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Finding Aid for the Westminster Presbyterian Church Records

Westminster Presbyterian Church Records

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Finding Aid for the Westminster Presbyterian Church Records, 1880-2009

Profile Description

Creation: 2012 October 20. Encoded in Exchanger XML Editor by Tyrrell Historical Library staff.

Descriptive Summary

Repository:Tyrrell Historical Library, Beaumont Public Libraries, 695 Pearl St, Beaumont, TX 77701
Creator:Westminster Presbyterian Church
Title:Westminster Presbyterian Church Records
Extent:Approximately 110 cubic feet in 112 boxes.
Creator Abstract:The First Presbyterian Church of Beaumont, Texas, was organized in 1880. The church subsequently changed its name to Westminster Presbyterian Church, and after 129 vibrant and successful years, disbanded in 2009.
Content Abstract:These records document the history and activities of the church, and include historical files, committee minutes, records of missions (domestic and international), membership records, and legacies. The collection also holds publications, scrapbooks, and photographs.
Language:Materials are in English.

Organization of Collection

This collection is organized into 9 series.

Scope and Content Note

The Westminster Presbyterian Church Records provide a comprehensive look at the activities of a thriving twentieth-century Christian church. Covering the years from approximately 1904 to 2009, these papers depict decades of the Church's growth. Although their content primarily focuses on the internal, local activities of the Church, the effects of national and international events are also felt, especially during the World War II years.

These records were produced by the Westminster Presbyterian Church as it worked to spread Christianity in the Southeast Texas region. Its educational activities are especially well-represented through the records of its religious education classes. The collection also includes important administrative records of the church, such as its session minutes and diaconate minutes. The Membership subseries shows how the church's membership grew and declined throughout its history, and the church's bulletins and newsletters provide details about the church's weekly events. The collection holds many scrapbooks and photograph albums created by members of the church, which show the vibrancy of its membership. The church's financial records make up a significant portion of the collection, and include annual reports, bank statements, and disbursement records.

Historical Note

In February 1880, the Presbytery of East Texas sent Rev. S. F. Tenney and Rev. W. C. Wallace to Beaumont, Texas, to organize a Presbyterian Church "if the way be clear." On February 28, 1880, the two pastors organized a church with seven charter members: Mrs. Clara Baldwin Chaison; Miss Harriet P. Baldwin (Clara Baldwin Chaison's sister); Mrs. Viola Fenwick; Mr. W. S. Keahey; Mrs. H. M. Keahey; Mrs. Mary P. Watson and Mrs. M. C. Alexander. Rev. W. C. Wallace remained as Stated Supply Pastor for three years. Thirteen members were added, and ten children were baptized. The group met "Sabbath by Sabbath" in the county courthouse and a little rented hall. This early group of worshipers also met in the Magnolia Park Chapel in Beaumont at the time that Rev. Robbins came to Beaumont: "It was later moved to its present location, 2390 Magnolia Avenue to serve as a Mission Chapel in 1914, and to give place to the present building in which the Congregation of the Westminster Presbyterian Church now worships."

In 1881, the church purchased the lot where the present church building now stands. This location would eventually be known as 530 Main Street, Beaumont, Texas. It is located at the intersection of North Main and Elizabeth Streets. In 1882, the group managed to build a mere church frame, without ceiling, spire or bell. The members considered it their church home, however, and worshipped there, at what they called the First Presbyterian Church. It would eventually be known as the Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 1888, the manse next to the church was built.

In 1909, this original church building was moved to 3290 Magnolia Avenue as a Mission fostered by the "First Church" (i.e., the First Presbyterian Church), and it later grew into the Second Presbyterian Church of Beaumont, Texas. Also in 1909, on June 2, ground was broken for the new church building. The permanent structure ("a handsome brick building") of the First Presbyterian Church was erected at 530 North Main Street (corner of North Main Street and Calder Avenue), Beaumont, Texas, during the pastorate of Dr. F. E. Robbins. On January 27, 1910, the cornerstone of the main church building was laid, with Masonic ceremonies.

On January 15, 1911, the church was first opened for public worship. Dr. W. McF. Alexander, D.D., preached the first sermon. The building was soon paid off and remained free of encumbrance. This church fostered three missions: Royal Street, North End, and Robbins Memorial. In May 1921, at a meeting held at the First Methodist Church, Beaumont, the Westminster Presbyterian Church was established with 484 charter members, combining the former First Presbyterian and Central Christian Presbyterian churches into one church. The meeting was held at the First Methodist Church because of construction on the First Presbyterian Church building. This construction expanded the church building to accommodate the larger congregation which would result from the merger. Additionally, in 1912, the Ladies Aid Society of Central Presbyterian Church had purchased a lot and building, built in 1912, known as the manse and located at 2105 Liberty Avenue, Beaumont. Later, in 1921, the union of the First and Central Presbyterian Churches caused the manse to become the property of the newly organized Westminster Presbyterian Church.

