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FUMC unveils book on church’s history


By April Barbe

Published: February 10, 2006 01:49 pm

Having at one time been banned from worshiping as Methodist followers, believers gathered in private homes and sometimes held secret worship services to practice the Methodist religion.

“When Texas was under Mexico, only the Catholic religion was allowed in the area,” Barbara Hugghins, associate pastor at First United Methodist Church of Jacksonville, said.

“When the Protestant faith was allowed in the area, the Methodists were some of the first to come into East Texas.”

Through Mexico’s reign, Indians and the Texas Revolution, the Methodists prevailed, and when the revolution ended in 1836, the Methodist Mission Board decided it was safe to send Methodist missionaries to Texas.

In 1845, eight years after the denomination’s establishment in Texas, the church, which would later become known as the First United Methodist Church of Jacksonville, was established on Gum Creek (which is now the vicinity of Lake Jacksonville).

In 1853, the congregation established a second church building, due to Gum Creek’s demise with the establishment of a new settlement by Jackson Smith. But by 1856, the Methodists had outgrown the building, and another building was built on an adjacent lot.

According to a history of the church that was recently published, in 1908, the church conveyed all of its property to First Methodist Episcopal Church, south of Jacksonville. FUMC is now located at 416 South Bonner St.

The 208-page book regarding the Methodist church’s 160 year history began when, then historian, John Allen Templeton researched and recorded information about early church buildings, church music, and a bit about early members. His document was a 26-page narrative titled, “The Methodist March In Jacksonville, Texas.” This document served as confirmation of historical data warranting that the church was eligible for two historical markers: (1) from the Texas State Historical Commission and (2) from the General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church. It was John Allen’s dream that a more complete, hardbound volume including more topics about the church would be forthcoming, but that didn’t happen in his lifetime.

In 2000, a newly appointed history committee, chaired by May Lou Meyers, tackled the enormous job of sorting through closets and files to gather old, dusty, and musty documents and items related to the history of this church.

“Within a couple of years, we had cataloged and properly filed several hundred items,” Meyers said. “Since it was necessary to read through all of the papers in order to properly categorize them, we of the committee learned a great deal about the church that we wanted to share.”

In addition to information about early church buildings, the book includes chapters about the stained glass windows and other church treasures, Christian education (including all Sunday school classes), outreach, visitation, UMW and UMY, subgroups of the Council on Ministries, and support groups such as the library, radio and TV ministries.

“At this time the church is building a new facility, a major undertaking marking a new chapter in the history of FUMC. This is an ideal time to record the history of the current and former buildings,” Meyers said.

The book includes much more detail about the Methodist church’s history in Texas and how followers came to practice their right to freedom of religion.

“The Methodist March” is $25 with a $5 shipping and handling fee for orders to be mailed. For anyone interested in purchasing the book, an order may be mailed to FUMC at 416 South Bonner, Jacksonville, Texas 75766. Inquiries are welcome by phone at 903-586-2494.


Information from The Jacksonville Daily Progress