Live Oak County Historical Commission
Live Oak County Historical Commission

      George West First United Methodist                           Church

George West First United Methodist Church, Texas Historical Subject Marker, in front of Church Courtyard tells the history of the church and parsonage. Photo courtesy Richard Hudson. 

George West First Methodist Church celebrates their founding Centennial in the church sanctuary before the marker unveiling. This and above photos courtesy Richard Hudson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff, congratulates Ross Harris, George West First United Methodist Church Marker Sponsor, on receiving recognition from the Texas Historical Commission. Photo courtesy John Walker.

Ross Harris accepts the Texas Historical Commission's Subject Marker on behalf of the George West First United Methodist Church and their marker committee who gathered materials and photos for the marker application with thanks to all the church's membership who so diligently served the community throughout its history. Special thanks to Allyn Weber and Glynis Holme who brought the history of the church up to date for the Centennial Celebration of the Church's historic beginning. Leslie Walker, then Live Oak County Chairperson (middle of photo), also commends the service given by this magnanimous church. Allyn Weber, Administrative Board Chair of the George West First United Methodist Church, stands next to Leslie Walker. Photo courtesy John Walker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Hudson, Live Oak County Historical Commission Marker Chair, reads the marker and thanks all who helped in supplying information from which the narrative application below was written. Photo courtesy John Walker.

 

Janis Hudson, Live Oak County Historical Commission's webmaster, assisted in the writing of the narrative application comments on the rich history of George West First United Methodist Church's contributions to the community. "In 1927, Mr. John Dunn let the young people plant cotton on 13 acres of land at Clegg. They followed the crop from beginning to production and gave all the proceeds to building the first church building on the land donated by Mr. George West.  

The current parsonage history included plans drawn by Mrs. Jessie Gilstrap, contracted by her husband, Mr. J. C. Gilstrap, and built with yellow bricks from the Simmons Community School carefully cleaned and delivered by Mr. Fred Hudson and his son Philip.

Such efforts as these keep making George West First United Methodist Church a pillar of the George West Community. Photo courtesy John Walker.

Members of George West First United Methodist Church are joined by family and friends from throughout the community and state to share in the unveiling of the marker. Photo courtesy John Walker.

Live Oak County Judge: Honorable Jim Huff

Live Oak County Historical Commission Chair: Leslie Walker

LOCHC Marker Chair: Richard Hudson

Assistant Chair: Janis Hudson

FUMC Sponsor: Ross Harris

Contact: rehudson@liveoakchc.com

 

 

GWFUMC Subject Marker Text:

 

                               George West First United Methodist Church

  In 1914, combined protestant Christian services began in George West. Methodist circuit riders Alonso Brown and Roswell Gillett were among the ministers. Later in June 1916, Methodists organized as a branch of Oakville Methodist Church, South led by nine charter members and Reverend Stucky. Two lots were donated by George W. West. A parsonage was purchased in 1921. To complete a church building with Sunday School rooms in 1928, the Pastor's Aid Society continued its Tea Room, and the Young Adult Epworth League raised and sold cotton. Pews were furnished by the Episcopal Group.

  The church expanded in 1926 as George West Three Rivers Charge of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In 1939, the conference united nationally and dropped "South" and "Episcopal". By 1947, the church owned six adjoining lots in spite of devastating droughts, floods, and economic downturns, members remained faithful. A new parsonage designed and contracted by members, Jessie and J.C. Gilstrap, was built in 1954 with donated labor and salvaged brick from the closed Simmons School. By 1963, members renovated the vernacular church with a Postmodern design including stained glass windows donated from past memorials. The Conference united with Evangelical United Brethern and the church was renamed George West First United Methodist Church.

  Mission efforts reached to Calliham, Mikeska, and Clegg, on to San Antonio, New Orleans, Korea, and Africa. In 2005, the church became a Five Star Church by giving to all five mission areas of Texas Methodists. Walks to Emmaus, Children's Programs, Teacher Appreciation, and Senior Luncheons are ongoing ministries. (2016) Marker is property of the State of Texas. 

 

APPLICATION NARRATIVE AND BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR OFFICIAL TEXAS HISTORICAL SUBJECT MARKER:

 

George West First United Methodist Church

 

1.            CONTEXT

            From the earliest days of human experience, clarification of one’s spiritual experience in life is sought. In the history of man, the coming of Christ brought not only new depth but also division to this quest. The origin of most Christian denominations is based on the premise that Jesus Christ is the Holy Son of God. While most Christian denominations share this belief, they often differ in their approach of how to express their dedication to this belief.