In 1930, an Educational Building was added adjacent to the main building, during the pastorate of Dr. T. M. Hunter. The 1930s and 1940s saw the establishment of several long-running Sunday School classes for children and adults, including the Allison Class, the Berean Class, the Bethany Covenant Adult Class, and the Couples Class. In 1940, the interior of the main church building was remodeled, during the pastorate of Dr. David Worth Roberts. The Westminster Youth Center, at 498 Walnut Street, Beaumont, catered to the young people of the congregation, and was located near the other Westminster buildings.

Several pastors served Westminster throughout its history. They include Rev. H. S. Henderson, who oversaw the union of Westminster and Central Presbyterian Churches; Dr. T. M. Hunter (1921-1937); Dr. David W. Roberts (1937-1965); Dr. John R. Hendricks (1966-1973); Rev. Phineas A. Washer (1973-1980); Rev. Richard Knott (1981-1985); Rev. George Williams (1986-1991); Interim Supply Rev. Ed Gearhart (1991-1993); Rev. Dr. Roger D. M. Harano (1993-1996); Interim Supply Rev. Lloyd Crosby (1997-1998); Rev. Wayne Rhodes (1993-2003); Stated Supply Rev. Mark Vernon (2003); and Rev. Carol Tompkins (2003-2009). Westminster also had the first woman in the pastoral position in the Presbyterian Church U.S., as Rev. Patricia McClurg became the Assistant Pastor in June 1967. McClurg later became president of the National Council of Churches, in 1987.

Westminster helped establish other Presbyterian churches in Southeast Texas, including Amelia Presbyterian Church, Robbins Memorial Presbyterian Church, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Second Presbyterian Church, Silsbee Presbyterian Church, Sour Lake Presbyterian Church, and Vidor Presbyterian Church. It also did great good among the wider community. Among other accomplishments, it supported a Boy Scout troop, was a charter member of Some Other Place (a joint mission which helps low-income and homeless persons), was the meeting place of the Seaman's Center, had a strong Prison Ministry, and it participated in the Souper Bowl every year. The Ladies Aid Society, founded in 1888, continued to serve throughout the church's history, later becoming known as the Presbyterian Women. In 1986, the church also established the Westminster Children's Center, which was a full-time day care program which cared for the children of downtown workers. The church also lent support to the Beaumont Baroque Ensemble.

Westminster possessed several stained glass windows which may have been the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. The east window portrayed "I am the Door; By Me If any Man enter in He Shall Be Blessed" (John 10:9), the west windows portrayed "Because I live, Ye Shall Live Also" (John 14:19) and "I am the resurrection and the Life" (John 11:25), and the north window depicted "If Any Man Hear My Voice and Open the Door, I will Come in to Him" (Rev. 3:20).

Westminster Presbyterian Church was successful for more than 125 years. On its 125th anniversary, in 2005, the church received congratulations and recognition from President George W. Bush; U. S. Senator John Cornyn (Texas); U. S. Representative Judge Ted Poe (Texas) and other dignitaries. But as younger members of the church grew up and left for college, military service, marriage and careers, the membership gradually declined. In 2009, under the leadership of Rev. Carol Tompkins, the church reluctantly closed its doors, having served God and humanity for about 130 years. This extended period of Westminster's growth and service to Southeast Texas and beyond has been well documented by its members through correspondence and pictures, mementos and especially through scrapbooks. The importance of the church building has been recognized by the Texas Historical Commission with an official marker installed near the main entrance.

Index Terms

Crosby, Rev. Lloyd
Gearhart, Rev. Ed
Harano, Rev. Dr. Roger D. M.
Henderson, Rev. F. S.
Hendricks, Dr. John R.
Hunter, Dr. T. M.
Knott, Rev. Richard
McClurg, Rev. Patricia
Rhodes, Rev. Wayne
Roberts, Dr. David W.
Tompkins, Rev. Carol
Vernon, Rev. Mark
Washer, Rev. Phineas A.
Williams, Rev. George
Central Presbyterian Church--Beaumont (Tex.)
First Presbyterian Church--Beaumont (Tex.)
Robbins Memorial Presbyterian Church--Beaumont (Tex.)
Westminster Presbyterian Church--Beaumont (Tex.)
Presbyterian Church--Beaumont (Tex.)
Sunday schools--Beaumont (Tex.)
Bank statements
Black and white photographs
Color photographs
Receipts (financial records)


Access Restrictions

Some restrictions may apply. Note that the Tyrrell Historical Library does not have the equipment necessary for playing the tapes in the Audiovisual Materials series.


The Tyrrell Historical Library holds copyright for the collection. The researcher must secure permission to publish. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to the Tyrrell Historical Library. The researcher assumes full responsibility for complying with copyright, literary property rights, and libel laws.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Item], [Folder], [Box], Westminster Presbyterian Church Records, 1904-2009, AC-606, Tyrrell Historical Library, Beaumont, Texas.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2009.

Processing Information

Processed by Tyrrell Historical Library staff, 2012 October.

Finding aid revised and encoded by Tyrrell Historical Library staff, 2012 November.

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