Matagorda County Recorded Texas
Historic Landmark
&
National Register of
Historic Places

Matagorda

Christ Episcopal Church

206 Cypress Street

28°41’32.11”N      95°58’02.17”W

Christ Church Web Site

Christ Church Baptisms
1839-1927


Christ Church Interments
1839 - 1875


Rev. Caleb Ives

Recorded Texas Historical Landmark

National Register Designation
 

ON A SITE APPROXIMATELY
400  YARDS  EAST  STOOD

CHRIST CHURCH

FIRST EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN TEXAS. ORGANIZED JANUARY 27, 1839. THE REV. CALEB S. IVES, RECTOR. BUILDING CONSECRATED FEBRUARY 25, 1844 BY THE RT. REV. LEONIDES POLK, D.D. BISHOP OF LOUISIANA. DIOCESE OF TEXAS ESTABLISHED JANUARY 1, 1849. BUILDING DESTROYED BY HURRICANE SEPTEMBER 11, 1854. REBUILT ON PRESENT SITE. THE REV. MR. IVES AND HIS WIFE ESTABLISHED AND TAUGHT AN EARLY SCHOOL IN CONNECTION WITH THE PARISH.

ERECTED BY THE STATE OF TEXAS 1936

Inscription typed by Faye Cunningham
 



 


 


CHRIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THIS PARISH, THE OLDEST EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN TEXAS, TRACES ITS HISTORY TO 1838. THE YEAR THE REV. CALEB S. IVES WAS APPOINTED MISSIONARY TO THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS. THE FIRST SERVICE WAS HELD ON CHRISTMAS DAY, AND THE CONGREGATION WAS FORMALLY ORGANIZED ON JANUARY 27, 1839.

AFTER LAND WAS DONATED BY ALBERT CLINTON HORTON AND ABNER LEE CLEMENTS, THE FIRST BUILDING WAS ERECTED. THE FIRST SERVICE WAS HELD IN THE NEW BUILDING ON EASTER SUNDAY 1841. IVES AND HIS WIFE, KATHERINA, ESTABLISHED A SCHOOL, THE MATAGORDA ACADEMY, WHICH WAS IN OPERATION UNTIL 1849.

AFTER THE FIRST CHURCH WAS DESTROYED IN A HURRICANE IN 1854, THIS BUILDING WAS ERECTED 400 YARDS WEST OF THE ORIGINAL SITE. SOME MATERIALS FROM THE 1841 CHURCH WERE SALVAGED FOR USE IN THE NEW STRUCTURE, INCLUDING THE ALTAR, COMMUNION RAIL, ALTAR CROSS, AND PEWS. ALTHOUGH THIS BUILDING HAS BEEN DAMAGED IN NUMEROUS HURRICANES, PART OF IT DATE TO 1856. EXHIBITING INFLUENCES OF THE ITALIANTE AND GOTHIC REVIVAL STYLES OF ARCHITECTURE, FEATURES INCLUDE ROUND-HEADED, PAIRED LANCET WINDOWS. DESIGNATED AS A RECORDED TEXAS HISTORIC LANDMARK, THE STRUCTURE RECEIVED THE OFFICIAL TEXAS HISTORICAL BUILDING MEDALLION IN 1962.

 


Christ Church

By The Reverend Lawrence L. Brown
Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest

The town of Matagorda was less than ten years old when Christ Church came into being as one of the first organized Christian congregations of any significance in that community. It was only after the victory over Mexico, which established freedom for Texas, that it became legal to organize non-Roman congregations. Although two Presbyterian ministers had visited Matagorda and conducted services there, no organization had resulted. In 1837 some of the residents of Matagorda attempted to obtain a charter, which would permit them to incorporate an Episcopal parish under the name of Christ Church, from the Congress of the Republic. The petition was rejected, and it was not until Rev. Caleb Ives arrived from Mobile, Alabama, that the first Episcopal parish in Texas was organized. Rev. Ives was the first foreign missionary to the Republic of Texas to be appointed by the Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church in the United States. He arrived on December 12, 1838, and immediately organized a parish and a school. He celebrated the first Holy Communion on Christmas Day, 1838, and on January 27, 1839, he presided at the organization of Christ Church Parish.

Ives gave ten years of dedicated service to the church and school before his death in 1849; his name shall forever remain among the saints of the early Episcopal church of Texas.

Practically all of the inhabitants of Matagorda, who attended worship service, came to the Episcopal church, and the Sunday School drew most of the town’s children. Matagorda residents, like all Texans at that time, had much land but little money; the local congregation gave generously, but that was not sufficient. Thus Ives traveled to the eastern United States on a begging tour. While there, he obtained additional funds and purchased a pre-cut church which he had shipped from New York by sailing vessel.

