Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

 

First Presbyterian Church
Historical Marker
Taylor, Texas


located at
6th Street and Talbot Street

 
 
First Presbyterian Church Marker Text
The history of this church can be traced to 1876, when a Presbyterian congregation here was closely associated with the Presbyterian church in Georgetown. The Rev. John McMurray led both congregations, and the earliest written recognition of the Taylor church appears in 1878 denominational records. Trustees for the church purchased this property in March 1878, and a frame sanctuary was completed by Thanksgiving of that year. A school operated by the Rev. Mr. McMurray was located across the street. The Rev. James P. Lyle was called as the church's first full-time pastor in 1889. About a year later a home was built on the church property to house the pastor's family, but it was destroyed in a 1900 fire. Denominational records began to refer to this congregation as First Presbyterian Church of Taylor in 1895, following the establishment of a Cumberland Presbyterian church the previous year. The two congregations were merged about 1910 and retained the First Presbyterian Church name. The need for a larger facility soon arose, and a new brick sanctuary was built in 1912-1913.
 
 



First Presbyterian Church - Taylor, Texas
Historical Narrative by Mrs. Joan Cabaniss - Taylor, Texas

The First Presbyterian Church has been in continuous existence in Taylor for more than 100 years and was one of the first churches of any denomination to be established in Taylor. Its early history dates back to 1876, when the Taylorsville congregation was closely associated with the Presbyterian Church of Georgetown. The Georgetown congregation was established two decades earlier in 1857. In 1872-73, that congregation, under the leadership of the Rev. John McMurray, built the fine stone structure where the church still meets today. [1] By 1876, the. Georgetown congregation was recognized as a part of the Synod of Kansas, Presbytery of Austin, and John McMurray was listed that year as a licentiate in transitu". [2] For the next two years (1877 and 1878) he is shown to be filling the position of "Teacher" in Manor, [3] but it is likely that he served several area congregations in a number of different. capacities:

A few of the larger churches obtained ministers of their own after the [Civil] war, but rural and other small congregations continued to use circuit riders, . . . calling on those lay or trained preachers who were available. [4]

The earliest formal recognition of a Taylor congregation occurs in the 1878 church records. Both the Georgetown and the Taylorsville congregations are listed as churches in the Synod of Kansas, Presbytery of Austin, and the Taylorsville boasts a membership of nine persons. John Creath is the "Stated Supply" for both congregations. [5] By 1879, all the Texas churches were removed from the Synod of Kansas and placed in the newly organized Synod of Texas. John McMurray is registered in 1879 as a "Teacher" in Taylorsville, and the congregation is shown to have 12 members. John Creath remains "Stated Supply" for both Georgetown and Taylorsville. [6]

Early church historians credit John McMurray with pioneering the Presbyterian church in Taylor as well as establishing one of the earliest private schools. It is certain that the Presbyterian church was solidly established in March of 1878, when a Board of Trustees, consisting of J.T. Schoonmaker, R.S. Porter, John. McLean, William T. Powell, and J.D. Strayhorn, purchased Lot 6. Block 33 from the Texas Land Company for $50.00 [7] Two of those trustees, Schoonmaker and Powell, were recognized as "skilled architects", [8] and it is likely they were responsible for the Gothic-styled frame building constructed on the lot in time for Thanksgiving Day services that year. In late 1878, John McMurray was also purchasing two parcels of land from the Texas Land Company. The first parcel consisted of Lots 6, 7 and 8 of Block 28 and was intended to be the site of his own school. This parcel was located directly south of the church property and on the opposite side of Hamilton (now Sixth) Street. His second purchase was Lot 2, Block 29--a site he intended for his home. This parcel was located on Talbot Street, one-half block south of the church property. Both parcels of land were purchased on the same date--November 21, 1878. [9] By 1882, John McMurray was listed as "Principal" of the school, a position he retained through 1885. [10]

