by Barbara J. Wood
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Floresville Baptist Church

WILSON COUNTY TEXAS CHURCH ... Black and white photograph of the Floresville Baptist Church. There are two entries into the building with steps leading up to the doorways. In the front of the building is a lovely stain glass window. To one side of the building is a white picket fence and behind the church is a water tower and concrete building.
COURTESY /Portal to Texas History

HISTORY OF FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH.....  Floresville Wilson County Texas

                The City of Floresville, Texas was established and made county seat of Wilson County in 1873.  Shortly thereafter families started settling the town and the Floresville Academy was established and became the forerunner of our present school system.  Rev. John Washburn came to San Antonio in the fall of 1877 and served as missionary of the San Antonio Baptist Association.  He moved to Floresville in 1878 to become the first superintendent of the Floresville Academy and to continue preaching.  He preached in Floresville, Marcelina, Sutherland Springs, and possibly other area churches.
                Our church was organized in August of 1878 as Floresville Missionary Baptist Church.  In the "Western Chronicle" ("forerunner of the Chronicle Journal") of August 29, 1878, it was reported that "the largest congregation perhaps that Floresville has had in the past decade assembled at the courthouse last Sunday night to hear the Rev. Mr. Washburn preach on the subject of Christ.  The services continued for several days with several conversions and additions to the church."
                The first church building was erected in 1889 approximately 50 feet west from the present site.  It was a 40' x 60' building with no baptistery, no choir loft, no Sunday school rooms, nor pastor's study.
                About 1905-1906 the building was enlarged and remodeled, adding new wings on each side, amphitheater-type sloping floor, curved pews, one Sunday School room, a pastor's study, choir loft and baptistery, along with gothic-type windows and a beautiful art glass window in the front of the building.  In 1916 an educational department was added, which was a two-story structure with about ten Sunday School rooms, an assembly room, modern kitchen and modern plumbing were installed.
                In 1953 new church building facilities were erected, and in 1956 the church voted to install air conditioning.  In 1960 pastor Joe Webb led the 175 members with Mr. Carl Ray serving as music director and Mr. Joe Holcombe as Brotherhood president.  Currently Mr. and Mrs. Ray and and Mr. and Mrs. Holcombe are still serving in our church.
                In 1973 the church was enlarged to include an educational department, kitchen and fellowship space, enlarged nursery space, library, and new offices.  The addition of a new sanctuary was completed in November 2010.  In 2015 the church purchased the old Wells Fargo Bank across the street and held a celebration service and open house for all to see the new space.  In August, the staff moved into the offices and have enjoyed the entire building.  We give God all the praise and glory for the growth of First Baptist Church Floresville.
Information shared by Penny Smith

St. Martin Lutheran Church

Did ya know...that the first Lutheran church established in Wilson County Texas was called the St. Martin Lutheran Church? It was located in Waldheim which is where the Curve between Floresville and Poth are. It is a vanished German community that has been forgotten by time, but the roots run deep here in Waldheim. COURTESY/WCHS Sesquicentennial Book

Sacred Heart Church history

History of Sacred Heart Catholic Church ... According to an article in Today's Catholic, dated September 17, 1982; from 1519 to 1690 early Spanish explorers and missionaries came to Texas.  The time period from 1690 to 1763 is considered the mission period.  1776 to 1836 saw America declaring its independence from Great Britain, Mexico from Spain and then Texas declared its independence from Mexico.  The majority of people in central Texas were Catholic and had Mexican descent.  Native Indians lived in the area.

In 1832 there were several villages, where people grouped together for protection, socialization and to hear Mass by traveling missionaries.  Surrounding the villages were ranches with families and workers.  One of these ranches was known to have a chapel for Masses.  In 1832 a village, close to what is now known as Floresville, was established and was eventually named Lodi.  Priests from San Antonio occasionally visited the people.

1882-1885: Father J. H. Daine, an Englishman, was the first resident pastor of what is now Sacred Heart Church. The first church was a small frame structure built in Lodi,  (now part of Floresville) in 1882.

