FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF LOCKHART

 

I.  CONTEXT

In the 1840s several Presbyterians settled in what would become the town of Lockhart and Caldwell County.  Arriving in 1849 via covered wagon with his young family, Rev. N.P. Charlot appointed Mr. D. M. Morris and Colonel John T. Storey as elders and along with eight other members organized First Presbyterian Church.  This was not conducted according to the Book of Church Order, but was later ratified and legally constituted.[1]

Lockhart had been established as a town in 1843 and Caldwell a county just the year before in 1848.  At that time there was no church building in the town, but the small group of Presbyterians made having their own place of worship a priority.  They financed and constructed not one but three buildings as they lost one to a cyclone, outgrew the replacement, and finally erected a building now 96 years old in the Historic District of the city.[2]

 

II.   OVERVIEW

First Presbyterian Church of Lockhart has been in continuous existence for 161 years and is one of the oldest churches to be established in the city.  Its early history dates back to 1849, with the congregation being older than both the Synod and the Presbytery in which it resides.[3]   When formed, in addition to Rev. Charlot, there were just ten members with Mr. D.M. Morris, and Colonel John T. Storey being appointed as the first elders.[4]    Colonel Storey (1796-1858) served in the War of 1812, and had commanded the regiment in 1838 that moved the Cherokees to the west of the Mississippi.  In 1839, he visited Texas and bought land near Seguin while it was still the Republic of Texas.  In 1847, he settled in Lockhart, then known as Lockhart Springs[5], and was elected the first judge in Caldwell County.[6]   Col. Storey was clerk of the first session of the church,[7]and was to represent the church at the Synod Organizational meeting but due to a rise of Plum Creek could not get there for the high water.[8]

There was no church building in Lockhart at that time and the Presbyterians rotated the meetings in each of their homes until 1851 when they as well as other congregations utilized the first floor of the Masonic fraternity building.[9]   County records show that in September 1854, Col. Storey, R.F. Urquhart, and Theophilis Rogan, elders of the church, purchased Lot No. 3, Block No. 24 for the sum of $150.[10]   Many newspaper articles and early church histories state that the lot was a gift from Colonel Storey.   In 1855 a concrete building was completed on that lot for a cost of $737, part of which was solicited as contributions from members’ families who still lived back east.[11]   On January 26, 1879, the church building was destroyed by a cyclone that swept through Lockhart.   Church historical documents report “the floor was swept clean by the winds and only the Bible and two kerosene oil pulpit lamps including their glass chimneys were left safely in their places.”[12]   Mrs. Storey is reported to have remarked that “this signifies that the light of the church is still shining”.[13]   Years later, those oil pulpit lamps were depicted in the stained glass windows of the new sanctuary as a reminder of God’s grace.

After the cyclone, Deacons J.G. Runkle and J.A. McCurdy helped erect a 30’x 50’ building which was dedicated on June 4, 1880 and considered a “fine building for it’s time”.[14]   During construction, the Christian and Episcopal churches allowed the use of their buildings for the Presbyterian’s worship.[15] 

During Rev. R.A. McCurdy’s pastorate (1911-1923), it was decided to construct a new building.  In 1914, the old frame building was torn down and services were held in the District Courtroom.  The new sanctuary with a full basement for Sunday School classes, costing about $10,000 was completed and dedicated in 1914 and holds weekly worship services to this day.[16]

During many years of the 161 year history, the pulpit was occupied by a pastor who also had a congregation in Austin 36 miles away.  When Rev. Wm. Mumford Baker made the trip in the early 1850s, there were no paved roads and he was said to “have more ‘horseback miles’ to his circuit than any preacher of his time”.[17]   After the War between the States, Rev. Baker moved to New England and became a famous author of his time.[18]  

 Dr. Samuel L Joekel served as minister from 1930 until his death in 1954, holding three services monthly.  He concurrently served as an Instructor of the Bible at the University of Texas at Austin and as Professor of Bible and at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.[19] 

Early church records include several names from the Lockhart pioneer families of Storey, McCurdy and Mebane.   Among the prominent members was Leonidas J. Storey (1834-1909), son of Colonel John T. Storey, who served with the 26th Texas Cavalry in the Civil War, represented Caldwell County in  the Legislature from 1873-1875, was a state senator from 1876-1880, and was appointed to the Railroad Commission by Governor Hogg in 1892.  L.J. Storey continued that position after it became elective and held the post as chairman until his death in 1909.[20] 

A.H.P. McCurdy (called Porter) entered the seminary and became pastor of the church in 1882, later becoming an evangelist and helping to organize the Presbyterian Church in Yoakum.[21]   His son, R.A. McCurdy was pastor from 1911 through 1923.  Other members of the McCurdy family served as deacons.[22]

David and Elizabeth Mebane moved to Texas from Mebane, North Carolina where the people named the town in honor of their patriarch, Alexander Mebane, whose six sons had served with distinction in the Revolutionary War.  Hearing of opportunities in the Lone Star State and leaving the devastation of the Civil War, the Mebane family moved to a farm just south of Lockhart and lived in a two-room log cabin.[23]   David Mebane became an elder on May 5, 1873.  Their youngest son, Paul became a trustee and another son, Alexander Duff Mebane  (1855-1923)., was installed as an elder in 1881.[24] 

