HISTORY of THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

BRIDGEPORT, TEXAS

1307 Newby Street

The First Presbyterian Church of Bridgeport , Texas was officially organized on April 1, 1898 by Reverend J. H. Davies, an Evangelist from Fort Worth Presbytery. He was assisted by Reverend C. M. Hutton, who served as Moderator and Clerk of this first meeting. Twelve persons were enrolled as charter members. The vote to organize was unanimous. The Church was then named First Presbyterian Church of Bridgeport , Texas by common consent. Reverend Hutton was the first Moderator and W. W. Barber was elected to be the first Clerk of the Session. The meeting was closed with prayer by Reverend Davies. Mr. William Montford was elected Ruling Elder May 7, 1899.

The following persons were enrolled as charter members: Mr. John A. Weakley, Mrs. Mattie B. Weakley, Miss Quincy May Weakley (who became Mrs. May Montrief), Mr. Thomas F. Weakley, Mr. William W. Barber, Mrs. Nathalie Leonard, Miss Julia Hardcastle (who later became Mrs. J. S. McKenzie), Mr. William Montford, Mrs. Jane Montford, Mr. John Hamilton, Mrs. Jennet Hamilton and Miss Mary Barber.

The Church had Sunday morning and Sunday evening services, as well as mid-week prayer services. When the church was first organized, the members met under a large shade tree and in tents until a church was built. The first Church was built on the northwest comer of Stevens and 13th Streets in 1898.

Click on Photos to Enlarge
In 1903 the first full-time pastor, Reverend W. Fred Galbraith was hired but he remained only one year. Pastors were paid a very nominal salary, $250 to $450 per year. On February 18, 1907 Reverend E. L. Story was called for one-half time for a salary of $350 a year. The location of the first manse was on Stevens Street east of the church .

Mr. J. S. McKenzie, a local merchant, joined the church in 1908 and he soon became a vital part of the Church. He served as Clerk of the Session from 1911 until July 9, 1950, when he tendered his resignation after retirement to another city. Mr. McKenzie, a portly jovial Scotsman, took great pride in ringing the church bell every Sunday morning. The bell is now located on the present church premises south of the Sanctuary, and meant as a memorial to him. The bell was originally hoisted to the belfry of the Church on Stevens Street by early day Elder F. M. Medlen using a team of horses, rope and pulley.

Reverend E. J. Durham was installed as Pastor in June of 1909. He was the first Pastor to stay for a sustained period of time. He resigned September 30, 1913 after serving the Church over four years. The membership of the Church grew from the original twelve charter members to a total of sixty communicants during the pastorate of Reverend Durham.

Early Church 1898-1960
The first Manse

The Church continued to grow in numbers and in 1915 showed membership of 114. The deacons and Elders mentioned during this time were F. M. Medlen, Dr. J. P. Thomas, William Montford, John A. Weakley and William Wimberly. Medlen, Montford, Thomas, and McKenzie. During a revival meeting September 7, 1915 twenty-four new members were received including Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Curley. The Church continued to use supply pastors, half-time and three-quarter time pastors. Pastors salaries were still low, $450 to $850 yearly for a full-time Minister. Membership rose to over 100 during the time the Reverend E. J. Durham was pastor. By the 1920's membership was only about 60.

The statistical Report for 1920 showed a total membership of 73. There was another revival held August 23, 1920, and thirteen members were added to the roll. Wallace Stephen Curley, who was baptized as an infant during the revival on August 22,1920 was one of those. J.W.Curley served as Deacon and also as Treasurer. In 1922 the Pastor was paid $850 for the year. The Church was prospering.

On July 8,1926, Stephen Curley was received into the church on confession of faith. Tom Medlen was received into the Church on confession of faith and baptized on August 15, 1926. Mary Walker was baptized in infancy during the pastorate of Reverend R. I. Riley. April 1, 1928 the Church gave a total of $225 to Presbyterian benevolence. The Pastor's salary was $719 and total expenses were $1,254. The statistical report for 1929 showed Sunday School enrollment as 50 and the Pastor's salary paid was $469.

The 1930's were lean years for the Church. The pulpit was filled by supply pastors and the statistical reports in some years show that we paid no pastors' salary. Giving to denominational benevolence was down in 1931 when the Church gave to only two benevolent causes. Giving soon increased and something was given, if only $1.00 was given to each of the listed denominational benevolence.

The 1930's did end with a better report. The report for 1939 showed membership of 50, with denominational benevolence of $133, and grand total expenses were $629. It is hard to tell what the fall of the stock market and depression that gripped the country during the 1930's had on the Church.

The 1940's showed stability in the pastorate of Reverend Allen, but there was a great sense of loss in the death of several faithful Elders. Those who were active during the 1940's were Steve Curley, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Green, Mary Jane Montford Hartsell, Bill Montford, and Donald Montford.

In the 1950's a building committee was appointed in an effort to replace the old church. Mr. Owens and Mr. Henderson, the developers of the Lawdwin addition offered to donate land on Newby Street for the church. On 13 April,1958, the building committee recommended that the offer be accepted. A contract for construction of the new church was awarded in 1959 and the new church was completed in early 1960 at a cost of $64,177.99.

1974, started out like most years—paying bills and introducing new Session members, but January 1974 will forever be remembered by members of First Presbyterian Church as the time when a spectacular fire raced through the Church Saturday morning, January 12,1974, virtually destroying one of Bridgeport's most beautiful edifices. The Bridgeport fire chief, Mike Bement estimated the damages to be $85,000. He said the blaze apparently started in a central heating unit at the rear of the Church sanctuary. Firemen from Bridgeport, Decatur, Chico and Paradise battled the stubborn blaze for more than an hour and a half before bringing it under control.

Most of the outside walls remained intact and a few things were saved from the Church sanctuary. The sanctuary pews were damaged by smoke and water but were not beyond repair. The organ was destroyed beyond repair. Some of the Church school rooms were saved from the flames by firemen. The Hartford Insurance Company paid the church $58,000 for the loss of the fire. The church was rebuilt and was ready for use in May of 1975.

In the 1980's the Sanctuary was remodeled and stained glass windows were installed. One of the greatest improvements of the Church during the 1990 's was finally having the Church Roof repaired with a new hip roof put in place over the old flat roof that had given the Church problems over the last 40 years. The Church continued to have financial problems even with large monetary donations from some Church members.

Even with the problems the Church has had over the last 109 years the church has grown, built beautiful new Church buildings and has ministered to its members, Bridgeport , and Wise County . The Church is grateful for its heritage and aware of the sacrifices of the Charter Members whose foresight and faith made this history possible. Upon the foundation of those Charter Members' faith, and those who followed, the Church has endeavored to build and will continue to build. "We are called by Jesus Christ to witness, minister, and nurture each other in Love".

A listing of the MINISTERS who have served the church may be viewed by clicking on MINISTERS.

The First Presbyterian Church of Bridgeport was awarded a Texas State Historical Marker in 2012. The marker material may be viewed by clicking on STATE MARKER
Return to Churches Home Page