Christ Church is the oldest protestant church in Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas.
Becoming the eighth and ninth churches in the 1839 Diocese of Texas, Christ Church Nacogdoches and Christ Church San Augustine were organized in April 1848 by then-deacon Henry Sansom, who was ordained in January 1849. The first Episcopal service in Nacogdoches was held in the Courthouse on June 14, 1848. The first vestry included Frost Thorne and Hayden Edwards, who both were instrumental in establishing the Republic of Texas in 1836 and then the State of Texas in 1845; they are interred in Nacogdoches’s historic Oak Grove Cemetery.
In 1851, work began on a wood frame church building fronting a lane which runs north from Main Street in downtown Nacogdoches. The work was fully completed in 1854, and since that time, the lane has been called Church Street. In 1902, the Reverend George Crocket, with vestryman architect and builder Dietrich Rulfs, oversaw construction of a new brick church on the southwest corner of the Nacogdoches University campus. This building was dismantled, reassembled, and enlarged in 1939 on parishioners’ land adjacent to the campus of Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College. In 1947, a parish house was added by parishioner and architect Hal B. Tucker (whose daughter is a current, 2020 communicant). Also in 1947, Christ Episcopal School was founded as the first protestant private school in Nacogdoches. In 1983, Christ Church constructed a separate Christ Episcopal School building on the church campus, designed by Tucker protégés, Carl Maynard and John O. Greer. In 1990, the sanctuary was extended with a choir loft to accommodate a pipe organ, and a new narthex entry was added. This addition, in the original Rulfs style, was designed by parishioner and architect John Hill (whose wife is a current, 2020 communicant). In 2013, the parish house was renovated; the work was overseen by two parishioners, the architect Jerry Sutton and the contractor John Kingham.
Rev. George Crocket, a San Augustine native, served Christ Church from 1888 until 1908 and again from 1926 until 1930. He was a respected historian, history professor emeritus at Stephen F. Austin State College, and author of Two Centuries in East Texas, still a definitive history of early Texas. Crocket carved the altar, pulpit, and hymn board the Church still uses. In 2016, a bronze statue of Crocket on the west lawn of Christ Church along Mound Street was dedicated by the parish and the Friends of Historic Nacogdoches.
The Past Rectors of Christ Church
- The Reverend Henry Samson (1849-1854)
- The Reverend C. H. Albert (1855-1856)
- The Reverend John Owen (1857-1864)
- The Reverend D.A.B. Treader (1864-1865)
- The Reverend Alexander Dobb (1865-1869)
- The Reverend R. D. Shindler (1869-1887)
- The Reverend Charles H. B. Turner (1887-1888)
- The Reverend George Louis Crocket (1888-1908)
- The Reverend T. J. Sloan (1909-1912)
- The Reverend Jeptha H. Swann (1913-1915)
- The Reverend Charles D. Atwell (1916-1926)
- The Reverend George Louis Crocket (1926-1930)
- The Reverend Hugh St. George Murray (1930-1933)
- The Reverend Orin G. Helvey (1933-1942)
- The Reverend William Landless Shannon (1943-1945)
- The Reverend Scott Field Bailey (1946-1950, later Bishop of West Texas)
- The Reverend H. Raymond Kearby (1951-1959)
- The Reverend John Desel (1959-1967)
- The Reverend Michael C. Macey (1967-1973)
- The Reverend William V. Kegler (1973-1976)
- The Reverend Jack Godfrey Murray (1977-1982)
- The Reverend Douglas J. Tucker (1983-1992)
- The Reverend Frank B. Mangum (1993-1996)
- The Reverend Reginald Thomas Milburn (1996-1998, interim)
- The Reverend Gary Dixon Hill (1997-2010)
- The Reverend David J. Greer (2010-2012, interim)
- The Reverend Howard G. Castleberry (2012-2019)
- The Reverend Frank W. Hughes (2019-Present, interim)
The First Vestry
The first Vestry included Judge Amos Clark, who gave $500 in gold to build the church, Frost Thorn (the first Texas millionaire), who donated the land, Col. Hayden Edwards (leader of the Fredonia Rebellion against Mexico, 1826), and Judge Richard S. Walker.
Well-Known Early Members
Other well-known early members of Christ Church include: Judge William B. Ochiltree, Secretary Treasurer of the Republic of Texas (1844) under Anson Jones, member of the Constitutional Convention (1845) and the Confederate Congress (1861) and a Regiment Commander in Walker’s Division in the Civil War; Dr. James Harper Starr, President of the Board of Land Commissioners of Nacogdoches County (1838), Acting Surgeon General of the Texas Army, and Secretary of the Treasury of the Texas Republic (1839); Dr. Robert Irion, Senator in the First Congress of the Republic (1836); Col. Henry Raguet and his daughter, Anna Raguet (wife of Dr. Irion), friends of Sam Houston; Sarah and Emily Forbes, daughters of John Forbes, Commissary General under Sam Houston and first Mayor of Nacogdoches; Eva Helana and Rosine Sterne, daughters of Adolphus Sterne (Associate of Haden Edwards in the Fredonia Rebellion, a financier of a company of New Orleans Greys in the War for Texas Independence); Captain Henry C. Hancock, Lawyer, Mayor of Nacogdoches, Commander of a Nacogdoches Company in the Civil War who was killed at the Battle of Mansfield; Captain Frederick Voight, who served as Mayor of Nacogdoches, Postmaster, Commander of a Nacogdoches Company in the Civil War, State Senator from the Nacogdoches District (1866), Texas State Librarian, was in charge of the Capital and other public property (1874), and editor of the Nacogdoches Chronicle; and Captain A. A. Nelson, a sea captain and one of the first surveyors in Nacogdoches County.