history of fpc of mt. pleasant
The First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Pleasant was organized by the Reverend William Waldo Brimm, an evangelist for Paris Presbytery, on August 14, 1881. Reverend Brimm, a native of Indianapolis, was born on August 15, 1837. During the Civil War he served with the 7th Georgia Volunteers of the Confederate States Army. Following the war, he attended and was graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary, Class of 1869, and ordained by Atlanta (GA.) Presbytery. Brimm served several churches in Georgia prior to his moving to Texas but in 1873, he was called to serve as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Tyler. During the years 1877-1882, he served Texas Presbyterian congregations in Fort Worth, Pittsburg and Sulphur Springs. At the Spring meeting of the Paris Presbytery in 1882, Mr. Brimm was formally elected to serve as an evangelist for the Presbytery “strengthening and encouraging the weak churches”, a work he had already been doing.
Paris Presbytery had been established in 1879 upon a request by the Presbytery of Eastern Texas to the Synod of Texas that two presbyteries be formed out of the one. The new presbytery was bounded on the north by the Red River, on the east by the Louisiana state line, on the west by the eastern boundaries of Grayson and Dallas counties, and on the south by the southern boundaries of Anderson, Van Zandt, and Kaufman Counties to the Trinity River.
In August 1881, while serving as the pastor of the Presbyterian churches in Sulphur Springs and Pittsburg, Texas, W. W. Brimm began to meet with a group of Mt. Pleasant residents who were interested in forming a church of the Presbyterian persuasion in their city. Twenty years earlier a Presbyterian church had been established in the community of Greenhill, just north of the present city of Mt. Pleasant. As more and more people began to settle within Mt. Pleasant, the need for a Presbyterian church closer to the town became apparent. Thus, in response to a petition of thirteen Presbyterian communicants, Mr. Brimm organized the First Presbyterian Church in the city of Mt. Pleasant. Thirteen charter members were constituted as a church. Seven of these members presented evidences of their membership from the Greenhill Presbyterian Church, viz., J. R. Cammack, Mrs. M. G. Cammack, Dr. I. T. Suggs, Mrs. J. H. Suggs, Mrs. Lou Miller, Andrew Walker, and S.G. Shepperson. Five members were received from the Goodman Presbyterian Church, Goodman, Mississippi, viz., Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor, Miss Florence Taylor, Miss Martha Taylor, Miss Gussie Taylor, and Miss Mary Williams. One member, John Gingles, was received from the Poplar Line Church in North Carolina.
At the organizational meeting, Dr. I. T. Suggs, Andrew Walker, and J. R. Cammack were elected and installed as Ruling Elders, having previously been ordained to the office. Mr. Cammack was elected to serve as church clerk. During its early years, the new congregation met in the homes of church members. Eventually, however, an arrangement was made to meet in the Methodist Church which stood at the corner of Jefferson and Third Streets. In 1883, at a public auction of the estate of Mr. J. W. Jackson, the west corner of Madison and Fourth Streets for the sum of forty dollars. A white frame house of worship was soon erected. Early photographs show the church with a bell tower on the southeast corner; however, older members report that when first built, the church was entered by a double-door located in the front center of the building. The bell tower was later added and the double doors sealed off because of heart loss during the winter months when the door was opened. In 1885, the Session authorized the purchase of two chandeliers, a stove, and church bell. The last instance would indicate that the bell tower was at least anticipated, if not already built.
Three years after it organization, the Mr. Pleasant Church called its first pastor, the Reverend Ebenezer Ireland. A native Scotsman, Mr. Ireland was received into the “Southern” Presbyterian Church in 1884, from a Congregational Church Association in Michigan. Very little is known of him, but the History of the Presbytery of Paris characterized him thus: “Gentleness and love for the work were strongly developed in him.”
Beginning in 1886, the Mt. Pleasant church was served by a succession of one year Stated Supply ministers. A Stated Supply is a minister who is invited by the Session of the church which is without a pastor to preach, administer the Sacraments, and fulfill designated pastoral duties. The use of State Supply ministers was widespread due to the shortage of established pastorates in certain areas of Texas. In 1886, the Reverend Doctor James Hannibal Wiggins, a graduate of Hampton-Sydney College and Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, and pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Texarkana, Texas, became the Stated Supply for the church in Mt. Pleasant. In the latter part of 1887, the Reverend William Harrison McCullough, a graduate of Austin College in Sherman and Columbia Theological Seminary in South Carolina, became Stated Supply for the Presbyterian Churches in Mt. Pleasant, Pittsburg, and Winnsboro. During this time there was constant growth in membership despite the congregation being without a full-time pastor.
