De Kalb First United Methodist Church Celebrates 175

Date Posted: 3/2/2011

De Kalb First United Methodist Church will celebrate 175 years of ministry with a special worship service at 10:50 a.m. Sunday, March 6, at the church’s sanctuary, 210 Austin Street in De Kalb, Texas.


Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of the Texas Annual Conference, will participate in the worship service and will be preaching the service as the church reflects on its history with an enthusiasm for the future.


The history of De Kalb First United Methodist Church, one of the oldest protestant churches in Texas, is as old as Texas – literally. In 1836, Texas won its independence from Mexico with the surrender of Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto. Up until that time, Mexican law forbade any religions other than Catholicism.


In far Northeast Texas, however, protestant preachers had followed settlers into the area, ignoring the Mexican law and placing themselves in grave danger, conducted services as early as 1821.


In the area between the Red and Sulphur rivers, a settlement was being formed in the early 1800s. With Texas’ independence, the community was named “De Kalb,” purportedly based on the suggestion of Davy Crockett, who was traveling through the area on the way to Clarksville. Crockett suggested the name in honor of a Major General in the American Revolution.


In that same year, Methodism emerged from being an underground movement to establish churches in the Northeast Texas area. Rev. Dr. J.W.P. McKenzie, under authority from the Arkansas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, established three new missions in 1836. One of those was De Kalb.


The first church building was a one-room log cabin with a fireplace made of mud and straw. It had benches made of split logs and a shutter-type window. The building was used as a school during the week and as a church on Sundays.


A larger church building was constructed in 1882 that was closer to the downtown area and the new railroad.


A third sanctuary was built in 1913 on the current church site, the corner of S. Johnson and Austin streets. Unfortunately that sanctuary burned to the ground in February 1923.


Construction on a fourth sanctuary began almost immediately and services were held in the new building on Thanksgiving Day 1923.


The church was growing, and in 1950 a two story “Educational Building Annex” was built, which continues to be used today.


The fourth sanctuary was demolished in 1965 and the current sanctuary was constructed.


The historical importance of the church was recognized in 1986 with the dedication and unveiling of a historical marker from the Texas Historical Survey Committee.


In recognition of its 175th anniversary, the church has recently published a book, First United Methodist Church, De Kalb, Texas: Celebrating 175 Years, 1836-2011. The Missions Committee has also republished the 1978 cookbook, Old Recipes to Grace Your Table, as part of the anniversary celebrations.


Today, De Kalb First UMC is a thriving church, known as the “Church with A Loving Heart.” With an average attendance of 145, the church emphasizes radical hospitality, risk-taking ministries, passionate worship, extravagant generosity, faith-forming relationships and prayer and Bible study.


For more information on De Kalb First UMC’s 175th anniversary, call the church at 903-667-2705 or e-mail