HISTORY OF PETROLIA UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

Lucille Glasgow- November, 2008


When oil was first discovered in North Texas, in north Clay County, in 1901 on Mr. J.
W.  Lochridge's  farm  while he was drilling for water for his livestock during a hot
dry August, there was no such place as Petrolia or Byers. As the news of "black gold"
spread,  fortune  hunters and workers arrived; a tent city called Oil City housed the
boom.  In  1904, the Wichita Falls and Oklahoma Railroad came through to the present-
day  Byers,  and  later,  on to Waurika. Oil City folks picked up and moved about two
miles  northwest  to  the  present  location  of the town and named it Petrolia after
Petrolea, Pennsylvania, where oil was first discovered in the United States.

In  1906, the Baptists in Petrolia started to build a church about two blocks west of
the present structure. While the building was under construction, a storm practically
destroyed  it. Building was not resumed until the fall of 1907. It was built with the
understanding  that  it  was  to  be  used  as  a community church, with the Baptists
occupying it two Sundays, the Presbyterians one Sunday and the Methodists one Sunday.

The  Petrolia  church was at the time part of the Benvanue Circuit. A pastor, Rev. A.
P.  Johnson,  was  appointed  in  November  1907,  so  this  could  be considered its
beginning,  but it wasn't until September, 1908, that the 37 charter members were put
on the roll. That day eleven people were baptized and 39 took vows of membership. The old records now  extant  are  very brittle, almost illegible, very disorganized and
contain many discrepancies.

In  1910,  with  C.P.  Martin  as  pastor,  a great revival was experienced under the
preaching  of  Rev.  R.  E. Porter, who later was appointed pastor of Petrolia in the
1950's.  The Methodists wanted their own building. Through the efforts of Jim Taylor,
a  land  man  for George Byers, the owner of some 22,000acres in the vicinity who had
given the land for the streets and cemeteries in Petrolia and Byers, a lot was bought
for  the  building  of  a church. Lumber was bought for $36,000 from Lyon-Gray Lumber
Company.  The  note  was  held  for  several  years  by the Continental State Bank of
Petrolia. When Rev. Martin left in 1912, there were 151 members in the church.

Who  were these people who felt a need for a church building to be a house of worship
of  our Lord, a place to congregate in fellowship, a place to pray and sing together,
a place to meet to share joys and sorrows, to support each other in Christian love, a
place  to be empowered with the Holy Spirit to go beyond these walls to invite others
and to minister to the community?

They  were  the  ancestors of many of you or your friends - ordinary citizens who had
come  from  other  places  to  find  a  way  of making a living as farmers, oil field
workers,  mechanics, teachers, merchants and many others They had the same dreams and aspirations  for  their  families as you do for yours. Just as these pioneers had the faith to establish a congregation and a church home, all of us and those who came
before  us have had the faith to carry on our Christian witness in this community for
these last 100 years.

The  old  church  records,  brittle  and disorganized, list names and dates with many
discrepancies  and  blanks.  I'll  blame  them  for  some  of the disorganization and
vagueness  in  this  narrative.  What  they don't show are the stories of the people,
their ordinary lives that all add up to the real strength of a congregation, to their
love of God and to their willingness to sacrifice to maintain this church during hard
times  as  well as good ones. We all know the church is the people, not the building,
but  it  is easier to record facts about a tangible building than about an unwavering
faith in God's providence.

The  building  was  remodeled  in  1915  when  Rev.  W.D. Sauls was pastor. The front
entrance originally faced east, with a large open porch across the front.

Another great revival occurred in 1927 when Rev. George Slagle was pastor and Rev. E.
H.  Coburn  did  the  preaching. On April 27, 1927, thirty-nine members were received
into the church. In 1928, while Rev. Lee Stanford was pastor, the church building was
again  remodeled.  It  was  at  this  time  the  balcony  was built, the interior was
rearranged,  and the walls and ceiling redecorated. The altar area was moved from the
south to the west side of the sanctuary and the entrance was on the north side. M. A.
Moon and his son, Marion Moon, had this contract.

