Smith County, Texas

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THE HISTORY OF
CEDAR STREET UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

1888-1988

 

 

Apparently the first church to be formed in the village of Tyler was a Methodist Church. Early records of Smith County indicate that Tyler was designated the county seat of Smith County in 1846, and during that same year the Methodist Church (later to be named Marvin Methodist Church) was organized.

From 1860 to 1865, Tyler, along with the rest of the south, suffered the trauma of the Civil War, and later the Reconstruction period which ended in about 1874. The war and its aftermath had a devastating effect on the people of the south, but during the 1880's the region had begun to grow and prosper. 

In 1880, the population of Tyler stood at 2,423 and by 1890 this figure had grown to 6,098. Much of this growth was the result of in-migration from sections of the "old south".

During the mid 1880's, there was a group of families in north Tyler who desired to affiliate with the Methodist Church, but the only Methodist church near this community was Marvin. Given the modes of transportation of the 1880's, this proved to be a long trek for these dedicated churchmen.

With the help and encouragement of members of Marvin Church, a group of about forty people began to meet in homes in north Tyler in 1887. "Grandpa" Bonner, a member of Marvin, arranged for a pastor in 1887 to organize this _______ church. This pastor was Reverend Lacy Boon who served from 1887 through 1889.

In January 1888, the first "preaching" service was held in one of the homes and in September 1888, under the limbs of a large oak tree near the present church site, the church was organized At this meeting, Reverend Boon baptized forty-three people, each of whom became a charter member of Tyler City Mission, forerunner of Cedar Street Methodist Church.

On October 15, 1888, H. H. Rowland gave to the church a deed to the property on which is located the present building. Mr. Rowland was a member of the Board of Marvin Church and was a well-known property owner in Tyler at this time. In 1888, he had dedicated as an addition to the city of Tyler a parcel of land of about twenty-five acres which was called Rowland Addition, and it was the most northern extension of Tyler at the time. The street in the new addition which lay adjacent to the church property on the south was called Cedar Street, ergo the new church changed its name from Tyler City Mission to Cedar Street Methodist Church.

During the year 1889, the first building to house the members of Cedar Street Church was completed, and the first service in the new building was held on March 31, l889. The building was a one-room frame structure typical of the small churches of this period. Its source of heat was a large wood-burning stove located near the center of the structure. Light was from oil-burning chandeliers which were numerous enough to give more than adequate light for the interior of the building. An organ was later added and in 1896, the first "real" seats were purchased and installed in the church at a cost of about $150.00.

During the two years of his service to Cedar Street, Reverend Boon molded the original forty-three members into an active, thriving church. The attendance was strong, and the membership increased.

The second pastor to serve the church was a Reverend McLain. Brother McLain was a young man who served less than one year. Although he made a great effort to carry on in the manner of Brother Boon, it was felt that his youth was a hindrance to his leaders.

1888-1900

The pastors who served Cedar Street from 1888 to 1900 are listed as follows:

Reverend Lacy Boon   1888-1890 
Reverend McLain  1891 
Reverend R. S. Finley  1891-1892 
Reverend T. T. Booth  1893-1895 
Reverend W. W. McAnnally  1896-1897 
Reverend C. H. Smith  1898-1899 
Reverend A. G. Scruggs   1900-1901 

Each of the ministers who served the church during this period of timedid so diligently, and each left his mark on this young congregation.

The church became the anchor for the community. Many activities were planned around the church in addition to the formal services. There were ice cream suppers, chili suppers, oyster suppers, box suppers, and a variety of entertainment. Some were fund-raising activities, and others were purely social. It was never a problem to raise a crowd in this vibrant north Tyler community.

Reverend Booth organized the "Ladies Aid Society". This group became the most aggressive fund-raising entity in the church. This must have been the precursor of our present ladies' organizations, who are also champion money-raisers via bake sales, garage sales, and quiltings.

In 1896, Reverend W. W. McAnnally became the first full-time minister of Cedar Street. All of the previous preachers would either stay in local members' homes on the weekend, or lived close enough that they could commute from their homes. Mr. McAnnally thought that the time had come for a parsonage to be built to serve the church's ministers. He raised funds to build the first parsonage. This was a four-room box-type structure with a hall and long back porch common for the middle-class homes of this time. The new home had a good well of water and plenty of room for the minister's chickens.

In 1900, Reverend Scruggs became the pastor and enjoyed great success in his work with the members being responsible for organizing the Epworth League and the Women's Missionary Society, which was for the younger women and high school age girls.

1901-1925

 

The pastors who served Cedar Street from 1901 to 1925 are listed as follows:


Reverend Leon Henderson   1902
Reverend T. T. Booth   1903-1904
Reverend L. P. Davis   1905
Reverend J. L. Russell   1906
Reverend H. A. Matney 1907-1910
Reverend B. C. Anderson 1911
Reverend J. L. Red 1912
Reverend F. E. Luker   1913
Reverend L. L. Loyd 1914-1915
Reverend J. R. Ritchie 1816-1917
Reverend E. P. Swindall 1918
Reverend I. E. Thomas 1919-1922
Reverend W. A. Craven 1923-1925

All of these ministers served the membership of Cedar Street diligently and lovingly. And although, as is the case with all important institutions, there were peaks and valleys during this period of time, but the church seemed to grow inexorably in membership and importance to the community.

