Hood County News – June 27, 1976

Dedication in 1976

The early years of Presbyterianism, in what is now Hood County, Texas, are lost in the mists of time, with the exception of a few isolated bits and pieces. Prior to the Civil War, the area was sparsely settled, with a few centers of trade. One such center was Acton, Texas, where we find the earliest record of a Presbyterian congregation. This congregation shared a stone church building near Walnut creek with “Baptists, Methodists, and Reformed Christian congregations,” as early as 1855. Two Cumberland Presbyterian Ministers, Ben D. Austin and W.B. Austin, from Cleburne, Texas, served these early settlers.

Following the Civil War, two events transpired which marked a new day for the area: first, there was a large influx of settlers in the western sections of Texas, including the areas west of Texas, including the areas west of the Brazos River. Disillusioned with the life of the post-war South, they moved into this area seeking a fresh start. Second, in 1866, the Texas Legislature created Hood County, with its county seat, Granbury, to be located “within six miles of its geographical center.”

It took some five years of political maneuvering before the present site for Granbury was chosen. Little is known of the development of Presbyterianism in the new county seat, except they shared the Courthouse with other denominations on a rotating basis. From the memoirs of persons who lived through these days who adhered to two schools of Presbyterianism, the Old School and the Cumberlands.

In 1879, the Rev. H.G. Martin was the minister, holding services at the Courthouse on the first and third Sundays of each month, according to the Granbury “Vidette,” an early newspaper. The next reference is in the January 31, 1885 issue of the Granbury “Graphic” which reports the Rev. A.S.Carver was holding services in the Baptist Church on the first Sunday of each month.

Presbyterians must have prospered, for on May 12, 1892, they purchased the lot on which the Church House now stands, for $300. This was followed by the purchase of the manse, next door, on December 10, 1894 for $465. (This property was sold in 1938 for $800.)

It was in this new manse that the Rev. C.C. McConnell moved on December 12, 1894. The Congregation developed well in the next few years, for in March 1895, the contract for the foundation for the Church House was awarded to I.M. Walley, with the present building being completed in April, 1896.

The new building was dedicated to the Service of Almighty God on Sunday, November 7, 1897 with the Rev. McConnell preaching and Rev. W.J. Lackey leading the service.

A forward step came with the union of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (successor to the “Old School” Presbyterians in Granbury) in 1906. This brought the two groups together in Granbury.

The years 1913-1920 show the Congregation at the apex of its strength. “The membership was in the 70’s while attendance was in the 60’s.” During these years, a “stringed orchestra” played for worship nearly every Sunday, while there was an “active” Sunday School, choir and activities for Young People.

The next “peak” period was during the pastorate of the Rev. W.A. Patterson, 1924-1927, with thirty members in the congregation, but life was not to be easy in the years which followed World War I. In the ensuing years, the congregation declined in numbers, being served by student pastors and laymen. Yet this was a period which showed the true mettle of a few.

During these years, a group of dedicated laymen gave of their time to make certain services were held in the Presbyterian Church. One of these was the Honorable Mr. Jim Wright, then Mayor of Weatherford, now, Congressman from the 12th Congressional District. Another devoted couple who have given of themselves in the preservation of the Presbyterian witness, have been Mr. & Mrs. A.M. Pate, Jr., of Fort Worth, Texas.

Now, in the center of the new life which has been brought to Granbury and Hood County by the development of Lake Granbury, the tenacity of this small group of members has begun to bear fruit, for a new life can be seen centered in the First Presbyterian Church at 309 W. Bridge.

This renewal has been seen in the Congregation sharing its facilities with the Lutheran Church, who have since moved on to a meeting place of their own, and, with the Roman Catholics, who still share the Church House. Recently, a major restoration project was completed with the “Old” Church House renewed, taking its rightful place with its proud witness in the community.

by Mary Maxwell