Rented schoolhouse was first home of First Christian Church of Longview

From Staff Reports

Editor’s note: The development of the First Christian Church in Longview was detailed by Mrs. A.S. Latham in this July 5, 1931, article for the Longview News-Journal.

The First Christian Church traces its history to a rented school house, the private property of Mrs. V.A. Leake, on North Green Street.

Leake rented her school to a dozen men and women who called themselves only “Christians” and who, since coming to the practically new town of Longview, had found themselves without a church home.

These charter members in 1875 included the Rev. and Mrs, James P. Holloway, their, son, the Rev. W.C. Holloway, Dr. G. B. Harrison. Mr. and Mrs. George Harrison, Mrs. Ann Prothro. Ben F. Phillips, Mrs. Eliza Hutchings, T.S.S. Young, a Mrs. True and perhaps a few others.

As other members of the faith moved to Longview or as a son or daughter became old enough to join the church, the little group gradually increased.

Early in 1876 they began to talk of building, and many committee meetings were held as plans for a church house began to unfold. George Harrison was appointed chairman of a group to secure a lot.

Through his efforts, the Texas and Pacific Railroad deeded free of cost the desirable corner of Methvin and Green, where the church stood for many years.

The little group thought they were well into the building project when the lot was in hand. They added to the work of their teams, their own skill in carpentry and their time to a modest building fund. Wooden blocks, sawed and hauled in by W.C. Holloway, were used for the foundation set in place by Ben Phillips.

An ordinary unassuming frame building went up and a little band, now numbering 21, moved into the new church house later in 1876. Once into the new building, the congregation fully organized, elected two elders, J.P. Holloway and Dr. Harrison, and two deacons, W.C. Holloway and Phillips.

These four officers, together with George Harrison and Tom Young, formed the active leadership of the infant church.

During the remainder of 1876 there was preaching by J.P. Holloway.

Often his brother, John T. Holloway of Upshur County, would visit his relatives here and preach for the little church. By special request “Uncle Johnnie” Cain of Hallsville also filled the pulpit several times.

At the close of the second year in the new building, the Rev. John T. Poe moved here and took up the work as pastor. He operated a watch repair business to supplement his salary.

Soon the need of a revival meeting was felt and Bro. Barnes of Georgia was called. The successful preaching services resulted in several new members joining the church, and growth increased as Poe began to weave himself into Longview lives, baptizing and marrying the young and burying the dead.

W.C. Holloway, who maintained a farm home near Longview while preaching at various East Texas points, was called as the next pastor.

The Rev. L.A. Dale next took the church and baptized a number of young people at his first service. The fourth pastor was the Rev. Robinson, who came from Missouri with a large family.

He was the first to organize and maintain work with the young people.

The Rev. R.H. Simmans succeeded Robinson and during his pastorate the first parsonage was built on the lot where the Sunday School annex once stood.

Other ministers to serve the church in the years before the turn of the century were A.L. Condor, A.O. Rial, J.H. Fuller, J.A. Livsey and J.N. Wooten.

In 1906, with 75 members and no regular pastor, the congregation erected a new concrete building to replace the 30-year-old wooden structure. The Rev. J.A. Holton was the first pastor called to the new church.

He was followed by ministers J.N. Wooten. H.E. Beckler, Clifford Weaver, Gerald Culberson, W.C. Jones, F. Clark Bateman, George D. Dickinson, J.T. McKissick and James R.I Wright.

In 1931 the church boasted 450 members and had recently called the Rev. Glenn Hutton of Cleburne as religious director.