The Reverend Milton Munroe Hooper was called as pastor of the Mt. Pleasant, Greenhill and Pittsburg churches in May 1889. A graduate of Southwestern Presbyterian University of Clarksville, Tennessee, and Columbia Theological Seminary in South Carolina, Mr. Hooper came to Texas from Mississippi and was ordained by Paris Presbytery in 1884. After serving several northeast Texas churches, both as pastor and Presbytery evangelist, he moved to Pittsburg in 1889 to begin his pastorate of the three aforementioned churches. However, when the ladies of Mt. Pleasant Church offered to build a parsonage in Mt. Pleasant, Mr. Hooper agreed to relocate there. In September of 1890, while still serving as pastor, Hooper suddenly died at age 34. The Mt. Pleasant Session memorialized him, saying in part, “No man said a word against his Christian character, and all saw that his religion made him what he was… (he) had only on theme….Christ and the Church. When he prayed, he talked with God as friend talketh with friend. He has gone from among us, but his life remains with us as a rich precious legacy.”
Hooper’s brief pastorate was followed by another series of State Supply relationships. In 1892, the Reverend T.S. Johnston became the Stated Supply for Mt. Pleasant, Greenhill, and Pittsburg churches. He was followed by the Reverend J.M. Brooks in 1893, who was pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Sulphur Springs, Texas.
The Mt. Pleasant congregation was not without internal problems during its first twenty-two years. To have had seven preachers in such a short span of time may have seemed bad enough, but trying to tame a townspeople who were still part of frontier American proved more vexing. The records of the Session for this period repeatedly mention instances when church members were summoned before the body to answer charges of public drunkenness and profanity. At times, the minister and elders were appointed to call upon such offenders, to reprove and admonish them to their errors. In one particular case a member was charged with “selling whiskey”, which upon being confronted with his misdeed stated, “that if he had known that it was against the rules of the church to sell whiskey he would not have joined the church”. In most cases, the offender was required to appear before the Session and make acknowledgement of his or her sin for the purpose of repentance. Those who continued in their evil ways, after having been warned, were excommunicated.
During the year of 1896, the Mt. Pleasant congregation enjoyed the services of the Reverend Williams James Caldwell, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Tyler, Texas. Mr. Caldwell had received his Bachelor of Divinity degree from the SPU Divinity School. Caldwell’s Stated Supply was ended the next year when the Session secured the services of the Reverend Madison Pearson Slaughter, a native of the Greenhill community. Having received his training at Austin College at Sherman, Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Mr. Slaughter returned to Texas to serve his home church, the Mt. Pleasant Church and the churches at Pittsburg and Winfield. Tragically, this young pastor of 27 years died suddenly on October 7, 1899 in Mt. Pleasant. Again the session mourned the loss of their shepherd, noting that “the church has lost an efficient worker for the honor and glory of God and the county a useful citizen.”
In his monumental work, Presbyterians in the South, Professor Ernest Trice Thompson notes that “one critic complained that the Presbyterian minister could not endure hardship as did ministers of other denominations. In the seven years required for his preparation for the ministry he had neglected his body. He came to Texas pretty well equipped in mind, but with a body disqualified from enduring a long ride or any unusual strain.”
At the Fall meeting of Paris Presbytery in 1900, the Reverend Oliver Benjamin Caldwell was received from the Presbytery of western Texas to serve as Stated Supply for the Mt. Pleasant, Greenhill, and Pittsburg Churches. A native of Tennessee, Mr. Caldwell had an intriguing background which touched the pre-Civil War division of Presbyterianism. In 1856, he was a student of Maryville College in Tennessee. This institution had fallen into the hands of the New School General Assembly of the Presbyterian church of the U.S.A., which held a “modified” form of the traditional Calvinism espoused by the Westminster Standards. The next year (1857), Caldwell transferred to Hollins College in Virginia, possibly because a number of New School presbyteries in the South holding anti-abolitionist sentiments had withdrawn from the New School Assembly to form the United Synod of the South. Maryville College remained with the New School Assembly. At any rate, from 1858-61, Caldwell studied theology under the tutorage of a Professor J.O. Sullivan and the Reverend William E. Caldwell, on of the founders of the United Synod of the South. In 1862, O.B. Caldwell became a Chaplain in the Confederate States Army and served for the duration of the conflict. He was sixty-two years old when he took up the Mt. Pleasant call, where he labored for one year.
