PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Port Neches

September 9, 2006

Port Neches church celebrates 125 years

PORT NECHES — The 100 year anniversary was special, but the 125th one is planned to be even better. Food, ice cream, singing, and fellowship will be on hand to help the congregation of the First Methodist Church in Port Neches celebrate 125 years of congregational bliss.

In 1837, just one year after the Republic of Texas was established, the Texas Conference was created by three Methodist ministers and by 1860 the Methodist Episcopal Church was the strongest church in Texas with over 30,000 members thanks to their circuit riders. Circuit Riders were preachers who rode horseback into communities to preach the good word and they were the first Methodist influence in the area. Holding church services in members’ homes or under trees if the weather and mosquitos permitted, the circuit riders called the Port Neches area, or Grigsby’s Bluff as it was back then, the “Alligator Circuit.”

In 1886, the Sycamore Street School was turned into a church and school building and two Sundays a month the circuit riders would come serve their congregation. This ritual continued until 1920 when Reverend W.E. Hassler was tenured as pastor of the church. In his time as minister of the church, Hassler organized the first Vacation Bible School (VBS) in the state of Texas which lasted all summer long and also put together the first Boy Scout troop with their own building in 1921. However, by 1933 the Boy Scout troop had stopped meeting and it wasn’t until 1935 when Earl Miller came around as the Scoutmaster that the boys restarted with First Methodist Port Neches as its sponsor. This group is still active and is the oldest in south Jefferson County.

More buildings came later with the first graded Sunday School building in 1928 and a five classroom building with an assembly room in 1929. But the biggest change came in 1933 when Reverend Harry Rankin, the youngest minister the church had seen, came to pastor and increased the number of the congregation and Sunday School by thirty-five percent. Rev. Rankin also placed the church on a budget, and for the first time since 1925, the church was not in debt. But in 1936, Rev. Rankin was transferred and church attendance fell, which put a stop to plans for more new buildings. In 1940 Rev. Hassler came back with ideas for expansion, but W.W.II consumed the church’s time and effort. So after the war Rev. Hassler went full fury in constructing a new recreation hall with a stage, a modern kitchen and seating for 200.

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