            Born in Lincolnshire, England, brothers, John and Charles Wesley, were closely united in their beliefs of Christian devotion. Each attended Christ College, Oxford University. There, with a group of common believers, they developed a “fellowship of prayer, worship, study and Christian Service”.[1]

Then in the 1730s the Wesley Brothers were asked by James Oglethorpe, founder of the Georgia Colony in America, to be his chaplains. The brothers came primarily as missionaries to the Native American tribes of the Colony. However, the great need of the Continentals in the Colony absorbed most of their time. The brothers remained in Georgia only two years.[2]

A year after returning to England never to see America again, John Wesley purchased land and laid the foundation stone for what he called “Our New Room”. As noted in the First United Methodist Church of George West’s 75th Jubilee Committee’s history, this was the first Methodist Chapel and the oldest such building in the world.[3]   

 

II.            Overview

Methodism grew in America primarily through the personality and leadership of Francis Asbury, and the following inscription is engraved on the base of a monument to him in Washington, D.C.:

His continuous journeying through cities, villages and settlements from 1771-1816 greatly promoted patriotism, education, morality and religion in the American public.[4]

Early Spanish and then Mexican Texas seemed little touched by the movement of Methodism in the rest of the American continent. The Spanish and Mexicans were largely Catholic as inspired by Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who sponsored Christopher Columbus. The first Methodist minister in Texas, David Ayers, began work in San Patricio Colony in 1834 by distributing Bibles. [5] Furthering this effort, a request from Colonel William B. Travis shows Methodist roots were already seeded in Texas:

Although the exercise of Religion in any form is not prohibited, here [Texas], but is encouraged by the people, yet few preachers have come among us. I regret that the Methodist Church with its excellent itinerant system has neglected so long this interesting country, in sending your heralds to the four corners of the earth, remember Texas.[6]

The Mississippi Methodist Conference of December 1838 responded by sending four ministers to Texas.[7]

The Methodist Circuit Rider system soon developed in Texas. The first Methodist Circuit Rider to serve Live Oak County was Alanson Brown. In 1876, Alanson rode the circuit throughout South Texas. He served Oakville, the earliest seat of Live Oak County, transferring to George West when Oakville disbanded. He became Presiding Elder over a large number of churches in the 1880’s. He is buried in San Marcos, Texas, and a United Methodist Minister Circuit Marker was placed on his grave by his great grandson, a member of the First United Methodist Church of George West. [8]

Another circuit preacher for the George West First United Methodist Church, Rev. Roswell Gillett, served in the Southwest Conference until 1860.[9]  Both Brown and Gillett have fourth and fifth generation progeny who are members of the First United Methodist Church of George West.[10]

The First United Methodist Church of George West progressed from its 1914 beginning through a legacy of shared community service. The very first 1914 church service in George West included a small number of Christians from numerous denominations who met upstairs in a land sale building. Among these was the Canfield family who also became charter members of the Methodist Church in George West in June, 1916. As the town grew, so did their religious gatherings.

The community remained one in these gatherings. Their small population and lack of building resources were not enough to support separate congregations that exist in the town today.  George West, the town’s builder and benefactor, provided the use of a one-room building painted green to house not only the school, but also the meetings of different groups.

 Chauncy and Minnie Canfield began a Union Sunday School. A Union Sunday School was a non-sectarian program begun in Philadelphia to meet spiritual needs of adults and youth through instruction and music.[11] The Canfields sought visiting ministers from various denominations to supply the pulpit. West gave the effort a small pump organ which was played by the Canfield’s daughter, Josephine. West also donated city lots to several denominations for future building. These included lots 1 and 2 in Block 31 for the Methodist Church of George West, Texas.[12]

In June 1916, the Methodist Church in George West organized as a branch of the Oakville Methodist Church, South where Rev. Stucky was pastor. There were nine Charter Members: Chauncy and Minnie Canfield and their daughters, Jo Beth and Lou Emma; Dr. and Mrs. Ben S. Brown; Mr. and Mrs. O.P. Smith, and Mrs. Maggie Lyne.  Numerous others joined in the following years up to 1924: the Canfield’s son, Hale, Mrs. E.L. Riser, Jesse Riser, Leona Riser, Mr. and Mrs. T.H. Miller, Mrs. J.H. Sullivan, and Dr. and Mrs. LaForge.[13]

By 1921, the church expanded beyond its immediate surroundings as part of the West Texas Annual Conference to become the George West-Three Rivers Charge of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Rev. W. B. Wheeler, the first Methodist minister to reside in George West, was resident pastor but also pastoring the Three Rivers Methodist Church. Rev. H.P. Draper became Presiding Elder, and Dr. C.D. Williamson of Three Rivers was conference secretary. The continued meetings of this group brought significant reports of the joint efforts of churches throughout the region.[14]

1921 also saw the emergence of the interdenominational Pastor’s Aid Society. This ladies society was formed from multiple denominations and in several communities. They made significant contributions to their churches, communities, and region.  The Methodist group from George West is credited with purchasing the first Methodist parsonage in that same year. They also purchased a piano for the combined Methodist Episcopal Church. The Episcopal group bought church pews for the meeting room.[15]