During this time, the economy waxed and waned and the members of the church suffered accordingly, and in 1914 "the war to end all wars" began.

An indication of the confidence of the membership in the future of this church wa indicated by the decision to build a new church which was begun in 1916. Reverend J. R. Ritchie provided the leadership which inspired the construction of a large handsome brick building which also faced Church Street. The new building was first occupied in 1918. During 1919, temporary League and Sunday School rooms were added to the back of the church building. These were rather crude structures and were commonly called "cow sheds" by the members but served a purpose for the growing church.

In 1925, during the leadership of Reverend W. A. Craven, the old parsonage was torn down and a new one was built in its place which served the pastors until the present one was built in 1960-1961.

1925-1950

The pastors who served Cedar Street from 1925 through 1950 are listed as follows:

Reverend W. K. Strother 1926
Reverend O. E. Vivion 1927-1928
Reverend J. F. Carter   1929
Reverend J. H. Carlin 1930-1933
Reverend W. H. Vance 1934-1936
Reverend R. L. Lemons 1937-1938
Dr. L. F. Brothers 1939-1940
Reverend W. Jay Richards 1941-1943
Reverend F. D Dawson 1944-1946
Reverend E. Jewel Strong 1946-1950

The period of time from 1925 through 1950 was the most perilous of times for our nation as well as for members of our church community.

The great depression, World War II, and the Korean War had a devastating effect on the community. But, during this time, the church witnessed unparalled growth.

During Reverend Vivion's ministry, from 1927 to 1929, the church added the Sunday School Annex which was a gift from Park Horton. This almost doubled the size of the church and still serves as the Sunday School portion of our church, although it was rehabilitated when the new sanctuary was built in 1948. The section became known as the Morton building and still is known by that name by many who have been members of the church for a long time.

One of the most beloved pastors to serve during that time was Brother F. D. Dawson who was minister from 1944 until his death in 1946. He was a most gentle, humble, and giving worker. One chould see in his sacrificial lifestyle, a true man of God. He was a vigorous leader, having a hand in every aspect of the church's work. On numerous occasions, he would walk from the parsonage to Mother Frances Hospital to visit the sick. He died while working in the church study. All
who knew him suffered a great loss in his passing, and it was several months before he was replaced and then by Reverend E. Jewel Strong.

The Strongs were a young couple and gave a vitality to the church which was contagious. Brother Strong played on the church softball team.

The Strongs' only child, Ann, was born while he was pastor at Cedar Street. This was the only "parsonage baby" the church has had.

During Brother Strong's ministry, Cedar Street realized growth and made great accomplishments. Our present sanctuary was completed in 1949, and the Horton building was completely remodeled. A new Hammond organ was purchased. Membership in the Sunday School as well as the church increased significantly. We had a beautiful new sanctuary and
remodeled Sunday School area and we were on the grow. The church now faced Cedar Street for the first time.

1950 - 1968

The pastors who served Cedar Street from 1950 through 1968 are listed as follows:

Reverend R. B. Langham 1951
Reverend Ben Anderson   1951-1956 
Reverend J. Paul Horton   1956-1958 
Reverend Kermit Pritchett  1958-1960 
Reverend H. Leon Reed  1960-1961 
Reverend Bruce O. Power  1961-1964 
Reverend D. Orval Strong  1964-1968 

Brother Ben Anderson served the church for five years. During this time the church logged growth in membership and a remarkable spiritual renewal.

Under Brother Ben's leadership, the Methodist Men's organization became well known through the district. This group attended the lay retreat at Lakeview annually in large numbers, and on one occasion two full cabins were needed to accomodate the Cedar Street aggregation. The men's group was well represented at all district rallies.

Brother Ben and Sister Maggie were much loved by the congregation, and they returned this love. After the death of Brother Ben, his widow returned to Tyler and to Cedar Street and is a member of the church at the present time.

Also, another fomer pastor's widow, Mrs. E. Jewel Strong (Lonnie E. Strong) came back to Tyler and rejoined Cedar Street where she is still very active.

Brothers Langham, Horton, Pritchett, Reed, and Power all served the church for brief periods of time. The leadership of each was important and served the continuity of the church.

Reverend D. Orval Strong served the church for four years. He was a young man with strong leadership qualities and a desire to bring new ideas to a church which in some respects was a resistent membership, e.g., he was the first pastor assigned to the church who wore a robe. He would also select hymns which were new to the congregation. On reflection, most now agree, he had good ideas and he helped bring to the church program worthwhile changes.

From 1951 through 1968 many physical changes in the church occurred.

