First Presbyterian Church
Coleman, Texas
by Margaret Roach Fleming 

from A History of Coleman County and Its People, 1985 
edited by Judia and Ralph Terry, and Vena Bob Gates - used by permission
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The First Presbyterian Church of Coleman was organized in a private residence on the last Sunday of October 1879, by the Reverend O. F. Rogers, under the direction of the Presbytery of Central Texas. There were 11 charter members: Mrs. M. F. Coleman, Colonel and Mrs. J. F. McCord, Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Dobbins, Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Price, James F. Rogers, Mrs. O. F. Rogers and Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Spicer. At this time two elders and two deacons were elected: Colonel J. F. McCord, J. T. Price, J. R. Dobbins and J. L. Spicer. Many of our memorial windows in this sanctuary were given in memory of those charter members. It is said that the first services were held in the upper story of a rock store building, the one now occupied by The Carousel. A stairway gave entrance to the hall. A saloon was on the first floor, directly beneath it, and the occupants of the same often gave the church services a great deal of competition.
The first church building constructed in Coleman was built by the Northern Presbyterians in 1882. It was built with $500.00 which was granted by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church U. S. A. to the Coleman Presbyterian Church, U. S. A. connected with the Synod and Presbytery of Austin. The deed to the church was dated August 17, 1882. This building was used by all denominations. It was sold to the Catholics in 1892. In 1884, the Southern Presbyterians built a small church on the lot just south of the present building, (416 West Elm Street).

R. L. Dunman was instrumental in the building of that church. The story goes that he had been a Confederate soldier in the Civil War and had made friends with a Presbyterian Chaplain, whom he liked very much. When he came to Coleman and found that the only church here was a Northern Presbyterian, he and other citizens set about to build another church, a Southern church, just south of here. These Southern Presbyterians had only worshiped in their new church a very short time when the church was struck by a tornado and completely blown away. Nothing was left except the floor and the pulpit with an open Bible on it. The Presbyterians must have taken this as a sign that the Gospel should continue to be preached from that pulpit, but Mrs. Dunman told her husband that it was a “spite church” and that was why it had been blown away! Anyway, the Southern Presbyterians were not daunted and immediately built another church at its present location (400 West College Avenue).

In the early records of the First Baptist Church of Coleman these statements were found: “On November 27, 1886, the church (Baptist) voted to repair their church seats and loan them to the Southern Presbyterians for an indefinite time.”  Then, “On January 22, 1886, the Church voted to accept the invitation from the Southern Presbyterians to worship in their house when completed”. It was completed in 1887. It was a white frame structure facing east. It had one long room, a sanctuary with an aisle down the middle between two sections of pews. The pulpit was in the far west end on a platform, with windows in a concave alcove behind. There was a bell tower containing a large bell with a long rope to ring the bell. One ring at 9:00 on Sunday morning indicated “get ready,” 2 rings at 9:15 for start, and 3 rings indicated starting time for Sunday School. A continuous ringing at a quarter of 11 indicated time for church. (I have heard it said that when other denominations built churches they also had bells but that members could always recognize their own church bells). This church was worshiped in continuously until November 26, 1916, when it was sold to the Nazarenes and moved to Concho Street. There it was partly torn down and rebuilt into a smaller church and rock-veneered. It still stands and the Nazarenes still worship in it. All the furnishings were sold too, except the piano, the organ, and 12 pews, which were kept, and are still in this building. (The pews are in the balcony, the hall, and in the old upstairs rooms--once used for parlours and dining, now are game rooms). The little organ, once a pump-organ, has been made electric, is in the chapel upstairs. This, I assume, was the first organ in town. It was, which I understand from old records, bought by subscription in 1881 and was played in the Sunday School by Dorcas Spicer Warren, who continued to play in the first Union Sunday School, and in different churches as well, for 35 years. During the years when the old church on this location was used, we had a Manse, a frame house, just north of the church, facing Fnio Street East, as the church did. With the new building planned (this one) the Manse was moved to Elm Street, and placed on a lot bought from Leon Shield.