Some notes from Pastor Wheeler for the second annual George West-Three Rivers Charge, Beeville District, West Texas Conference, share these events: “organized a Sunday School at the Calliham School House-those at Three Rivers and George West doing well, one revival, organized a church at Mikeska-one-half interest in Lot One-Block Twenty-One in Town of Mikeska, to be owned jointly by the Baptist and Methodist Church.” While Reverend Wheeler was pastor, 1921-1924 the Methodist Church of George West grew to ninety-six members.[16]

During the following years, growth continued under Pastor R.S. Adair. Committees on building included one for the church and one for the parsonage. Mrs. Adair organized a new society called the Woman’s Missionary Society, April 3, 1925.[17]

Then in 1925, with churches in George West and Three Rivers both growing, each was given a separate charge in the West Texas Conference. Brother R.G. Burns, the new pastor, began a ministry at Clegg which lasted until 1944 when most of the Clegg membership moved to George West. Because transportation had progressed, their children now were consolidated into the George West schools, or they themselves had moved to George West. Pastor Burns reported the organization of an Epworth League for young people sixteen through thirty-six with eleven members which soon became sixteen.[18] The Epworth League, named for the English home of the Wesley brothers, is an international Methodist association for young adults. The predecessor of today’s Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF), they seek to instill “community building, missions, and spiritual growth.”[19]

In 1926, the church was ten years old. Great milestones had been reached and community service had grown since the beginning. Baby baptisms were first reported in 1927. Throughout Rev. Fred Brucks’ pastorate from 1926 to 1929, the church increased its membership 100 percent and its Sunday School by fifty percent.[20]

The growth of the Epworth League had a definite impact on the successful completion of the church building in 1928. John Dunn of Clegg loaned the League thirteen acres of a farm near Clegg. They plowed, planted, hoed, and picked the cotton to raise money for the church building. They grew in character and number in the process and counted forty in number within a few years.[21]

The vernacular church building of hollow tile and stucco, with Sunday School class rooms, was completed in 1928. The deed from George West requested that “the building should be placed so the center of it would be over the line of the two adjoining lots, so that one-half of the building would be on one lot, and other half on the other lot.”  It was built so by contractor, Milton Hornsby.  Many church members contributed to this effort. Church pews bought by the Episcopal group were placed in the Methodist sanctuary which was used by both groups until the Episcopalians built their own church in 1942.[22]

In 1931, Rev. S. R. Harwood developed a 25-voice choir which began giving community cantatas and other programs. As the church continued growth, by 1939 membership reached 250 with many active organizations and sponsorships throughout the area. Young people banded together and raised $450.00 to purchase an Estey Electric Organ. In that year also, the name of the church was changed by the Conference from The Methodist Episcopal Church, South to The Methodist Church. Even though the American church divided between North and South during the Civil War, at this time, they had once again come together. A new sister church was formed in Clegg.[23]

The early forties were the war years, and the women’s organization sent Bibles overseas and had special prayer daily. New pews were bought, and those the Episcopalians had loaned given back to them to use in their new building. The note on the church was paid and a beautiful dedication service followed. By 1947, the church owned all six lots in the block for future expansion.[24]

During the 1950’s, one of the hardest felt droughts ever to hit South Texas devastated many farmers, ranchers, and businesses that supported them in this fully rural agrarian section of the state. Nevertheless, the members of the First United Methodist Church of George West banded together and with others in an amazing period of growth. One member commented that only “divine intervention” could have brought about these accomplishments in such difficult times.[25]

Significant growth resulted in stained glass memorial windows being installed in the church. A Baldwin electronic organ, model 5, was bought and a benefit concert given for the organ fund. The sanctuary was remodeled. The Methodist Men’s organization and the county-wide Ministerial Association began. The parsonage bought in 1921 was sold and replaced with a new one designed by Jessie Gilstrap and built by J.C. Gilstrap. The old Simmons Community school was torn down brick by brick and the bricks brought to George West to form the exterior of the parsonage. Gifts of furniture and landscaping were added by membership. Methodist Fellowship Hall and classroom with connecting arches were built by J.C. Gilstrap. A barbecue dinner helped fund this effort. Also, the Wesleyan Service Guild for business women was organized. Mission activities expanded to a home in San Antonio for unwed mothers.[26]

The 1960’s saw the church reach its golden anniversary. A memorial sanctuary fund was established, and by 1963 the sanctuary was remodeled in keeping with the original building and classic post-modern architectural standards. A landscape brick wall and indigenous landscaping was directed by Harry and Ruth Linney.  A newer organ was purchased, and a concert once more was a great fund raiser. The name of the church was changed by the general conference to United Methodist Church because the Methodist Church united with the Evangelican United Brethren.