In 1960-1961, a new brick parsonage was built on the site of the old house located on East Hillsboro. Also, extensive remodeling of the church plant occurred, including kitchen, new classrooms, a nursery, and extensive new furniture. The church also purchased the vacant lot located immediately west of the Fellowship Hall and began to use it as a parking lot. With the purchase of this property, the church proper now extended from Church Street to North Fannin Street. Later,
the old Kiwanis Club building was purchased and was converted into a youth center. The Una Moore Memorial Baptismal Font was added by the Victory Bible Class in honor of Mrs. Moore, a tireless worker and servant of Cedar Street and a descendant of one of the founders.

To contribute to the comfort of the worshipers, air conditioning was installed in the church plant, and pew cushions were placed in the sanctuary. Now there were no excuses--of course, the minister could still be criticized.

From the 1880's to the late 1960's, the value of the church property had increased from approximately $1,500.00 to over $200,000.00.

The 1940's through the 1960's was the most productive time for this proud north Tyler institution. It had a right to be proud.

1968 - 1992

The pastors who served Cedar Street from 1968 to the present time are listed as follows:

Reverend B. R. Shelton  1968-1970 
Reverend J. P. Adair 1970-1972 
Reverend William A. Holt  1972-1978 
Reverend J. B. Scearce  1978 (June only) 
Reverend Lawrence A. Culbertson  1978-1981 
Reverend John Wheeler  1981-1983
Reverend James Knight  1983-1986 
Reverend Odis Cleaver  1986-1989 
Reverend Victor Garoutte  1989- 

Brother Shelton, Adair, Holt, Culbertson, Wheeler, and Knight all gave selfless Service and leadership to the church during their tenure at Cedar Street.

Brother J. P. Adair was stricken with a heart malady early in his ministry at Cedar Street and could not complete his service there. As is always the case at this resilient church, a faithful laity came forward and filled the void left by his absence. For many months, until Brother Bill Holt came to serve, the church laymen would conduct the worship services and the business of Cedar Street.

Brother Bill Holt brought with him a lovely wife and five young daughters, each of whom earned the esteem of the congregation. Brother Bill is a talented person who is perhaps best known to the membership for his inspirational "chalk talks". This was a device he would use to present his sermon in graphic form using bright colored chalk to delineate his characters.

During Brother Bill's six years at Cedar Street, the church grew and prospered. Much maintenance work was done to the church plant and the parsonage. A fine new Baldwin organ was purchased.

Reverend Scearce became the pastor after Bill Holt was assigned to another church. Brother Scearce died of a sudden heart attack after only a few weeks at Cedar Street. The church was bereft of this good man of God without knowing what his service could mean for the membership.

Reverend Lawrence Culbertson served the church for three years and was a man of superior intellect who was devoted to God and who had a desire to serve the membership at Cedar Street as God would have him do. Many improvements were made to the church while he was here.

Reverend John Wheeler liked to sing solos, and when their daughters visited Cedar Street, they would sing specials with their father. He also, at times, sang with the church quartet.

Reverend James Knight was an energetic man who liked to hunt and fish, and he often furnished fish for church suppers to raise money for the church. He was a hard worker and spent much time working in the church yeard, even edging the lawn after dark.

Reverend Odis Cleaver and his wife, Mary Lynn, became the parsonage family of Cedar Street church in the summer of 1986. They have assimilated quickly and completely into the church family. Mary Lynn is the quintessential pastor's wife. Her persona exudes an aura of friendliness which has made her a favorite with the membership. Brother Odis and Mary Lynn often enhance the worship services with their musical duets and her solos.

Brother Odis is destined to take the church into its second century. This will most likely be his greatest challenge and that for the membership.

Reverend Victor Garoutte came to Cedar Street in October, 1989, upon retirement of Odis Cleaver and has served the church faithfully since that time. The spirit and dedication of the membership has remained good under the leadership of Rev. Garoutte, in spite of the decline in members. Rev. Garoutte plans to retire in June of 1994.

Since the late 1970's, the church has found itself to be a mature congregation in a mature part of Tyler. Its membership is declining each year as a result of deaths of some members and the out-migration of others. The church has declined from a peak membership of about 750 in the 1960's to about 300 now. Average Sunday School membership is less than 80, and the morning service averages about 100.

The leadership of the church is not unmindful of its plight. It is exploring possibilities such as merger with other Methodist churches in the area and seeking members among the large minority community around the church.

Joint services with Asbury and Wesley United Methodist churches have already taken place, and the Christmas music for 1987 was a joint effort of these churches.

This fellowship may be down, but it's not out. This church was born in the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction Period. It had its mettle tested by two world wars and the great depression of the 1930s. It has seen its economic environment go from agricultural to industrial to a service economy at the present time. The essence of its strength is and has always been its members, their love and devotion to the church and their abiding belief in God.

Note: This history was written for the 100th Anniversary of Cedar Street United Methodist Church in 1988. The Church Roll may be found in the East Texas Family Records, beginning with Vol. 24, No. 1, Spring 2000.

Submitted to the East Texas Genealogical Society by Mary Nell Dozier Milligan, 12 February 2000.

 

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