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The History of the First United Methodist Church of Nederland

1900-1957, by Mrs. Margaret Goodwin
1957-1995, by Mrs. Martha Housenfluck

Name Date Name Date
W. A. Wagnon 1900-1901 G. R. Loden 1936-1940
R. O. Bailey 1901-1902 T. M. Price 1940-1942
B. C. Anderson 1902-1904 E. A. Peterson 1942-1943
J. C. Key 1903-1904 J. R. Lockhart 1943-1946
W. M. Sherrell 1904-1905 E. A. Maness 1946-1948
C. D. Montgomery 1905-1906 E. H. McKenzie 1948-1953
B. C. Anderson 1906-1907 J. A. Carlin 1954-1955
P. I. Milton 1907-1909 D. W. Duran 1955-1961
W. H. Long 1909-1911 N. R. Vance 1961-1965
G. W. Riley 1911-1912 D. R. Box 1965-1967
J. C. Stewart 1912-1916 A. W. Fleming 1967-1976
M. F. Fells 1916-1917 E. B. Mayne 1976-1981
J. L. Redd 1917-1919 E. L. Reed 1981-1985
J. C. Marshall 1919-1920 R. H. Robinson 1985-1988
W. A. Craven 1920-1922 B. G. Williams 1988-1991
J. N. Vincent 1922-1924 R. W. Goodrich 1991-1995
J. D. F. Houck 1924-1928 Kenneth Archer 1995-2000
W. F. Davis 1928-1930 Mary Jane Van Dusen 2000-2002
J. O. Ross 1930-1932 Dale Chance 2002-2006
J. C. Huddleston 1932-1934 Malcolm Monroe 2006-Present
R. C. Terry 1934-1936    

Ministers of the Church

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By Mrs. Margaret Goodwin

In February, 1898, the Cooke family landed in the little town of Nederland, comprised at that time of only five buildings, as follows: a large three story hotel, a store, the K. C. S. depot, and two three-room cottages. The first home of this new family was the present-day Kitchen home (located at 2900 Merriman in Port Neches), and as of that moment, we had still not ascertained whether or not there would be any prospect of local church attendance. Our first home being located in a vast expanse of treeless prairie, my father came to the Nederland post office one morning, where he met a man from the Grigsby’s Bluff community, now Port Neches, who told him that they had a church there twice a month, and that the very next Sunday was their alternate Sunday. Needless to say, we were all very glad, and the next Sunday, we all went in our farm wagon to find the church. This schoolhouse, which also served as the community church, stood on the spot in Port Neches where the First National Bank is today. (Note: While the old bank building still stands at Port Neches Avenue and Nall Street, the bank merged in 1984 and now stands at Nall and Sierra.) We received a wonderful welcome in that community. When they learned that my father could superintend a Sunday School, they soon organized one, which then met every Sunday, whereas preaching was only once a month. The pastor was a young man, a Brother K. P. Barton, and he also preached in Sour Lake and in South Beaumont, which is now the Roberts Avenue Church. We were all very fond of him, and when in his old age, he became pastor in the San Angelo First Methodist Church, when my brother Harold was the District Superintendent there. They became very close friends.

That year there was a big community Thanksgiving Day dinner and sermon preached by Brother Barton held in this big (Orange) hotel. He said he had preached the first sermon on Nederland soil.

After the passing of the first two happy years, we moved to another farm, and it was during the year 1900 that our Nederland church was organized, and it was on a circuit with Port Neches and Sabine Pass. The pastors at that time lived in Sabine Pass, and when our Sunday rolled around the preacher always came to our house. This first Nederland preacher was Brother A. A. Wagnon. There was a little church built for the use of the Dutch people (Dutch Reformed congregation), but we were also allowed to use it, and there was also a Sunday School organized.

Our first preacher to live in Nederland was a Brother B. C. Anderson. The ladies rented a little house where Mrs. Fox’s home is now, and we fixed it up as best we could to become our first rented parsonage. (Mrs. S. R. Fox’ home was on the SE corner of 14th and Atlanta Streets., now a part of the church parking lot.)

