(Editor’s note: This is the fifth of a multi-part series compiled by local historian Gary Davis detailing the history of First Methodist Church of Livingston, which will celebrate its 175th anniversary with a celebration on Oct. 22 that will include a combined worship service at 10:30 a.m., a luncheon at noon and a concert that evening.)
By Gary Davis
The Livingston churches combined again in August 1912 for a 17-day protracted revival in the district courtroom of the courthouse. Dubbed “Everybody’s Revival,” there was an 8:30 a.m. service each day and all businesses in town closed so that everyone could attend. The Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians put their “shoulder to the wheel” and worked side by side in the salvation of souls. The first 10 days of the revival started out slow but toward the end, the meeting “broke loose” and there were 51 conversions to the local churches. The Livingston Baptists received 41, the Presbyterians three and the Methodists five. In addition, there were fully this many more who were already members who expressed a desire to come into the active work of their church.
The following year, in September 1913, the churches organized another two-week revival at the courthouse. This time there were 18 additions to the Methodists, nine to the Presbyterians and one to the Baptists.
On Sunday night, Nov. 9, 1913, the church was filled to utmost capacity when Reverend Kennedy presented the church to the PE, Reverend J.W. Mills, for dedication. Reverend Mills, as usual, was at his best and one of the most powerful gospel sermons ever preached in the city was delivered by him. The church was beautifully decorated with flowers and ferns and every detail was ideal.
The Enterprise of Dec. 4, 1913, reported that Kennedy had been reassigned and that the new Livingston preacher would be the Reverend J.F. Kidd, from the Marshall District. As reported in the Dec. 11, 1913, Enterprise, “Kidd was a man of striking appearance and had an attractive personality. While he is comparatively young in his work, he is a hard student and is regarded by PE Mills as one of the coming preachers of this district.”
By March 16, 1916, Rev J.O. Coppege had arrived from Centerville to assume the pulpit. Coppege had a short stay, however, as the Timpson Times of Nov. 30, 1916, reported that the Reverend B.C. Anderson was taking up his work in Livingston.
On Nov. 6, 1921, the Houston Post reported that the Methodist quarterly conference was held at the Livingston church and the Reverend J.E. Buttrill was asked to return for another year. The Reverend E.L. Ingram, PE of the Timpson District, complimented the locals by stating that the Livingston church had shown greater progress and better reports than any other church in the district.
On Sept. 15, 1921, it was announced in the Enterprise that six Sunday School rooms had been added to the church. They had been needed for some time as the Sunday School had grown to such an extent that the building would not accommodate the classes in a satisfactory manner. The construction was done primarily by Reverend Butrill.
The 1922 conference sent to Livingston from the Nacogdoches District, Reverend J.C. Huddleston and in 1923, the Reverend W.J. Richards. Reverend Frank Platt arrived in 1924, and in 1925, I.T. Andrews was the PC for the next four years. While the Andrews occupied the parsonage, Mrs. I.T. (Lillian) Andrews’ sister, Ormie Coon, came to Livingston to live with them and to teach. Her first students included Ernest Reuter Jr., J.C. Hooks and Jerome Thomason. Miss Coon became Mrs. H.B. Davis Jr. in 1929.
In another joint assembly of the four local churches, on Friday, April 15, 1924, the Houston Post reported that the annual Sunday School picnic was held on Long Kane [sic] Creek. All businesses in town closed for the day and the schools declared a holiday. Free transportation to the picnic grounds was arranged and committees were formed to perfect the plans.
The Nov. 10, 1929, issue of the Beaumont Enterprise reported that Reverend I.T. Andrews was being sent to Conroe and was replaced by the Reverend J.T. Moore, who came from Jacksonville.
The Reverend C.E. Peeples, who came to Livingston in November 1933 was honored by his selection to the presidency of Lon Morris College in June 1935. The Enterprise of June 20, 1935, reported that Reverend Peeples and family would be leaving immediately for Jacksonville, Texas for him to assume his new charge.
In 1939 the ME Church, South merged with the Methodist Protestant Church to become the Methodist Church. The use of the term PE was eliminated, and District Superintendent or DS began to be used.
On Jan. 25, 1939, in a deed recorded in volume 115, page 57, C.L. Cochran deeded to James E. Hill, Jr., H.D. Alston, A.B. Garvey, L.N. Haynes and W.B. Cayton, trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South at Livingston, Texas, a tract that was located to the north and east of the church property. This gave the church a lot that was 214-feet deep by 96-feet wide and extended from Church Street (known as State Hwy. 45 at this time) to Polk Street. (In 1965, the church acquired an additional 6-foot strip along the west boundary from A.W. and Adelle Peebles).
For a revival in 1943, from August 22-29, services were held twice daily, at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. The Reverend Ray Loden from the First Methodist of Liberty conducted the services. The pastor of the church at this time was Nolan Vance.
In 1948 the wooden church building was razed and a new, brick building with seating for 300 was put up in its place. At the beginning of the project the PC was Ben Anderson and when completed in 1949, the pastor was L.R. Condrey.
The building committee was comprised of Otto Hawkins, as chairman, B.A. Glover, S. Frank Fain, James M. Windham, Wyman Windham, Sr., V.H. Pritchard and Dr. T.L. Gardner. The church trustees were H.D. Alston, Leo H. Davis, L.N. Haynes, Fred Smith and James M. Windham.
On April 16, 1949, the same group of trustees executed a document to incorporate as “The Methodist Church of Livingston, Texas.”
On July 10, 1949, the opening service was held to much excitement from the congregation. Reverend Peebles returned from Lon Morris to deliver the message. The beautifully printed bulletin acknowledged many individuals and specifically thanked the ladies who served alongside the Lions and Rotary Clubs in their efforts to assist with the building fund.
The Houston Post ran a nice photo of the new, beautiful $60,000 brick Methodist Church and announced its formal opening and a revival that was to be held daily during the following week.
The church dedication ceremony was held on Dec. 9, 1951, during the pastorage of E.J. Berkelbach. The Act of Dedication was performed by Otto Hawkins Sr. Bishop A. Frank Smith asked Hawkins, “By what name shall this church henceforth be known?” Hawkins responded, “It will be called the First Methodist Church.”