Saturday, October 24, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist HIstory October 25

Evangelical Church Dedicated in Galveston October 30, 1886

Bishop John Jacob Escher of the Evangelical Association travelled to Texas to dedicate the denomination’s new church building in Galveston on October 30, 1886. The church had literally risen from the ashes. Less than one year before, a huge fire destroyed over 40 city blocks of the island gateway to Texas. Over a thousand families had been left homeless, and property damage, including the EA church, topped $2,000,000.

The founding of the Evangelical Association church in Galveston is an interesting story of interdenominational cooperation. It all started when there was a split in the MECS German congregation in Galveston. The pastor, Rev. Young, became a Presbyterian and took half his church with him. The pastor at the Houston MECS German church which is known as Bering UMC today, Frederick Vordenbaum (see post for Sept. 12, 2009), wrote Bishop Escher and suggested that Galveston might be a possible mission field for the Evangelical Association. In a coincidence, a MEC German pastor in San Antonio also suggested that San Antonio would also welcome a pastor from the EA.

The Mission Board approved missionaries to both Galveston and San Antonio. The missionary to Galveston was J. A. Gomer of the Indiana Conference. He arrived in Galveston in April 1880, rented the now vacant MECS German church and began calling on the former members who had not become Presbyterians. They advised him that because of the unpleasant demise of the former church, it would be unwise to try to use that building. Gomer first rented and then bought property at the intersection of 19th Street and Ave. H. With help from the Mission Board and private citizens, they were able to erect a church.

On Nov. 13, 1885, at 1:40 a.m. a fire broke out in the Vulcan Foundry and Car Repairing Shop at Ave. A between 16th and 17th Streets. A strong wind was blowing that thwarted all attempts to contain the fire. By 5:00 a.m. the fire had reached Ave. J (Broadway) and the fire fighters were watching helplessly. By 8:00 a.m. the wind finally died down, but by that time the fire had pushed all the way to Ave. O. Four hundred houses, stores, and the Evangelical Church were all destroyed.
The value of the property (church and parsonage) was $10.000. They carried $4,000 insurance. The Mission Board came through again. Exactly 50 weeks after the fire Bishop Escher preached the dedication sermon in the new $5,000 church beside the $1,500 parsonage.

In the enthusiasm accompanying the dedication of a new church building, they decided to hire an assistant pastor so that Rev. Gomer could spend more of his time organizing EA churches in the rest of Texas. Gomer had been especially interested in the Temple area which was easily reached by the Gulf Coast & Santa Fe Railway which ran between Galveston and Temple. When the Texas Conference was created in 1887, Gomer became Presiding Elder and travelled even more.

Unfortunately the assistant pastor, a probationer named P. Ilgen, was not up to the task. He could not hold the congregation together during Gomer’s absences. Ilgen resigned after only 15 months, but several of the members had already left.
The Galveston church limped along through fire and hurricanes. Brother Gomer died in 1891. It never reported more than 70 members. In 1934 it asked the conference to be dissolved. The property was sold to the Greek Orthodox Church.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just found your card.
Excellent blog!!

Paul Whalen--KY

10:35 AM  

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