1885-1894: Father Joseph Lagier, a Frenchman, rebuilt the church in 1885 following its destruction by a storm.

Much of the parish growth and plant expansion took place during the pastorate of Father Peter Zarb from 1898-1938.

Fr. Peter was the first priest to build a new church in the present location.  The structure was dedicated by Bishop John A. Forest in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on 10/23/1901.  On the same occasion the Bishop consecrated a three-bell chime and blessed the rectory built with the pastor's funds.

The School was built in 1933.  The church needed to be enlarged because the church's facilities were inadequate due to the growing parish.  The existing church was rebuilt and enlarged.  Brick walls were erected to replace the original frame structure.  Archbishop J. Drossaerts blessed the remodeled church on 10/6/1935.

The next expansion took place in the 1950's and the 1960's by Pastor Monsignor John J. Gerbermann.  In 1950 a small storage room was built and a year later another building was constructed and grounds were lighted for various activities.

The Parish Hall was constructed in 1955. In 1960 classrooms were added to the school and a new convent was built for the Sister of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament.

In 1957 Monsignor John J. Gerbermann, in anticipation of Sacred Heart's Diamond Jubilee, renovated the church.  A further renovation of the parish church occurred in 2003 by Fr. Stefan Wiera.

Father James Hoelscher was the first priestly vocation from the parish.  He was ordained in Rome in  December 20, 1958.  The second native priest is Fr. Jonathan Felux ordained  in San Antonio, May 2, 2009.  Also, four religious sisters from Sacred Heart Church responded to their vocational call ministering locally and throughout Texas.       

Sacred Heart Catholic School

Sacred Heart Catholic School was built and supported by the sacrifices of the parish community and concerned parents, seeking the best education for their children.  The school has been in existence since 1933. Many factors have contributed to the success of Sacred Heart School;  stability, tradition, academic excellence, Christ-like behavior among outstanding Floresville citizens, respect for others and the love of God.  We thank you for your commitment to Sacred Heart School and our children, the treasure of our future.

In 1916 it was stated: "Now while the Church is free of debts.  Father Zarb is trying to erect the Parochial School House.  It shall be a two story brick house 30 x 72 feet and is to cost $4,500."  On September 17, 1933 after the parish celebrated its Golden Jubilee, Sacred Heart school opened its doors to the Floresville community with a special blessing of the school followed by a barbeque dinner.  The school was accepted and operated by the Sister of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament until August  of 1950.  In September of 1950, Sacred Heart School opened its doors as a parochial school and the parish became responsible for the upkeep and utilities.  At that time, only two classrooms were in use. 

Thereafter, a classroom was added every year.  In 1957, four Sisters and one lay teacher were responsible for teaching 215 children enrolled at Sacred Heart School.  During the 1960s and early 70s, many Catholic schools were on the verge of closing their doors.  Fortunately Sacred Heart School managed to survive due to the ongoing presence and determination from parents, grandparents, friends and the surrounding community.  Many families and community members consider the school a historical landmark and will do what it takes to keep breathing life into it.

Sacred Heart Church

Sacred Heart Church, Floresville, Wilson County Texas, built in 1935.

From the church's website:    In 1832 a village, close to what is now known as Floresville, was established and was eventually named Lodi. Priests from San Antonio occasionally visited the people.

1882-1885: Father J. H. Daine, an Englishman, was the first resident pastor of what is now Sacred Heart Church. The first church was a small frame structure built in Lodi, (now part of Floresville) in 1882.

1885-1894: Father Joseph Lagier, a Frenchman, rebuilt the church in 1885 following its destruction by a storm.

Much of the parish growth and plant expansion took place during the pastorate of Father Peter Zarb from 1898-1938.

Fr. Peter was the first priest to build a new church in the present location. The structure was dedicated by Bishop John A. Forest in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on 10/23/1901. On the same occasion the Bishop consecrated a three-bell chime and blessed the rectory built with the pastor's funds.

The School was built in 1933. The church needed to be enlarged because the church's facilities were inadequate due to the growing parish. The existing church was rebuilt and enlarged. Brick walls were erected to replace the original frame structure. Archbishop J. Drossaerts blessed the remodeled church on 10/6/1935.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church ..... Saspamco, Wilson County Texas.