O.B. Caldwell was succeeded by another former Confederate Army Chaplin, the Reverend John Morton Cochran. A native Virginian, Mr. Cochran had received his education at Hampton-Sydney College and Union Theological in Virginia prior to relocating to Texas. As Stated Supply for First Presbyterian Church, Mt. Pleasant in 1901, he was honorably retired the following year at age 77.
This was bleak time in the life of the Mt. Pleasant Church. Session records show that there was but one ruling elder, one deacon, and a total of sixteen communing members. With such small numbers, it is somewhat amazing that the congregation was able to muster thirty students for its Sunday school/ Bible Class program. The salary offered a prospective pastor totaled $25.00 a year.
On March 11, 1903, the Mt. Pleasant congregation voted to extend a call to the Reverend John Grier Varner to serve as pastor. Mr. Varner had been serving as the Stated Supply for the Decatur (Texas) Presbyterian Church prior to relocating to Mt. Pleasant. At the time of his call, Varner was to only serve part-time, sharing his services with the Pittsburg Church. In 1908 this arrangement ended and he became the full time pastor at Mt. Pleasant, at a salary of $900 per year and free use of the manse. Varner was a native of Mill Bridge, North Carolina. He had received his undergraduate degree from Davidson College and had received his theological training at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. During the fourteen years of John Varner’s pastorate, the Mt. Pleasant Church experienced on of the greatest periods of growth in its history. In 1903 the Church has 1 ruling elder, 1 deacon, and twenty communicants. Thirty-five were enrolled in “Sabbath School” and Bible Class that year. In 1916, just before the close of Varner’s pastorate, there were 4 ruling elders, 5 deacons, 85 communicants, and 100 students enrolled in Sunday school. At that time the pastor’s salary had climbed to $1,200 per year and the total budget was $3,200.
Throughout its brief history, the women of the Mt. Pleasant congregation had played a vital and active role in the on-going work of the church. A women’s “Aid Society” had been established in 1899 with seven members. As time passed, this initial women’s organization grew steadily in numbers. In 1908 a group of church women met to organize the “Ladies Missionary Society”. The aim of the Society was to promote the cause of missions throughout the world. Growing from nine charter members to twenty-seven members in four years, this group was merged with the original Ladies Aid Society in 1917 to become the Fannie Wallace Auxiliary “in honor of a devoted and lovable Christian member who had passed on to her reward.”
John Varner accepted the call of the Denton (Texas) Presbyterian Church in 1917, and was followed by the Revered Robert Lowry Owen who was serving the Troup (Texas) Presbyterian Church at the time of his call. A graduate of Austin College at Sherman and Austin Theological Seminary in Austin, Owen soon became the Stated Clerk of Paris Presbytery. His Mt. Pleasant pastorate was marked by another period of church growth. Upon arriving in the town, R.L. Owen found the congregation meeting in small frame building, built thirty-four years before. Prospects for further growth in membership held that the congregation would soon be too large to be accommodated by their facility. Prior to their merger with the Ladies Aid Society, the Ladies missionary Society presented the church with a $200 gift with which to start a Building Fund.
On May 29, 1923, the Mt. Pleasant City Council issued a permit to the trustees of the Mt. Pleasant Church for the construction of a new church building on the lot where the old building stood. The structure was to be of brick veneer and not to cost less than $25,000. The architect of the 11,748 square foot building is not known. However, the builder employed by the congregation was Mr. J.H Thomas of Mt. Pleasant. The style of architecture chosen was a mixture of Greek revival and English renaissance. Work began immediately. By October 21, 1923, the congregation held a “Farewell Service” in the old church building which had been moved to a different location. The new facility was occupied on October 28, 1923. One account of the day described the new building as being “modern in every respect: Sunday school rooms, Gymnasium, Ladies’ Parlor, Christian Endeavor room, and Pastor’s study”. The cost of the finished structure was $35,000. It would take eleven years to retire the note which financed the building.