In the next year or so, the first school house in Nederland was built by public subscription and was located over on the other side of town across from the little library building (NE corner Tenth at Boston). (Ed.’s Note: For 25 years the wooden "little library building" at 923 Boston was Nederland’s public library.) After it (the school) was built and was so much larger than the little church, we had services in it until our new church was built.

A number of things happened in those first years that might be mentioned. It was about 1904 that a young man by the name of (Rev. J. C.) Key was sent to us, and that summer during a revival meeting the two preachers and my two brothers drove down to the old pumping plant (that was where the Pure Oil or Unocal docks are now). They all went in swimming, and the boys cautioned Brother Key to be careful about a place that was deep and dangerous, but he got into it anyway and drowned. They tried so hard to save him and worked for hours trying to bring him back, but it just couldn’t be. This was a very bad thing for our little church. (Note: Mrs. Goodwin’s account differs from the history of FUMC in Port Neches, which reads: "In 1903 Rev. J. C. Key lost his life while attempting to swim the Neches River on horseback.") Brother R. O. Raily finished his year. We had two fine, young men about this time, a Brother (W. M.) Sherrell and Brother (C. D.) Montgomery who followed him. Our church grew a lot under these two fine men. It was while Brother Sherrell was there that our Woman’s Missionary Society was organized. We celebrated that occasion when we had our Golden Anniversary in 1955. During those years, everybody worked. The young girls also joined the society and worked right along with their mothers to make money for a new church.

In 1908 that new church was started. The location was right across the street from our present parsonage, where the Jack Frazier home is (113 13th Street). Our pastor was Brother P. I. Milton and under his leadership the new church was finished and moved into early in 1909. The First Church in Beaumont was being built at this time too, and the windows that were in the old church were from the old First Methodist Church in Beaumont.

After Brother Milton, we had another Brother (B. C.) Anderson and about that time a Brother (W. H.) Long, and soon after him, a Brother J. C. Stewart who stayed for four years. It was under Brother Long that we bought the property for a parsonage once owned by the Housenfluck family, and it was used for many years until the present site was purchased, and the house was all remodeled for the new parsonage.

I can’t make a complete list of all the pastors, but we had a Brother (M. F.) Wells, then during the (World) war (I) years, a Brother (J. L.) Redd, who lost his only son in the war while he was our pastor. Following him, we had a Brother J. C. Marshall, who was the last pastor to serve on the circuit. Due to work that he did that year, both Nederland and Port Neches became full-time pastorates, and the Brother W. E. Hassler that we all knew so well was sent to Port Neches, and Brother W. A. Craven was sent to us. He was very much loved by everybody, and during his two years here, an annex was built on the church that opened into the main sanctuary and was seated so it could be used for large crowds and also as a Sunday School room. Our Women’s Society did a lot of work that year. We sold chili and hamburgers every week to schoolchildren, and we had $800 to put into this new building project.

Brother (J. N.) Vincent came after Brother Craven, and he was followed by Brother (J. D. F.) Houck who stayed four years. It was while he was here the parsonage mentioned before was remodeled, and when he left Brother (W. F.) Davis came, and his family was the first to live in this home. Brother Davis got sick his last year and he retired that fall. His daughter, our own Dorothy Davis Rienstra, is one of our active members. Then we had Brother (J. L.) Ross for two years. We also have one of his daughters, Miss Jessie Lee Ross, as a member of our school faculty. The Huddlestons (Rev. J. C.) came next for two years, and then we had a double team. Mrs. Huddleston was an experienced choir director, and she was able in just a few weeks to organize a choir, the first organized choir, and we worked like mad to make our first white vestments and sang our first real anthem for the Thanksgiving service. She was also an experienced Sunday School worker, and the Sunday School was reorganized as it should be, and graded literature was used for the first time. Seeing the great need for more Sunday School rooms, it was while Brother Huddleston was here that an Educational Building was built just back of the church, and it met a great need for at least five years.

Brother (R. L.) Terry was our next pastor. He has always been very dear to the Cooke family, as he was our pastor when we had real trouble. My father, J. B. Cooke, Sr., passed away one year (1934), and my husband, Robert Goodwin, the next.

