While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


John R. "Pete" Hendrick

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. Scottish and British Presbyterians who laid the foundations of Presbyterianism in America began to enter Texas in the 1820s, especially from the Southern states. Cumberland Presbyterians began work in Texas with the coming of Sumner Bacon in 1829. In 1833 Milton Estell organized Shiloh Church near Clarksville. The first Cumberland presbytery was organized in 1837, and in 1840 Richard Overton Watkins became the first Protestant minister ordained in Texas. The Cumberland Presbyterian minister, based in Nacogdoches, rode a circuit throughout East Texas. 1843 the Cumberland Synod of Texas was organized at Nacogdoches. This church pursued a vigorous evangelistic policy that spread a network of congregations over the state before the end of the century. The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America began work in Texas when Peter H. Fullenwider, an Old School minister of that communion, moved to Stephen F. Austin's colony in 1834 to teach and do religious work. In 1838 Hugh Wilson organized the first Old School church near San Augustine. In 1840 the Brazos Presbytery of the Old School was organized near Washington-on-the-Brazos. In 1851 the Synod of Texas, Old School, was organized at Austin with three presbyteries. New School Presbyterians came in smaller numbers but by 1854 had organized a presbytery. In 1861 Texas Presbyterians, Old and New School, joined with other Presbyterian churches in the South in organizing the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America. In 1865 the majority of Presbyterian congregations in Texas affiliated with the Presbyterian Church U.S. (Southern). That same year the Old School-New School breach was healed, and the New School group was added to the Old School synod.

When some congregations desired to renew fellowship with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (Northern), they withdrew from their presbyteries in 1867 and organized the Austin Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. In 1906 most Cumberland congregations in Texas merged with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., though a small group continued the Cumberland tradition and organization in the state. In 1943 the Cumberland Synod had 66 ministers and licentiates, 87 churches, and 4,945 members; the Texas Synod of the Presbyterian Church U.S. had 340 ministers and licentiates, 366 churches, and 63,790 members; the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. had in Texas 225 ministers and licentiates, 269 churches, and 35,425 members. In 1958 the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. became the United Presbyterian Church as a result of a national union between that body and the United Presbyterian Church in North America. In 1983 the United Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church U.S. merged to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In 1993 that body had 149,641 active members in 564 congregations with 1,007 ministers in Texas. Total contributions that year from Texas Presbyterians were $87,959,935. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1993 had 9,465 members in 50 congregations with 34 ministers. Institutions and agencies related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Texas include Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, Austin College in Sherman, Trinity University in San Antonio, Schreiner College in Kerrville, the Presbyterian Children's Home and Service Agency (headquartered in Austin), the Presbyterian Pan American School in Kingsville, the Texas Presbyterian Foundation in Dallas, and the Presbyterian Historical Society of the Southwest in Austin. In addition to the major bodies discussed above, there are scattered congregations related to the Presbyterian Church in America, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and the Bible Presbyterian Church.

William Stuart Red, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Texas (Austin: Steck, 1936). S. M. Templeton, "A Paper on Early Cumberland Presbyterian History in Texas" (Joint Session of the Synods of Texas, Fort Worth, September 23, 1931). Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South (3 vols., Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press, 1963–73).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, John R. "Pete" Hendrick, "PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH," accessed May 31, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ipp01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...