Alexander, A.D as he was called, became a self-taught expert on plant and animal breeding, successfully developing the “Mebane Triumph” cottonseed which he continually improved throughout his life.  A.D. became internationally recognized by prominent businessmen, politicians, and agricultural experts as having revolutionized cotton culture.  Although he possessed only an elementary education, he served as President of the Lockhart ISD and was honored with July 12, 1917 as being Mebane Day in Central Texas.[25]   Mr. Mebane gave generously of his time and finances during his lifetime and during the latter years of his life was teacher of the Men’s Bible Class.[26]

By the latter part of the nineteenth century, the church had organized a Sunday School, then called Sabbath School, with one of the elders serving as superintendant.  For many years, Mr. Leonidas Rogan served as superintendant and would hold prayer meetings and officiate at funerals when there was no minister available.   Mr. W.H. Whitmore served for almost 30 years.[27]

In the early days of the church, there was no organized Woman’s Work but record was made in the session book concerning the second church building that “the entire painting of the house, inside and out, and the finishing of the interior, with the exception of the seats and the pulpit has been the work of the ladies”.[28]  A Ladies Aid Society was organized in later years and in 1882, Mrs. L.J. Storey organized “The Ladies’ Missionary Society”. [29]   Today, this organization is known as “The Women’s Circle” and the Lockhart ladies currently meet monthly during the school year and complete many projects to benefit the Lockhart community and missions around the world.

In 1960, an addition to the church was built behind the main building which includes classrooms and offices.  1984 brought the addition of a new wheelchair accessible ramp and enclosure of the front entry with glass.  A Presbyterian Life Center was realized in 1992 with the purchase of the 5500 sq.ft. Glosserman Building located across the street from the Sanctuary.[30]   This building is currently used by the community for public meetings, family reunions, voting, and church dinners.

 

III.  SIGNIFICANCE:

           First Presbyterian Church of Lockhart is one of the oldest churches in Texas, having been organized in 1849, in the same decade as:  1) Lockhart became a town, 2) Caldwell was established as a county, and 3) Texas became part of the United States.   The church buildings were envisioned, financed, and constructed three times by members which included the pioneer families of the region.  First Presbyterian continues to serve descendants of those families as well as members and visitors.  The façade of the present building which is now 96 years old has been modified so that it is accessible to the elderly and disabled.  Several current members, now in their eighties and nineties attended services when they could barely see over the pews or read the Hymnals. 

As one enters the sanctuary, the easily recognizable names of those early Texas families:  the Storeys, Mebanes, McCurdys, Kreuz, etc., are observed in the beautiful leaded stained glass windows.  Those kerosene pulpit lamps left after the cyclone took the first building are also depicted in the windows next to the entrance as a reminder of faith and perseverance.

First Presbyterian of Lockhart continues the heritage of making their church a priority as a recently deceased member left their estate to help maintain their beloved church.  Current members participate in several projects locally such as helping furnish back-to-school shoes for local children, visiting the elderly in local nursing homes, and providing the Presbyterian Life Center for community activities.  They also support mission projects worldwide.

 

IV.  DOCUMENTATION:



[1]  “A History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”, by Mrs. J.M. Purcell, January 31, 1931, page 1 Congregational History Collection, 1874-1999, Box C058 Austin Seminary Archives, Stitt Library

 

[2] “A History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”  1931, page 4

 

[3] “Presbyterian Church Raised 3 Pastors, 1 Missionary,” Lockhart Post-Register, June 2, 1949

 

[4] Sessional Record of Lockhart Church, page 1

 

[5] Yearbook For Texas 1901, C.W. Raines, State Librarian, Gammel Book Company, Publishers

 

[6] Yearbook For Texas, page 398

 

[7] Sessional Record of Lockhart Church, page 4

 

[8] “Presbyterians Mark Church Centennial”, Lockhart Post-Register, June 16, 1949

 

[9] Sessional Record of the Lockhart Church, page 2

 

[10] Caldwell County Deed Records, Book D, Page 448

 

[11] “A History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”  1931, page 1

 

[12] Luling Signal, January 30, 1879, page 2; Bastrop Advertiser, February 8, 1879, page 1;  “A

   History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”  1931, page 4

 

[13] “A History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”  1931, page 4

 

[14] “A History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”  1931, page 4

 

[15] “A History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”  1931, page 4

 

[16] Lockhart Post-Register, June 5, 1914; Lockhart Post-Register, June 19, 1914; “Presbyterians

   Started in 1849”, newspaper article published in December 1955, unknown

 

[17] “Celebrating 150 Years”, Lockhart Post-Register, June 24, 1999

 

[18] The Handbook of Texas Online, Baker, William Mumford

 

[19] “Celebrating 150 Years”, Lockhart Post-Register, June 24, 1999

 

[20] The Handbook of Texas Online, Storey, Leonidas Jefferson

 

[21] The Handbook of Texas Online, First Presbyterian Church of Yoakum

 

[22] “A History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”  1931, page 4

 

[23] Handbook of Texas Online, Mebane, Alexander Duff

 

[24] “A History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”  1931, page 3

 

[25] Handbook of Texas Online, Mebane, Alexander Duff

 

[26] “A History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”  1931, page 3

 

[27] “A History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”  1931, page 2

 

[28] “A History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”  1931, page 4

 

[29] “A History of the Lockhart Presbyterian Church”  1931, page 5

 

[30] Caldwell County Deed Records, Vol. 69, pages 50-59, 104-106, Block #23, Lot#4; “Celebrating

   150 Years”, Lockhart Post-Register, June 24, 1999