At over 175 years old DeKalb First United Methodist Church has a long and rich history of proclaiming the gospel and ministering in the name of Jesus to our community and world. We don't believe in coming to church, we are the church, the visible presence of Christ in the world. Our mission: "To turn hearts and lives to Jesus Christ," is what defines us and keeps us focused. This website highlights the wide variety of programs and ministries that we offer and participate in. If you are looking for a church home here in the DeKalb area our hope and prayer is that you will find it here at First Methodist. Do you have questions about God, faith, or the church? Click here and let us know.
As early as 1815, Rev William Stevenson, a Methodist circuit rider, was traveling across Arkansas and along the Red River, praying and preaching, and converting the new settlers. Although it was forbidden by the Mexican officials to hold Protestant services in the Territory of Texas, they often looked the other way if the minister was fulfilling the needs of the people, and the accepted Catholic faith was not available in that area. In addition, the boundary between the Territories of Texas and Arkansas was rather vague and the area in which Stevenson did his preaching and established the Sulphur Fork Circuit was considered by some to be a part of Arkansas.
In 1835, the Arkansas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church appointed John H. Carr as pastor of the Sulphur Fork Circuit. He was succeeded by Rev Dr. J.W.P. McKenzie who established three new missions in 1836, one of which was De Kalb.
In 1836, De Kalb was the only thriving settlement of any size in what is now Bowie County. The Methodist church was the first church of any kind in De Kalb, and probably the first in all of Bowie County. The founding of the church in De Kalb in 1836 is confirmed in a letter from David M. Chisholm of De Kalb to his sister Mary Ann Elliott of Raleigh, Tennessee, dated December 17, 1837. As Mr. Chisholm tells of his difficulties and sickness his first year, and the improvements the following year, he states "We have also a fine Methodist preacher to preach for us."
The exact date of the construction of the first church building is not known, though a description of it is. It was a one-room log cabin with a fireplace of mud and straw and had a shutter-type window. The benches were split logs and the church was used as a school during the week. It was located in what is now the old De Kalb cemetery in the northern part of town. It was used for a school, a Baptist church, and later was given to the black community for a church, after the Methodists erected a new church in 1881-82.
In 1882, a new Methodist church was ready for use closer to the downtown area and the new railroad.
In 1913, a third sanctuary was built on the present church site at the corner of S.W. Johnson and Austin streets on lots given by Mr. and Mrs. William S. Proctor. Only 10 years old, and not completely paid for, that sanctuary burned to the ground on a cold February Sunday in 1923 after the janitor had built a big fire in the wood burning stove and left it unattended. Even as it was burning, plans were being made to rebuild it, and services were held in the fourth building on Thanksgiving Day, 1923.
Additional space was required and in 1950, an Educational Building was built. The last service to be held in the fourth building was the evening service of March 21, 1965. The fifth and present building was consecrated on October 3, 1965.
As some of the smaller rural Methodist congregations decreased to the point where they could not be self-supporting, their memberships were transferred to the De Kalb church. These include Austin's Chapel about 1946, Oak Grove in 1959, Spring Hill in 1967, and Hubbard Chapel in 2014.
Under the direction of former pastor, Rev Michael Dent, the church made application to the Texas Historical Survey Committee for an historical marker and it was approved. Dedication and unveiling of the marker was on May 11, 1986, with Texas Conference Bishop Ben Oliphint giving the principal address and preaching at the morning worship service.
The year 2011 marked the 175th anniversary of the Methodist Church in De Kalb. Over that span we have the names of over 100 of the pastors appointed here. There have been 8 buildings and 2 parsonages. Countless individuals have passed through the doorways, leaving an enduring legacy that echoes still.