First Presbyterian Church History
Excerpts from the book “History of the First Presbyterian Church, Kingsville, Texas, 1905-1993” by Allene Hodgson Dyer
In 1903 a charter was issued to construct the railroad through Texas to Mexico via Brownsville. Mrs. Henrietta M. King and Robert Kleberg Sr., had determined where the railroad would pass through her land and where the new town site would be located. The first train came through on July 4, 1904, the birthdate of the City of Kingsville.
The Kleberg Town and Improvement Company built a town with all the necessary improvements. In laying out the town Mrs. King made sure that land was provided for churches. One lot was given to the Presbyterians by Mrs. King and two by the Kleberg Town and Improvement Company. Mrs. King not only gave the land to be used for a church, but she also had the first church built, the Presbyterian Church.
Legend has it that the Presbyterians first met under mesquite trees for services.
Facts reveal that the first church services, led by Rev. A.H.P. McCurdy, were held in the as yet unfinished Kingsville Lumber Company Mrs. King built and owned the lumber company. Later services were held in the "tabernacle" (Masonic Lodge) on West King and later in the new school house at Alice and Third Streets.
Until the new church was built, weddings were often held in Alice, TX by the Rev. McCurdy. A Church notice in the Gulf Coast Record states that the Presbyterians met the first Sunday of each month; the Methodists the second and third Sundays; and, the Christians (Disciples of Christ) met the fourth Sunday.
The organization of the First Presbyterian Church as recorded in the Western Texas Presbytery Minutes follows:
The organization of the Kingsville Church was reported by the Presbyterian Evangelist, Rev. A.H.P. McCurdy. - The report was adopted and is as follows: On Sabbath Jan'y 8th, 1905, the First Presbyterian Church of Kingsville was organized with the following named communicants: Peter F. Watson, WM Rogers, A.M Folts, Mrs. Mittie F. (Watson), Mrs. Mattie (Rogers), Mrs. V.D. Folts, C.H. Flato, Jr., Mrs. Lulu Flato; and the following non-communicants: Esther Watson, Alma Watson, Martha Rogers.
A.H. P. McCurdy
Those joining by July 23, 1905 were also to be considered Charter members. In addition to those named above the names of Mrs. V. J. Rutherford, Mrs. W.J. Carnohan (Annie Rutherford) and Mrs. B.M. White completed the membership roll as Charter Members of the First Presbyterian Church of Kingsville.
On January 11, 1905 the members called a Congregational meeting for July 23, 1905 for the purpose of electing officers and trustees.
Mrs. King was a member of First Church in Corpus Christi, and no record of her membership in the local church has been found although she attended regularly and was considered by all to be a member. In an interview, Mrs. Allena Collins Smith said she remembers Mrs. King sitting on a front pew "all dressed in black".
The church building was completed, and "Upon the 8th day of April 1906 this Church edifice, the gift of Mrs. H.M. King and furnished by .the Ladies of the church, was dedicated. The dedication sermon was preached by the Rev. Herbert Springall.
On Friday following the dedication of the church building, an article, written by one of those attending, appeared in the Corpus Christi newspaper:
Palm Sunday at Kingsville - Many Visitors from Corpus Christi
The writer was one of 110 passengers who left Corpus Christi yesterday morning at 9 o'clock on the St. L.B. & M. special train for Kingsville, about a dozen more joining the party at Robstown. It was a very special day and the country never looked more beautiful, clothed in its spring garb with wild flowers galore. Soon after the arrival in Kingsville, about 10:45, crowds of visitors. were seen wending their way toward the handsome Presbyterian edifice erected a short time ago west of the railway station. The building which is a commodius one - having seating capacity of 200 people - was soon filled with an appreciative congregation to witness its dedication - people from Kingsville, Corpus Christi and other places. In front of the pulpit were placed large palms and lovely flowers befitting the day; the whole interior building was handsomely decorated with roses, Indian pinks and other flowers. The services commenced by the joint choir - Corpus Christi and Kingsville - 16 voices, singing "Holy, Holy, Holy". Dr. T.R. Sampson followed with prayer and an interesting address, telling of his first sermon in Kingsville - delivered in a tent. The solo "Calvary", sung by Richard Kleberg, also "Joy to the World" rendered• by the choir preceding the sermon, was grand and beautiful. The Rev. Herbert Springall of Ennis, who took for his text part of the 18th verse of the first chapter of Colossians - "That in all things He might have pre-eminence” preached one of the ablest sermons on our savior ever heard in Southwest Texas. The choir followed with “All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name". Dr. Sampson then read a chapter from Psalms and delivered a grand prayer, the choir singing "I Love Thy Kingdom Lord" after which the benediction was pronounced, ending the dedication services which will long be remembered by the large congregation present that day. After the services and dinner at King's Inn and other places was served, the visitors looked over the new city of Kingsville, and left at 4:30 p.m. for Corpus Christi, where the train arrived at 6:30, everyone well pleased with a day well spent.
Mr. Rogers recorded in his Historical sketches in the back of the Session Minute book that the first Communion Service was held on April 9th, the anniversary of the dedication of the church building.
July 1910, the Congregation met and Called the Rev. A.R. Harrison to supply this Church for six months.
At a Congregational meeting held on December 26, 1920 the decision was made to Call the Rev. George F. Williams. He remained as pastor until June 30, 1935.