Having complete this building project, R.L. Owen accepted the call to become pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Big Spring, Texas. The Mt. Pleasant congregation fondly remembered how “much of the success of (the congregation and its building project) was on account of his untiring work and vision”.
In 1924 the congregation called the Reverend Doctor Amos Kenton Mattingly as pastor. A native of Kentucky, Mattingly had done his undergraduate work at Kentucky Wesleyan College and Center College of Danville, Kentucky. He received his theological training at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, and had earned doctorate in sacred theology from the American University of Harriman, Tennessee. For the first twenty-five years of his ministry, Dr. Mattingly served churches of the Presbyterian Church in the USA (Northern) in Ohio, Indiana, Oklahoma and Texas. He was received into the Presbyterian Church, US (Southern) the year he came to Mt. Pleasant. The pastorate in Mt. Pleasant lasted four years, after which Dr. Mattingly remained in the city and operated a dry goods business until 1932.
On February 24, 1929, the Reverend George Coit Moore came to the pulpit of the Mt. Pleasant from Princeton Theological Seminary where he had just received a Masters degree in Theology. A native of Sherman, Texas, Mr. Moore received his undergraduate degree at Austin College and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. He was licensed and ordained to the gospel ministry in 1908 by Dallas Presbytery and served a large number of Texas churches before going to Princeton for advanced studies. Mr. Moore served the Mt. Pleasant congregation for 19 years. Records of his pastorate show that the total membership had reached 178. There were eight ruling elders, eleven deacons, and a Sunday school enrollment of 127 students. In the summer of 1930, our church held its first Bible School. It also had the distinction to be the first Bible school held in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. A young Peoples’ Society was organized in 1932, consisting of 20 members. These youth met on Sunday evenings for further Christian enlightenment. When Mr. Moore began his pastorate in Mt. Pleasant, the congregation had 90 members and remained in debt for $4000 from its building project. On Sunday, April 16, 1933, the members of the congregation witnessed the burning of the note against the church property erected in 1923. Many improvements were made to facilities, such as the purchase of an electric organ and chimes, the carpeting of the sanctuary, the enlargement of the church kitchen, as well as provisions made for more Sunday school classes. In three years (1929-1932) 49 members had been received into the church. “A happy cooperative Spirit” prevailed throughout the church during these years.
On December 6, 1931, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the church’s founding was celebrated with a “Golden Jubilee”. Former ministers and Mr. Moore led the services. By April 16, 1933, the congregation had retired its building debt and celebrated with a note burning ceremony. By the end of his pastorate, George Moore had baptized 80 adults, 56 infants, and received 304 persons into the church. He had officiated at 132 weddings and performed 148 funerals. Calls on the sick, newcomers and those in distress and sorrow were without number. To say the least, he had endeared himself to the town of Mt. Pleasant in a way that has had far-reaching results.
The Reverend Joseph McMurray Owen was called as pastor in June, 1949, upon his completion of graduate work at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, where he received the degree of Master of Theology. Mr. Owen’s father, the Reverend Calvin Percy Owen, had served as pastor of the Greenhill and Pittsburg churches from 1921-23. In 1922 while the family was living in the Greenhill community, Joe Owen was born. He subsequently lived in Mercedes, Sulphur Springs and Brownwood, Texas. Mr. Owen attended Daniel Baker College in Brownwood and the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his under-graduate degree. In 1946 he was graduated from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia with a Bachelor of Divinity degree and was called to serve as Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Huntington, West Virginia. Following his graduate studies at Union Seminary in 1948-49, Joe Owen entered upon his work in Mt. Pleasant.
In January, 1949, the congregation voted to sell the Manse on 6th Street and to purchase a house on Johnson Street which was owned by Paris Presbytery. It was during this time the needed repairs and improvements were made to the basement area of the church. All the gym equipment was removed, the walls painted a sunny yellow, asphalt tile was installed on the floor, and folding doors, which served to divide classroom areas, made for a cheerful environment. The congregation also furnished a nursery area with an attendant to care for young children during the worship services, as well as during other church functions.