Most of Saspamco's early population was derived from Mexican immigrant laborers employed by the San Antonio Sewer Pipe Works Company. The laborers of the sewer pipe factory and other local residents wanted a place of worship. The land for a church was donated by Lorenzo and Victoria Gonzales, and in 1923, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) Catholic Church was erected by the local laborers using sand and gravel from the Gonzales sand pit and water from their well.

The first mass, officiated by the Bishop Arthur Drossaerts, was celebrated on November 13, 1924. In 1955, the ladies of the community formed the altar society of OLPH Catholic Church. As the backbone of the church, the society sponsored annual fundraising dinners and festivals. Proceeds were always designated for the upkeep of the church and religious education programs. The annual festivals were an opportunity for the predominantly Hispanic community to gather in fellowship. The church conducted baptisms, first communions, weddings, funerals, confirmations, Virgen de Guadalupe celebrations, Christmas pageants and the Passion of Christ productions.

In 1969, Father Pedro Parra led the remodel of the church and a new church hall. The hall was used for religious education classes and parish council meetings. Since its creation, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church has continued to contribute to the ethical and religious formation of the Hispanic population in the area. (HISTORICAL MARKER TEXT)


Marker is symbol of History in Marcelina .........   "On April 2, 2005,  in the heart of Wilson County Texas, an officially inscribed Historic Texas Cemetery medallion was unveiled amidst tombstones and bluebonnets. The new spring weather was showing off and the wildflowers decorated every grave. Family and friends in the tiny historic community off S.H. 97 gathered at the Marcelina Baptist Church to dedicate the memorial to their loved ones.

Marvin Mills, president of the Marcelina Cemetery Association, welcomed families, friends, and guests. The Rev. Olen Wilson, minister of the small church, gave the invocation.

Gene Maeckel, chairman of the Wilson County Historical Society, spoke of the hard work it takes to obtain one of the markers.

"The Texas Historical Marker program is one of the best in the country," Maeckel said. "It takes careful work and dedication to obtain a historical marker."

Wilson County Judge Marvin Quinney, who was the guest speaker, praised cemetery association members for their hard work and dedication to preserving and protecting the heritage of their community.

During the ceremony, a history of the Marcelina Cemetery was given by association secretary-treasurer, Barbara Conn Mills. Lauren and Marvin Mills acknowledged the many people who made it possible for the marker to become a reality. The visitors gave thanks for their loved ones, then walked to the cemetery, only a few steps from the simple, white church. The solemn unveiling was done by J.G. Sims, a descendant of the founders. Following an outdoor benediction by the Rev. Wilson, homemade refreshments were offered in the fellowship hall of the church.

"Historic Texas cemetery markers are important, not only because they show how much a community values a landmark site, but also because they interpret the history for future generations," said Dan K. Utley, chief historian with the Texas Historical Commission. "Cemeteries are unfortunately among our most vulnerable cultural resources; they often contain information about the past that cannot be found anywhere else. In that sense, they are like libraries on a landscape."

The Marcelina Cemetery marker from the Texas Historical Commission reads, "In 1876, Isaac and Malinda Sims moved from Mississippi to Wilson County's Marcelina Community. Seven years later, they deeded part of their land for a burial ground and the Marcelina Baptist Church. Samuel Foster, Isaac's stepbrother, also deeded land, including the site of his mother's grave, for burial purposes. Over time, the two cemeteries merged into one. The oldest marked grave, that of Martin Donaho, dates to 1882. The cemetery continues to be used by the community. A cemetery association, organized in 1954 by Sally Sims and others, still maintains the burial ground, which remains a link to the area's rich history."

