Matagorda County Historical Marker Narrative
 

 

Midfield Methodist Church

Midfield, Texas

 

Midfield Methodist Church
 

In 1903, area Methodists worshiped at the Hawley Methodist Church. George Duffy, and W. K. and Alice Keller were congregation members and Midfield residents. They became charter members of a Methodist church in Midfield in 1907, and the new congregation first met at the Keller Hotel. Led by trustees Frederick Cornelius, W. K. McSparran and George Mullins, members built a sanctuary and parsonage at Junetta Street. In 1970, affected by the area's population decline, the Midfield congregation joined the Markham Methodist Church, where they worshiped until 1981. That year, they bought their former church building and established the Midfield Community Church.

2004

 

Junetta & 6th Streets
28°56'27.33"N      96°12'51.01"W

 


MIDFIELD METHODIST CHURCH

By Betty Lou Rickaway

 

The Methodist Episcopal Church South was active in the small community of Midfield, Texas, from 1903-1970; to be followed by an active Midfield Community Church 1981-2003 with both worshipping in a picturesque country church constructed in 1907.

           
The history of these two congregations worshipping in this church sanctuary is a story of one generation after another overcoming adversities such as a declining population, economic woes of a farming community and storms; but with a determination and desire to persevere that their church would survive.

           
Midfield, Texas, is at the junction of Farm Road 2431 and State Highway 71, sixteen miles northwest of Bay City in northwestern Matagorda County. It was named for its location equidistant from El Campo, Palacios, Bay City and Ganado. In 1904 Midfield secured its own post office, and the facility was still open in 2003. The population had dwindled from 300 in 1914 to an estimated population of 70 by year 2000.

           
Prior to the church being built in 1907, the Methodist congregation had services in the Hawley Methodist Church at Deming’s Bridge on the Tres Palacios River some five miles southeast of Midfield. Mr. and Mrs. W. K. Keller and George Duffy, residents at Midfield, were members of the Hawley Methodist Church who transferred to the Methodist Episcopal Church South at Midfield. Residents of the small community began having worship services in the dining room of the Keller Hotel, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Keller. Supper was held on the lawn with cakes and ice cream donated by the neighborhood. Burton D. Hurd Land Company brought train loads of home seekers and the socials gave them an opportunity to meet local people. These visitors contributed liberally to the church fund along with local residents raising over $1200 for the church building and furnishings.

           
In 1907, the First Methodist Church Episcopal South of Midfield was organized. The church became part of the Palacios charge, Cuero District of the West Texas Conference. The Reverend N. W. Carter served as the minister in the new church building 1906-08. Curly C. Duson, a prominent land developer, conveyed two lots for the sum of one dollar to W. E. McSparran, Frederick Caspar Cornelius and George M. Mullins, as trustees for the proposed church. The church and a parsonage was constructed that year and located at Junetta and Sixth Street, Block 6, Lots 5 & 6 in the original townsite.

           
The ladies of the missionary society raised money to purchase an organ soliciting names at ten cents each. These names, 600 in all, were embroidered on a quilt. When the quilt was finished, it sold for $25 at an auction making a total sale of $85 to purchase the organ which was shipped from Brattleboro, Vermont.

           
In the fall of 1903, Reverend W. H. Nelson received his firs appointment on November 4th to report to the Palacios charge. The circuit included Blessing, Midfield, and Markham; so Reverend Nelson met with the Methodists in Midfield before there was an organized church. Reverend Nelson, fresh out of college served only one year. I. S. Smith was the second pastor to serve the Midfield circuit and he served two years 1904-1906.

           
The next minister to serve was Reverend N. W. Carter who served 1906-08, coming from Palacios and preaching once a month. Students from the Baptist College in Palacios also held services once a month. It was during his tenure that the church and parsonage were constructed. Carter and his family lived in the parsonage and he would drive to the nearby communities of Markham and Francitas to conduct services.

           
The church was damaged twice by Gulf storms in 1922 and 1942. Services had to be held in the Midfield school house while repairs were being made.

           
During the period of 1907-1930 the membership was well over 100 for the Markham circuit which included the Midfield church. In the 1940’s membership was recorded for Midfield with an average of 45 members. The church value was listed at $10,000 in 1953 rising to $12,225 in 1955. In the 1950’s, membership fell to an average of 29 to 34. The church value fell to $8,000.

           
In the 1940’s and 1950’s Bible school was held for a one week period during each summer at the Midfield school. In Sunday school the children were required to learn the books of the Bible in order and recite them before the congregation. Pins and attachment to the pins were given on perfect attendance. Some of the children had as many as ten years without missing Sunday school.

           
A Methodist Youth Fellowship was begun in 1946 and the young people had various fund raisers. They often auctioned box suppers at the Midfield school. Mrs. Dee Cornelius had taffy pulls at her home. Cards were sent to serviceman by the youth. The lighted picture of Jesus that hangs in the church was donated to the church by the group.