The age-old tradition of gifting beautiful stained glass windows as memorials was honored in this 1963 renovation. These windows form a harmonious eclectic balance of antiquity within a post-modern setting. While honoring those they memorialize, the gifted windows greatly cut the cost of the renovation and deeply enhance the worshipful environment one experiences upon entering the chapel.  Moving stained glass windows honoring the Canfields and Risers formerly located on either side of the church’s North entry to the North entry of the fellowship hall sustained the reverential experience throughout the facility.[27]

The next fifty years of the First United Methodist Church of George West built on the foundation of the first. Collaboration within its own organizations locally, county, state-wide, nationally, and internationally grew. Contributions to missions programs world-wide grew including a project to Korea. Dr. Lenabelle Robinson started a clinic there which the church participated in financially and through prayer and meeting with Dr. Robinson when she visited America. Community efforts outside the denominational affiliation also grew.[28]

New innovations include a photographic church directory, Vacation Bible School each summer, younger children’s programs called “Kids of the Kingdom"-now “Friends of Jesus” (K-3) and “J-Team” (4-6), lay pastors and speakers, monthly family fellowships, sermons recorded and distributed to shut-ins, Support the Troops, blood drive for ill community member, study courses for social and spiritual challenges such as grief and divorce recovery, Disciple Bible Study, Walk to Emmaus, decommissioned organ donated to black Baptist Church in San Antonio, and the 2001 Great Methodist Gathering in San Antonio.[29]

By 2004, “approximately $100,000 had been spent on the church plant and parsonage repairs and were paid in 30 days.” This included basketball court, roof, rewiring, and new air conditioners. The Canfield and Riser memorials previously moved from the North entry of the church to the North entry of the Fellowship Hall were moved this time to the front of the sanctuary behind the dais and backlit adding even more to the worship experience. The stained glass windows of the Fellowship Hall were replaced with a simpler design now traditional as the United Methodist symbol. Total membership in the church had reached 264 members.[30]

Since 2005, the church has been recognized as a Five Star Church by giving to all five mission areas of Texas Methodists. They also added those impacted by Hurricane Katrina to their mission effort.[31] 

Church goals continue to include the giving heart demonstrated by remaining a Five Star Church. They have added a Teacher Appreciation Luncheon, Relay for Life, senior ministry, Hispanic ministry, hosting the local Storyfest’s Sacred Stories, and a citywide Trunk or Treat as a safe alternative for Halloween fun. In 2014-2015, the church added television and screen in the sanctuary with PowerPoint introduced as part of the Sunday and other services.[32]

 

III.           Significance

With such a rich early history, it is not surprising to see that The First United Methodist Church of George West continued its growth. Connecting with the needs of community, membership of the church where they meet, and the world at large enriched each of their lives over 100 years.

Spiritual development within the town of George West was ecumenical from the beginning. Non-sectarian services were held in public or business sites when available. As groups emerged, Baptists, Episcopalians, and Methodists used the same building at different times on Sunday and during the week before building churches of their own. One of the earliest non-sectarian social services was a Pastors’ Aid Society and Tea Room. From this group came the first Methodist parsonage.

Community resourcefulness was demonstrated amply. Homes were open to circuit riders, visiting ministers of all faiths, and even the first resident pastor whose family shared the Canfield home for his first year. During the hardest of times in the 1950’s, church members recycled materials from an abandoned school in the Simmons Community and bartered services for other materials with citizens of that community. Sharing vegetables and fruit both fresh and canned, using their own hands to make linens, drapes, and reupholstering worn furniture kept the church and parsonage well supplied and furnished even though finances were not readily available.

The Church’s resourcefulness is further demonstrated in 1964 when the members of First United Methodist Church of George West turned a humble, vernacular sanctuary into a stellar post-modern facility. The creative and monetarily efficient design incorporated the original chapel and roof by simply adding a stately entrance and overhang for the walkways. Personal gifts of stained glass windows and other worship accoutrement lessened the cost of updating the sanctuary, and the church’s note was soon paid. Since then, members continue to keep up with technology and growth, but pay for all enhancements without financial debt.  

Investment in youth and their training continues to undergird the church through five generations at the present time.

Outreach into the community, Live Oak County, and worldwide is rooted in the Church’s Christian faith. Numerous Methodist churches in the Live Oak area date back to the efforts of their neighbors at First United Methodist Church of George West. Missions as far away as Korea cultivate sincere global ecumenical value. The members who are the George West United Methodist Church are not generally people of means or fame; they are people grounded in Christian principles of love for others. From the very beginning they worked with what they had. Their service is built on a Christian foundation of timelessness.

 

IV.         Documentation

 


[1] Marjorie Hinnant Collins, et. al. 75th Jubilee Committee, First United Methodist Church, George West, Texas. 1959. Publisher Unknown. Part of the First United Methodist Church of George West Centennial history. 4.

[2] Ibid. 4, 5.

[3] Ibid. 5.

[4] Ibid. 5-7.

