The following information was submitted by Ava Davis.
The sources for this information are as follows: Vivian Jacobs, Alice Beaty, Jamie Boren and Dianne Simpson.
History of the Robert Lee
First United Methodist Church
In an election held January 6, 1891; 45 voters determined the Coke County Seat should be moved from Hayrick to a location on the Colorado River to be known as Robert Lee. Before the month ended, Reverend Green Cotton Fields arrived to organize a Methodist Church under the Mission Board of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Though land had been deeded May 1891 for a building "dedicated for divine worship", no church had been constructed. At Annual Conference, November 1891, D.C. Stark was assigned to Robert Lee. C. F. Fair took the mission in 1892-1895, followed by E.L. Bates 1895-1899. In 1896, the mission became a 4 point circuit and Brother Bates lead his congregation into building a church and parsonage, the first church built in Robert Lee. L.A. Clark, 1899-1901, continued the building program. The parsonage was incomplete in 1901 when his successor, William King Simpson arrived; so the new family stayed with a parishioner until two more rooms were completed.
According to records compiled by Vivian Jacobs, when a one room building was erected in 1896, a large bell hung in a belfry over the entrance. The bell was used to announce services and tolled during funeral services. The bell was also rung to announce the end of World War II.
In 1906, a larger building was erected on the same lot, but facing west. The old church building was moved back of the lot and used for the primary department. This was the only church building in Robert Lee for several years, and was used by all denominations. Prior to that time, all denominations met often in the upstairs courtroom of the Court House.
In 1915, Pastor J.C. Mahew was working hard with the churches at all four charges with 246 members. The pastor related that the spiritual state of the churches was very good. "Often we see the power of the Holy Spirit demonstrated in the hearts and lives of our people." At this time the Missionary Society was organized at Sanco. Plans were made to organize the Epworth League for youth at Robert Lee. The Sunday school was improved and everyone was enthusiastic. The pastor was trying to improve the children's services.
In 1916 the membership of the church in Robert Lee was 162. By 1917 it had grown to 274, but due to drought and World War I, some of the members left. H.A. Nichols, pastor, wrote in his report on Hayrick that the members were discouraged: however, they were still having church and Sunday school with special attention to the children. The minister reported on some of the members "there was quite a bit of worldliness, but after three meeting there was some accomplishment. Some laid down their worldliness and wanted to make the church the best in the land." Early trustees of the church were J.C. Newton, P.D. Coulson, W.H. Bell, Frank Morrow, J.F. Morrison, E.J. Stockton, Fred O. Green, and W.B. Cobb. Early stewards were G.S. Arnold, Aubrey Ashley, Roy Taylor, W.H. Maxwell (Ava Davis' grandfather), W.H. Wyatt. Delegates to District Conference were from Hayrick, Sanco, Robert Lee, and Bronte. Early delegates were H.H. Hayley, A.L. Hailey, J.B. Walls, S.S. Craddock, J.C. Newton, I.A.Bird, Aubrey Ashley, W.A. Robbins, and L.F. Scarbrough.
S.S. Craddock had a blacksmith shop in Sanco. He was active in the church and raised his family there. His son, J.S. Craddock and wife Lela were active in the church in Robert Lee.
Their daughter, Lois Craddock, was baptized in the church in Robert Lee. In later years she married J.J. Perkins, a wealthy oil man from Wichita Falls. Mr. and Mrs. Perkins donated a large sum of money to SMU in Dallas and with the help of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, a school of theology was established. It was named the Perkins Seminary. Through the years their son-in-law, Mr. Protho, has made tremendous repairs on the church in Sanco.
In 1924, the Tabernacle was built at Sanco, during the time of Brother W.E. Hawkins was there. Camp meetings were held on the bank of Yellow Wolf Creek. It was attended by many from the surrounding area. Ava Davis' grandmother Maxwell loved to go for all the meetings at Sanco. The cost of building the Sanco Tabernacle was $1,142.50.
During early years of the churches, there were many hardships. In 1919, there was an epidemic of flu. Transportation was mostly by horseback or buggies. The women had very few conveniences. Along with working at home, raising their children and helping their husbands, the women strived to build up membership in Women's Missionary Society, which was doing well in Robert Lee.
Sanco was settled by many of our ancestors and what a beautiful sight it must have been to see the fertile valley set below the mountain range. Many years later, Ulmer and Josephine Bird operated the Sanco General Store, which had gas pumps. The post office was inside the store. They made a significant influence on the community. Jamie Boren's grandfather, B.W. Bilbo, was one of the trustees of the church at Sanco.