It was while he (Terry) was here that the parsonage burned and the Terry’s lost all their possessions. He had fixed up one room in the home for a study so he had lost all his books, every sermon he had ever preached, as well as all the church records. This was a bad thing to happen to us, but everyone worked together to build a new one, the one we are using today.

Brother (G. R.) Loden followed Brother Terry, and it was while he was our pastor for four years that the present church was built, in 1940, to be exact. The old church was torn down and all the good material was used in the new building. The lots had previously been purchased, then the lots where the old church was were sold. Everybody worked; men, women, and young people all found something to do, and there were lots of free labor as well as donations of material. During the time the church was being built, we met in the school auditorium, the old Langham School.

Now we are down to the years that most of us remember easily, except for our very newest members.

After we moved into the new church, there wasn’t much done except keeping up with the pledges, but we did pay off the debt much sooner than we had to.

Brother (T. M.) Price followed Brother Loden, and our church really grew under his ministry. He was followed by Brother (E. A.) Peterson. Then we had Brother W. W. Hawthorne for just a few months when he was given some evangelistic work to do, and Brother (J. R.) Lockhart was sent here. During the years he was here, the Recreation Hall was built which has served a very great need all these last few years. Brother (E. A.) Maness came next. He was a highly educated man and quite elderly, and he did retire from the Nederland church.

Brother (E. H.) McKenzie was next, and he stayed longer than any other one ever had, five wonderful years. Our church grew a lot during those years, and extra Sunday School rooms were needed so badly that a cottage was built on the lot in back of the parsonage. This building helped a little, but even with that, much more was needed so the church began to plan a big building program. Brother (J. A.) Carlin followed Brother McKenzie, and during his stay the groundwork was laid for the new buildings. The (Frank) Griffin property (at 104 13th) was purchased by the help of a large gift from Mr. (Cornelius) Doornbos, and an architect drew the plans for a three unit building program. In the pictures, a beautiful new sanctuary will be down on the Nederland Avenue corner.

Now we are down to the present year (1957). Our present pastor, Brother Don W. Duran, and his family have been with us now for nearly two years. I doubt if I can ever start to write down all that has been done in this time. First the ground had to be cleared for the new building, the recreation hall was moved, and now faces Nederland Avenue. The cottage was moved to the corner, and I might add, a fresh coat of paint was given to all the buildings. The first unit of this big building program was finished and moved into last year and how proud we are of it all.

We are so happy that our board has asked unanimously for the return of Brother Duran and his fine wife and family, and we are all looking forward with God’s help to still more being done in the Master’s name.

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By Mrs. Martha Housenfluck

Mrs. R. A. (Margaret Cooke) Goodwin who wrote the history of Nederland’s First Methodist Church from its beginning in 1900 until 1957 was at the time of her death in 1972 the last surviving charter member of the church. There were ten charter members, but unfortunately the names were lost in the parsonage fire of 1935. It is known that most of them and perhaps all of them were from the J. B. Cooke and Will Gibson families (the parents and older children). In 1947, there were four surviving charter members, Mrs. Goodwin, her sister, Mrs. E. H. Spencer (Edith Cooke), Mrs. J. C. Kelly (Verna Gibson), and Mrs. F. E. Keeney (Floy Gibson).

The fire which destroyed the church records occurred during the pastorate of Rev. R. C. Terry. The parsonage, where the pastor’s study was located, and all of the records were kept, burned while the funeral for Mrs. Ritter, the mother of Booty A. and "Tex" Ritter, was being held in the church across the street from the parsonage.

The First National Bank of Port Neches which Mrs. Goodwin mentions as being the location of the school house, where they attended church in Grigsby’s Bluff was located at Port Neches Avenue at Nall Street in Port Neches. (Ed.’s Note: The Port Neches building ceased to be a school in 1911 and became the First Methodist Church of Port Neches. A new sanctuary was built on the same site in 1919 and was used until 1949 when the present brick church was built at Nall and Eugene Streets.)

The Dutch church that she mentions as being the first meeting place for the Methodists was located at 1003 Boston Avenue at Tenth Street, where the house that was for fifty years the C. E. Gibson home still stands. The Gibson home was built over and around the old church. The little Dutch church was also used for Nederland’s first school. Later, when the Baptists organized their church, their services too were held in the Dutch building. The Methodists and Baptists held church on alternate Sundays, and many members of each faith attended all services, regardless of denomination.