[5] O. W. Nail, ed. Texas Methodist Centennial Yearbook. Elgin: Olin W. Nail. 1943. 32.

[6] O.W. Nail, ed. The First 100 Years. Austin: Capital Printing Company. 1958. 32.

[7] Collins. 8.

[8] S.T. Brown. 75th Jubilee Committee, First United Methodist Church, George West, Texas. 1959. Publisher Unknown. Part of the First United Methodist Church of George West Centennial history. 9.

[9] Edna Gillett. 75th Jubilee Committee, First United Methodist Church, George West, Texas. 1959. Publisher Unknown. Part of the First United Methodist Church of George West Centennial history. 10.

[10] Richard “Dickie” Brown, interviewed by Richard Hudson at Brown’s Hunting Lodge outside George West, Texas. July 21, 2015; Reba Caron. 75th Jubilee Committee, First United Methodist Church, George West, Texas. 1959. Publisher Unknown. Part of the First United Methodist Church of George West’s Centennial history. 10.

[11] Jo Anne Debes. The Lower Merion Historical Society. 1997. Chapter 16-Union Sunday School. Downloaded from http://www.lowermerionhistory.org/texts/lma/16union.htm November 15, 2015.

[12] Josephine and Emma Canfield. "An Historical Sketch of the Methodist Church in George West, Texas." Self-published. Beginning of George West First United Methodist Church Centennial History.

[13] Ervin Sparkman, The People’s History of Live Oak County, Texas. Mesquite: Ide House. 126.

[14] Canfield. 13.

[15] Ibid. 14.

[16] Ibid. 14-15.

[17] Ibid. 18-19.

[18] Ibid. 19-20.

[19] Epworth League. 2013. Downloaded from http://www.epworthleague.org/purpose.html on November 17, 2015; J. B. Robinson. The Epworth League: Its Place in Methodism. Cincinnati. Curts & Jennings. 1890.      

[20] Canfield. Ibid. 21.

[21] Corinne Probst. 75th Jubilee Committee, First United Methodist Church, George West, Texas. 1959. Publisher Unknown. Part of the First United Methodist Church of George West Centennial history. 64.

[22] Canfield. Ibid. 22-23.

[23] Ibid. 25-29.

[24] Probst. Ibid. 66.

[25] Ross Harris, interviewed by Richard Hudson via email discussion. November 11, 2015.

[26] Ibid. 66-67.

[27] Ibid. 67-68.

[28] Ibid. 69.

[29] Glynis Holm Strause. “History of the First United Methodist Church 1989-2015.” Publisher Unknown. Part of the First United Methodist Church of George West Centennial history. 84-99.

[30] Ibid. 100.

[31] Ibid. 102.

[32] Ibid. 102-111.

 

George West First United Methodist Parsonage, George West, Texas

George West First United Methodist Parsonage-2016 Photo courtesy Richard Hudson.

Pastor Thomas C. McClung wife, Susie, and their snowman enjoying this rare occassion in front of the George West First United Methodist Parsonage built in the 1950's. Photo courtesy Robert Canfield.

To the Viewer: George West First United Methodist Parsonage, George West, Texas marker application was submitted in 2015 along with the Church. The THC did not award this as a separate marker because their Architectural Division did not find the architecture significant. They suggested some information be placed in the final marker text to include the parsonage. The marker text above shows how it was incorporated. In accordance with THC rules, the application fee of $100.00 was retained by the THC but payment for marker production was only paid for the church marker.

The Live Oak County Historical Commission's marker team found the stories of how the parsonage was built, maintained, and served the community since its inception one of compelling community service and includes the submitted narrative here for the viewers' illumination: 

 

Live Oak County Judge: Honorable Jim Huff

Live Oak County Historical Commission Chair: Leslie Walker

Marker Chair: Richard Hudson

Chair Assistant: Janis Hudson

GWFUMC Parsonage Sponsor: Ross Harris

rehudson@liveoakchc.com

 

APPLICATION NARRATIVE and BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR OFFICIAL RECORDED TEXAS HISTORIC LANDMARK MARKER:

 

 

   First United Methodist Church Parsonage, George West, Texas

 

I.      CONTEXT

            The custom of parsonages or homes for a church pastor, rector, or vicar followed early American ancestors as they came across the Atlantic Ocean to America to establish their pursuit for religious freedom. European vicar homes in the Middle Ages were often a second floor space above church meeting and chapel areas below. But by the 12th century, the practice of separate homes became the rule. These separate homes were most often on property next to the church since all of the space had often been donated by the same landowner. Some parsonages were quite large and equal to those of the lord of a manor complete with servants and luxurious fineries. Others depending on the wealth of the church members were quite simple and sometimes Spartan. As architectural styles changed or building materials grew old, it was not unusual for an older parsonage to be torn down and another built in its place on the same spot.[1]

            Until the late twentieth century these same parsonage customs, brought from the old country to the new, were witnessed in America from the East Coast to the West. Members of the church, often the women, supplied the parsonage with furnishings and other accoutrements needed for civilized habitation. Regarding the first Methodist parsonage in the United States, the author in the Southern Methodist Handbook of 1914, pages 86-88, states, “To get enough things together to make the house habitable, they bought, they borrowed, they gave.”[2]

Ladies of the church did this in several ways. Some loaned things which could be recalled in the future as needed by the donor or her family and friends. At a “donation party”, ladies “opened their hearts” and gave permanently to the parson’s quarters.[3] Even though George West was a Texas frontier town in the early 1900’s, these customs and more were and still are observed.