This building was erected in time for services on Easter Sunday, 1841. It was consecrated by Rt. Rev. Leonideas Polk. While missionary bishop of the Southwest, Polk assumed the responsibility for the Episcopal church in Texas. After becoming bishop of Louisiana, he continued his interest in the church in Texas. The consecration of Christ Church occurred in 1844 during Bishop Polk’s second visitation to Texas.

Besides being the first Episcopal parish to be organized in Texas and the first to erect a church building, Christ Church can rightfully lay claim to three additional “firsts.” The first ordination for the Episcopal church in Texas was performed at Christ Church on Easter, 1849; Henry Niles Pierce, who was to become bishop of Arkansas, was ordained to the diaconate on that occasion. The following January saw another “first” for Christ Church when the Primary Convention was convened at the call of Rt. Rev. George Washington Freeman. Bishop Freeman was the second bishop of the Southwest, and it was under his guidance that the diocese came into being in Christ Church, Matagorda. Ten years later Rt. Rev. Alexander Gregg, first bishop of Texas, presided at the first convention of the diocese at Christ Church. On that historic occasion he set in motion the brilliant program through which he brought the Episcopal church to strength and prominence in Texas in a few short years.

Many of the rectors, who followed Caleb Ives at Christ Church, rendered outstanding service. Henry Niles Pierce was greatly loved, and he ministered effectively before departing for Trinity Church, New Orleans. Stephen R. Wright became rector shortly after a hurricane destroyed the first church in 1854. He begged for money in the East to rebuild the church, then he ministered well before dying of a stroke in 1857 after a brief two-year tenure. John Owen probably gave as much to Christ Church as any man who followed Caleb Ives. Bishop Gregg held Owen in high esteem and pointed to Christ Church as an example while Owen was there; he recommended to the entire diocese the thorough instruction in Christian truth and the fidelity to the Book of Common Prayer, which he noted as Christ Church. Central to this pattern was the daily use of morning and evening prayer, and the celebration of Holy Communion as the principal service on Sunday. John Sloan, later archdeacon of Texas, rendered effective service when ministering to the Matagorda flock, and in his school were educated many who became leaders of the church and the state in the years that intervened.

The contributions of Christ Church to the Episcopal church in Texas are too many to be enumerated. Nearly every parish in the lower part of the diocese numbers in its membership families who trace their Episcopal heritage back to Christ Church. Many of the leaders of Texas received their early training at Christ Church. All of the Episcopal congregations of Matagorda, Brazoria, and Wharton counties owe their existence to the mother church at Matagorda. Two clergy of the diocese received early schooling there. Rev. Hannibal Pratt, Caleb Ives’ nephew, received some of his early education while living with his uncle at Matagorda. He was the founder of St. John’s Church, Columbus, and St. James’ Church, LaGrange. Rev. William Dinsmore Sartwelle, son of the William Sartwelle who taught in Ives’ school and stayed to be lay reader and warden of the church, grew up in Matagorda. He served long and well in the Episcopal church in Texas.

Historic Matagorda County, Volume I, pages 567-569
 


Clergy of Christ Church

Caleb Smith Ives

1838 - 1849

S. D. Denison

1849 - 1850

D. D. Flowers

1851

Henry Niles Pierce

1852 - 1854

Stephen H. Wright

1855 - 1857

C. H. Albert

1858 - 1860

John Owen

1862-1867

J. T. Hutcheson

1873

Edwin Wickens

1874

Innes O. Adams

1877 - 1879

J. Cooper Waddell

1881 - 1884

L. Holmes

1889

John Sloan

1891 - 1892

J. E. Hammond

1893-1894; 1896

John U. Graf

1895

J. H. Birckhead

1899 - 1900

John Sloan & Dean Bowers

Dec. 1900 - 1904

George L. L. Gordon

1905

Joseph Carden

1914 - 1916

John Melvin Pettit

1919 - 1921

William W. Daup

1922 - 1923

Paul E. Engle

1926 - 1941

Edmund L. Malone, Jr.

1942

Nathaniel C. Croft

1942 - 1944

Aubrey C. Maxted

1944 - 1958

Ralph L. Master

1958 - 1961

W. C. Grisson

1961

W. E. Campbell

1962

Das K. Barnett

1962 - 1964

John Raymond Fisher

1965 - 1966

James Edward Scott, Jr.

1967 - 1970

James Milton Abernathy

1970 - 1974

Robert Morgan Tarbet, Jr.

1974 - 1976

Douglas Stephen Cadwallader

1977 - 1981

Jacob Stephen Lowery

1981 - 1985

Herbert W. Wilke

1985 - 1992

Karl M. Choate

1992 - 1997

Harley S. Savage

1998 -

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2011 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Created
Sep. 5, 2011
Updated
Mar. 3, 2012
   

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