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
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
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
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
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 . 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,
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
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
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.
Current  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
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
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.