During the twentieth century, this time honored parsonage custom began changing. A new trend demonstrating respect for a pastor’s financial independence to care for him or herself and family brought this change. Most churches today include an amount in their budget for the pastor’s choice of home ownership and upkeep or rental as a portion of the salary. This same respect honors the pastor’s and family’s need for privacy allowing some distance between the church and home dwelling. According to the American 2014-2015 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff regarding this shift, “Only 11 percent of pastors live in such [parsonage] housing, while 87 percent receive a housing allowance. [4] Because of the strength of this twentieth century trend toward private ownership among professional clergy, the parsonage may one day become a cultural icon of the past.

 

II.      Overview

In 1914, the developing South Texas frontier town of George West was bustling and growing as new inhabitants came from every direction. Most of these entrepreneurs and adventurous souls built tents to live in until such time as they could build a frame house. Two buildings and two houses stood complete at that time. All four built by George West for real estate purposes as West sold off 75,000 acres of his ranchland. [5]

West’s namesake town was well planned. He paid $100,000 for the San Antonio, Uvalde, and Gulf railroad, known as the “Sausage”, to come through it because he foresaw that the railroad would make or break towns in the early days of the twentieth century. Even though the streets were dry dust most of the time and wet, deep sticky mud when it rained, his town soon included modern water works and a beautiful brick hotel for overnight guests. West was busy compelling merchants, doctors and others needed for community infrastructure to come join the daring initiative.[6]

Yet with all of this activity, there were community needs not addressed at the outset of the new town’s birthing. Churches were among them. Subsequently, citizens began working to fulfill their spiritual need. West offered the upper floor of one of the real estate buildings for church meetings. Protestants of multiple denominations met together. Catholics made the trip to Gussettville and worshipped there at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Among the most active of this early Protestant worship group were Chancy and Minnie Canfield. The Canfields began a Union Sunday School in the little Green School House built in 1915, by the town’s benefactor, George West. West sent a small pump organ to the ecumenical group to add musical accompaniment to their gatherings. The Canfield’s daughter, Josephine, played the organ.[7]

In June, 1916, The Methodist Church in George West was formed in that little green school. West donated two lots for the future building of a permanent church. Continuing the pattern set in the Protestant meetings of 1914, circuit, part-time, and visiting ministers spent the night with the Canfields no matter their denomination. Subsequent generations of Reverend Alonson Brown and Reverend Roswell Gillett, two of the circuit riders who served this group, still worship in the George West First United Methodist Church.[8]

Then in 1921, the West Texas Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was established. A full time Methodist pastor, Rev. W.B. Wheeler, was assigned to the George West-Three Rivers Charge. He and his entire family lived with the Canfields. The Canfields had three children and Rev. and Mrs. Wheeler had two. Obviously, the Canfield house on Houston Street was bursting at the seams.[9]

Also in that same year, Minnie Canfield suggested forming the Pastor’s Aid Society. Mrs. Wheeler, the pastor’s wife, became the president. Women from several denominations joined and exhibited a great spirit of harmony and cooperation in working together for the good of the community. They began "The Tea Room" which became a social meeting place, and proceeds went towards future building needs. A great amount of funding to buy the first parsonage for The Methodist Church of George West came from this group. They were also able to purchase much of the furniture for the parsonage.[10]

Along with the purchase and moving of Maggie Lyne’s house next to the church came the custom of a “pounding”. In those days pastors were often greeted this way. People from all around came either to the church or parsonage at a designated time with gifts of essentials for the family. The early practice was a pound of flour, sugar, lard, butter, and the like, but many brought more than just a pound. Since nearly all residents had gardens, depending on the season, home canned goods and fresh vegetables were also brought. Some women brought fabric for sewing or their own hand-made aprons, dish towels, crocheted tablecloths, and other goodies to show their welcome. Sometimes their gifts included a quilt made together in someone’s home. Because of the itinerant pastoral culture of the Methodist church, this custom was often an annual affair.[11] A “pounding”, or welcoming party, is a custom well entrenched in the Methodist church and practiced by some still today.[12]

During the following years of 1924-1925, growth continued under Pastor R.S. Adair. A garage was built at the cost of $103.80. Seventy-five dollars were designated for parsonage painting and other repairs. Mrs. Adair organized the Woman’s Missionary Society (WMS), April 3, 1925. This organization expanded and assumed responsibilities of the previous Pastor’s Aid Society.[13]

