The Pine Tree Cumberland Presbyterian Church is located about five miles west of Longview, Texas, in what was at the time of its organization, in 1847, the southeast portion of Upshur County, but since Gregg County was organized in 1873, the church has occupied almost the central point between the north and south boundary lines of the new county, with nearly two-thirds of the county lying west and perhaps one-third lying east of the location. The church was organized by the Rev. Solomon Awalt, Oct. 10, 1847, with fifteen charter members, whose names were given as follows: John Rodden, Mrs. Amelia Rodden, J. T. Echols, Mrs. Martha Echols, Mrs. Ann E. Awalt, Jessie Freeze, Margaret Freeze, Milton Starnes, Ann Starnes, Benjamin Fuller, Mary Fuller, James R. White, J. W. Barnes, A. T. Castleberry, Mrs. Elmira Castleberry.
John Rodden and J. T. Echols were elected to office to serve as ruling elders, and J. T. Echols was made clerk of the session. Thus far we have followed the Church Records, which seem to have been transcribed from older records to a new book, perhaps about the year 1868-70, jumping over about twenty years, the records of which we have not been able to locate. Tradition, however, seems to be good on a few things. The organization was effected in the open forest. We are not sure, however, that the ceremonies completing the organization were here performed, but religious services were conducted in the shade of growing timber under and around a large pine, after which we are told the church derived the name Pine Tree. A schoolhouse was built on the hill, just north of the old spring, and was used for religious services, we don't know how long. Some years ago the late Rev. Jerry Ward, D.D., was in the home of the writer and told of his conversion and his profession of religion, in a meeting at the same schoolhouse, the schoolhouse on the hill. Later a church building was erected, a splendid log house, which served the people as a home of worship until 1858, the date given by a number of people who were attending school at the old log house, when the hexagon shaped frame building was erected, and which served the people as a church home for seventy-four years. In 1932 a brick and tile building was erected, with a medium sized auditorium, a room for the pastor's study, ten Sunday school rooms, five of which are in the basement and may be converted into an assembly hall, and being directly connected with the kitchen, they are frequently used for a dining room.
The Rev. Solomon Awalt, the pioneer preacher of this community, was pastor from 1847 to 1872. Rev. S. R. Chaddick, 1873-74. Rev. Willie Allen, 1875-78. Rev. W. B. Allen, 1882-89. Rev. W. M. Allen, 1890-1896. Rev. J. M. Robinson, 1896-1901. Rev. W. V. McGee, 1901-1904. Rev. W. R. Edwards, 1904-1905. Rev. W. R. Harber, 1910-1916. Rev. A.W. Yell, 1916-1920. Dr. R. S. Garrett, 1920-21. Rev. B. E. Bowmer, 1922-25. Rev. W. R. Harber, 1926 to the present [present being 1936.]
Session Clerks: J. T. Echols, 1847-1869. R. E. Callaway, 1869-1873. S. M. Fisher, 1873-1891. R. W. Castleberry, 1892-1893. W. Y. Fisher, 1893-1928. W. A. Fisher, 1928-1936.
The sketch of church history given above shows only a glimpse of the progress made by the Pine Tree Cumberland presbyterian Church, covering a period of time from Oct. 10, 1847 to April 11, 1936. Almost eighty-nine years it has carried on, with membership ranging from fifteen to one hundred and fifty, and there is still hope that it may do great things for Christ and the Church.
On October 10, 1847, less than two years after Texas became a state, a group of Christian people gathered under a pine on a hill near a large spring, five miles northwest of Longview, Texas, and officially organized the Pine Tree Church. There were fifteen charter members. It was the oldest Protestant church in Gregg County, the second oldest Cumberland Presbyterian church in the state.
A school house was built later and served for both church and school until finally a church building was erected. When the oil wells were developed years later, the people showed their appreciation and faith in God by erecting a nice brick church house and manse.
Twelve pastors have served this church, the present one being Rev. E. C. Cross, who has been here a number of years and is doing a successful work. There are 210 members at the present, several of whom have been in the church for as many as fifty years.
The special service was observed with Rev. L. L. Thomas, speaking
on the historical background of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church
and its work in the state. Rev. W. R. Harber, a former pastor,
delivered the centennial message in the morning service.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, November 27, 1947, page 17]
With the addition of a two story structure in recent months, the Pine Tree church, Longview, Texas, now has a greatly enlarged educational plant. In the new annex, the first floor provides rooms for the Junior department of the Sunday school, a kitchen and Fellowship hall, a ladies lounge and a choir room. On the second floor of the newly added structure are an assembly hall, class rooms, an office, a nursery, and storage space. The pastor's study has been moved into a larger room and the old study converted into a library. Fluorescent lighting was installed throughout the educational plant.
With the remodeling improvements were also made on the church yard. These include new sidewalks, new drives, and a rearranging of the parking area.
Since the present pastor, Rev. A. D. Salisbury, Jr., came to the Pine Tree church, a little more than a year ago, there have been 19 professions of faith and 37 added to the membership of the church. The rotation system of elders has been adopted and the church has also adopted a systematic plan of finance. With only ten months of the church year gone the church had more than reached its local budget. In addition to this the church oversubscribed its quota to the Program of Achievement.
During the past year two revivals with visitation and evangelism programs have been conducted, the pastor holding the spring revival and Rev. Paul Brown of Marshall being the evangelist for the fall meeting. During both revivals Rev. D. K. Richardson was the director of music and assisted in the visitation work. A pre-Easter revival was held recently with Rev. Wayne Wiman preaching and Rev. Loyce Estes in charge of the music and assisting in the program.