           
Former ministers of the First Methodist Episcopal Church South of Midfield were: W. H. Nelson, I. S. Smith, N. W. Carter, J. P. Chambers, L. A. Alkire, H. S. Goodenough, T. R. Clendenim, Stanley Haver, W. G. Jones, O. W. Benold, J. L. Crail, E. A Potts, H. L. Spries, E. W. Deckert, H. F. Floyd, Corocoran Drake, H. W. Gaston, Robert Paine, E. W. Thompson, E. F. Kluck, A. Guyon, M. H. Keen, Norman Spellman, W. F. Hathaway, Jr., O. O. Moore, David Parsons, G. G. Cecil, W. H. Kinkaid, C. A. Cagle, L. M. Greenhaw, and E. B. McCulley.

           
Membership in the church began to decline and on April 12, 1970 a conference meeting was called at the Markham Methodist Church. Markham members voted to accept Midfield Church members into their church. The Resolution read: “Whereas the congregation of the Midfield United Methodist Church has become so small, be it resolved that they be merged with the Markham Methodist Church and the the church property at Midfield, Texas be administered by the merged Markham Board of Trustees. That the A. W. Hurta’s will continue to maintain its upkeep but if they should get into a bind and need help, that the Markham church will be willing to come to their aid. The date set for this merger is set for June 1, 1970.”

           
The doors of the Midfield church building were closed from 1970 until 1981; and at that time Jim Cornelius, Dusty Linn, Reverend and Mrs. Kenneth Olsen, Kathleen Poessel, and Jimmie and Danny Stephens went to San Antonio to the West Texas Conference to request purchasing the Midfield church and begin a community church. They had $2,000 from former church members plus $2,000 from the Trull Foundation, Palacios, Texas in making the offer which was accepted. On April 8, 1982, Charter #603387 was obtained for the Midfield Community Church, Inc. from the State of Texas.

           
Reverend Kenneth Olsen from the Czech Brethren Church became the first pastor for the Midfield Community Church. Upon reopening the church for Sunday worship services the membership recognized a dire need to make repairs and improvements to the exterior and interior of the church building. A new metal roof was installed to replace the leaking shingles, ceiling tiles were treated with stain block, and ceiling fans were installed. A small restroom and kitchen were added to the reconstruction. Frederick Pierce rewired the electrical lines to assure fire safety. Water stood under the church so some of the local Mexican men put dirt in a wagon attached to two ropes. One man remained on the outside and another man was under the building and pulled and emptied dirt underneath until the low spots were filled. An exterminator sprayed for bugs and termites. Frank Hurta did much of the necessary carpenter work. Money was scarce and the repair work was slow. Attendance was small and Sunday offerings sufficed to only pay the preacher.

           
In the 1980’s and 1990’s Tiny Magee and Shelly Fitzgerald started Sunday school in the mornings for the children. Church worship services were held in the evenings. There wasn’t any air conditioning and gas heaters provided warmth during the cold months.

           
In 1990 Jerome Flint a member of the congregation, built a replica of the Midfield church (dimensions of 8’x4’x4.5’). The church was placed on a flatbed trailer owned by A. T. and Ruby Richardson. Members decorated the “parade float” with flowers, artificial trees, and a skirt. A podium, keyboard and chairs for members were also added. The Midfield Community church members entered several parades singing “The Church in the Wildwood.” During the Danevang Lutheran Church Centennial the Midfield entry won first place as the best parade float.

           
In 1992, Ruby Richardson started a live Christmas pageant with all the children of the community participating, an activity that continues today [2004]. All the children wear costumes and a newborn baby boy plays the part of Jesus each year and a manger completes the nativity scene. The altar is decorated with a large Christmas tree and there is always a surprise visit from Santa with bags of toys, candy, and fruit.

           
The Midfield Community Church is used for weddings and funerals. Other activities include an annual Easter egg hunt for the children and an annual pastor’s appreciation dinner.

           
In 1991 termites were discovered in the building and a large tent had to be erected to completely cover the church to exterminate the subterraneous insects. In 1994, central air and heat was installed under the supervision of Chuck Smith.

           
The pastors who have served the Midfield Community Church were Reverend Kenneth Olsen 1981-1989, Alfred Toerne 1990-1996, and Reverend David Zimmer 1996-1998. Since August of 1998 the church has been served by Reverend Bruce Adamson from the St. James Lutheran Church of Ganado, Texas.

           
Upon request from Betty Lou Rickaway, the church president, The Trull Foundation of Palacios, Texas, granted the Midfield Community Church $15,000 in August, 2000 to restore the exterior of the church. Vinyl siding, soffit, and fascia were installed. All the windows were trimmed and a new steeple was installed.

           
Another grant request submitted by President Rickaway in May 2002 to the Trull Foundation produced an additional $12,000 to restore the interior of the Midfield Community church. Paneling and trim were put on the walls. The windows were trimmed in oak, ceiling tiles were replaced with 1/6 T & G pine, and the etched windows were replaced as needed. New flooring and a vanity were installed in the restroom. The attic was closed off above the kitchen area and cabinets were added. Commercial carpet was laid throughout the church area. The wooden pews were refinished and new cushions purchased. The building contractor of the 2000 and 2002 restoration projects was Mark Calhoun of Calhoun Construction Company with plans presented by A. T. Richardson.

