Methodists shared first meeting house in Longview

Editor’s note: This account of the development of the Methodist faith in Longview was written in July 1931 for the Longview News-Journal by Mrs. J.C. Howard.

In 1845, the old Methodist church in this community was a log building called the “Meeting House.” This first church structure was used by other Protestant denominations, school was taught there and community meetings were held under its rustic beams.

Dr. Ellis, a practicing physician and lay preacher, and the Rev. D.M. Stovall were in charge. The Rev. Robert D. Wyche was probably the first Methodist pastor in the area.

About 1860, the log church was abandoned and Dr. Job Taylor supervised construction of a new church in the area known as Earpville. This church was the center of Methodist activities until 1871 when the Texas and Pacific Railroad moved into Longview.

The Earpville church was torn down and reconstructed at the present church site, Fredonia and Whaley streets, about 1873. This frame building was used only a short time before it was replaced by what was said to be the first brick church building in Texas.

When the Rev. D.F. Fuller arrived in Longview in 1874, he began pleading for a brick building. His congregation, however, showed little interest in the pastor’s project until the visit of the church’s elder, Dr. John McLean.

When McLean came to Longview to preach one Sunday night, roving hogs squealing under the open frame foundation disturbed the congregation to such an extent that the next day more than $7,000 was subscribed to begin the new brick building.

J.W. Boring, Alex Methving, Tom Buttrill and Dr. Taylor were the church leaders who supervised construction of the building, which would be used for 27 years.

Methodists also fostered construction of the Fowler Chapel on Sixth Street, named in 1892 for the Rev. L.M. Fowler and Barbara Hall, which was built in 1902 under the leadership of the Rev. J.W. Bergin. At least four future ministers — Alex Methvin, Ben Hines, C.L. Williams and H.T. Morgan — were members of this early church.

The first organ, an old-style Mason and Hamlin pedal-operated model was purchased a few years after the brick church was built. Miss Alice Kelly was the first organist and Miss Mollie Chaney was her assistant.

As Longview grew, even the brick building became inadequate and in 1900 construction began on Kelly Memorial Methodist Church. G.A. Kelly served as both architect and contractor for the church named in honor of his family.

The church has had as superintendents such men as Capt. Stephen May, Joe Boring, C.P. Carter, Gaines Turner, Sam Proud and R.M. Kelly, who held the post 21 years.

The Ladies Aid Society was organized in 1885 and the Foreign Missionary Society was started in 1886.

Records show the first missionary society had 26 members who sold homemade bonnets for 25 cents each, and the amount in the treasury at the beginning of the sale was $1.46.

A few years later the Home Mission Society, which merged with the Foreign Mission Society in 1919, was organized. A youth organization, the Gleaners, was founded in 1910.