Rev. W. A. Wagnon, who was the first pastor of the Methodist Church, died in 1948 at the age of 87.

The location of the first rented parsonage that Mrs. Goodwin tells of as being "where Mrs. Fox’s home is now" was the lot in front of Dairy Queen (124 Fourteenth), now a part of the church’s parking lots.

The "Jack Frazier" home mentioned as the location of the first Methodist church building was the house known for a number of years as the Friendship House and is now the residence of the church’s director of music and evangelism. The vacant Frazier residence was later torn down to make room for the present Christian Fellowship building that was built in 1998.

Mrs. Goodwin tells of this first Methodist church building being completed and moved into in 1909. An interesting ecumenical note from those early days is that the first wedding held in the new Methodist church was a Baptist affair. Mr. Lee Meredith, the local blacksmith and a charter Baptist member, and his bride, Miss Bertha Williams, were married in the new Methodist church on April 11, 1909, by Rev. George C. Montgomery, Baptist minister. Much later, after the death of Mr. Meredith, his widow became Mrs. C. E. Anderson and continued to live in Nederland until her death in 1978.

The first church-owned parsonage Mrs. Goodwin tells about on an earlier page was bought by the church in 1910. Trustees W. T. Black, W. S. Gibson, and J. B. Cooke signed the note for the church. It was sold in 1928, and the trustees who signed the note were J. B. Cooke, Dr. J. H. Haizlip, and Con D. Wagner. The house, which had again become church property, was torn down in the mid-1980s, and the lot is now used as a playground for the church’s pre-school children’s groups.

The minister from 1917 until 1919 was Rev. J. L. Redd. His only son was overseas in World War I. A community-wide service of Thanksgiving was held when the Armistice was signed, and Rev. Redd was asked to be in charge. Later, it became known that a short time after the Armistice was signed, his son, Private J. L. Redd, Jr., was killed in one of the small pockets of fighting that was slow about receiving news of the end of the war. He is one of the two young men for whom our local Butler-Redd American Legion Post 493 is named.

The church Mrs. Goodwin tells of being built in 1940 during the pastorate of Rev. Ray Loden is the present church Fellowship Hall. For the past 25 years, since the new sanctuary was built in 1963, this building has been the location for many, many fellowship activities for groups of all ages.

The Fellowship Hall’s predecessor was the Recreation Hall that Mrs. Goodwin mentioned on an earlier page of her history. It was a large, white frame building, located on the site of the present McKenzie Building (Education Building). This Recreation Hall served the city as well as the church for many years. It was used for city elections, Lions Club, other civic groups, special classes, parties, and showers, as well as many other community and church functions. When it had to be relocated due to the construction of the new sanctuary, it was moved to 715 Ninth Street and became the property of the church Boy Scout groups until it was torn down a few years ago.

It is impossible to list all of the family names that were active in the earlier years of the Nederland Methodist Church, but among them were: Barr, Black, Bodemuller, Brackin, Burnfin, Cooke, Dohmann, Doornbos, Ealy, Farris, Fox, Furby, Gibson, Goodwin, Haizlip, Hanshaw, Kitchen, Koelemay, Mathews, McNeill, Norton, Oakley, Radford, Rienstra, Ritter, Roach, Short, Spencer, Spurlock, Thompson, Trotter, Wagner, Whelply, and Willis.

Mr. John Bunyan Cooke served as Sunday School superintendent for the church’s first twenty years. Among the others who served long terms in this position were J. L. Black, A. H. Rienstra, J. R. Elliott, and Jack Fleming.

One of the most active Sunday School classes was the Men’s Bible Class. For several years in the 1940s and early 1950s, this class, which was taught by William O. Haizlip, became so large that meetings were held in the local movie theater on Boston Avenue and then in the old Mercantile Building.