The women’s organizational care for the parsonage continued annually. Between 1929 and 1931, the Woman’s Missionary Society placed a living room suite in the parsonage and had one room papered. Titles were recorded for both the church and the parsonage.[14] Then again from 1935-1936, many improvements were reported on the WMS’s behalf to the parsonage.[15] In 1940, the Woman’s Missionary Society was reorganized and the name changed to Woman’s Society of Christian Service.[16]

Between 1938 and 1941, the WMS supplied the parsonage with new dishes, new electric water heater, and electric range. The pastor, Rev. F.M. Wheat, and his family expressed appreciation for the “pounding”. Times were very hard, and many members paid their pledges with vegetables, butter, milk, eggs and meat. Even though cash was limited, the congregation, as well as their pastor and family had plenty to eat. Improvements were made with donated labor.[17] A new roof and paint were furnished for the parsonage, a joint effort of young people and their teacher, Jessie Lee Gilstrap, along with the pastor and his wife painted six rooms of the parsonage. The pastor felt he mastered wall-paper hanging at this time.[18]

Throughout 1941-1945, the WMS efforts included new chairs for the kitchen, two bedrooms repapered, and painted, bathroom improved, new screens and linoleum for the kitchen and back room. Then from 1949-1953, the WMS reports “A covered dish supper and pounding party welcoming the new minister, the Rev. J.W. Leggett and Mrs. Leggett—new curtains and chair bought, and repainting the kitchen."[19]

In the course of 1953-1958, significant growth resulted in the sale of the 1921 parsonage to Zelma Gerfers for $5,500. In 1947 four remaining lots had been purchased for future expansion.[20] The sale of the 1921 parsonage opened an opportunity that a new parsonage could be built on church property adjoining the church and in the same block.

The new parsonage was designed by Jessie Lee Gilstrap and built by her husband, J.C. Gilstrap, in 1954 for $12,131.50. The Gilstraps were active members of the George West First United Methodist congregation. Their design was simple and conservative as befitted the economy and time.[21]

Building a new home for the pastor turned into a community effort as J.C. Gilstrap purchased the old Simmons Community School. The school was torn down and cleaned brick by brick by Fred Hudson, his eldest son, and several other Simmons community families in barter for receiving unused parts of the building. Then the bricks were brought to George West. These bricks are still on the exterior of the parsonage today.[22]

Donations of significant gifts like a new dining room suite came from Mrs. Charles Lindholm, a new bedroom suite by Mr. and Mrs. J.I. Hailey, and evergreen shrubbery for the grounds given by Hale Canfield presented the new address well to the congregation and community.[23] These and other gifts from the WMS, friends and members of the church included: a new stove, refrigerator and rug, redecorated furniture, and lamps and curtains added.[24]

Once again in 1961, it was time for some repainting of parts of the parsonage and some of the furniture. The Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) painted the parsonage fence, and the Methodist Men furnished the paint. Mr. and Mrs. R.C. Lyne and Mr. and Mrs. Harry Linney gave two fans for the parsonage.[25] Rev. A.S. Masterson and his family were the first to live in the new parsonage with all its new furnishings.[26] About this time, the WMS changed its name to United Methodist Women.[27]

Shortly after the renovation of the church building in 1963, a new dining room suite replaced the older 1954 suite. Then in1966, the parsonage was given fresh paint on the outside woodwork, carport and porch ceilings, bedroom and hall, and the bathroom was retiled.[28]

By 1974, the Church began another large parsonage project. This was spearheaded by Reba Caron, chairman of the parsonage committee and Mary Lyne, co-chairman. Charles (Chuck) Montgomery was Board Chairman. Members of the church donated $2,100 plus hours of painting and cleaning both inside and out. Ladies and members alternated preparing meals and bringing them to those who supplied the work. Together, they enjoyed an hour of fellowship each day. Wall to wall carpet was installed, new drapes bought, and the bathrooms improved. The living room couch was reupholstered, and the first family to enjoy these comforts was the Rev. Max Tyner and wife, Marge.[29]

During this time and moving forward, parsonage needs were subsumed by the UMW as needed. In 2003, the Church spent $100,000.00 on church plant and parsonage repairs. They paid this amount within 30 days with Julie Hardwick as church parsonage chair. [30] In 2011 and 2012, the church trustees cleaned the parsonage carpets, repaired the master bath, and retouched paint as they awaited a new pastor.[31] The new pastor of the George West First United Methodist Church, Patricia Zalontz-Newcomer, moved into a parsonage with a legacy of care and attention in 2013.[32]

 

III.     Significance

In Europe, the history of the parsonage began at least as early as the Middle Ages. The custom came to the Americas with our forebears. During the past century, this legacy of parishioners and members of churches supporting priests and ministers with living quarters in or on church property has shifted. Across America, the concept of the pastor’s home has moved from the traditional residence attached to the church building or its property.

