If there is one thing that Carthage has, it is churches with a lot of history.
So when the Christmas in Carthage Committee came up with the idea of an Historic Church Tour, it seemed a good fit.
Five Carthage churches will open their doors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday to give visitors the opportunity to take tours of their historic buildings.
Churches open for the tour will be First Presbyterian, 115 W. Chestnut Ave.; Carthage Nazarene, 2000 Grand Ave.; Faith Lutheran, 2134 Grand Ave.; Grace Episcopal, 820 Howard St.; and First Christian, 800 S Main St.
Tickets for the tour are $10 with a portion of the proceeds to be donated back to the churches for their missions. Tickets are available from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday at the Carthage Chamber of Commerce, 402 S. Garrison Ave., or on Saturday at Mother Road Coffee, 325 Main St.
Roots of First Presbyterian can be traced back to 1870 at 613 E. Budlong St. during an era when the Civil War was still fresh on everyone's mind. The church settled into its present location in 1917 and added an educational wing with classrooms and a quaint chapel in 1967.
The tour comes at the same time as the much-anticipated Christmas Craft Bazaar from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, so church members have been busy setting up for both events.
"We have been doing extensive cleaning and waxing the floors, just like preparing for company," said Clara Ward, church secretary. "We are decorated for the holidays."
The church has even set aside an historical room that contains old church bulletins, pictures and artifacts.
First Presbyterian has all the attractions of a museum. Situated among its Tudor Gothic Architecture are such things as stained glass dating back to 1917 and a tower bell, made in 1863.
That bell was removed from the first church and transplanted to the present one in 1917. It is still rung from a pull cord.
There is also the Austin Pipe Organ built in 1927 that is located in the church sanctuary. It contains 1,023 pipes ranging from four inches to 16 feet tall. It creates sounds ranging from violin to flutes to chimes. Carillon chimes can be heard throughout the day.
Choir Director Carolyn Clark will play the organ from 1 to 4 p.m. during the tour.
Another musical centerpiece of the tour will be Bill Sutter playing an 1870 piano and leading a hymn sing from 10 to 10:30.
A room will also be made available for children to do crafts, while their parents take the tour or shop at the bazaar.
Although there will be a lot of historical sites to be visited, Dustin Ledford, pastor of Carthage Nazarene, said there is another aspect of the tour that should not be overlooked.
Page 2 of 2 - "When visitors walk through the front doors, I hope they will feel the warmth of Christmas," he said. "We will have special Christmas decorations in our foyer and sanctuary, and, of course, I hope they will see the different kinds of ministries that we offer."
Hostesses will greet those taking the tour of the church, which was built in 1922 on property where the Jasper County Jail is today.
Ledford said there have been four additions to the church, which moved to its present location in 1965 and completed its latest remodeling two years ago.
Faith Lutheran may pale in size to First Presbyterian, or even in age, but Timothy Buelow, pastor, still has plans for an informative tour.
As visitors walk through the church on a tour of the stained glass windows, they will notice signs under each window that will provide a bit of history and other information.
Quartets will be singing for a couple of hours beginning at 11:30 a.m. Playing on an historic pipe organ imported from Germany will be Sara Buelow, the pastor's wife, and Rick Harms.
A unique attraction will be the Memorial Garden in front of the church, which honors the seven Carthage victims of the 2011 Joplin tornado.
The tour coincides with Faith Lutheran's Christmas for Kids.
Although Faith Lutheran began in Carthage in 1929, it actually started under the auspices of the Swedish Lutheran Church in the 1800s, closed in 1900 and became inactive until starting up again in 1929.
When visitors walk into Grace Episcopal, they will be seeing the oldest marble public building in Carthage.
Not only that but they will also get a chance to check out the second oldest round stained glass window west of the Mississippi, said Steve Wilson, pastor of the church, which opened just off the Carthage square in 1869.
Grace Episcopal does not decorate for Christmas until Christmas Eve, putting more emphasis on the Advent Season.
The church's seven-rank pipe organ, installed in the early 1980s, will be an attraction for many.
"With the exception of the organ, pretty much everything else at our church is original," Wilson said. "There has not been much change at all from the original building. Very little looks different from about a century and a half ago."
First Christian Church
One of the most memorable sights to be seen at First Christian will be the 15-foot long and 7 1/2-foot high mural of the Last Supper in the sanctuary. In addition, there will be the historic pipe organ that was installed shortly after the church was formed in 1910, as well as a number of stained glass windows.