As you take a stroll down the quiet hallways in this quiet country church, you will find many pictures, artifacts, and momuments that have been placed in the building throughout the years dated back to 1837 when the church was established. Let me take you on a short journey back in time to our historic church, as published and compiled by Blanche Polk Richey; Ruby Parker; Anna V. Thomas Cartwright and assisted by Archie P. Mcdonald
The First United Methodist Church: Genesis
On October 19th 1837 The Reverend Littleton Fowler rode into San Augustine. A meeting was promptly called and Mr. Fowler preached for four nights. In the course of the meeting Mr. Fowler encouraged the people to build a church. Within two weeks after the meeting closed he had secured a donation of a 160 square foot lot which was located on Main Street just across the street from the present church property. He had also raised the sum of three thousand, five hundred and twenty five dollars for the construction of the building. After this work was complete Mr. Fowler remained in this area for a short timeand then proceeded to Nacogdoches, Washington-on-the-Brazos, and still later he journeyed to Houston. He did the same in all the areas listed above. Toward the end of the year Mr. Fowler returned to San Augustine. On January 7th, 1838 he led the young Methodist Church in San Augustine in the laying of the cornerstone for the new church building. This writer is fairly certain of the date although Fowler's Journal alone gives two dates, the second being January 17th. This is possibly a misprint. Dr. G.L. Crockett gives February 3rd as the date. This was apparently the date of the laying of the cornerstone at McMahon's Chapel. The cornerstone was laid by the Masonic Lodge of San Augustine with some forty or fifty Masons participating in the ceremony. This was the first cornerstone of a Protestant church in the state of Texas. This church served the San Augustine congregation quite adequately until 1872 when it was demolished and a new church was constructed on the same site. In 1897 Mr. Columbus Cartwright gave the present property, which is located across the street from the origial church. A parsonage was quickly constructed which still serves our congregation quite well. The chuch was once named Littleton Fowler Memorial Methodist Church but was later changed to San Augustine United Methodist Church at an unknown time. The present educational building was constructed in 1957 while the Reverend Richard W. Jenkins was the pastor. Among the early pastors of this church, three names stand out: The Reverends S.A. Williams, Francis Wilson, and Daniel Poe were able men and their misitries were very influential on this church and upon other churches that they served. These men were in the second group of missionaries that were sent to Texas by the Methodist Episcopal Church. S.A. Williams was the first pastor assigned to San Augustine. This was the first pastor regularly stationed in East Texas. Mr. Williams ministry roughly covered the period between the Texas Revolution and the Civil War. He cam to Texas in 1838 and died in 1866. Francis Wilson was assigned to San Augustine in 1840 and later served as Presiding Elder of the San Augustine District from 1841 to 1844. One of his greatest contributions to church life came in 1844 when $20,000.00 was raised for the establishment of Wesleyan College here. Littleton Fowler was also one of the leaders in establishing this college. The Reverend Lester Janes, a relative of Bishop Janes, was the first president of the college. The Reverend Daniel Poe served this church in distinction in 1844. Him and his wife died and were buried in a common grave near the church. Sometime in the 1930's The Reverend C.A. Tower, then retired and living in San Augustine, succeeded in locating this grave. The bodies were disinterred and reburied in the cemetary at McMahon's Chapel. Brother Tower was also instrumental in locating the grave of S.A. Williams. A suitable marker was placed on this grave and the property was deeded to First United Methodist Church so that it could receive adequate care. The Williams grave is located on the West side of the present Intermediate School property. "The Hitching Post" In 1897 Columbus Cartwright was leaving Sunday Worship Service when he noticed that his horse was gone. A Lady across the alley had released his horse from where it had been tied to her fence. He immediately made up his mind to give the land just across the street to build a new church where there would be enough room for people to tie their horses. A Hitching post still stands on the property today.
"The Fire as reported by the Beaumont Enterprise February 25th 2009"
Speaking where her pulpit should stand, the Rev. Sara Barberee looked across the shell of the First United Methodist Church's century-old sanctuary. Nearing Easter, she reflected on the Ash Wednesday fire that left the room clear of pews and the floor stripped to its foundation. Among the smoke damage and bare ceiling, she saw a new beginning. "It's a season of hope for us, because it's Easter - it's a season of resurrection," she said. "But we're also at the point (where) the demolition is about finished. We're making plans to begin to see what this sanctuary is going to be for the next hundred years." Since 1838, the congregation has met in San Augustine, one of the state's oldest. Then, it was founded as a foreign mission in the Republic of Texas. The current two-story, concrete block building has risen above Liberty Street and the town of 2,500 for a century. A member donated a city block of land east of the courthouse square to the new worship hall with one stipulation - a hitching post must be maintained for horses. It's still there, next to the sidewalk. "It has an aura of true meaning of spiritual experience," said Barbara Oglesbee, 74, a lifelong member. "We were married there and brought our babies there. It's our church home, with all the good times and bad times shared." Its place in the community was evident on Sept. 11, 2001, Oglesbee said, when the community - more than just Methodists - gathered there for an impromptu prayer service by noon. On Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25, Barberee led a morning service to begin the Lenten season. At 7 a.m., congregants met to have a cross of ashes spread across their foreheads. "From dust you were made," she told them, "and to dust you shall return." After the service, she ate breakfast and began work on Sunday sermons. Later, she ate lunch and returned to her office near the fellowship hall, just north of the sanctuary. About 1 p.m., a church member came by her office, saying she smelled smoke coming from the sanctuary. They followed the smell into the building's street level and climbed the stairs into the sanctuary.Smoke had begun to fill the room. Barberee grabbed the Bible used in services for decades and thought of what to save next. Then a line of fire erupted in the ceiling joists. God doesn't speak directly to her much, she said, but it seemed a clear sign to leave. Sixteen fire trucks responded from seven area fire departments. Townspeople gathered around the building, pleading with firefighters to save the building and its stained glass windows. And Barberee watched as crews battled the blaze, with an ashen cross still on her forehead. She was there to comfort church members, but they also comforted her. "I know the people now, and they are good people," she said. "Not just morally good, but spiritually good." Firefighters punched a hole in the roof to let out pressure, likely saving the windows, Barberee said. Now, from the outside, the church exterior appears fine. But it is a shell, Barberee said. Some things were saved, some lost. The stained-glass windows were cleaned and boarded up for the restoration, and the communion rail survived. The 1893 Steinway grand piano can be saved with work. Communion cups from a century ago survived and were used the next week when the congregation met in the brick fellowship hall next door.As the church rises from the fire, the sanctuary will improve in some ways. An acoustical tile ceiling will likely be replaced with plaster, and demolition revealed three stained-glass windows behind the pulpit. They had been boarded up for decades. Throughout the building, Barberee is reminded of the 170-year history of the congregation. "It's a good time in the life of the church, because we have a chance to honor the past hundred years by planning for the next hundred years," Barberee said. "There is a sense of the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us."
The Church has since been rebuilt and continues to grow with welcoming members and a steadfast family oriented atmosphere. Although some of the churches history was burned many of its artifacts and monuments still remain today. The history above is just a portion of the long roots of our church. Join us on Sundays to learn more and soak in the history of a little church with a big history.
205 S. Liberty St., San Augustine, Tx, 75972 Church Office: 936-275-2246 Church Email: firstname.lastname@example.org