My longtime friend Lonnie Rollins brought by some wonderful photographs a few weeks ago, and I have been looking forward to sharing them with you here.
Lonnie Rollins is the father of one of my childhood buddies, Darrell Rollins. I have a lot of happy memories of time spent at the Rollins home, and of the good food served there by Margie Rollins, whom I miss very much.
I first met Lonnie Rollins when he joined the staff of Kerrville’s First Baptist Church in 1967. Though it might surprise several readers, I was once faithful in my attendance there, especially as a child.
The photos Lonnie Rollins shared with me are of the church buildings that housed the First Baptist Church congregation before the present structure, which was built in 1951.
What is now First Baptist Church began as the Kerrville Baptist Church in the summer of 1887, with nine members:
H.W. Griffin, H. H. Marshall, Robert Haile, Miss Doxie Haile, Susan Tivy (the sister of Capt. Joseph Tivy, for whom Kerrville’s high school is named), J. Pruitt, M. A. Davis and L. A. Peterson. The first pastor was Rev. W. T. Sanders, and the first deacon was H.W. Griffin.
Before building its first building, the group met in the Union Church on “the Third Sunday and the Saturday night proceeding of each month.”
In 1894, the name of the church was changed to First Baptist Church, and in 1897 the church voted to build its first church building on a lot purchased from Judge Hawes at the corner of Washington and Jefferson streets, which is now the home of Kerrville’s Assembly of God.
First Baptist Church completed the building in August 1897, under the leadership of Rev. J. M. Mizzell.
There are several images of that building in the photographs brought to me by Lonnie Rollins. Two things stand out in them: the striped steeple above the main entrance and the word “Sunbeam” in the window facing Jefferson Street. Research suggests Sunbeam was a name of one of the programs of the church, which, surprisingly, included a Sunbeam Band, which gave public performances.
In January 1913, the congregation voted to build a new brick church building, for an amount “not to exceed $10,000.” The old frame church was given to a Mexican-American congregation just down Jefferson Street, and moved there; I believe that congregation later became Calvary Baptist Church, which was led for so long by the Rodriguez family.
Over the years I’ve noticed something when looking at my old photographs of Kerrville — that striped steeple moved northwest. Now I know why.
The new brick church building was completed in 1914, when D.P. Airhart was pastor. In a town of wooden churches, a brick church was a big deal.
That brick building served the congregation for 37 years, until the current building was finished at the corner of Washington and Barnett streets, under the leadership of D.A. Bryant.
That church building, built with stone and in a gothic style, with tall blue stained glass windows (that opened to occasionally admit an errant bat or bird during evening worship) and accented with dark wood furnishings is the church I remember from my childhood.
Today the church continues to change and grow, and still serves our community — just as it did when it started with nine people, back in 1887.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers quite a few of the important lessons he learned at church.