HISTORY OF PETROLIA UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
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
dry August, there was no such place as Petrolia or Byers. As the news of "black
spread, fortune hunters and workers arrived; a tent city called Oil City
boom. In 1904, the Wichita Falls and Oklahoma Railroad came through to the
day Byers, and later, on to Waurika. Oil City folks picked up and moved
miles northwest to the present location of the town and named it Petrolia
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
the present structure. While the building was under construction, a storm
destroyed it. Building was not resumed until the fall of 1907. It was built
understanding that it was to be used as a community church, with the
occupying it two Sundays, the Presbyterians one Sunday and the Methodists one
The Petrolia church was at the time part of the Benvanue Circuit. A pastor,
P. Johnson, was appointed in November 1907, so this could be
beginning, but it wasn't until September, 1908, that the 37 charter members
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
preaching of Rev. R. E. Porter, who later was appointed pastor of Petrolia
1950's. The Methodists wanted their own building. Through the efforts of Jim
a land man for George Byers, the owner of some 22,000acres in the vicinity
given the land for the streets and cemeteries in Petrolia and Byers, a lot was
for the building of a church. Lumber was bought for $36,000 from Lyon-Gray
Company. The note was held for several years by the Continental State
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
of our Lord, a place to congregate in fellowship, a place to pray and sing
a place to meet to share joys and sorrows, to support each other in Christian
place to be empowered with the Holy Spirit to go beyond these walls to invite
and to minister to the community?
They were the ancestors of many of you or your friends - ordinary citizens
come from other places to find a way of making a living as farmers, oil
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
these last 100 years.
The old church records, brittle and disorganized, list names and dates with
discrepancies and blanks. I'll blame them for some of the
vagueness in this narrative. What they don't show are the stories of the
their ordinary lives that all add up to the real strength of a congregation, to
love of God and to their willingness to sacrifice to maintain this church during
times as well as good ones. We all know the church is the people, not the
but it is easier to record facts about a tangible building than about an
faith in God's providence.
The building was remodeled in 1915 when Rev. W.D. Sauls was pastor. The
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
H. Coburn did the preaching. On April 27, 1927, thirty-nine members were
into the church. In 1928, while Rev. Lee Stanford was pastor, the church
again remodeled. It was at this time the balcony was built, the
rearranged, and the walls and ceiling redecorated. The altar area was moved
south to the west side of the sanctuary and the entrance was on the north side.
Moon and his son, Marion Moon, had this contract.
In the year 1951 when Rev. Harmon Keelin was pastor, the building was badly in
of paint and repair. Since the church was low on funds, they decided the work
not be done at that time, but the young people called for volunteers to
night; both young and old responded. There was hardly a night that you could not
someone at the church working. The building was painted both inside and
floors sanded and varnished, and the pews varnished. The ladies all raised the
and had the old clear glass windows replaced with frosted glass. The young
raised money for carpet runners and laid them. When all was finished, the
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
install a dossal curtain over the window behind the pulpit. He contributed the
and the young people raised the money for the material. This added greatly
appearance of the church.
With the decline in attendance and finances by 1956, the congregations at
and Byers were combined into one charge with Rev. Weaver as pastor living
parsonage at Byers. Ways and means for building a kitchen onto the church in
were discussed but thought impossible because of lack of funds. However,
official board meeting in the early spring of 1957, a building
appointed to raise money and work out plans for erecting a kitchen. H.W.
chairman, with Wayne Glasgow, Alvin Kafer, Mrs. Ray Stine, and Mrs. Lee
committee members. Plans were made and each member was asked for a donation of
labor or money. In May the kitchen was finished and two rest rooms also, all
cost of $2000.
The sanctuary was sheet rocked and painted. The ladies did the finishing and
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
to have this fine young preacher to serve our church. On October 12,
Petrolia Methodist Church observed its fiftieth anniversary with a
former pastors and members. Over 200 people were present for the services and
A wonderful time of remembrance and praises to the good Lord was enjoyed 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
Zimmerman in 1960. We all fell in love with Walter and Joan and little
was good with the youth and great with his "chalk talks" to illustrate his
His leadership on a camping trip to the Wichita Mountains is still
many. After four years serving jointly at Byers and Petrolia, he was promoted
larger church and eventually became a District Superintendent before he
2008. It was with sad hearts that we heard his last sermon on May 30. All eyes
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
preacher, loved by the Methodists and the community in general.
