Saturday, July 18, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 19

Bishop A. Frank Smith Preaches Consecration Service at McMahan’s Chapel July 19, 1956

Regular readers of This Week in Texas Methodist History are aware of the significance of McMahan’s Chapel in our heritage. It is one of only two Heritage Landmarks of the UMC in Texas. You can read about it at or

Although it is best known for the pioneers of the 1830s, we should not forget the efforts of a dedicated group of East Texans who began working in the 1930s to build the beautiful chapel that now occupies the historic site over Littleton Fowler’s grave.

Several events of the 1930s came together to create renewed interest in McMahan’s Chapel and start the ball rolling on a building project. The celebration of the Texas Centennial in 1936 heightened interest in Texas history. Some of the most important projects of the era include the San Jacinto Monument in Harris County and Fair Park in Dallas County. There were numerous smaller projects including the erection of granite markers along the Old San Antonio Road—and just a few miles off the OSR the creation of Littleton Fowler State Park and the construction of a highway spur to access that park and the adjacent spring and cemetery.

There were also Methodists who treasured their family history and East Texas roots. Bishop A. Frank Smith was a Texas history buff as were several of the leading preachers of the Texas conference including Ed Harris, C. A. Tower, C. A. West, and J. Walter Mills. Advocate editor A. J. Weeks whose family roots were in Ryan’s Chapel in nearby Angelina County was able to keep the conference informed about the historic site. There were also interested lay persons including Littleton Fowler descendant Mrs. J. D. Woolworth of Shreveport, Louisiana, Mr. and Mrs. R. S. Noble,

There was no Conference Commission on Archives and History in the 1930s, but thanks to the efforts of persons mentioned above, the Texas Conference did authorize a McMahan Chapel Committee. That committee met regularly and began the process of planning for construction and raising money.

Raising money during World War II was difficult, but the committee kept at its task, and finally at the annual conference session of 1948, authorization to borrow $10,000 was granted. The new building was opened in July 1949. Bishop Smith preached. He came back in 1951 to preach at the laying of the cornerstone. Finally on July 19, 1956, he came back again, this time to preach the consecration service. A photograph from the day shows Bishop Smith at the pulpit flanked by C. A. West, Bryan Butts, W. W. Hawthorne, E. O. Dubberly, and R. W. Jenkins.

The site also includes the Jack and Charlsie Maund Museum/Events Center that was dedicated in 2002. The links above provide directions and information about visiting this historic site.


Post a Comment

<< Home