Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

These Walls: Isaiah 53 Church in Tulsa

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

These Walls: Isaiah 53 Church in Tulsa

Article excerpt

It rises from the shady wooded glade like a remnant of America's Old West, the iconic white one-room church that anchored seemingly every frontier town.

"This would make a great setting for a Western movie," agreed the Rev. Steve Schubert, his softly authoritative voice providing a similarly classic echo of many cinematic parsons.

Schubert and his wife, Cathy, oversee the Isaiah 53 Church, the last structure left from a community of freed slaves that once thrived in what is now south Tulsa.

Recorded variously under the township names of Rentie or Rentie Grove, the history books and archival articles provide scant, sometimes conflicting information about those few hundred African- American souls that gathered either in the late 1890s or early 1900s around the farmstead of Stephen Rentie.

Through the bustling statehood era, this unincorporated settlement grew to offer both a Baptist and Methodist church, a grocery store, a school and gasoline station. A U.S. Postal Service station operated there from Jan. 21, 1904, to May 31, 1909.

"One thing we don't understand is that, among all of the black towns that have been documented in Oklahoma, this community is not one of them," said Cathy Schubert. "It's sort of been left out. It's just in oral tradition and pictures."

Although state segregation policies sustained the school through 1955, the primarily black farming community never gained traction. Only a few traces remain: a cemetery near 95th and S. Harvard, a few learned stones in a Jenks East Middle School display case, and the little 1905 church.

For many decades, that 1,200-square-foot temple of glass and wood sheltered the Rentie Grove Baptist Church, but as the region transformed into one of Tulsa's wealthiest neighborhoods, in 1977 the largely African-American congregation sold the aging structure and relocated to 1951 N. …

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