This year marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of Shankleville – a Freedom Colony built on the principles of pride of ownership, hard work and community collaboration.
Through the past 15 decades, the descendants of the original Shankleville families, along with their friends and colleagues have consistently lived up to those founding principles, and the Shankleville Historical Society’s motto: “Come back, give back.” The “Coming back” and “Giving back” are apparent in the number of family reunions the community still hosts, the steady (though smaller) participation in the annual Homecoming and various efforts to continue to “put Shankleville on the map” through a host of ongoing projects and programs.
However, while the feeling of home and community continue to thrive in our youngest generations, some of the “basics” about “Coming back” and “Giving back” have become a little fuzzy. So, here they are! Your basic questions, answered!
When is a good time to visit Shankleville?
Anytime is a good time for a visit, but the best time is the last Saturday in June for the Texas Purple Hull Pea Festival or the first weekend in August for the Annual Shankleville Homecoming.
What happens at the Festival?
The Texas Purple Hull Pea Festival is a family-friendly day of activities, food and music with Purple Hull Peas at the center of it all. There are pea picking, pea shelling, pea shooting and pea cooking contests, walking tours, face-painting, story-telling, and a symposium dedicated to exploring food and other Freedom Colonies like Shankleville. Learn more about it on our Facebook page, on Twitter (@shankleville), or on the “Festival” tab on this website, www.shankleville.org/purple-hull-festival.html
What about the Homecoming? What happens there?
The Homecoming is like a big family reunion for everybody who lives in the community or is the descendant of someone who used to live there. The location rotates between the three churches in Shankleville – Mount Zion CME, Church of God and Mount Hope Baptist. Since the Homecoming is at a church, the programs are like huge family-oriented religious services.
The “official” Homecoming programs consist of a Saturday night Gospel Music program (7:00 p.m.), a Sunday morning Community Sunday School (9:30), the main Church Service at 11:30, Lunch (approximately 1:15 p.m.), and the Shankleville Memorial Scholarship Program at 2:15 p.m. All activities are completed by 4:30 p.m. at the latest.
“Unofficially,” there are family gatherings and reunions going on throughout the community during Homecoming weekend. Any distant cousin will surely extend an invitation!
What if I can’t make it to either of those events?
As we mentioned above, any time is a good time to visit. Those are just the “best” times. Any other time you “come back,” be sure to re-read the Texas Historical Markers on the corner of FM1415 and County Road 1040, and visit the Jim Shankle and Shankleville Community Cemeteries. (Both offer good genealogy lessons.) Also, be sure to make a pilgrimage to “The Spring” – the spot where Winnie welcomed Jim to Texas after his long journey from Mississippi to find her. Directions to The Spring are on the Historical Marker.
Finally, as we stated above, Shankleville descendants host family reunions in the community throughout the year – especially during summer months. Get involved with your distant cousins through Facebook and other social media to find out about their family reunions, gatherings and other happenings – or to solicit their advice on planning your own.
Oh, and one more thing – check out the Shankleville Hunting Club.
Shankleville has a hunting club?
Yes. They have leases for deer hunting, and members come from throughout Texas and even Louisiana. To learn more about it, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information and we’ll pass it on.
How can I “Give Back” to my Shankleville Community?
Current ongoing projects need people interested in organizing, grounds keeping, history, working with youth, archeology, building and building maintenance, painting, photography, writing, editing, graphic design, marketing, accounting, and more. Just let us know you’d like to help by sending an email to email@example.com.
There are many opportunities to volunteer – even if you live outside of Deep East Texas or out of state. Whatever your skills and interests, you can help!
I’m swamped! Can’t I just give money?
Of course! (And it’s not “just money!”)
Monetary gifts to the Shankleville Homecoming may be mailed c/o the Corresponding Secretary to 977 FM 1415; Wiergate, TX 75977. Traditionally, most money is given at the Homecoming programs in cash, or with checks payable to Shankleville Homecoming. The Homecoming is an unincorporated nonprofit association. Check with your tax professional about how to document your tax-deductible contribution.
Gifts to the Shankleville Historical Society, Inc. can be made on this website, via checks payable to Shankleville Historical Society, Inc., and mailed c/o Lareatha Clay to 3150 Dorothy St.; Beaumont, TX 77705, or with cash or checks given at the Homecoming. Gifts may also be sent directly to two of the Society’s programs with checks sent to the Beaumont address and payable to Texas Purple Hull Pea Festival and/or Odom Homestead Preservation. The Society is an incorporated 501(c)(3) organization, so all gifts are tax deductible. Our tax ID number is 01-0624274.
Wait a minute! The Shankleville Homecoming and the Shankleville Historical Society are not the same thing?
No. The Homecoming was established in 1941 and its primary purpose is raising money for the maintenance and upkeep of Shankleville’s two cemeteries. So, every dollar raised at the Homecoming goes to make sure our ancestors’ final resting places are clean and clear of weeds and overgrowth.
Don’t cemetery and burial fees take care of that?
No, they don’t. In cities and larger towns, cemetery fees are pretty substantial, and they DO cover the cost of maintenance. But, traditionally, there were no burial fees in the Shankleville cemeteries. Upkeep depended on volunteers and the funds raised during the annual Homecoming. A few years ago, the Homecoming decided to charge modest fees (approximately 16% of the typical fees charged in cities) to help cover rising maintenance costs. The cost of mowing both cemeteries is $600 per event, so, every dime and dollar collected during the Homecoming weekend is needed and valued!
What about the Shankleville Historical Society?
The Shankleville Historical Society was founded in 1987, and its primary focus is on celebrating, documenting, and propagating the history and legacy of the Shankleville Community. More information about our background and Mission are available on this website.
How does the Society use its money?
Money given to the Historical Society is used to produce and maintain its programs. The oldest of these is the Shankleville Memorial Scholarship, which is in its 26th year. Scholarship applicants and recipients are residents of Shankleville and/or descendants of Shankleville families. Typically, three scholarships are awarded each year in the amount of $1,000.000, $800.00 and $500.00 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places, respectively. Funds for the scholarships come exclusively from dollars donated to the Society.
Additionally, the Society uses its funds to produce the annual Texas Purple Hull Pea Festival, and for work on special historic preservation projects. Funds for these programs are raised via donations during the Homecoming, donations from corporations and individuals that are not directly connected to Shankleville, and grants. Again, every dollar we receive is needed and valued!
Why don’t y’all work together?
We do! Many (most) of the Society’s volunteers also volunteer with the Homecoming and vice versa. The Homecoming added the Sunday afternoon session to its programming to accommodate the Society’s scholarship program. The Society’s mission to “propagate” the Shankleville legacy is evidenced in our marketing and outreach efforts, and through our programming and newsletter to get Shankleville descendants from across the world to “Come back, give back,” especially during the Homecoming. Together, the Society and Homecoming are a model of our Shankleville heritage – hard work and community collaboration.