The Presbyterian Churches are under the auspices of the Presbytery and the records of all the sessional meetings and congregational meetings of the church must be reviewed and approved by Presbytery annually. Here are some quotations from the early Minutes of the Session which reflect the life of the church at that time. The first recorded report to Presbytery was a statistical report of the Coleman Church from April 1, 1883 to April 1, 1884. It reads: Flders-3, deacons-3, communicants added by examination-2, communicants added by certificate-2, baptized non-communicants - 6, for a total communicants - 17. The first recorded communion service was September 5, 1886, administered by Reverend J. H. Zivley and Reverend H. B. Rose, members of Central Texas Presbytery.

On April 5, 1908, the church asked Presbytery to change the name on the book of Presbytery in “Coleman Presbyterian Church” to “First Presbyterian Chumch of Coleman,”this was granted. The financial reports increased through the years as did the number of communicants. In 1909, 21 members were added at one time from the U. S. A. and Cumbenland Presbyterian churches. The Cuinberlands had a church building on the lot where the Taylor Motor Company now stands. It was a frame building triangular in shape with a steeple in the center.

During the period in 1916 and 1917 when this brick church was being built, church services were held in a hall upstairs over what is now Perry Brothers store, as a courtesy of Mr. W. J. Coulson, the owner. On August 19, 1917, a dedicatory service was held on the completion of the new brick building. It was entirely paid for when completed, a brag which the members proudly made. In February of 1931 the Session voted to approve the choir wearing vestments. (Matthew Lynn was our minister then). The first vestments were short white ones worn with black collars. Some years later, new long vestments in “Presbyterian blue” were bought, with matching hats because someone remembered that ladies should have their heads covered in church. In 1968, white silk robes were chosen, worn with colored stoles. On October 22, 1924, the Manse and the property on Elm Street was sold to C. C. Pitts and the property across the street, East, was bought and a new two-story brick Manse was erected: now owned by Dr. J. P. Jones. The B. D. Kennedys were the first to live there. In 1933, 5 o’clock Vesper Services were begun and were held in the fall, winter and spring months. These services were continued until 1947 when they were changed back to night and moving pictures were held once a month. The members of the Episcopal Church were invited to worship with us at these night services. In February, 1935, the Belmont Plan of tithing was adopted and for 14 weeks members of the church tithed and were able to pay off a long Manse debt. Prayer meetings were held regularly on Wednesday nights all through the years from 1891 until 1949, when they were dispensed with and monthly church suppers were substituted. In 1947, there were 330 on our church roll — the highest peak we have every reached. John Mueller was pastor at that time, and those were in the “boom days” of World War II and after. (30 new members were added that year).

On November 26, 1951, the erection of a new educational building was authorized and building plans were begun. The building was completed in 1956.  On October 24, 1954, the 75th anniversary was ol)served. Evening worship services were discontinued in 1956.

In December, 1956, a chapel was planned using the northwest room upstairs. Money for this was given as a memorial to three of our young people who had met with sudden and tragic deaths that year. They were Marguerite Young Currie, (mother of Sally Lane), Linnie Jean Boyers and Bobby Burke. Memorial windows were put in and chapel furnishings were provided through memorial funds. It was named “Chapel of the Resurrection”. This was all done under the direction of Carl Reimers, minister at that time. This little chapel has been used for Holy Week Services, Good Friday Services, for preparation for communion services, prayer meetings, weddings, and many other special occasions, especially during the pastorates of Reimers, Lambreth, Herrscher, and Hendricks.  In 1956, the church adopted a Unified Budget and the Rotary System for church officers. There are now 9 elected Elders and 9 Deacons in 3 classes, a class rotating yearly.

