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First Presbyterian Church, Palestine

First Presbyterian Church

The First Presbyterian Church of Palestine was organized November 3, 1849. Rev. Daniel Baker and Rev. J. N. Becton, Home Missionaries of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., were its organizers. The following were the charter members: W. B. Files, Fenby Files, D. C. Hunter, Achsah Hunter, H. H. Link, Martha A. Walton, E. J. De-Bard, Mrs. E. J. DeBard, Lucy Churchchain, F. J. Churchchain, J. F. Walton, Amelia Walton, J. C. Wortham, Eliza J. Wortham, Mrs. D. A. Calhoun, G. W. Tuggle, Paulina C. Jowers and E. M. Roberts—eighteen in all. The original Ruling Elders were W. B. Files, G. W. Tuggle and David C. Hunter. The church has been served by the following thirteen ministers: A. M. Becton, R. H. Byers, W. H. Rice, H. Moseley, A. P. Silliman, H. McDonald, W. H. Vernor, H. S. Yerger, S. M. Luckett, W. M. McElwee, R. H. Crozier, J. C. Oehler and the present pastor F. W. Langham.

The Church has been host to the Synod of Texas on four occasions: 1857, 1872, 1895, 1913. Seven of the church's thirteen ministers have served as Moderator of the Synod of Texas, i.e. ; R. H. Byers in, 1855, H. Moseley in 1869, A. P. Silliman in 1870, W. H. Vernor in 1878, S. M. Luckett in 1882, R. H. Crozier in 1892 and J. C. Oehler in 1927.

For the first few years of its life the Presbyterian Church shared a place of worship with other groups, but a steady growth in membership and activity made it advisable to own a church plant. One was erected on north Church Street. In time this building was outgrown and in 1888 the membership erected and moved into the present church building on Avenue A. Two additions have been added to the original auditorium and during the past year, 1935, extensive interior alterations and improvements were made.

The church has had a steady growth, though not a phenomenal one. From 18 members she has grown to approximately 400 members. Three Ruling Elders originally served her: to-day her officers number twelve Elders and twelve Deacons. The Church has a splendidly. organized Woman's Auxiliary, Sunday-School and Young People's work. During the period of her 87 years life her spirit has been marked by harmony and progress. - Not only has her influence been felt by her own members, but the spiritual life and moral development of the City and County have been lifted by her witness to them.

A Centennial History of Anderson County, Texas, 1936 by Pauline Buck Hohes.

First Presbyterian Church. Organized Nov. 3, 1849, with 18 charter members, by the great pioneer leaders, Revs. Daniel Baker and John May Becton, home missionaries. This Gothic building of handmade brick was erected in 1888; enlarged since by two additions. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1966.  Marker located 410 Avenue A, Palestine.

The First Presbyterian Church was organized by 18 charter members in 1849, one year after Palestine's founding, and is the city's oldest church building to have continuously served a single congregation. The congregation outgrew its original building by the late 1880s, and in 1887 they began construction of a new structure to accommodate their growing numbers. Although the 1887 church was built in the Gothic Revival style, it also incorporates various Italianate and Romanesque Revival elements. 

Reverend Daniel Baker and Reverend J.N. Becton organized the First Presbyterian Church of Palestine on November 3, 1849, one year after the county seat was founded, and many years before the arrival of the railroad. The 18 charter members included some of Palestine's most prominent citizens, including W.B. Files, Fenby Files, D.C. Hunter, Mrs. Elijah J. DeBard, Lucy Churchchain, F.J. Churchchain, J.F. Walton, Amelia Walton, J.C. Wortham, Eliza J. Wortham, Mrs. D.A. Calhoun, G.W. Tuggle, Paulina C. Jowers, and E.M. Roberts.

The young church built its first house of worship on North Church Street. With the 1872 arrival of the railroads to Palestine came an increase in population, which strained capacities for existing institutions such as the First Presbyterian Church. By the late 1880s, the congregation had outgrown its original building and purchased a lot on March 7, 1887 on Avenue A for construction of the present building. The new church was completed the following year. The cornerstone of the building, which was laid July 12, 1888, lists members of the building committee, including S.M. Luckett, A.W. Gregg, G.R. Cooke, J.N. Link, W.M. Lacy, P.A. Kolstad, J.B. McKnight, Dr. J.H. Grant, and Dr. J.W. Douglas.

Although the building’s appearance has evolved over the years, it still retains its historic integrity and strongly conveys its pre-World War II character. W.C. Dodson, a highly regarded and successful architect based in Waco, Texas, served as the original architect. Dodson is best known for his courthouse designs, most notably the Hill County Courthouse in Hillsboro. It is likely that members of the church building committee were impressed by the sophisticated courthouse design Dodson provided Anderson County in 1885 and hired him for the construction of their own facility. The church’s original contractor was Joseph Frederick Wolff, who made the bricks used to construct the church from clay excavated at a local pit that later became Spring Park Lake. In 1890, just two years after erecting the church, the congregation hired local architect and builder C.S. Maffitt to design the silver spire, which was built that same year by contractor G.T. Scott. A 1900 building program added the present Sunday School Auditorium and pastor’s study on the west side of the building, and the 2-story rear educational wing was completed about 1905. A donation from Andrew Carnegie enabled the church to install an organ in April 1904. The church constructed a new Christian Education Building in 1972 on a lot immediately west of the old sanctuary and refurbished the old Palestine Herald Press Building for its use in 1981. The church also purchased and transformed the Crockett Junior High School cafeteria into a youth center in the mid-1980s. The various additions to the church during the early 1900s are indicative of the growth of the congregation, as well as the continued economic growth and prosperity in Palestine at the turn-of-the-century. - From the National Register of Historic Places listing.


31° 45' 43.632" N, 95° 37' 50.844" W