Society

‘Peace—And also with you’

Presbyterians to observe 60 years on Sept. 15


Dedication of the new Memorial Prayer Garden (above and in stunning aerial view at right) will highlight 60th anniversary services Sunday, Sept. 15 at First Presbyterian Church, 1600 Alcoa. 
Reporter/Mike Brown Dedication of the new Memorial Prayer Garden (above and in stunning aerial view at right) will highlight 60th anniversary services Sunday, Sept. 15 at First Presbyterian Church, 1600 Alcoa. Reporter/Mike Brown ‘Antecedent’ congregation built church 100 years ago

The congregation of First Presbyterian Church wants Rockdale to have peace.

To that end, it will formally dedicate its new Memorial Prayer Garden in a Sept. 15 ceremony at the church, corner of Alcoa and Coffield (1600 Alcoa).

Presbyterian churches have a long and rich history in Rockdale. First Presbyterian was founded in 1953, but there was a previous congregation which constructed its landmark sanctuary exactly 100 years ago, in 1913.

That church existed from 1874-1937 and is referred to as an “antecedent” of the current congregation by church historians.

GARDEN—The crossshaped, landscaped prayer garden (see aerial photo) has already been serving as a place of meditation and ref lection since it was completed earlier this summer.

It includes memorial bricks commemorating congregation members, especially the founding committee from the 1950s.

The walk’s first stone bears the founding commit tee’s pledge to “subscribe to a covenant to walk together as a church and to render all proper support to its program, peace and purity.”

The public is invited to attend the Sept. 15 ceremony.

ORIGINS—On Feb. 1, 1953, the first formal worship service of the new Presbyterian church was held at St. Thomas Episcopal

Church.

Presbyterians met for one month at St. Thomas’s, then moved to the library on the top floor of the 1922-era Rockdale High School on top of “College Hill.”


Gathering for 50-year observance in 2003 at the church, former Funk, Juan Treviño, Kathy Treviño, Trish Holland (pastor at the (and then current) First Presbyterian pastors (L-R) Revs. Walter time) and Bob Lam. Gathering for 50-year observance in 2003 at the church, former Funk, Juan Treviño, Kathy Treviño, Trish Holland (pastor at the (and then current) First Presbyterian pastors (L-R) Revs. Walter time) and Bob Lam. During this time the current sanctuary was built and the first service at the 1600 Alcoa location was held June 6, 1954, with pastor Rev. W. F. O’Kelley.

A three-classroom and pastor’s study addition was completed two years later and was dedicated Nov. 11, 1956.

The first baptisms were held April 18, 1954, for Robert and David Thompson, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Bob (Barbara) Thompson.

LEGEND—One century ago, a different group of Rockdale Presbyterians were in the process of building a new sanctuary.

That story is tied up with the life of a remarkable Rockdale pioneer.

William E. Copeland was born July 6, 1839, in Scotland, studied for the ministry at the University of Edinburgh and came to Texas as a 2o-year-old horse trader with a herd of Shetland ponies.


The remarkable Rev. W. E. Copeland, a one-legged Civil War veteran, pastored the original church for 47 years. The remarkable Rev. W. E. Copeland, a one-legged Civil War veteran, pastored the original church for 47 years. He served as a chaplain in the Civil War and lost a leg in the battle of Gaines Mills, Virginia.

Af ter the war he resumed his ministerial studies and was ordained by the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He came to the brand new town of Rockdale in 1874 and organized its first Presbyterian Church outdoors, holding services under a brush arbor.

The first Presbyterian sanctuary was built the next year. By 1913 the congregation was constructing a landmark three-story building at Davilla and San Gabriel. Rev. Copeland was the “construction superintendent.”

Its full-sized basement served as a major gathering place for Rockdale events in the World War I era.


From 1914 to 1937 previous congregation of Rockdale Presbyterians worshiped in this well-remembered sanctuary on the corner of Davilla and San Gabriel. It then became Peace Lutheran. From 1914 to 1937 previous congregation of Rockdale Presbyterians worshiped in this well-remembered sanctuary on the corner of Davilla and San Gabriel. It then became Peace Lutheran. Rev. Copeland served as pastor of the church—first affiliated with the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination and later with the Presbyterian Church of the USA—until his retirement in 1921.

He died three years later, at the age of 85, at the Rockdale home of his daughter, Mary Copeland Stribling.

Rev. Copeland also served the community in other capacities. He served a term as mayor, was a member of the first school board and was a key figure on the Milam County Selective Service (draft) board during World War I.

The first Presbyterian congregation was disbanded in 1937. The three-story building became Peace Lutheran Church in 1939.

It was vacated in 1967 when the new Peace Lutheran sanctuary on Meadow Drive was completed and the building was razed in the 1970s.


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The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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