First Christian Church turns 170￼
From staff reports
First Christian Church of Lockhart began its remarkable run in 1852 by sharing a structure that also housed the Masonic Hall about a block north of the current location on 202 W. San Antonio Street.
Members of the church, along with other denominations, gathered at the site to worship until they could erect a place to call their own.
On Sunday, Nov. 6, the church will celebrate its 170th anniversary with a special service from guest Minister Al Walker at 10:45 a.m. followed by a covered dish meal. There will be a special reading by Gail Allen, a great-great granddaughter of one of the church’s original members.
In 1852, Franklin Pierce was elected President of the United States to replace Millard Fillmore. Abraham Lincoln was almost a decade away from taking office in Washington.
Also in 1852, there were seven schools in Caldwell County with a total of 150 students
The First Christian Church met one Sunday of each month with the pulpit being filled by various circuit riders (traveling ministers on horseback). It sometimes took as long as a day and a half to travel to Lockhart from Austin.
By 1858, the church’s congregation had grown enough to erect a one-story building across Church Street from its current building. It had a basement that served many church and social uses. The printing press for the local paper was also housed in the building.
The size of the membership continued to increase until there was a need for a larger building. In 1898, the land for its current location was bought and construction on a church began. The architect and builder was Tom Hodges, who also designed the Caldwell County Courthouse and jail, as well as the Dr. Eugene Clark Library. Built in high Victorian style, it cost about $28,000. The original building was sold to W.S. Vogel for $3,000. It was later destroyed by fire as was the Masur building across San Antonio Street.
In the early 1900s, First Christian Church held summer “camp meetings“ on the San Marcos River, some lasting as long as three weeks. Members camped out in tents or other makeshift shelters. Joining the “Campbellites” were people from other denominations. It was one of the highlights of the year.
Following World War I, the church continued to grow until there were close to 200 people in Sunday school. The Ladies Aide Society and Christian Endeavor were organized. In 1929, the Depression began and giving became hard for church attendees. The church struggled until the beginning of World War II. While the young male members went to war, other young people stationed at Camp Swift in San Marcos began to attend.
With the end of the war, men returned in church membership grew with the advent of the “baby boom.“ This necessitated the remodeling of the sanctuary and the addition of the Fellowship Hall in 1954 at a cost of $61,840. Barnes, Landes and Goodman were the architects. During this time, church was held at various members’ homes, Dr. O.K. Duboise’s office, and the great American Lutheran Church following their services.
When completed, the building had central air and heat as well as new carpet, pew cushions, and a restroom.
In 1966, the church built a parsonage on Vogel Drive. In 1974, the church purchased the Medical Building Center adjacent to the current backyard. It housed the Caldwell County Christian Ministries, an inner denominational activity to minister to the needy.
Through the years, five members have gone on to be ordained ministers, some with the financial aid of First Christian Church. The membership continues to give help to the community by organizing the annual Coats for Kids, supporting the Southwestern Good Samaritan Ministries in Los Fresnos, Texas, on the border with Mexico, and the local citizens of Caldwell County in need.
Current Interim pastor, Rev. Peter Bauer, began serving the church in May 2022 and expects to be in Lockhart well into 2023.
“I’ve been encouraged them to look at Austin Theological Seminary where they have a graduation in May,” Bauer said. “They can interview in the winter and spring.
“I’ve been living in San Antonio since 1997, but I am originally from Portland, Oregon. I was a minister with the U.S. church of Christ for 43 years. I’ve been a veteran for 28 years. I’ve been in the medical industry for 35 years. I’ve taught at UT-San Antonio for 11 years. I was with the Navy for 17 1/2 years and the Army for 11 1/2 years.”