First Christian Church, Palestine
First Christian Church
First Christian Church. It is to be doubted whether any of the churches in Anderson County, always excepting Pilgrim, antedates the First Christian Church of Palestine. In 1847 a group of determined men and women met at Fort Houston and organized a religious body which has today developed into the First Christian Church of Palestine. Amongst these first members were: Mr. and Mrs. J. L. McMeans, Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Latimer, Mr. and Mrs. Van Noy, Mr. and Mrs. Bowden, Mr. and Mrs. Michaux, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, and Rev. Mr. Jordan, a Missionary Baptist evangelist. The early meetings of the body were held in the Anderson County Court House. In 1855 their first "meeting house" was erected in what is today called Old Town. Dr. Carroll Kendrick was the first pastor.
Amongst the early additions several prominent families were noted: Wm. Macon Micheaux and family from Kentucky, of whom Mrs. Eppie Campbell and Julia Whittle, daughters, became life long workers in the church; then Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Wright, parents of the late Geo. A. Wright; and Tom Amirald Ricks, new corners from Georgia, strengthened the church by their coming. The Clarks, to become widely known through their educational activities, came to Palestine in 1848. Joe Clark, the father, was a lawyer and editor. In 1854, he became a preacher, evangelizing in nearby towns. The son, Addison Clark, was one of the early converts to be baptised by Rev. Mr. Kendrick. The Clarks left Palestine in 1857; we next hear of them establishing Add-Ran College in Thorp Springs, in 1873. The name suggested by the names of Joe Clark's two sons, Addison and Randolph, was changed when the church took over the institution, moving same to Waco in 1895. It was reorganized under its present name, Texas Christian University. In 1910 it was again moved—to Fort Worth, where it flourishes today, one of the great schools of the nation.
The Palestine church had a hard struggle for existence for many years. Its membership was small—opposition to its ideals pronounced—and the only place of worship, till the year 1884, was a primitive, humble one room structure. The war between the states coming on, with the consequent departure of many of the men for the battle front the little band was severely tried. That it survived those terrible times "speaks eloquently of the consecration and faith of the few who were left to carry on" says, Mr. Newell Kane in his delightful History of the Church published in the Denominational paper in 1932. "To the noble women," he further adds, "was left the task of holding and keeping the faith while the men were away."
Pastor Tom Sweeney guided the church in its gradual recovery from the war. In 1868 Col. H. C. Swanson came to the church—a wonderful addition, as a man of deep religious convictions and unsurpassed generosity, coupled with the possession of means to gratify his impulses, his value to the church could scarcely be over-estimated. Besides his individual zeal and benefactions, Col. Swanson also gave four splendid, daughters who, from the first, contributed richly of their talents and means to the various activities -of the church—Mmes. Davenport, Kane, Douglas, and Wright. Mmes. Dora Douglas and Geo. A. Wright continue zealous members today.