The church office was started during the pastorate of Rev. James Carlin in 1953. Before that, the ministers (or their wives) had kept the church records and printed the Sunday bulletin, if there was one, on an ancient mimeograph machine owned by the church. The Official Board approved the request for a church office, and C. A. Mathews, superintendent of schools and an active member of the church, arranged for the purchase of a typewriter and a filing cabinet. These were placed in the pastor’s study, which was located where the Fellowship Hall kitchen is now, and Martha Housenfluck was hired as a part-time secretary. Soon the weekly news letter begin being published. Called first the "Methodist News," it was soon changed to the "Methodist Light" and is still being mailed to the membership weekly.

Mrs. Goodwin ended her history during the pastorate of Rev. Don Duran. It was also during his stay, in 1959, that the church built a large new brick one-and-one-half story parsonage at 1315 Seventeenth Street. The old parsonage was sold and moved, making way for the building to begin on the new sanctuary.

Rev. Nolan R. Vance became the minister in 1961. It was during this time that the beautiful new sanctuary was constructed on the corner of Thirteenth Street and Nederland Avenue. It was completed and moved into in June of 1963. Bishop Paul E. Martin preached at the Service of Consecration on December 8, 1963.

Rev. Donald Box served as pastor from 1965 until 1967, and during that period, several outstanding speakers occupied the pulpit, including Dr. Charles Allen, Dr. Frank Lauback, and Lord Donald Soper of England.

Rev. Archie Fleming came in 1967 and served longer than any other pastor. The lot across the street from the sanctuary was purchased for much needed parking, and the paving was completed. The former Jack Frazier home, next to the parking lot, was purchased as an investment and as an annex to be used for meetings and Sunday School rooms. It was also during Rev. Fleming’s ministry that the sanctuary was paid off and dedicated in the seventy-fifth anniversary year of the church. Rev. Fleming challenged the congregation to raise the $75,000 needed to pay off the sanctuary in addition to the annual payments and the budget, and the entire amount was raised. Bishop Paul Galloway presided at the Service of Dedication on April 4, 1976.

Rev. E. H. McKenzie, who had come here as pastor in 1948, returned to Nederland in 1958 to live out his retirement years and served as associate pastor until 1973. "Brother Mac" was known and loved by the entire community, particularly for his hospital visitations. The church Education Building was named the McKenzie Building in his honor.

Others who served the church as associate minister were Rev. Earl Godbold in 1973 and Rev. Dean Chance in 1978.

Rev. Elmer Mayne was the pastor from 1976 until 1981, and during those years, a large Activities Building was constructed between the McKenzie Building and the office wing of the sanctuary building, thus completing the building program begun some years earlier. Containing large and small meeting rooms and a beautiful parlor, the new addition was named the Doornbos Building.

One of the church’s young men, Mark Daniel Fleming, has become an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. The son of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Fleming, he is the grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Dan J. Rienstra, two of Nederland’s first Dutch settlers who became Methodists after the Dutch Reformed Church ceased to exist in Nederland. The only other ministers to grow up in this church were Mrs. Goodwin’s son, Rev. William Goodwin, and her nephew, Rev. John Bunyan Koelemay, the son of her sister, Myra Cooke Koelemay. Harold Cooke, who as a young man was one of the charter members of the church, also served as a Methodist minister and for many years was president of McMurry College, a Methodist college in Abilene, Texas.

During recent years, the church’s Mothers Club and the Methodist Men have been reactivated. A Mothers Day out program for pre-school children serves the church and community. Bell choirs have been added and the children’s music program expanded.

The past fifteen years, under the pastorates of Rev. Eldon Reed, 1981-1985; Rev. Robert Robinson, 1985-1988; Rev. Gail Williams, 1988-1991; the Rev. Rich Goodrich, 1991-1995; and our current pastor, Rev. Ken Archer, 1995-, the church has continued to grow and influence the lives of the members and the entire area. The church program has been enlarged and strengthened, the staff has been increased, including the addition of a director of music and evangelism. The office has been remodeled and improved, and up-to-date computer equipment installed. Sermons are regularly video and audio taped, and a sermon telephone line has been added. More parking space was needed, and a large new parking lot across the street, taking up most of the block, was completed and paved in 1991.

The First United Methodist Church, organized in 1900, is Nederland’s oldest church, and as it approaches its centennial anniversary, it continues to be an active and growing part of the community of Nederland. (1995)

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