By 1925, there was talk of needing more space for Sunday school classrooms. In 1926 the Deacons and Elders had a joint meeting to discuss the remodeling of the church building.
The repairs and remodeling were finally finished in 1927, Minutes from the Session read: "Today was a great day with us in our church work. We had just finished making over the old church building into a new one greatly enlarged and beautified. Dr. Skinner, Moderator of General Assembly, ·preached the re dedication sermon, which was a masterpiece.
By 1935 it was time for more repairs and remodeling of the building. Committees were appointed to bring in estimates and to include the addition of electric fans to the Sunday School rooms.
Rev. Williams had left and the members were anxious to have everything in good order for their new minister: "...in that we have called a pastor, and he has signified his acceptance of the Call, subject to the action of Presbytery, we have elected a Trustee and we have approved plans and ways and means of repairing and remodeling the manse and church and have instructed the Deacons to proceed …”.
In April 1935, the Rev. Williams had shown intent to resign." With the Depression and a shortage of money, the Church was "hard put" to find the means to pay Mr. Williams before he left. In June, Mr. Williams formally asked to dissolve the relationship between him and the Church. This request was granted. Since Mr. Williams had not accepted another Call he was given permission to live in the manse until a new pastor was called.
On October 6, 1935 a Call was issued to Rev. George W. Crofoot as pastor with the salary of $1,800 per annum, plus the manse. Mr. Crofoot accepted the Call and then left Kingsville after the dissolution of the relationship in October 1940. The J.A. Reed accepted the Call to this Church in 1941 and remained until 1952. The Rev. Robert L. Bullard was pastor from 1952-1955.
In 1954 the congregation decided to build a new building.
The Kingsville Record for April 4, 1956 gave a complete report of the services to be held in the original church and the building plans for the new facilities. Excerpts follow:
Final services and Sunday School activities in the existing First Presbyterian Church are scheduled Sunday.
The congregation has approved plans and other details leading toward construction of a complete church building on the present site....
The existing buildings, starting next Monday, are to be removed from the site to clear the way for construction ....
The original church building was donated by Mrs. Henrietta M. King and the Ladies of the Church organization furnished the pews and acetylene lights.
Members of the congregation this Sunday will join together for Loyalty Day to undergird financial affairs of the church in connection with the proposed building program ....
The congregation has been without a pastor since late last year. Dr. T. Watson Street, a member of the Austin Theological Seminary faculty, will fill the pulpit Sunday.
A Communion service is planned as part of the morning worship. The bell from the present church building is to be retained and used in the new building to link the old and the new.
During the period of construction, Sunday school and Morning Worship Services were held in the Cafetorium of the Kingsville Junior High School. Arrangements were made in a "gentlemen's agreement" with John Gillett, Superintendent of Kingsville Independent School District. According to Ross Genz, former member of the KISD School Board, beginning in the I 970's the State of Texas no longer permitted religious or political groups to use school facilities for any purpose.
Arrangements could not be made for Sunday Evening Worship services. Mid-week worship services were held in the home of Mrs. Wendell Kennedy on Yoakum Street.
In June 1956, The Rev. Joseph R. Cochran arrived in Kingsville to begin his pastorate at the First Presbyterian Church.
On July 13, the Congregation met to transfer "to the First Presbyterian Church, US, Inc., Kingsville, Texas, all property real and personal of the First Presbyterian Church, Kingsville, Texas, and to terminate the office of Trustees with the completion of the aforesaid transfers and to transact any other business". The Congregation approved the Charter only to have to reconvene on July 22 to correct the name of the Church in the Charter. When the church was organized in 1905 it was called the First Presbyterian Church of Kingsville. The first draft of the Charter stated that the name was: The Presbyterian Church of Kingsville. This was corrected and the legal name of this church became THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, U.S., INC., KINGSVILLE, TEXAS.
The first service was held in the new structure on December 23, 1956; the first Communion and installation of officers, on January 6, 1957; the dedication of the new building on January 13, 1957. At the dedication, the sermon was given by Dr. James I. McCord, Dean of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. At this service the first Baptism in the new Sanctuary was witnessed. Paula Elizabeth Cochran, infant daughter of Rev. Joe and Mary Cochran was baptized by Dr. McCord. An Open House was held in the afternoon from 2-5 p.m.
Michael Murray became pastor in 1965 and remained until 1969.
In 1969 the Rev. Toney McMillan became pastor. This pastoral relationship was dissolved in 1972.
Dr. T. Watson Street followed Rev. McMillan as pastor. In 1979 Dr. Joel E. May became pastor, serving until his death in 1981.
In July 1983 C. Calvin Reynolds, Jr. came as pastor and remained until February 1989.
The Rev. Conway Wharton served as Interim Pastor from May 1989 to May 1990.
In March 1991, Charles E. Miller arrived in Kingsville as pastor, of The First Presbyterian Church of Kingsville. His Ordination and Installation were held on April 10, 1991. This was the second time that this Church has had the privilege to be host for the Ordination of its minister. The first was for Joseph R. Cochran in 1956. Because the church was under construction at that time, his Ordination was held at the First Christian Church, making the Ordination for Rev. Miller the first in the present church. Rev. Miller retired in June of 2015 making him the longest standing pastor of the church.