The History of Emory United Methodist Church
We do not know the exact date the Methodist Church was organized in Emory. We do know that it dates back to at least 1867. The first documented existence of the Methodist Church was dated 1867 in Springville, Texas in Wood County. In a letter Lela Cain-Bellew wrote to a friend stating that she had heard her mother, Elizabeth Hooker-Cain, speak of them, before she was married in 1868, of riding horseback for 12 miles from Hooker Ridge to hear preaching services at the Methodist Church.
In June 1870, a bill was introduced in the Texas Legislature requesting that a new county be formed. The request was made by Emory Rains, a local judge and legislator. Rains County was formed from portions of Wood, Hunt, Van Zandt and Hopkins Counties, and named in honor of Judge Rains. The city name was changed from Springville to Emory, also in honor of Judge Rains. In 1873, Rev. John C. Randall was given the charge for Emory. This is the first certifiable record for the church in Emory.
A long lineage of Braziel, Cain and Hooker families were part of the early development of the Methodist Church. Present day members, Cay Francis Braziel-House, a life-long member of Emory UMC, is the great-great-granddaughter of Emory Rains, and Mary Cain-White, is a direct descendant of Lela Cain, Captain Tom Cain and Sam Cain.
During the first several years of its existence, the congregation met in the old Masonic Hall which also served as the first school in Rains County. The hall was located on the town square. In 1889, Rev. J. W. Beckham led the congregation to build a church which was completed for Easter services that year, The church was located on the northeast corner of the intersection of present day Wood and North Streets in Emory.
In 1894, a tornado destroyed the church and all its contents, including a new organ which had just been purchased by the Women's Society. Lela Cain-Bellew remembered distinctly, "We had just bought the new organ on Friday afternoon, and the choir tried it out that night. The cyclone struck the next night. On Monday, I, as treasurer of the Women's Society, had to send a check for $115 to pay for it. That was not very pleasant." The only item saved from the structure was the bell which hung in its belfry, and is still in use today.
A new church was built on the same site the following year. Several years later the church was moved to the present site on State Highway 19 North, 456 N. Texas Street. In 1933 Sunday School classrooms were added to the back of the frame structure.
A portion of the roof was blown off in a 1944 spring storm and the church sustained considerable water damage. The church members decided to build a new brick structure. The pastor of the church at that time was Howard K. Williams. He and the official board worked with Roy Kilmer, a Greenville architect, and planned the new structure. The board members were, Sam Braziel, Sam Cain, J. H. Houser, Gordon Hughes, W. M. (Pete) Rodes and Elma Waller.
On September 16, 1945, a debt-free church was dedicated to God's work. Dr. S. S. McKinney, one of the early pastors in Emory, was in charge of the dedication service. After the service, a dinner was held on the grounds for the congregation and many friends in the community. The bell from the original church, built in 1889, now hangs in the belfry of the present-day church.
The beautiful stained-glass windows in the new building were purchased from a builder in Hunt County, who had taken them in on a debt from an old church that was merging with another. On the windows, you can see the inscribed names of some of the founders and sustainers of the church and church school. The beautiful iron cross that adorns the steeple of the present day building was made by Gordon Hughes in his blacksmith shop. In 1962 and 1963, the educational building was added to the original brick structure. At that time, Rev. Hiram (Doc) Jones was pastor, and Charlie Muller of Commerce was the architect. Many of the same people who gave generously for the original structure, again worked faithfully to raise the money for the new addition.
In 1989, under the direction of Pastor Michael R. Proctor, the Fellowship Hall was doubled in size and the kitchen was completely renovated and furnished. This project was undertaken because of the steady growth in membership. A great deal of the work was done by the members.
In 1987, Pastor Michael R. Proctor was instrumental in organizing the local community churches to form Rains County Good Samaritans, which assists the needy of our community and county. Emory United Methodist Church continues to lead this outreach ministry today. In 1990, Emory United Methodist Church was honored by the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church by being named the "Small Membership Church of the Year."
In 1994, under the direction of the pastor, W. Michael Mayhugh, the church again added to its facilities by construction of a white frame building on its parking lot which provides two Sunday School classrooms for the teenage youth. The structure was also almost completely built by membership labor.
In June 2006, the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church presented Emory United Methodist Church the Copeland Award for distinguished evangelism for small membership churches. Rev. David Diller and Lay Leader, Mickey Cooper proudly accepted the award on behalf of the church.
On October 15, 2017, we celebrated 150 years of continuous service to our Lord and Savior in the Emory community. It was truly a red-letter day, with a crowd of 200 filling the pews for this auspicious occasion. The service was opened by the 54 person Wiley College aCapella Choir, under the direction of Stephen Hayes, regaling us with a series of beautiful praise hymns. Our choir loft was woefully too small for this group, so they spilled out and along the outer walls of the sanctuary.
For over 150 years, Emory United Methodist Church has served the entire community with love and joy. We invite you to join us in this historical ministry.