In  the  year 1951 when Rev. Harmon Keelin was pastor, the building was badly in need
of  paint  and repair. Since the church was low on funds, they decided the work could
not  be  done  at  that  time,  but the young people called for volunteers to work at
night; both young and old responded. There was hardly a night that you could not find
someone  at  the  church  working.  The building was painted both inside and out, the
floors  sanded and varnished, and the pews varnished. The ladies all raised the money
and  had  the  old  clear glass windows replaced with frosted glass. The young people
raised  money for carpet runners and laid them. When all was finished, the church was
very proud of the young people and their efforts of behalf of the church.

In  1955,  when  Rev.  William  Robinson  was  pastor, he asked the church to let him
install  a dossal curtain over the window behind the pulpit. He contributed the labor
and  the  young  people  raised the money for the material. This added greatly to the
appearance of the church.

With  the  decline  in attendance and finances by 1956, the congregations at Petrolia
and  Byers  were  combined  into  one charge with Rev. Weaver as pastor living in the
parsonage at Byers. Ways and means for building a kitchen onto the church in Petrolia
were  discussed  but  thought  impossible  because  of  lack of funds. However, at an
official  board  meeting  in  the  early  spring  of  1957,  a building committee was
appointed  to raise money and work out plans for erecting a kitchen. H.W. Perkins was
chairman,  with  Wayne  Glasgow, Alvin Kafer, Mrs. Ray Stine, and Mrs. Lee Weatherall
committee members. Plans were made and each member was asked for a donation of either
labor  or  money.  In May the kitchen was finished and two rest rooms also, all for a
cost of $2000.

The sanctuary was sheet rocked and painted. The ladies did the finishing and cleaning
and added new curtains. We had learned to say "We can" instead of "We can't."

In  June, 1958, Rev. W.M. Johnson came to us as our pastor. We felt we were fortunate
to  have  this  fine  young  preacher  to  serve our church. On October 12, 1958, the
Petrolia  Methodist  Church  observed  its  fiftieth anniversary with a homecoming of
former  pastors and members. Over 200 people were present for the services and lunch.
A  wonderful  time of remembrance and praises to the good Lord was enjoyed by all. By
the time Rev. Johnson left in 1960, 20 new members had joined the church.

In  May,  1960,  Rev.  Millard  Fairchild came as pastor followed by Rev. Walter Lynn
Zimmerman  in  1960.  We all fell in love with Walter and Joan and little Deborah. He
was  good  with the youth and great with his "chalk talks" to illustrate his sermons.
His  leadership  on  a  camping  trip to the Wichita Mountains is still remembered by
many.  After  four  years serving jointly at Byers and Petrolia, he was promoted to a
larger  church  and  eventually became a District Superintendent before he retired in
2008.  It  was with sad hearts that we heard his last sermon on May 30. All eyes were
dimmed with tears as we sang, "Blest Be the Tie that Binds."

Rev.  Rex  Carleton  was  sent  to us in 1965. He was a sincere man of God and a good
preacher, loved by the Methodists and the community in general.

In  1966  the  church  got  busy  and worked to raise money to remodel and repair the
building  once  more.  The ladies made $165 from a chicken spaghetti dinner; everyone
pitched  in  with  donations  and  work.  Al  Kafer  donated his labor to install the
paneling that still covers our walls. The painting and repairing cost $700.

In  February, 1966, Rev. Carleton was attending a preachers' conference in Dallas and
was struck by an automobile while crossing a street. He spent eight weeks in Parkland
Hospital  and  returned  with a slight limp and several braces. Everyone was happy to
have him back but he was moved to Floral Heights as associate pastor in October.

Norman  Williams,  a  student  pastor  from S.M.U. next filled our pulpit and that of
Byers. He, his wife and four little girls would come on Saturday afternoon and return
to  Dallas  on  Sunday  afternoon. In 1969 he accepted an appointment in the state of
Washington.

In  June,  1969,  Petrolia Methodists were happy to know they would have a pastor and
his wife living in the Petrolia parsonage again. Rev. Norman Bruner and his wife Nell
stayed one year before moving to Scotland UMC in Wichita Falls.

In  June,  1970, Rev. Johnnie Haney and his wonderful family were sent to serve Byers
and Petrolia churches. He was a hometown boy, having grown up in Byers, and everybody
loved  him.  He  worked  to  improve  the  parsonage in Byers that was designated the
permanent parsonage for both churches.