Near the lone picnic table under the old oak trees in the churchyard, the great-great-grandchildren played, unaware of the significance of the day, which is an important part of their family's history. Someday they will become curious about their community and thankful for the lives and history recorded on the durable, aluminum marker, which stands at the final resting places of their ancestors. Until then, every spring, the bluebonnets will celebrate in their memory and honor."
COURTESY / Wilson County News April 20, 2005
Special to the Wilson County News from Elaine Mazurek Stephens
The Marcelina Baptist Church, 510 Cr 404, Floresville,
 Texas, a little church with six pews on each side and forty-five members. They have small Sunday School classrooms that were later added onto the church buildi


Primitive Baptist Church (La Vernia)

PRIMITIVE BAPTIST CHURCH.... La Vernia Wilson County Texas...  October 13, 2010.  A well-known structure, the Primitive Baptist Church,  was moved by horses from the other side of Cibolo Creek to downtown in 1978.

Nancy Pavlich wrote in the Wilson County News :  As Wilson County closes its sesquicentennial year, celebrating its rich history, area residents have been devastated by the loss Oct. 13, 2011 of the historic Primitive Baptist Church in La Vernia. The building, more than 100 years old, was destroyed by fire in the early morning hours that day.

The La Vernia Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) was dispatched at 1:23 a.m. after someone reported a fire at the front door of the church, located behind Blockbuster and the Post Oak Plaza apartments.

According to La Vernia Fire Chief Jason Scheel, firefighters were able to bring the fire under control within 40 minutes, but were unable to save the historic building. The La Vernia VFD was assisted by firefighters from the Sutherland Springs Volunteer Fire Department and Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department, as well as La Vernia Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

The extensive damage may delay discovering the cause of the fire, Scheel said.

Firefighters, the fire marshal, and a canine unit all searched the site for possible clues to the cause of the blaze.

According to Scheel, a fire of this magnitude is uncommon in the La Vernia area.

"For us, it has been pretty quiet, mainly just grass fires," he said. "We haven't had a structure fire in one and a half or two years."

On Oct. 14, Edwin Baker, coordinator of the Wilson County Health and Public Safety Office, said that the cause of the fire was still undetermined.

"We don't know if it's accidental or suspicious or what," Baker said.

Doug Wildenstein and his wife, Pat, longtime members of the church, were visibly distraught at the scene. They arrived at the church at 2 a.m. and stayed all morning, watching as their church home was destroyed.

"It's just devastating," Doug said. "It's not the building that makes up the church; it's the people ... it's a special building though."

Community members are also devastated by the loss.

"It's a very sad loss for our community's history," said Elaine Stephens of the La Vernia Historical Association. "It's one of the oldest churches in La Vernia, with lots of memories and a very meaningful history."

For the time being, Pat Wildenstein said that the church members will hold services in the fellowship hall, adjacent to where the church stood. She said the congregation plans to rebuild in the same location.

"We're going to try to get it as close as possible to the original," Pat said.

She added that other churches in La Vernia have shown their support by offering worship space and hymnals.

The church building was of significant historical value as one of the oldest structures still surviving in La Vernia.

William Robert Wiseman constructed the building in 1876 on his farm on the Cibolo River. The church was moved to its current location in 1891.

The Primitive Baptist Church inherited the building from Herron Wiseman in 1978. There, the congregation held its first service on Feb. 24, 1978.

The church's bell, from the Rector Chapel,  was moved in 1891 from the other side of the Cibolo to the spot where the La Vernia Primitive Baptist Church is now located on Chihuahua Street. The bell tower became unstable, so the church donated the bell to the La Vernia Heritage Museum before the fire.."

The La Vernia Ministerial Alliance invites donations to help rebuild the Primitive Baptist Church here, after an early-morning blaze Oct. 13, 2010 burned the historic church to the ground. The church's members intend to rebuild on the same site.

Pastor David Gale of the First Baptist Church in La Vernia said that the churches in the alliance all have voted to give the church $2,500 from the Ministerial Alliance savings.

The Rev. Robert Palan of the Immanuel Lutheran Church in La Vernia said that the churches of the Ministerial Alliance have also agreed to take a special offering for the church. Palan said the various congregations will combine their offerings into a treasury and present the gift to the members of the Primitive Baptist Church.

The gift will be presented to the church members during the first week of November.

"We just know that there is a need," Palan said. "We wanted to show our care for the congregation, for our brothers and sisters and their loss."

