First Presbyterian Church of Rockwall Celebrates 165th Birthday

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The original church building as seen from 1888-1928. Courtesy photo.

(ROCKWALL, TX – Nov. 5, 2019) It was 165 years ago that the community of Rockwall was founded, and with it, the formation of the community’s first church.

The Rockwall County Commissioners Court proclaimed Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 as “First Presbyterian Church of Rockwall Day” in Rockwall County, in commemoration of the church’s 165th birthday. Rockwall County Judge David Sweet read the following proclamation during the Commissioners Court regular meeting on Oct. 22:

Whereas, First Presbyterian Church Rockwall has been a vital part of Rockwall since both the community and the church were founded 165 years ago in 1854; and

Whereas, First Presbyterian Church Rockwall has consistently contributed to the spiritual growth and the physical and emotional wellbeing of the community by supporting numerous organizations of the Rockwall community and beyond; and

Whereas, First Presbyterian Church Rockwall was instrumental in the founding of and the ongoing support of Rockwall County Helping Hands; and

Whereas, First Presbyterian Church of Rockwall embraces as its call to help people feel the love, be the love, and as members continue to reach out to the community so that all may feel the love of God and Christ, and have the opportunity to be God’s love for others;

Now therefore I David Sweet, County Judge of Rockwall County, do hereby proclaim November the 7th of 2019 as First Presbyterian Church of Rockwall Day, and express our most sincere appreciation for the valuable contribution of First Presbyterian Church of Rockwall to our community, and encourage others to “Feel the Love, Be the Love” on this day.

First Presbyterian Church (originally Rockwall Cumberland Presbyterian Church) was founded the same year as Rockwall in 1854.  The Rev. John Vance and a group of 21 Cumberland Presbyterians started out meeting in whatever buildings were available, including the town’s first schoolhouse.

In 1873, members voted to raise funds to build a church.  Construction was slow starting, however, and 12 years later they were still searching for a suitable site.  Finally, in 1888, they built the first church at Munson and Fannin Streets – a small, white frame building which was destroyed by a severe storm two months later.  They immediately rebuilt it and the new church served for the next 40 years.

In 1906 the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. unified, so our church was renamed The First Presbyterian Church U.S.A.  The parishioners bought a downtown lot in 1925, but construction of a new church was delayed for several years.  Finally, in 1929, congregation moved their church bell to a new, brick “church on the square.”  In 1930 they built a manse but sold it a year later.  That building became the childhood home of long-time U.S. Congressman Ralph Hall.

By 1974, church membership had increased to over 100 members. Later that year, the church was badly damaged when a truck hit it, so members approved the purchase of three acres of land at 602 White Hills Drive and planned for a new building.  In 1976, Dr. Robert Reeves III became the pastor and served this church for over 30 years, including the transition to the current church building in 1980. He played a big role in beginning the charitable agency known as Helping Hands of Rockwall County.

“This church has been intimately intertwined with this community from day one, and we are blessed to be able to still be an active part of this community to this day,” said First Presbyterian Church of Rockwall Pastor Cheryl Taylor. “We are excited to be here and to be a part of Rockwall.”

On. Nov. 3, the church celebrated the momentous occasion with a special service featuring its former pastor Bob Reeves, who served with the church for 31 years, and birthday cake for all in attendance.

By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News. See printed article in our 2019 Holiday Edition. Courtesy photo.

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