With the founding of a radio station, KIMP in Mt. Pleasant, the church purchased an hour of radio time in order to broadcast the Morning Worship Service on the fourth Sunday of each month. This service was well received, not only by members, but by the whole community as well.
The women’s work also had a new beginning. On March 4, 1949, “The Fannie Wallace Auxiliary” closed out its history in the church to begin anew in the fall as the “Women of the Church.”
In 1950, the “Men of the Church” (an organization formed from the Men’s Bible Class in 1947) became a partial sponsor of Troop 206 of the Boy Scouts of America. At the time Troop 206 was officially sponsored by the Mt. Pleasant Lion’s Club, with the church furnishing a meeting place and leadership. Mr. Bob Conroy became the first Scoutmaster and Mr. Owen served as his assistant. The Troop had 30 active members. Since that time the “Men of the Church” have been sole sponsors of Troop 206.
A “PRESMAC Class” (Presbyterian Married Couples) was organized in January, 1950, under the leadership of Mr. Owen. With twenty initial members, the class immediately involved themselves in the life and activities of the congregation—painting, fixing-up, and helping with improvements in the basement of the church. Not the least of their contributions to the church’s life was the seven children they added to the Sunday school roll. Showing this kind of growth, with 234 members, the congregation recognized the need to expand its facilities. On September 9, 1957, approval was given in a congregational meeting for the Trustees to purchase the lot west of the church from the Masonic Lodge at the cost of $6,000.
In February 1952, the congregation acted to institute the “limited term of service” system (commonly called rotation) for its Board of Deacons. For the first time in its seventy-one years, the church moved to change its officers’ term of office from that of lifetime service to a specific period.
The Reverend Joe Owen, in July 1952, accepted the call to become the pastor of St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas. He was succeeded in Mt. Pleasant by the Reverend Robert Andrew Pittman, who assumed the duties of the pastorate in June 1953. Mr. Pitman was a native of San Francisco, California. He completed his under-graduate work at the University of California at San Jose in 1950, and engaged in graduate studies at the Biblical Seminary in 1950-51. The following year, Mr. Pitman entered Austin Theological Seminary and the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his ministerial degree in 1953. On June 7, 1953, he was ordained by Paris Presbytery as the pastor of the Mt. Pleasant Church.
When Mr. Pitman began his work in Mt. Pleasant there were 230 members on the church roll. During his three year pastorate, forty-two members were added to the church. In addition, a number of projects were initiated which served to greatly strengthen the congregations’ witness. In august 1955, the “Andrews Club” was organized with thirteen participants. The aim of this organization was to reach the unchurched people of the community through a visitation style of evangelism. The “Men of the Church” were formerly organized and recognized as an organization of the PCUS “Presbyterian Men” in 1955 also. Meeting in the church basement on the first Monday evening of each month, the aim of the organization was to develop and use men in the work of the church. Three goals were set up: (1) to inspire each man in the right direction through devotional programs, friendship and personal contact; (2) to develop men within the organization to do things that are becoming to a church members through public prayer, scripture reading, speaking and witnessing; (3) to inform men of the aims, beliefs and programs of the Church.
Under Bob Pitman’s leadership, the Session and Diaconate made a study of the congregation’s building needs in 1955. Finding a shortage of room for the growing Sunday school program, it was determined that an education building would be needed if the church was to continue to grow. The wooden partitions which had separated the Sanctuary and the Ladies’ Parlor had to be removed to make room for increased church attendance. Additional space was essential to the continued health of the Sunday school. Plans for an educational facility were drawn up and on February 27, 1955, the congregation approved the construction of a one story, buff brick structure containing 6,488 square feet if space. The new building was to have twenty rooms, including a small chapel seating one hundred worshippers, and church office, kitchen, nursery and two restrooms. Construction began on May 29, 1955, at a cost of $43,500. Located on the vacant lot west of the main building, the educational building was built with the “best design and planning”. On October 23, 1955, a dedication service was conducted in the main sanctuary with the Reverend Sherrod Rice of First Presbyterian Church, Tyler, Texas, as the guest speaker. An “open house” followed the service, marking the completion of the largest building project undertaken by the congregation since the construction of the main church building in 1923. In October of the following year, the Reverend Robert A. Pitman accepted the call of the congregation of First Presbyterian Church, Corpus Christi, Texas, to become the pastor there.