The Nixon State Bank branch in La Vernia is also accepting donations. Checks can be made payable to the La Vernia Primitive Baptist Church, or advise a bank representative that cash donations are intended for the church.

According to Edwin Baker, coordinator with the Wilson County Health and Public Safety office, the cause of the fire remains undetermined. The fire is still under investigation.

Primitive Baptist Church to dedicate new building.....  The congregation of the La Vernia Primitive Baptist Church invites everyone to attend the dedication of the new church building on Saturday, March 31, 2012 and Sunday, April 1,2012. The church has been rebuilt following the fire that devastated the historic building in October 2010.

COURTESY/Wilson County News


FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH ... Joseph Polley and John  Sutherland also co-founded a church in Sutherland Springs Texas. The former had sponsored a Sunday school in Austin's Colony and at Whitehall. His preferred denomination is not clear, but his wife was a Presbyterian and he met the Hardinges at a revival sponsored by Southern Methodists, the most numerous denomination in Texas on the eve of the Civil War. On the other hand, Sutherland was a "zealous" Methodist who had served as the president of the Colorado County Bible Society when it organized at Egypt in 1839. The community had been served previously by Methodist circuit riders such as John S. McGee, but now Sutherland and Polley had the small rock schoolhouse. Together they co-sponsored the installation of the Sutherland Springs circuit within the Rio Grande (later West Texas) Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Alexander A. Smithwick of North Carolina became the first assigned pastor, arriving shortly before 1860. Smithwick died in September 1860 at the age of 29, but his place was quickly taken by John S. Gillett, who in 1861 ministered to 86 white and 21 black members of the Sutherland Springs circuit. (Courtesy by the Author of Sutherland Springs Texas: Saratoga on the Cibolo, Richard McClasin)

The 1910 census reported that an Apostolic minister, James W. Scott, lived in the new town, and the next year the First Street Presbyterian Church opened its doors in New Sutherland Springs. The older town still attracted summer religious encampments, but it apparently had no established church. (Courtesy by the Author of Sutherland Springs Texas: Saratoga on the Cibolo, Richard McClasin)

26 Aug 1911 Sutherland Springs Texas First Presbyterian Church was located in New Town that is across the Cibolo Creek high water bridge on FM 539. It is said that the bell that rang many years in the Sutherland Springs Methodist Church came from the Presbyterian Church which had a bell tower. The bell now is resting in the tower of the new First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. If these bells are the same, it is over a hundred years old.

A run of bad luck ravaged Sutherland Springs during the 1920s. Farm prices remained low in Texas and the United States throughout the decade. In 1927, the same year that Fitch's glowing review appeared, a fire from an exploding oil stove on the back porch of a home once owned by Jack Sutherland burned several blocks in the original community. Six homes and the Baptist church were destroyed, for a loss of $25,000 in property, while a dozen other structures were badly damaged, including the Presbyterian church. Hundreds of men fought the blaze with buckets because they had no fire-fighting equipment. (Courtesy by the Author of Sutherland Springs Texas: Saratoga on the Cibolo, Richard McClasin)

13 May 1932 The Sutherland Springs High School held their commencement in the Presbyterian Church.

First Presbyterian Church

Caddo, Texas

CADDO TEXAS ... There are huge gaps between the few known facts about this Caddo (one of four by that name in Texas). Its settlement occurred around the Civil War years and the next mention is the mid 1890s when their school had an enrollment of 64. No population figures are given, but there were enough people to support a gin and a church in the 1930s. After WWII both school and gin closed leaving the church, a cemetery and a few private residences.

CADDO, TX (WILSON COUNTY).Caddo is on Farm Road 3335 eighteen miles northeast of Floresville in eastern Wilson County. The community was first settled around the time of the Civil War. A school was in operation there by 1896, when it had an enrollment of sixty-four. In the mid-1930s Caddo had a school, a gin, a church, and a number of houses. After World War II the school and gin were closed, and in the early 1990s only the church and a few scattered houses remained.
Courtesy Texas State Historical Society

Caddo, Texas