Saturday, November 08, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History  November 9

Galveston Methodists Purchase Lots for Combined Church  November 9, 1900

Most readers of this column are aware of the great hurricane 1900 that destroyed Galveston and much of the rest of coastal Texas on September 6-8.  At the time Galveston was the premier port in the western Gulf of Mexico with a large concentration of financial, insurance, wholesaling, and transportation businesses.  It was a modern city with telephone lines, urban transport, beautiful homes, and strong churches.

The devastation can hardly be overstated.  For many years the death toll has been pegged at 6,000, but an accurate number in such a disaster will probably never be known.  Many images of destroyed buildings, beached vessels, twisted rail road track and other scenes continue to fascinate us.

There were two MECS churches in Galveston in September, St. John’s and St. James. 
St. John’s was located at the corner of 25th and Broadway had been dedicated in 1871.  It was brick Gothic design with a bell tower, pipe organ, and hand-carved black walnut pews.  It had two stories and was about 55 x 100 feet.   It was destroyed.  

St. James was founded about the same time as a mission and became a full church.  It was not destroyed but did sustain some damage.

For those of you who have served on church building committees where time seems to be measured in years rather than weeks, what happened right after the hurricane is really remarkable.

Exactly two months after the hurricane, on November 9, 1900, the combined members of the two churches purchased lots at the corner of Ave. I and 19th Street for $9750 for a new church building that would unite the two congregations.  Remember that church members were grieving, rebuilding, restoring, and continuing to cope with the aftermath of the largest single natural disaster in American history.  The fact that they found time to plan for a new church so soon speaks volumes for their dedication.  

The preacher who led the combined effort was Seth Ward, elected bishop in 1906.   The Church Extension Board of the MECS provided construction funds, as did sympathetic Christians from all around the country.  The result was a new church, now named Central Methodist (later changed to First Methodist) MECS of Galveston.  That Spanish-styled church building served the congregation until February 1964.  The congregation then moved to a new church in a new location with a new name—Moody Memorial Methodist (today United Methodist) church. 


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