The new church pastor’s home perception is financial support for pastors to meet their own needs and acquire possession of privately owned property. Yet, this church in George West is deeply rooted to its heritage with fourth and fifth generations still active in its midst. It holds fast to the values of community and Christian love as exhibited by those who live in this special home and those who care for them. The Church’s one hundred year history is one of perpetual and mutual care between ministers living in a parsonage next to the church building where the congregation they serve meets.

The view of the people of George West First United Methodist Church may also move toward the newer conception espoused by many of separate ownership. However, it is believed that Recorded Texas Heritage Landmark (RTHL) recognition by the state of Texas will ensure that this parsonage will remain with the exterior as it is today. Perhaps used in a different context but as a constant reminder to membership and passersby of days when communities supported and shared with each other in a loving and tighter knit society.

In 2016, the George West First United Methodist Church’s parsonage at 511 Crocket Street in George West, Texas still stands next to the church it serves. The pastor still lives in that home ready and willing to answer the door for any need. The people who are the George West First United Methodist Church still lovingly care for the pastor and the home where he or she dwells. And so it will be for as long as the people desire.

 

IV.            Documentation


[1]  Researching Historic Buildings in the British Isles. "Parsonages".(http://www.buildinghistory.org/buildings/parsonages.html), accessed June 9, 2015.

[2] Christopher Anderson, “The First Methodist Parsonage in the United States.” Methlibrarian’s Blog.

(https://methlibrarian.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/the-first-methodist-parsonage-in-the-united-states/), accessed August 26, 2015.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Sarah Eekhoff Sylstra, “Are Pastors’ Homes That Different?” Christianity Today. (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/june/are-pastors-homes-that-different.html) accessed August 26, 2015.

[5] Thelma Lindholm, et. al., The History of the People of Live Oak County, Texas. George West: Unknown.1982. 11.

[6] Richard and Janis Hudson, Images of America in Live Oak County. Charleston: Arcadia. 2012. 65-83.

[7] Ervin Sparkman, The People’s History of Live Oak County, Texas. Mesquite: Ide House. 1981. 125, 126.

[8] Josephine and Emma Canfield, An Historical Sketch of the Methodist Church in George West, Texas. 1914-1972. Part of the George West First United Methodist Centennial History. 9, 10.

[9] Sparkman, 126.

[10] Canfield, 13, 14.

[11] Charlie Brown, interviewed by Janis Hudson at Charlie’s home in George West on July 23, 2014.

[12] Cynthia Ruchti, “Do You Know What a Pounding Is?” Karen’s Korner. (http://stillmagnolias.blogspot.com/2010/06/do-you-know-what-pounding-is.html) accessed on November 9, 2015.

[13] Canfield, 19, 20.

[14] Ibid. 25, 26.

[15] Ibid. 29, 30.

[16] Ibid. 32.

[17] Marjorie Hinnant Collins, et.al., “Remembering 1927-1988.” Part of the George West First United Methodist Centennial History. 66.

[18] Ibid. 33, 34.

[19] Ibid. 35, 40.

[20] Deed to parsonage property.

[21] Sparkman, 127; Joyce Gilstrap Jones, interviewed by Richard Hudson in Joyce’s home in Waco, Texas, October 10, 2011.

[22] Philip Hudson, eldest son of Fred Hudson, interviewed by Richard Hudson in Philip’s home , in Richardson, Texas, October 8, 2013.

[23] Canfield, 41.

[24] Corinne Probst, (Mrs. A.E. Probst), “History of the George West WSCS 1940-1965.” Part of the George West First  United Methodist Centennial History. 63.

[25] Canfield, 45, 46.

[26] Collins, 67.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Canfield, 47, 49.

[29] Collins, 67, 168.

[30] Glynis Holm Strause, “History of the First United Methodist Church 1989-2015.” Part of the George West First United Methodist Centennial History. 100.

[31] Ibid. 108.

[32] Ibid.  84.

Live Oak County Courthouse

The Honorable Jim Huff, County Judge for Live Oak County, welcomes you to the Live Oak County Historical Commission (LOCHC) Website. The Live Oak County Historical Commission is an arm of the Live Oak County Commissioners' Court; appointees are selected at the beginning of odd numbered years and serve two year terms. Judge Huff and the Live Oak County Commissioners support and approve actions of the LOCHC in coordination with the Texas Historical Commission (THC).

 

Live Oak County Commissioners:

Precinct 1: Richard Lee

Precinct 2: Donna Kopplin Mills

Precinct 3: Willie James

Precinct 4: Emilio Garza

The Commissioner's Court is committed to the preservation of our county's history. Judge Huff and your local commissioner welcome suggestions.

The Honorable Jim Huff, Live Oak County Judge.

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