In fact, Texas independence was only 25 years old, with the Alamo, Goliad and San Jacinto still fresh on most residents’ minds.
Many Bee County men were joining other Texans to go fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War.
Other settlers, particularly those above San Antonio, were battling frequent raids from the Comanches.
And, thanks to circuit-riding preachers, Methodists formed a congregation and began holding worship services here, often in Bee County’s original courthouse.
The congregation erected the first sanctuary, a wood frame structure, in the early 1870s and then relocated to the church’s present downtown site, at Cleveland and St. Mary’s streets, in 1904.
Several newer and larger facilities have been built at that location, and the name has been changed to First United Methodist Church, which continues to play an active role in the community.
However, it all began 150 years ago.
Spread like wildfire
The Rev. Larry McRorey, current pastor of FUMC, said the gospel spread like wildfire thanks to those early preachers on horseback, such as the Revs. C.C. Cook and Roswell Gillett, whose descendants still are members today.
“When this was the frontier, those Methodist circuit-riding pastors were out spreading the gospel before there were even towns and communities.
“They had a single-minded goal, a passion to offer Jesus Christ to everyone. The people were excited about the church,” McRorey said.
Only St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, which dates back to 1829, can claim to have been in existence longer in Beeville. All other organizations and businesses, such as First Baptist Church, First National Bank and Beeville Publishing Co., came along later.
Old and young reflect
Sadie McClung has been a member of Beeville’s Methodist Church for more than 80 years.
“It’s a little bit older than I am,” the sharp-minded 98-year-old admitted.
She agrees the church’s sesquicentennial is a big deal and is most looking forward to enjoying the Sunday meal.
“I love my church,” she said with a strong voice, “and I love my friends from the church,” many of whom visit her at home.
“I have enjoyed a happy childhood, 35 years of a good marriage” and good health, she added.
Thad Draper, who will turn 12 next month, also is looking forward to the church’s party, food, games, fellowship – “all of it.”
He said he’s been a member “as long as I can remember” and that 150 years is a long time.
Having just moved up to the middle school class, Draper said, “The new welcome center really makes the church awesome,” adding that the people are nice and “the pastor is a great guy.”
Time of fellowship
Using the theme, “Growing God’s Kingdom for over 150 years,” Methodists are encouraging everyone to join in this time of fellowship with family and friends.
“We want to celebrate our history and look to our future,” Pastor McRorey added.
“This is an incredible milestone. We have the privilege to carry on the church’s goal, its passion for Christ.
“Our mission has not changed in 150 years – to make disciples of Christ and transform lives,” he said.
In order to celebrate this significant occasion, Beeville’s FUMC has scheduled a variety of events open to the community on Oct. 15-16.
Among the Saturday activities are:
• entering a float in the Western Week parade and donating bottled water for parade spectators.
• serving free hot dogs at the church from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. after the parade.
• hosting games and prizes there from 1-5 p.m., including bounce houses, a duck pond, face painting and chalk art contest with the theme “God is love” for the children; and a cake walk, games (dominos and horseshoes) and door prizes for the adults.
Musical entertainment will be provided by Albert Garcia and Alexis Rodriguez, the Jones Chapel Men’s Choir and Bil and Cam Homeyer on an outdoor stage.
• continuing to offer a pumpkin patch in front of the church, featuring hundreds of pumpkins of different sizes, shapes and colors for sale.
One special service
On that Sunday, FUMC members and visitors will participate in a special joint worship service beginning at 10 a.m., featuring messages from two bishops and a variety of music and praise.
Bishops Jim Dorff and Janice Riggle Huie, District Superintendent Eradio Valverde, several former pastors, assistant pastors and choir directors will attend.
Afterward, those who have made reservations will enjoy a catered meal together in the gym.
Several special historical exhibits will be displayed for viewing.
Year of planning
Jonnie Jordan, co-chairman of the steering committee which has been planning the event for more than a year, said, “I believe that we stand at a crossroads as we celebrate our 150 years in Beeville. We look back and find so many who have faithfully given of their time, their talents and their money to proclaim God’s grace and love to the people of this community. This is a precious heritage. On Saturday, we will say ‘Thank you’ to the community which has supported us all these years.
“We also realize that our members today have a great responsibility to look to the future and continue the work of those who have gone before us. We must use the new technologies to reach out to the new generations and say that God’s grace and love is still here for everyone who will hear and respond. In our worship service on Sunday, our church family will accept this spiritual challenge to continue faithfully for the next 150 years in service to our community.
Jordan added, “We will have a great celebration of thanksgiving for what has been and what will be.”