In earlier years, Ava Davis' great-grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Tubb, had a general store in Sanco; and her great uncle William Oliver Tubb was one of the postmasters there. Ava's father, Arthur M. Tubb, was 9 years old when his family moved from Leon County to Sanco. In later years her great grandfather, B.F. Tubb, and his family moved to Robert Lee. He opened a general store on Main Street, now Austin Street, where the new bank is located. It was named "The Cheap Store". Next to it he built a hotel.
Ava's grandmother, Betty Tubb, and her family were members of the Methodist Church and she attended the Women's Missionary Society. Ava's maternal grandparents, W.H. and Ava Maxwell, and their family moved to Robert Lee when W.H. was elected county clerk. Ava Maxwell was one of the quilting women of the church.
After many years of work in the Methodist Church in Robert Lee, the Women's Missionary Society was very active. The 13 members of the WSCS were sending boxes of clothing to the Methodist Orphanage in Waco in 1925. In cooperation with Bronte Pastor Rev. Anderson, they were publishing a monthly newsletter entitled "The Coke County Methodist".
The Circuit Riders were holding services in school at Graham Valley, Indian Creek, Fort Chadbourne and Edith, and trying to build up interest and support of the church. In 1925 three bible classes were held weekly at Sanco, Edith and Robert Lee with 35-100 in attendance. Two trucks left from Robert Lee every Sunday to bring folks to bible study. One truck was named "The Latham Limited" and the other truck was named "The Sunshine Special". Around 300 were attending Sunday school at this time and along with the trucks, two passenger cars with trailers covered a radius of 10 miles around Robert Lee, bringing folks in each Sabbath.
In 1926 the Women's Missionary Society was making 106 visits to the sick, sending out bouquets and meals, having 2 bible studies a month and one mission study a month. The Women's Missionary Society had done splendid work. New things had been placed in the parsonage as well as a new floor. They were busy raising money to repaint the church building.
In 1927 the Methodist church building was destroyed by a tornado. Later the same year, a special Quarterly Conference was called to order under the direction of Rev. A.D. Porter, a building committee was appointed. Members of the committee were: J.S. Craddock, W.W. Cobb, W.B. Clift, Marvin B Simpson, and Paul Brown. These members planned a new church building. The present day brick church was built in 1928. The names of the building committee are inscribed along with the names of the Trustees: J.S. Gardner, J.F. Morrow, W.H. Bell, Dr. W.H. Coleman, J.D. Ramsey, Pastor. W.H. Bell was Jamie Boren's grandfather and at that time he was the county judge. Mrs. Bell was one of the quilting women and a member of the Women's Missionary Society.
On September 2, 1940 at 3:00pm the women of the Robert Lee Methodist Church met in the Church Auditorium. The purpose of the meeting was to organize the Women's Society of Christian Service. Mrs. G.T. Hester, Mrs. W.H. Bell and Mrs. Fred O'Green greeted the guests and presided at the registry. The Charter is as follows: Rev. G.T. Hester was in charge of the program, and Mrs. Weta S. Wylie was elected temporary secretary. The WSCS served the Lions Club monthly with each of the members taking turns as chairman. The WSCS had dues each month. They donated money for the parsonage and other needs of the church. Sometimes the WSCS met in the homes of the members. Billie Jo Carmichael wrote in her biography about her grandmother, Mrs. J.K. Griffith, remembering one of her proudest moments as being present when the WSCS met. Her grandmother always set up the table with her best china and served her most delicious recipes. Mrs. Marvin Simpson usually was the hostess for the Christmas party in her home.
At a meeting held May 1, 1973, Mrs. O.W. Newell explained why the WSCS was changing its name to United Methodist Women. The church had recognized in 1968. The Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church had joined to establish the United Methodist Church. At this time, the purpose of the UMW stated: "The organized unit of United Methodist Women shall be a community of women whose purpose is to know God and to experience freedom as a whole persons through Jesus Christ, to develop a creative, supportive fellowship; and to expand concepts of mission through participation in global ministries of the church.".
Every year here in Robert Lee, the UMW has hosted the Senior Reception in the Fellowship Hall after Baccalaureate. This tradition started in 1957 when Carolyn Simpson, daughter of Mildred Simpson, was a high school graduating senior.