The Reverend Sam McDowell Junkin arrived in Mt. Pleasant on June 10, 1957, to begin his labors as pastor of First Presbyterian Church. Born in Kerrville, Texas, Mr. Junkin attended Schreiner Institute in Kerrville and the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in 1954. He was graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in May 1957, and was ordained by Paris Presbytery on June 23.
During Sam Junkin’s pastorate First Presbyterian Church, Mt. Pleasant witnessed a resurgence of a strong youth program. Forty youth were involved in the Presbyterian Youth Functions, e.g. summer camps, spring rallies, District rallies and retreats to Synod’s Mo-Ranch Encampment. The development of the Youth Choir came as a result of the church’s’ employment of Mr. Lee Gray as Choir Director in August, 1959. Mr. Gray gave countless hours of devoted service to church, school and community, making an indelible impression on the lives of the young people of Mt. Pleasant. He served as Choir Director from September, 1959, until September 1968. He also served as a Deacon from January 1964 until his unfortunate death in September 1969.
On January 1, 1958, the Synod Texas of the Presbyterian Church in the United States dissolved the seventy-nine year old Presbytery of Paris of which the Mt. Pleasant church had been a member-congregation for seventy-seven years. In place of this regional structure, Northeast Texas Presbytery was established by redistricting churches in the presbyteries of Paris, Central Texas and Dallas. The result was much larger presbytery both in the number of churches and the geographical bounds.
By the end of 1960, the Mt. Pleasant church had reached a membership of 257, with a Church school enrollment of 210. In August of the following year, the congregation was summoned to concur with Mr. Junkin’s request for Presbytery to dissolve the relationship between him and the church, that he might accept the call of the First Presbyterian Church, San Marcos, Texas, to become pastor there. The Mt. Pleasant Church sadly concurred. Assuming the pastorate of the congregation in July, 1962, was the Reverend Benjamin Davies. A native Arkansan, Mr. Davies received his undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and his theological training at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. After serving the Mena Presbyterian Church in Mena, Arkansas, Mr. Davies accepted the pastorate of the Community Presbyterian Church in Duncan, Oklahoma, from which he was called to Mt. Pleasant.
David Davies’ pastorate was marked by a number of significant changes in the church’s life and environment. Three months before his arrival, the congregation voted to place the Session on the “limited term of service” or rotation plan. This was put into effect upon the arrival of the new pastor. Within ten months of his installation, the parking lot on the west side of the educational building was concreted in order to facilitate better parking. In the spring of 1964, the congregation voted to renovate the main sanctuary. A colonial design was chosen and a complete overhaul was made, including the replacement of the pews and chancel furniture, organ and carpeting. The choir, which had been located in the chancel area, was moved to the rear balcony with the new organ. While this work was being done, two worship services per Sunday were conducted in the Chapel with capacity crowds.
In 1967, the Mt. Pleasant church became a member of the Robinson Larger Parish, a cooperative venture involving the Presbyterian churches in Camp, Franklin, Hopkins, Titus and Wood Counties. The purpose of the parish was to promote cooperation among the member churches with a view to strengthening the program of each local church.
David Davies, in June 1969, accepted the call to become pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Texarkana, Arkansas. His pastorate in Mt. Pleasant had lasted seven years, at the end of which the church had grown to 304 members, the largest since its founding.
Since 1890, when the ladies of the Mt. Pleasant church offered to provide a house for their pastor, church offered to provide a house for their pastor, the Reverend M.M. Hooper, the ministers serving First Presbyterian Church have lived in a number of church-owned houses (all of which are not known). In October 1969, the congregation approved the purchase of a home located at 1907 Friendly Street that was to serve as the Presbyterian manse. The first pastor to take up residence in the new manse on Friendly Street was the Reverend Fleet Gordon Cook, who was called to the Mt. Pleasant church on October 26, 1969. Mr. Cook was graduated from Arkansas College at Batesville, and received his theological education at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Austin, Texas. He was ordained on June 28, 1954, by the Presbytery of Mid-Texas as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Cleburne. In 1956, he became pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Clarendon, Arkansas, in the Presbytery of East Arkansas, where he served until 1960 when he became a Presbytery Evangelist working in the Heber Springs, Arkansas area. Mr. Cook served as pastor and State Supply for First Presbyterian Church and Sugar Loaf Presbyterian Church in Heber Springs until he accepted the pastorate of Cleburne Avenue Presbyterian Church in West Helena, Arkansas. He served the Mt. Pleasant Church until May 1977.