Rev. Wilma "Robbie" Corse became the first woman pastor of the Byers-Petrolia charge.
Work  on  the  parsonage  was  continued  and before many months had passed, we had a
pastor  in  residence  once  more. "Robbie" remained with us from December 1972 until
June  1976. She plunged into the work of both churches immediately, becoming involved
in  the  organization  of  youth  activities,  visiting  the  sick and the shut-in's,
counseling,  and  taking  part in community affairs generally. During this period, an
effort was made to update the membership roll. Ten new members joined the church.

As  usual, the roof on the church kitchen continued to leak, even after a new one was
installed  by  a  contractor.  More improvements were made on the charge parsonage at
Byers  in  order to bring it up to standard. Petrolia Church considered selling their
former  parsonage  but  decided  to  rent it and use the money for part of Petrolia's
share  of the upkeep of the charge parsonage. Programs begun or continued during Rev.
Corse's  term  as  pastor included family night, skating parties, Holy Week services,
children's  hour  story-telling,  weekly  Bible  study  night,  covered dish suppers,
Christmas  parties,  and  Vacation  Bible School. We regretted losing her to a larger
church but were happy to see her advance to a wider field.

Next,  Rev.  Craig  Watson came to us from Georgia and served while he was a graduate
student  at  Perkins, from June 1976 to June 1977. he lived in the parsonage on week-
ends  and  during  vacations.  He  was a talented musician and did much to infuse our
worship  services with varying types of musical experiences. His "children's" sermons
each Sunday were inspiring to the adults as well. He was a blessing to our church and
the  feeling of warm Christian fellowship continued to be felt. One new member joined
us.

Rev.  Steve  Clinton  came  from  Florida  to  be  our pastor in 1977 while attending
Perkins.  Before he had been here a week, he had visited every member. He visited the
nursing  homes  and hospitals once or twice a week, a practice that gained him and us
many friends among the people of Clay County.

Rev.  Clinton started taping every worship service to take to shut-in's. He led us in
a  Chrismon  and candle lighting service at Christmas, and Maundy Thursday Seder meal
and  Good  Friday  Tenebrae services at Easter. An Easter sunrise service was held on
the  hill in Bob Brown's pasture, with the Alphas and Boy Scouts assisting. There was
even a piano lugged out for Myrtice Moon to play.

The  young people were organized into the Alpha Group and met at the church on Sunday
evenings  for  singing,  recreation,  and  refreshments.  They  provided us with many
beautiful  special  songs  for  Sunday morning services. Rev. Clinton was assisted by
John  Horany,  and  later  Tom Gunter was employed as Youth Minister for a stepped-up
program   of  activities.  Mrs.  Myrtice  Moon,  our  long-time  pianist,  cheerfully
accompanied.  They  also  enjoyed  many fun times -swimming, skating, hayrides, camp-
outs, and dances.

One  highlight  was their participation in the Pioneer Reunion parade in Henrietta as
an  old  fashioned  congregation with pews and a piano loaded onto a trailer. Myrtice
Moon  played  the piano and the youth sang as they rode along in the parade. Entitled
"Wesley and His Music," it won first place.

Rev.  Clinton  taught  a  course  in  Methodist beliefs and the Wednesday night Bible
Study,  led by Lucille Glasgow, continued in various people's homes but most often in
that  of  Betty  and  Bob  Brown. Family night suppers continued to alternate between
Byers  and  Petrolia  churches  with  a  great spirit of brotherhood and co-operation
existing.  The  Petrolia  Church  adopted  the  Henderson  family as their missionary
project.  They  were  located  in  Puebla,  a  village south of Mexico City, and were
engaged in training people in farming and in raising rabbits and heifers.

During  the Clintons' stay, a room was built onto the parsonage (located at Byers) to
house the washer, dryer and water heater, with both churches sharing the cost.

One of the biggest ventures this church undertook in recent years was the addition of
vinyl  siding to the building and the replacement of the windows in the sanctuary. In
order to do this, $3000 was borrowed from the bank in the fall of 1977. That work was
soon  finished; then came the extra repair and refinishing jobs that the members took
care  of.  The  lobby was redecorated with the removal of the bell tower where it had
been  impossible  to  stop  leaks  when  it  rained,  the  kitchen  was refinished, a
completely  new  roof  was  put  on  the kitchen, the bathrooms were worked over, and
everything  that  needed  it was painted. The loan was repaid long before it came due
because  of  the  dedication and work of every member. A couple of successful rummage
sales  helped complete the task. We celebrated the repayment of the bank loan with an
ice cream supper.

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