Early Churches in Dublin
By Frank Chamberlain
The Baptist Church in Dublin was organized in 1857 by a theology professor named Rev. William Robinson. Robinson served as the head of the Bible Department at Howard Payne University and founded nine churches in Erath County. Two years earlier, he is reported to have preached the first religious service to ever be held in that county. This service was held in a small cabin that stood on the present location of the First National Bank of Stephenville. He also founded the first Baptist Church in Stephenville in 1857. The lengths of his orations have also been recorded, with one report of services lasting four hours! He also preached to the area Indians, earning the nickname, “Choctaw Bill.” According to one account, the Indians occasionally grew weary of his lengthy sermons and would walk out [Lattimore 9-10; Westphal119-120].
The first services in Dublin were held in various places; such as under a shade tree. The early pulpits were either board supports or a tree stump whereupon the preacher would place his bible, hymnbook, and pistols (in case of hostile Indian attacks.) In 1876, the first actual church house was built. This building served as the center of community life, as it was also used as a schoolhouse, Masonic hall, and courthouse. All of the area denominations held services in this building as well. This original church was destroyed in order to make room for the railroad that was being laid through the area. A new building was constructed and purchased by the Baptists and moved into the new town of Dublin. The original town was located around four miles to the north, but this small village was moved to the present location in order to be closer to the railroad tracks. This church continued to house the services of all denominations until the Methodists established their first building in 1884 [Lattimore 36-37; Westphal 120].
A larger frame Baptist church was erected in 1891 in order to accommodate the growing number of attendees. This church stood until 1913, when a fire leveled the structure and destroyed all early church records. (This was a bad year for Dublin churches, as the Methodist church was also consumed by a blaze.) A large new stone church was built to replace the burned out building in 1914 [ Westphal 120-122].
The original Methodist church of Dublin was organized in 1881, with services being held in the homes of the members under the ministry of Rev. T.P. Mussett. The first church building was constructed in 1884. This small church house was sold to the Presbyterians and the Methodists built a large rock building to house their services in 1900.This structure lasted until 1913, when a fire destroyed the church. A second fire devastated this building in 1928 [Westphal 129].
The Dublin Christian Church was established in Dublin in 1884 by a group of worshipers who brought in an evangelist, nicknamed “Weeping Joe” to minister to their group. (This preacher’s real name has been lost to history.) Like the other early churches in Dublin, the Disciples of Christ held their earliest meetings in various locations throughout the town. The first church building for this group was built in 1889 and was enlarged in the first few years of the twentieth century. A large and modern church house was constructed in 1958, replacing the old building that had housed the church for the first half of the century [Westphal 132-133].
A missionary named Bishop Alexander Charles Garrett the first Episcopalian worship services in Dublin in 1881. Bishop Garrett and early parishioners decided to organize the Trinity Episcopal Church of Dublin three years later and began to hold services in assorted locations around town. The construction of the first Episcopalian church house began in 1889 and was opened for services the next year. The building was covered by a stone coating and had a bell tower added in 1947. Otherwise, this Dublin landmark has changed very little since the nineteenth century [Westphal 127-128].
Lattimore, Sarah Catherine. Incidents in the History of Dublin: Gathered from Participants and Eye-Witnesses, Dublin, TX: Press of the Dublin Progress, 1987. (original date of publication: 1913).
Westphal, Dorothy V. Dunn. Covered Wagons Keep On Rollin’/ hand printed & compiled from the pen of Dorothy V. Dunn Westphal; the history of Dublin, Texas, 1995.