A new Manse was constructed on a lot bought on Palestine Street, finished on January 1966. George and Linda Herrscher were the first to live in it.  A remodeling program for this church which would enlarge and change the sanctuary, and provide an adequate Narthex and office spaces was begun in 1969 and completed in 1970. The first service in this renovated building was on Easter Sunday of 1970. All new furnishings were placed in this sanctuary as it stands today. Many were memorial gifts (as was the beautiful new terrace out in front). During the period of renovation, the Presbyterians were invited to worship with St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, which we did from May to August, 1969. After that rifle we had services in the Fellowship Hall until we moved into the new sanctuary.

The Sunday School of this church was first organized at a meeting of the session on May 8, 1889. Colonel J. F. McCord was appointed superintendent. Other early superintendents were Dr. C. M. Alexander and Henry Brown. In 1887 there were 40 scholars enrolled in the Sabbath School and adult Bible class. From 1917 until 1956, when the educational building was added, general assemblies were held for the Sunday School. There was a special room that was built for that purpose. After the program, which consisted of songs, Bible drills, catachism, and prayers, with all departments together, the classes adjourned to their classrooms (stalls) for lessons. In the 40’s and early 50’s, functioning officers of the Sunday School were Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Secretary, and Treasurer, and there were classes for the Nursery, Kindergarten, Primary, Jr., Intermediate, Senior, and 3 adult classes: ladies’, men’s arid couple’s. There were 17 teachers and substitutes, (that was during John Mueller’s pastorate). The assembly convocatiOns were discontinued on September 20, 1956. (When the new educational building was ready for use). Thereafter all of the Sunday School periods were devoted to class work.

In the 1960’s the enrollment of the Sunday School declined.  As this was the case also in the First Christian
Church, and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, a tri-church Sunday School was discussed.  The idea being that with a larger group more interest would be shown and more effective work could be done.  In 1971, the tri-church Sunday School was adopted.  It still exists today and seems to be working well.

Mrs. Dorcas Warren was the first organist of this church, followed by Mrs. R. V. Wood.  Mrs. S. N. Aston was the first to play the pipe organ (the one we use today, though it was “overhauled or renovated during the renovation project), 1919 to 1935; Mrs. Jess Simpson Grafa, 1935 to 1951 (during that time Jess directed and played the most beautiful cantatas at Easter and at Christmas.  Some of the most talented singers from other churches were invited to help us); Mrs. Girlie Wood played from 1951 to 1960.  (Miss Sue Flippen relieved Mrs. Wood for 9 months during 1955); David Dowty from September 1961 to September 1964, and the summer of 1965; Euel Belcher, from Howard Payne College, September 1964 - June 1965.  Helen Jones began playing in September 1965, Helen is also Secretary-Treasurer of the church.

Women have always played an important role in the life of the First Presbyterian Church.  In the early years the group was called “The Ladies Aid Society” - soon shortened to “The Aid.”  Later the name was changed to “The Auxiliary” and finally to “The Women of the Church.”  This group was under the auspices of the Presbyterial and had the following officers and functioning committees: President, Vice President, Historian, World Missions, (both Foreign and Home) Christian Education, Stewardship, Spiritual Life, Church Annuities and Relief, and Social Activities.  During the late 1940’s and the 1950’s, they were operating 4 circles: two in the afternoons, one in the morning, and business women in the evening.  Today we have two Circles, one is for Bible Study and the other is a Service Circle which works for the needy in the church and in the community.  In 1965, women were elected for the first time to offices of Elder and Deacon.  Six women have served as Elders and fourteen as deacons, since that time.

On October 28, 1979, the First Presbyterian Church of Coleman celebrated its 100th anniversary.  It was a great day of reunion as many former members came from our of town.  Worship service was held in the sanctuary at 11 o’clock with Charlie Schuler, the pastor, presiding and preaching the sermon.

The membership of the Presbyterian Church, now in 1983, numbers 140.  In 1983, the pastor, Charles Schuler,
left the Coleman Church to accept a call to a Presbyterian church in Athens, Alabama.  He was replaced by Stephen
F. Newton, a 1983 graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  Ordination and Installation services for Rev. Stephen Newton were held at 5 p.m. May 29, 1983, in the First Presbyterian Church of Coleman.

