HEATH, Texas — Everyone at the First Baptist Church of Heath knew it was inevitable. One way or another, they would eventually have to say goodbye to an old friend.
"Of course there's an empty spot, but we'll have lots of good memories that we can always cherish," said 86-year-old Clarice Isbell.
Clarice was devastated at the news that her good friend wouldn't make it. "It did break my heart," she said.
Clarice says, after 86 years she's gotten closer than most people ever get to their church.
Smirl Chapel, the church's original building, was built in 1898.
Over the years, hundreds of people were either baptized, married or forever changed in that church. "I met my husband even in this church," Isbell said.
After 120 years, the building was beyond repair, and a few years ago the board voted to tear it down.
"When I heard that, it made me sad to realize that a building with that much history was going to be torn down," said Rockwall resident Evan Tate.
Evan and his wife Melissa are the last of a dying breed. They operate Summerfield at Tate Farms, one of the only ranches of its kind left in Rockwall County.
Occasionally, they host weddings, parties and other events at the farm and were planning to add a new building when they found out about Smirl Chapel.
“[Evan] looked up at me and we were both like, ‘Yep, this is what we should do,’” Melissa said.
“After talking about it, we decided we wanted to move it to the farm,” said Evan. And so began the church's eight-mile journey to salvation.
Evan and Melissa plan to restore the chapel to its original condition and rescue it from demolition. They've collected donations, but will pour much of their own money into the six-month restoration.
“I just love that Evan and I were able to preserve something that’s so important to so many people and we get to add to the story," Melissa said.
Because, if the church taught them anything, it's that no matter how battered or broken, every piece is worth saving.
Click here to learn more about the restoration of Smirl Chapel