During the year a Cumberland Men's Fellowship has been organized and has as its projects promotion of increased Sunday school attendance and a continuous program of visitation-evangelism.
A highlight of the young peoples work of the church for the
year was a banquet held during Youth Week. Speakers at the banquet
included Rev. L. L. Thomas, Rev. Hinkley Smartt, and Rev.
Paul F. Brown.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, April 18, 1950, page 13]
The moral obligation to keep alive the memory of the hardships, trials and tribulations of one's ancestors and to commemorate the legacies they left was stressed by State Rep. John Allen Sunday afternoon at dedication of a state historical marker at Pine Tree Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
The church, the oldest established one in Gregg County, was organized Oct. 10, 1847, under the leadership of the Rev. Samuel Awalt. The church is one of the oldest Protestant churches in the state that is still in service.
According to Allen, "After the organization of the church under a great pine tree, for which the church and community were both named, a log house was built for the purpose of worship and for education of the children of the community.
"In 1858, the log church was removed and replaced by a hexagon-shaped building which stood for 74 years. A school building was also constructed.
"In 1932, a brick building replaced the frame structure and provided seating in the sanctuary for approximately 300 persons."
Later a nine-room Sunday School classroom addition with an assembly-fellowship hall, a pastor's study and a kitchen was dedicated debt-free on Dec. 11, 1932.
A manse was built shortly thereafter. In 1947, all facilities were remodeled and improved and the present educational building constructed in 1950. In the last year, the manse has been taken for a youth and educational building due to increased membership and need.
"Down through history, churches and . . .[article cut off]
of the Gregg County Historical Survey Committee.
The Rev. Jim Hendrickson, pastor of the church, served as master of ceremonies for the program. The color guard was composed of members of Boy Scout Troop 619, for which H. M. Nuss serves as scout master.
The invocation was given by Dr. L. L. Thomas, pastor of Elmira Chapel Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Mrs. Paul Belding, chairman, and Miss Dollie Northcutt, members of the Gregg County Historical Survey Committee, and Jay Ballard, president of the Gregg County Historical and Genealogical Society, were given special recognition.
Howard Coghlan, a member of the state historical survey committee, spoke on the Texas marking program.
Also introduced were descendants of the church's charter members.
The unveiling of the marker was by Margaret Toler, whose family has long been associated with the history of the church.
The cast aluminum marker with Swedish steel effect measures 18 by 20 inches.
The inscription reads: "Organized in 1847. First church in Gregg County; one of the oldest in Texas in continuous service.
"Named for large pine tree (now removed) under which services were held and where Mrs. A. T. Castleberry taught the first Sunday School class.
"Charter members were the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Soloman Awalt;
Messrs. and Mmes. A. T. Castleberry, J. T. Echols, Jesese Freeze,
Benj. Fuller, John Rodden and Milton Starnes, J. W. Barnes and
James R. White."
[Source: newspaper clipping]
The roots of Pine Tree Cumberland Presbyterian Church run deep through the community it helped establish.
The Rev. Chuck Brown, who has served as the church's pastor since 1995, said it only made sense to open the church's 150th birthday celebration Saturday to the community.
"What we decided to do was throw a whole big party for the community," Brown said, "The Pine Tree area community was started by this church, and it only made sense the people of the community help us celebrate our own birthday."
Saturday's celebration included a magic show by Eugene Wilkes, arts and crafts, a wood carver and a vintage car display, among other activities.
Longview Councilman Gaylon Butler and Gregg County Precinct 2 Commissioner Darryl Primo were on hand to congratulate the church for its long history in the community.
"I can only imagine what that group of people who settled here must have thought." Primo said.
"Who would have thought that we would be here 150 years later," Primo said. "We can only hope that we will build something that will last as long and mean as much (as this church)."
Brown said the church's roots go back to Elmira Castleberry, who taught a Sunday school class for children in the 1800s under a tree near the present church site.
When the Rev. Solomon Awalt moved to the area with his wife to be near her parents they discovered Castleberry's Sunday school services and decided to establish a church.
"Most Cumberland Presbyterian churches were established in a community where there was no church or school, and that's what happened here," Brown said.
The school that was established remained a part of the church until 1932 when the church donated half its property to the new public school--Pine Tree Independent School District.
"That's why it made sense to have the celebration together (with the church and community)," Brown said. "They have grown up together."
Members of Pine Tree Cumberland Presbyterian are proud of the role their church has played in the community.
Sue Rogers, a church member since 1962, said many of the people attending Saturday's celebration were from the community and not church members.
"A lot of people came back (for the celebration) who don't live here anymore," she said. "I would like to think that (the church is important in this community)."
Brown said the church is the oldest one in Gregg County and rare because it has held services regularly since Oct. 10, 1847.
In recent years, Brown said the church had been on a decline, but its life is returning. He said the church wanted to show that spirit to the community through Saturday's celebration.
"When I got here, the church had been in a state of decline," he said, and the church had shifted into survival mode. "Now I think we're to the point where we see that (the church is going to survive). Now we need to see what we're going to do to thrive."
To thrive, he said the church must find what the community needs.
"Churches are to be about service to the community," Brown said.
The church's birthday celebration continues today with a special worship service at 10:30 a.m.
The Rev. Mark Brown, grandson of the Rev.
L. M. Drinkall--a former pastor at the church, will deliver
a sermon during the service.
[Source: Longview News-Journal, October 12, 1997]