miles southeast of Portales near the community of Rogers and just five miles from the Texas border. Today the church, its parsonage and the Inez Cemetery are about all that remain of the community.

Nancy Ridgley of Portales was born in Inez in 1933 and spent her childhood in that area.

She particularly remembers Christmas gatherings. The community would gather in the church, where there would be a tree, singing and a sack of goodies for each of the youngsters.

“It might not have been much, but every kid got something,” she recalled.

Harold Belcher, another long-time resident of the area, remembered, “That little church would fill up at Christmas. We had a great time.”

He says he remembers pump-up Coleman style lanterns in the church and lots of children. Because they couldn’t go to town (Portales) very often, the church was the center of community life.

Cindy Harth, who lives within sight of the church building remembers Christmas programs that were held in the church in later years.

“It’s just a little church that’s been in the area since the early 1900s, and we think it’s worth keeping around,” Harth said.

John Murphey, register coordinator, assembled much of the early history of Inez through oral history accounts, according to a press release from the HPD.

Inez’s first official pastor, Rev. L.L. Hurston, arrived in 1914. He traveled to the site on horseback before a church was built.

The group held box suppers and play, sold cakes and held “Ugliest Man” and “Prettiest Girl” contests to raise money for the building.

The church was built slowly as materials were obtained and was completed in 1916.

It remained vital into the 1950s, but by 1965, the church fell inactive. It was reopened in 1974 and stayed active until 1988, when it once again fell on tough times. In 1996 the church closed for good, and the name was changed to Inez Community Church. Now only an occasional wedding or funeral is held there.

Community members raised $12,000 for its preservation, installing windows, doors and a metal roof.

Harth’s late husband Chester was instrumental in assuring the church’s preservation.

In an interview with Murphey, the Roosevelt County farmer remembered when the church closed, “they closed it just like someone died.” Rev. Gorton Smith of Clovis performed the last service and a small plastic plaque was affixed to the interior that read, “In loving memory of the early settlers who founded and built this church.”