Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

  First Presbyterian Church
Bartlett, Texas

old church at
346 Pietzsch Street
 
 
Built for congregation originally called Nazareth Church of the Central Texas Presbytery, and constituted on Indian Creek in June 1875. Reorganized here in 1897. Sanctuary erected in 1899. Victorian architecture. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1970




 
  The First Presbyterian Church Of Bartlett
Historical Narrative

The First Presbyterian Church of Bartlett had its origin in a rural area west of Bartlett in 1875. A few years later, as most of its members were from Bartlett, the original group disbanded and a group reorganized at Bartlett as the First Presbyterian Church. The present structure was built where it stands today and has been in continuous use as a place of worship since its beginning.

The original organization was brought about by Mrs. Mary Kelso who moved her family of five sons and five daughters from South Carolina to an area on Indian Creek west of Bartlett in 1871. Later Kelsoville School was organized and a small building erected to serve the community school and to be used as a meeting place for various groups.

Mrs. Kelso had strong and fervent religious beliefs and ideals and each day she realized that her children and the people who had settled nearby needed more religious instruction and guidance than she and other heads of households were able to give in family worship hours. Mrs. Kelso pursued her desires prayerfully and earnestly and contacted The Central Texas Presbytery for help. A commission consisting of Rev. L. F. Tenny and Rev. A. J. Laughridge with two ruling elders, Mr. H. Seymore and Mr. S. Seymore, were appointed to effect the organization of a church. In June 1875, a commission composed of Rev. L. F. Tenny, H. Seymore, Rev. J. M. Robinson, J. S. Kelso and a small group of local people met on Indian Creek in the shade of native trees and organized a Presbyterian Church which they called The Nazareth Church of the Central Texas Presbytery.

Rev. J. M. Robinson and J. F. Kelso were elected elders and J. S. Kelso was elected deacon. Charter members were: Mrs. Mary Kelso, Miss Angie Kelso, Miss Emily Kelso, James S. Kelso, John F. Kelso and wife Sarah, Mrs. O. A. Newman, Rev. J. M. Robinson and his wife M. F. Robinson.

As there was no public meeting house in this area and no means whereby one could be erected at this time, family homes and in suitable weather, the sheltering shade of trees served as meeting places for worship.

This old Nazareth Church reached its zenith of usefulness, influence and growth from about 1890-1895. After which time a decline began. At this time a number of people from Bartlett held membership in this rural church. The country membership declined to such an extent it was decided to dissolve the old Nazareth Church and to organize a church in Bartlett.

In 1897 Central Texas Presbytery appointed the following committee or commission to organize a church in Bartlett: Rev. J. F. Sailes, J. M. Robinson, W. S. Baker and elders W. McB. Smith and J. J. Robinson. The First Presbyterian Church was organized here on October 10, 1897, with about 38 members. For the first two years worship was held through the kindness of other established churches here in their places of worship and in public buildings.

Early in 1899 a movement was started for the erection of a house of worship and the present Presbyterian Church stands as .a result of those desires and plans. J. S. Kelso, W. M. Moss, H. R. Kelso and A. B. Welch were made church elders and deacons.

A deed for the original property was recorded in Georgetown, Williamson County, Texas, in March 1899, with the signatures of E. W. Johnson, notary and Jno. A. Brewster, County Clerk. The deed states:

For the consideration of $5.00 (five dollars) J. C. Hairston and wife Ella granted, sold and conveyed unto said W. M. Moss, J. S. Kelso and J. M. Robinson as trustees of the First Presbyterian Church at Bartlett, Texas, and to their successors in office, a location described as lot 1 block 27 out of the Pietzsch addition beginning at the south side of the block 75 feet east, 50 feet to the north and 75 feet west.

The pastor of the church, Rev. J. M. Brooks, A. B. Welch, and T. P. Robinson were appointed as the building committee. These aided in designing and planning the building. The pastor, his two sons, local workmen and some members of the church constructed the building and did interior work. The pastor records in a church record:

We began construction of the church March 7, 1899, and the carpentry work was completed July 3, 1899--a period of four months. Painters completed work on July 18, 1899. Pews arrived and were put together and installed by my two sons and me--also carpet and various other small items.

The total cost of the building and furnishings was about $1922. Pine lumber and perhaps some oak beams were used in the construction of the frame building. A bill of sale from two local lumber companies, a list of workmen and wages paid them, and a bill of sale for furnishings are preserved with other important church records.

The simplicity of the semi-Gothic architectural design with some few decorative touches, namely the domed windows and some of the trim on the front of the church near the roof and the metal ridge rows with their trim or design that adorn the gables and sections of the roof, add to the beauty of this church which is well preserved. The original doors, windows, walls, chairs, pews and flooring are in the church. A south and a west entrance open into the vestibule which leads into the main church parlor. At the southwest corner of the building above the vestibule the builders hung a bell of beautiful clear-tone quality. At that time $100 was paid for the bell, and though it may have been expensive in 1899, it is much more valuable today. Now each Sunday morning at 8:30 the bell is rung to remind residents of Bartlett that the hour of regular church worship nears. At midnight every New Year's Eve the bell is tolled the number of years in the decade, and on World Day of Prayer, the bell is rung every hour of the day. The wooden shingles on the belfrey were cut and placed in an artistic design in bands around the belfrey. The floor of the church was covered with matting carpeting.

Some years after the church was built a five room residence on lot L. block 36--75 feet by 114.0 feet of the Pietzsch addition-- was purchased for 1900 for a manse. In 1913 a larger residence was secured on lot 3 block 26 of the Pietzsch addition for $3500 with the former manse in exchange in consideration of $1000.

The Ladies Auxiliary has always been active in study and helping in the growth and financial upkeep of the church. At one time this group desired a larger church lawn and purchased 7L feet by 50 feet north of the church in the same block 27 for $600. During more recent years some interior redecoration was a project of the Auxiliary. Wall paneling of a light beige color was added, pews and chairs refinished and a beautiful beige carpeting was given the Auxiliary for the church through the generosity of a former Bartlett citizen.

The original organ bought in 1899 for 64 was replaced by a piano some years ago. Recently a small modern organ owned by Mr. Bryan Robinson, a former member of the church and descendant of one of the original founders, was given by Mr. Robinson's family in his memory.

Through the years records show that the First Presbyterian Church grew in membership and influence. The many pastors who have served the church and many faithful members have added to the spiritual growth and to the general good of this community.

This pretty, well-preserved church where services are still held each Sunday stands today as a memorial to those who in its beginning had a dream and vision for a church and who labored for that purpose at a time when this section of our country was relatively young; and though there were many hardships, perhaps in that day they were not considered severe hardships, for many people gave of their time and ability for a desired cause. The influence of these early workers has been felt by all those members who followed through the years and have continued the work begun by the founders of this church.

 
 


 
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