Ministers of First Presbyterian Church: O. F. Rogers (First Minister) 1879 - 1881; John A. McMurray, 1882 - 1885; W. C. McDonald, 1886; W. F. Shive. 1887; J. H. Zively, 1888; C. H. Dobbs, 1889; D. A. Planck, 1889; F. L. Ewing, 7/13/1890 - 8/28/1892; C. S. Robinson. 1/1/1893 - 7/29/1894; C. T. Story, 10/1894 - 5/12/1895; H. M. Smith, 12/1/1895 - 4/21/1899; C. Z. Berryhill, 10/1/1899 - 7/28/1901; A. O. Brown, 9/15/1901-12/20/1903; L. F. Selfridge, 10/2/1904 - 9/21/1906; W. A. Gillon, 12/2/1906 - 9/11/1910; T. O. Perrin, 2/19/1911 - 12/28/1913; F. S. Henderson, 9/18/1914 - 1918; B. D. Kennedy, 12/1918 - 2/1930; R. Matthew Lynn, 12/1930 - 4/1936; Robert F. Jones, 6/1936 - 8/1942; John J. Mueller, 9/1942 - 12/1948; Jan W. Owen, 9/1949 - 9/1950; W. C. Cooper, 8/1951 - 1/15/1956; Carl D. Reimers, 9/9/1956 - 6/11/1959; Clements E. Lamberth, Jr. 2/7/1960 - 11/1/1964; George C. Herrscher, 2/28/65 - 11/1/1967; Charles Hendricks, 10/6/1968 - 1/31/1972; Charles Harry Sarles, 9/10/1972 - 3/1/ 77; Charles Schuler, Jr., 6/18/78 - 11/30/82 and Stephen F. Newton, 5/29/83 to the present (1983).

Elders: Col. J. F. McCord, J. I. Price, S. W. Aston, Josiah Bardwell, Judge M. A. Martin, Dr. C. M., Alexander W. H. Cochran, Henry Brown, S. R. Watson, Sam Roach, Dr. S. N. Aston, S. F. Byers, R. V. Wood, Sr., W. H. Bell, L. H. Smith, J. O. Mecklin. C. H. Huffurd, W. L. Jones, R. D. Boyers, George Cochran, Cecil Gray, Sam Gray, Ed Gray, R. D. Holt, H. L. Markland. J. P. McCord, R. Floyd Price, J. B. McCord, Charles Polk, Dr. J. C. Young, Dr. F. L. Knox, Dr. C. O. Moody, Earle E. Smith, Eldon Knox, R. V. Wood, Jr., R. L. Cope, Hugh Capps, Arthur Flippen, Steve Brown, Charles Shepherd, Walter Schick, C. W. Dodson, S. O’Neal, R. T. Magill, C. M. Beaver, Tom Walker, Joe Dobson, Louis Glasson, Doris Miller, Mack Sampson, John H. Curry, Bessie Hector, Ila Dobson, Hershell Wilson, Tom West, Clarice Glasson, Margaret Roach Fleming, Mattie B. Rogers, Dr. Mike Fdington, J. C. Wilkerson, Sherry Autry, Maxine Drinkard, Bob Clover, Theresa Edington, Beth Kirby David Huff, Evelyn Curry, Verle Young and Jim Sullivan.

Deacons: Mike Wright, Bob Finley, Robert Markland, Reg Lagow, Tom Matson, Joe Tinney, Morris Miller, Dr. H. F. Howard, Hurschel Dunn, Mendel Pool, Archie Bryson, Ernest A. Cezeaux, D. M. Moore, Rex Jones, Toppy Beaver, Wayland Gordon, W. H. Tucker, Mark Griffis Jesse Haynes, Joe Cervenka, Jennie Smith, Nelda Sampson. F. J. Barr, Mike Fullen, Billie McCord, Pauline Holt, Sally Walker, Raymond Rush, Maud Cope, Bob Markland, Margaret Reeves, Sarah Brinkley, Clif Drinkard, Stephen Autry and Edna Dunn.

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