James P. Lyle was called to be the first "Pastor" of the Presbyterian Church of Taylor in 1889. Prior to that he had served as "Stated Supply" for both the Georgetown and Taylor congregations from 1883-1888. By 1890, the Taylor congregation had 120 members. [11] About this same time, work began on constructing a manse, or pastor's residence, on the church property along the east boundary. This structure is shown as a completed single-story dwelling with wood shingle roof on a Sanborn Map of 1893. The Sanborn Map of 1898 indicates no change in the residence, but the 1904 Sanborn Map shows the house site to be vacant. [12] This vacancy can be explained by church historians who relate that the manse burned in 1900. Property was then purchased by the church for a new manse. This "lot and dwelling", located on Lot 5 of Block B of Doak's Addition to the City of Taylor, was purchased in April, 1900, for $2,800.00. [13] The first resident of the new manse was Rev. James C. Oehler, who became the pastor in 1900. [14]

The record of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church first refers to the church in Taylor as the "First" Presbyterian Church in 1895. [15] This distinction became necessary with the appearance of a second Presbyterian church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Taylor, in 1894. On March 17 of that year,. the Board of Trustees of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (consisting of F.M. Hedrick, W. B. Pybus and Samuel Robertson) purchased Lots 5 and 6 of Block 2, Doak's Addition to the City of Taylor, for a church site. Seven years later, in 1901, Trustees of the Taylor Congregation of the Little River Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Samuel Robertson, B.F. Taylor and F. M. Hedrick, purchased Lots 1 and 2 of Block 19--a downtown lot at the northwest corner of 4th and Vance Streets. [16] The 1904 Sanborn Map indicates a completed single-story brick church with a two-story corner tower on the southeast. By 1906, however, the congregation is no longer listed with the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, [17] and the 1912 Sanborn Map indicates the former church building being used as a boarding house. These two facts support the claim of church historians that the congregations of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the First Presbyterian Church joined about 1910 (a unifying effort credited to the Rev. H. W. Hoon, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church). Following the merger of the two groups, a larger building was needed. Plans were begun for a new brick structure, and local architect/contractor Henry Struve was hired to prepare them.18 The structure was completed on February 13, 1913 at a cost of approximately $20,000.00.19 Formal dedication services, however, were postponed until the arrival of the new $3,000.00 pipe organ on March 27 1913. [20] The organ was ordered and paid for by the church women's auxiliary.21 The Sanborn Map of 1916 shows the new church to be a brick structure, twenty-two feet high at the eaves, with electric lights and steam heat.

At the same time the congregation was planning for its new building, a decision was made to charter the congregation as a private corporation under the laws of the State of Texas. This charter was adopted by the congregation in August, 1911, and filed in December, 1911.22 At that time all property previously purchased by the church and its trustees was transferred to the private corporation. [23]

The First Presbyterian Church of Taylor had been a member of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America since its formal recognition in 1878. In 1917, however, the congregation petitioned the General Assembly (meeting in San Antonio that year) for release from that national organization. The congregation then became a member of the Central Texas Presbytery, Synod of Texas, Presbyterian Church U. S. [24]

By 1920, the church had experienced significant growth, with more than 200 adult men attending a weekly Bible class. On October 8, 1920, the church purchased an additional 52 feet off the south side of the lot immediately to the north (Lot 5, Block 33). [25] In April, 1921, the men's Bible class met and constructed (in one day) a single-story frame educational building which came to be known as the "House by the Side of the Road." This building was used until 1952, when it was sold and moved to provide room for new construction. In September, 1953, the new educational building was completed at a cost of $35,000, a portion of which was financed by the local S.P.J.S.T. organization. [26]

The third manse for the Presbyterian church was located at 1403 Lexington Street and was purchased in 1957. [27] The present manse is at 1604 Tammi Lane and was purchased in 1974.

The church building has undergone some remodeling on the interior with the installation of air-conditioning systems and an elevator. In 1976, a portion of the sanctuary was redesigned to form a nave, and the pews were cut and refitted to form a center aisle. Original lighting fixtures, coffered ceiling, and stained glass windows remain in the sanctuary.

The Rev. Jim Wyche was called to serve with the First Presbyterian church of Taylor in 1987 and is the current pastor.

Researched by:
Mrs. Joan Cabaniss - Taylor, Texas

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Taylor history pages