On January 13, 1991, the First United Methodist Church of Robert Lee celebrated 100 years of ministry in Robert Lee. Vivian Jacobs compiled the history of the church, after she and Alice Beaty found records stored in the church basement. A plaque was erected in front of the church memorializing this event. Rev. Kary Wilshusen Rawlings was pastor at that time. Pastors who have led the Methodist ministry in Robert Lee from the beginning to present are:
Rev. Green Cotton Fields (1891), D.C. Stark (1891-1892), G.F. Fair (1892-1895), E. L. Bates (1895-1899), L.A. Clark (1899-1901), W.K. Simpson (1901-1904), J.M. Baker (1904), D.A. McGuire (1906), Frank M. Neal (1907), E.L. Sisk (1908), L.A. Clark (1909), H.C. Bowman (1911), Archie Gordon (1913), J.C. Mahew (1914) developed T.B. and went to Sanatorium, Texas. H.A. Nichols (1916) finished Mahew's second year, followed by S.W. Adams (1916), Frank Hughen (1917), P.H. Gates (1918), John W. Holt (1919), R.B. Young (1920), P.F. Brumbeloe (1922), W.E. Hawkins, Jr. (1923), then M.L. Story who served 3 months of 1925 and Roy L. Crawford who completed 1925-1927. J.D. Ramsey (1927-1928), M.A. Turner (1928), B.B. Edmaiston (1929), J.W. Legett (1932), O.E. Moreland (1934), Earl Haggard (1936), G.T. Hester (1938). In 1939 the North and South divisions of the church united and the name became "The Methodist Church". New pastors after the renaming were John T Brown (1941), Vasco Teer (1942) and John Campbell (1945). Annual Conference had always met in November and children's school terms had been upset with their family moving to a new parish. In 1946, June was selected with schools being out for the summer. The church year then fell June to June. Ministers first affected by that change were J.H. Estes (1946), Ross T. Welch (19480, Ray Lee (1950), Warren Ellis (1954), Travis McNair (1955), and Orion Lewis (1961). Karl Brown, ministerial student, filled the pulpit 1 month (June 1962) until Dempsey Salter was released from the Navy (July 1962), followed by Bill McKinley (1966), Bobby Palmos (1967). In 1968 The Methodist Church merged with The Evangelical Brethren to become The United Methodist Church. Pastors continued the ministry Arthur Kendall (1969), Grady Peters (1975), Lyle Pierce (1976), John Reynolds (1979), Fred Cox (1982), Pamela Bradford Kilpatrick (1984), and Kary Wilshusen Rawlings (1990), Donna Reeder (1992), Bill Frisbie (1993), Dan Adams (1995), Scott Herron (1996), James McWilliams (1997), Jim Reeves (1999), and Steve Rowe (2002-present (when this was written)).
After a quilt top was found in the old jail museum, the UMW voted to have it quilted as a sign of showing honor to the women who had created it. Around 30 of the women that were members of the WSCS had embroidered their names on it. The quilt was hung in the foyer of the church. There is also a scrapbook on the "Quilting Women". Then pastor, Steve Rowe, and the church invited descendants of the women for a dedication day on November 2, 2003.
In 2004, the administrative board voted to compile a cookbook for the church. It was a church-wide project with Deone Roe doing artwork for the cover and division sheets. The committee who put together the book consisted of Mary Bessent, Jeanette Jacobs Marilyn White, and Joan Burns.
The Robert Lee United Methodist Women belong to the San Angelo District of United Methodist Women. This district covers all the United Methodist Churches from Del Rio to Coke County and San Angelo. This district belongs to the Southwest Texas Conference which covers all the districts from San Angelo to San Antonio and Corpus Christi, then south to Victoria and Brownsville.
The Robert Lee United Methodist Women have received a certificate each year for being a 5 Star Unit in the San Angelo District. They are also a district Charter Club member. Many members are involved in the UMW Reading Program and as a whole the unit is very active in projects on the district and local level.
Ava Davis had fond memories of Christmas Eve at church. She remembers the lights in the windows and the beautiful music. It is a treasured memory of her childhood. She also remembers a story her mother told her about her brother, Jack Deen. When Jack was 8 months old, her aunt, Ruth Maxwell, was playing the part of Mary in the Christmas play. She needed a baby to be the Christ child in the play. Ava said her mother worried the whole time that her son would cry and embarrass her. But, he was a little angel and there wasn't a peep.
Many of our residents will have similar memories of their childhood and the role that the church played in their lives.
( If you have older pictures of the church, members, or events; please email those to us at email@example.com )