One of the highlights of Mr. Cook’s pastorate was the 1971 “Homecoming” on June 20, held in conjunction with the 125 anniversary of Titus County. Many of the church’s former members were able to return for the observance in which former Pastor Joe Owen conducted the morning worship service. An old-fashioned “dinner on the ground” was served at Greenhill Presbyterian Church, the parent congregation of First Church.
For the ninety-two years of the congregation’s history to this point, all elected officers of First Presbyterian Church had been men. This changed on December 2, 1973 when Mrs. Margaret Spann and Mrs. Mildred Summers were elected to serve as Deacons. Another significant change which occurred in 1973 was a restructuring of presbytery and synod boundaries. Since before the founding of the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1861, the state of Texas had been organized as one synod, its boundaries being those of the state. In 1972 the Synod of Texas was joined with the Synod of Red River. In addition to synod restructuring, the Presbytery of Northeast Texas was merged with the Presbytery of Central Texas to form the Presbytery of the Covenant in 1973. By the time the restructuring was complete, the state of Texas held five presbyteries in place of what had once been seven.
On May 22, 1977, Fleet Cook requested Covenant Presbytery to dissolve his pastoral relationship with the Mt. Pleasant congregation so that he could accept the call to become pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Waskom, Texas. The congregation concurred with his request.
The Reverend James Adrian “Jack” Ryan, Jr. was called as pastor in January of 1978. A native Arkansan, Mr. Ryan attended Arkansas College at Batesville and was graduated from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas, in May 1976 and was ordained by the Presbytery of the Pines in June of that year. Mr. Ryan’s first pastorate was yoked ministry to two rural Presbyterian churches in Belcher and Dixie, Louisiana.
On the approval of the congregation, extensive repairs and renovations to both buildings were begun in October 1978. The exterior of the main building was cleaned, mortared and waterproofed, as well as painted in an effort to restore the structure to its original appearance. The basement interior of the building also received serious attention as kitchen facilities were upgraded and redecorated and the Fellowship Hall refurbished to make it more pleasing and attractive. In the Education Building, the church office, parlor, kitchen, restrooms and Chapel were completely renovated.
For its 98th anniversary of the founding Circle # 3 of the Women of the Church, which had provided the funds for refurbishing the Chapel, requested that it be designated as “The Bessie Slaughter Caldwell Memorial Chapel,” in memory of a dear and faithful saint of the congregation.
Each year the congregation had observed the anniversary of its founding by engaging in a “Covenant Renewal” ceremony in morning worship on the Sunday nearest August 14. Based on the tradition of covenant renewal as practiced by its Scottish Presbyterian forbearers, the congregation is called upon to give assent to the sacred vows by which it was established.
In 1979 the Presbytery of the Covenant of the Presbyterian Church in the United States was joined with Presbytery of Trinity of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to become Grace Union Presbytery. First Church, Mt. Pleasant thus became a member church in the fourth presbytery in East Texas since its founding. In 1983, the Presbyterian Church of the United States (Southern) and the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (Nothern) merged and FPC became a part of Grace Presbytery in the Presbyterian Church (USA). All the while, this over one hundred year old congregation has continued to meet in its original location at the corner of Madison and Fourth Streets. It has truly been the “First” Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant…….an outstanding influence in the city and county and an unwavering witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This influence and witness is clearly noted in the statement that used to be on the cover of the bulletin: “To all who are weary and need rest: to all who are lonely and want friendship; to all who mourn and look for comfort; to all who are lost and need a way; to all who sin and need a Savior; to whosoever will come to Jesus Christ, receiving His love and forgiving grace, and desiring to live for Him a new life, this congregation opens wide it doors and bids you welcome.”
In 2006, they celebrated their 125th anniversary and they look forward to their 150th in 2031 if the Lord is willing!