Mason County Sesquicentennial Heritage of Faith Tour, Part III
By Jan Appleby
The last “official” Sesquicentennial event for 2008 will be held this coming Saturday, December 6th. The “Heritage of Faith Tour” will include nine churches in town and three churches outside of town – Art United Methodist Church, about nine miles southeast of town on Hwy. 29. Hilda United Methodist Church, is about sixteen miles south on Hwy. 87. (Take RR 783 for about four miles and turn left on Loeffler Ln.) The Mason Gospel Church is just a couple of miles northeast of town on Bluebonnet Rd. Today’s article will feature the First Baptist Church, the River of Life Church, and the Mason Church of Christ. Besides the aforementioned, the other churches on the tour are St. Paul Lutheran Church, St. Joseph Catholic Church, First United Methodist Church, Spring Street Gospel Church, and First Christian Church. Most of the churches are decorated for the Advent season and Christmas and many will have refreshments and historic displays as well as handouts with a more extensive history of their churches. Thank you to all the church members who gave me the histories of their churches!
Mason Church of Christ
The Church of Christ was established in Mason County around 1896. Brother Witmill Holland was the leader of the group that established several congregations in the county. During the next few years there was no congregation in the town of Mason, although summer and tent meetings were often held in town. In 1925, L.V. Nobles moved to Mason and the present congregation was organized. The Presbyterian building was rented for a meeting place. Five preachers served from 1925 until 1947 when Brother A.C. Knight came to work regularly with the church and work began immediately toward building a place to worship. On March 28, 1948, services were held in the new building for the first time. There were seventy members. The building cost $32,500 and consisted of an auditorium, five classrooms, and a preacher’s study. In 1965, the building was expanded to its present size, which included eight classrooms and a multi-use fellowship hall flanked by a kitchen. The first Vacation Bible School was held in 1952; the ladies began meeting once a month in 1957 to do quilting and benevolent work. The church has always had a very active and diversified mission outreach program. The present pastor is Wayne DeDear.
River of Life Church
Early documents show the property currently on the site of 217 E. College St. was given by the State of Texas to the Fisher-Miller Land Grant. In 1868, the parcel of land was conveyed by Henry F. Fisher to John and Alice Gamel. In 1921, Alice Gamel sold the property to the Mason ISD. Construction of the Mason High School began that year and students occupied the building in 1923. This facility was the high school until 1976 when a new high school was built. The old Mason High School sat vacant for a number of years. In 1999, the property was purchased by Christ the King Church. With a vision in place and limited funds, members began the renovation task and the partially refurbished building served as a church home for several years. Finally, in 2004, Christ the King Church and Grace Fellowship merged to create the River of Life Church. A complete six-month structural remodel commenced. Today this is a thriving congregation delighted to call the old Mason High School their church building. If one looks closely, the words “Mason High School” are still etched in the building’s façade. Gary Davel is the current pastor.
First Baptist Church
The First Baptist Church was founded in 1872. The first church was organized by thirteen members who met in the courthouse. When the church was first organized there were few full-time pastors, so Mason was served by missionary preachers who traveled by horse preaching in various settlements. In 1890. Rev. C.A. Mangham came as the first pastor of the Mason Baptist Church. The first church, a frame structure, was built in early 1891 at 327 Ft. McKavitt St. It was about five years later that the congregation purchased a stone building which belonged to the Northern Methodists (who had merged with the Southern branch). The original church property was sold. In 1932, it was voted to construct a new building. The old church was torn down and the materials which could be used went into the third home of the congregation which is now the Bible Baptist Church. On October 16, 1960, it was voted to build the fourth and present church. Four acres in the Wheeler addition were purchased. In 1999-2000, the church built the Ray Ash Fellowship Hall. There are many activities at the Baptist Church, including youth programs and a soon-to-be “Mom’s Morning Out” program. The church is 136 years old, and Rev. David Collett is the current pastor.