This Week in Texas Methodist History August 7
Alto Methodist Church Hosts Mite Box Opening August, 1910
How long has it been since you’ve been to a mite box opening? Do you remember mite boxes?
On a Monday afternoon in August, 1910, the Alto Methodist Church in southern Cherokee County hosted a mite box offering for the Baby Roll.
The use of mite boxes, sometimes called “alms boxes” or “poor boxes,” is ancient.
But Jehoiada the priest took a chest and bored a hole in the lid of it, and set it beside the altar, on the right side as one cometh into the house of the Lord; and the priests who kept the door put therein all the money that was brought into the house of the Lord. 2 Kings 12:9
By 1910 wooded chests were replaced by cardboard boxes printed and distributed by the Publishing House. Other versions were cardboard sheets with pre-cut slots into which coins could be inserted. They were usually distributed to children at the beginning of Lent. The mite box was appropriate for children because they could put their small coins in the box. During a designated worship service the children would place their boxes on the altar.
The main purpose, of course, was not to generate revenue, but to instill habits of charity in very young children.
The mite box opening at Alto was somewhat out of the ordinary in that it was organized as a special party—complete with ice cream, recitations, and song.
Perhaps the term “Baby Roll” is unfamiliar. A Baby Roll, or more commonly “Cradle Roll,” was a standard feature of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the era. When a woman in a Methodist church had a baby, it was common for the other women in the church to honor her by making a donation to the Society and entering the baby’s name on the roster of the local Society, thereby creating a relationship with the church that often lasted a lifetime.
Four years later, in 1914, a young preacher in his first appointment came to Alto. He didn’t stay long, but he achieved such prominence that the church renamed itself in his honor. That’s why we have A. Frank Smith UMC in Alto today.