In 1966 the church got busy and worked to raise money to remodel and
building once more. The ladies made $165 from a chicken spaghetti dinner;
pitched in with donations and work. Al Kafer donated his labor to
paneling that still covers our walls. The painting and repairing cost $700.
In February, 1966, Rev. Carleton was attending a preachers' conference in
was struck by an automobile while crossing a street. He spent eight weeks in
Hospital and returned with a slight limp and several braces. Everyone was
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
Byers. He, his wife and four little girls would come on Saturday afternoon and
to Dallas on Sunday afternoon. In 1969 he accepted an appointment in the
In June, 1969, Petrolia Methodists were happy to know they would have a
his wife living in the Petrolia parsonage again. Rev. Norman Bruner and his wife
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
and Petrolia churches. He was a hometown boy, having grown up in Byers, and
loved him. He worked to improve the parsonage in Byers that was
permanent parsonage for both churches.
Rev. Wilma "Robbie" Corse became the first woman pastor of the Byers-Petrolia
Work on the parsonage was continued and before many months had passed, we
pastor in residence once more. "Robbie" remained with us from December 1972
June 1976. She plunged into the work of both churches immediately, becoming
in the organization of youth activities, visiting the sick and the
counseling, and taking part in community affairs generally. During this
effort was made to update the membership roll. Ten new members joined the
As usual, the roof on the church kitchen continued to leak, even after a new
installed by a contractor. More improvements were made on the charge
Byers in order to bring it up to standard. Petrolia Church considered selling
former parsonage but decided to rent it and use the money for part of
share of the upkeep of the charge parsonage. Programs begun or continued during
Corse's term as pastor included family night, skating parties, Holy Week
children's hour story-telling, weekly Bible study night, covered dish
Christmas parties, and Vacation Bible School. We regretted losing her to a
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
student at Perkins, from June 1976 to June 1977. he lived in the parsonage on
ends and during vacations. He was a talented musician and did much to
worship services with varying types of musical experiences. His "children's"
each Sunday were inspiring to the adults as well. He was a blessing to our
the feeling of warm Christian fellowship continued to be felt. One new member
Rev. Steve Clinton came from Florida to be our pastor in 1977 while
Perkins. Before he had been here a week, he had visited every member. He
nursing homes and hospitals once or twice a week, a practice that gained him
many friends among the people of Clay County.
Rev. Clinton started taping every worship service to take to shut-in's. He led
a Chrismon and candle lighting service at Christmas, and Maundy Thursday Seder
and Good Friday Tenebrae services at Easter. An Easter sunrise service was
the hill in Bob Brown's pasture, with the Alphas and Boy Scouts assisting.
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
evenings for singing, recreation, and refreshments. They provided us with
beautiful special songs for Sunday morning services. Rev. Clinton was
John Horany, and later Tom Gunter was employed as Youth Minister for a
program of activities. Mrs. Myrtice Moon, our long-time pianist,
accompanied. They also enjoyed many fun times -swimming, skating, hayrides,
outs, and dances.
One highlight was their participation in the Pioneer Reunion parade in
an old fashioned congregation with pews and a piano loaded onto a trailer.
Moon played the piano and the youth sang as they rode along in the parade.
"Wesley and His Music," it won first place.
Rev. Clinton taught a course in Methodist beliefs and the Wednesday night
Study, led by Lucille Glasgow, continued in various people's homes but most
that of Betty and Bob Brown. Family night suppers continued to alternate
Byers and Petrolia churches with a great spirit of brotherhood and
existing. The Petrolia Church adopted the Henderson family as their
project. They were located in Puebla, a village south of Mexico City, and
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
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
vinyl siding to the building and the replacement of the windows in the
order to do this, $3000 was borrowed from the bank in the fall of 1977. That
soon finished; then came the extra repair and refinishing jobs that the members
care of. The lobby was redecorated with the removal of the bell tower where
been impossible to stop leaks when it rained, the kitchen was
completely new roof was put on the kitchen, the bathrooms were worked
everything that needed it was painted. The loan was repaid long before it
because of the dedication and work of every member. A couple of successful
sales helped complete the task. We celebrated the repayment of the bank loan
ice cream supper.
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