           
There were several key people in 1907 who built, maintained and worked in the early church setting the groundwork and foundation for the church building to survive and be a vital part of the rural community of Midfield. They were Fredrick Casper Cornelius, William K. and Alice Jordon Keller, George Duffy, George M. Mullins, Hannah Loretta Aikin and W. E. McSparran.

           
Fredrick Casper Cornelius (1850-1946) born on December 2, 1850 in Rothensee, County of Hersfeld, Germany came to the United States in December, 1870. He was one of the original trustees and served as Sunday school superintendent from 1908 until his death on April 30, 1946. He donated the bell that still hangs in the church, driving by horse and buggy to San Antonio to make the purchase. He helped build and maintain the church. He owned ranches, the general merchandise store on Junetta Street, and served as school trustee. Cornelius was the superintendent of the Union Sunday school at Deming’s Bridge before the beginning of the Midfield church.

           
William K. Keller (12/29/1877 – 6/3/1962) and wife, Alice (7/3/1884 – 12/5/1968) were part of the original congregation transferring membership from Hawley church to First Methodist Episcopal Church South of Midfield. Mr. and Mrs. Keller owned the hotel and had many socials when the train loads of people came to raise funds to build the church. Mrs. Keller played the piano, taught Sunday school and was postmistress at Midfield.

           
George Duffy (5/6/1873 – 6/7/1958) transferred his membership from Hawley Church to First Methodist Episcopal Church South of Midfield. Duffy paid for remodeling and improvements in the church for years. He was born in Matagorda County, worked for Shanghai Pierce as a teen and became a rancher and owner of extensive land holdings.

           
George M. Mullins (11/6/1862 – May 1946) was born in Corinth, Alcorn County, Mississippi. He was one of the original trustees of the First Methodist Episcopal Church South of Midfield, Texas. He was a farmer and had eleven children. He moved from Midfield in 1922 to a farm between Blessing and Francitas. He helped maintain the church for years.

           
Hannah Loretta Aiken (6/9/1866 – 3/11/1932) moved to Midfield in 1916 from a farm she and husband, Knox, owned located west of Demings Bridge and Hawley Cemetery. Knox taught in the first school in Midfield. Hannah furnished school teachers with room and board in Midfield. Hannah was president of the Women’s Missionary Society, taught Sunday school, and played the organ for fifteen years. Her funeral service was in the church.

           
W. E. McSparran (3/19/1958 – 5/18/1940) was one of the original trustees of the church and married to Alice Pybus (1863-1940). McSparron came to Texas from Virginia. He was a rancher and cattleman, ranching in Midfield with his son, Nolan. In 1924, a big freeze killed most of their cattle. He died May 18, 1940 and the funeral was in the Midfield church at 2:00 p.m. on May 21, 1940.

           
The Midfield Cemetery and Midfield school were served by many of the same people who worked in the church. The Midfield Cemetery had its first burial in 1913. On August 23, 1916, a deed to J. T. Davis, M. I. Fortenberry and F. Cornelius, trustees of the Midfield Common school District No. 10 from W. B. Gaumer of Colorado was recorded. On March 16, 1981, articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State were filed. On October 5, 1981, trustees of the Tidehaven Independent School district executed a warranty deed to the Midfield Cemetery Charter 553-668 for the purpose of carrying on a cemetery. A second tract of land came from the Trull Estate and a third tract from A. T. and Ruby H. Richardson.

           
Current [2004] Midfield Community Church board members are Sue Jahns, Dwayne Kuykendall, Dusty Linn, Becky McKissick, Danny Poessel, A. T. Richardson, Ruby H. Richardson, Betty Lou Rickaway, Danny Stephens and Delvin Taska.

           

Members of the Midfield Community Church hold an annual meeting the last Sunday in January. Officers are elected on the even years. The 2003-2004 officers were Betty Lou Rickaway, president, and Ruby H. Richardson, secretary-treasurer.

           
After restoration of the Midfield Community Church, the church had its rededication services along with the Cornelius family reunion on December 8, 2002. There were 110 people in attendance.

           
Worship services are held each Sunday at 7:30 a.m. Communion is offered the first Sunday of each month. Attendance for Sunday worship services currently number 35 to 45. Members are

generous with contributions. Consequently, church members share their gifts of food baskets and generous financial donations to families in need of medical care or to those experiencing a disaster.

           
The Midfield Community Church is one of “America’s Treasurers” as it continues to serve Midfield, Blessing and El Maton, Texas rural areas which began as part of a Methodist circuit a century ago in 1903.

 

The Texas Historical Marker for the Midfield Methodist Church was dedicated October 3, 2004. The Church is on Junetta and Sixth Street, Midfield, Texas.

 

 

Copyright 2009 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Created
Mar. 5, 2009
Updated
Jan. 7, 2013
   

HOME