The First 100 Years
First Presbyterian Church – Odessa, Texas
The First Presbyterian Church of Odessa, Texas, had its beginning on July 9, 1899, when ten people signed a Church Covenant stating that they would abide by all of the requirements of the Presbyterian Church at large. Few records have been found from those early days. Record keeping improved after a 1928 reorganization when the group began meeting at the South Elementary School, organized a Sunday School program, and elected officers and teachers. A door to door campaign was soon started to gain members and funds to build a church. On June 2, 1929, a small, white, frame church on Texas Ave. at Seventh St. was dedicated at a service conducted by the Rev. John V. McCall from the ElPaso Presbytery assisted by the Rev. Thomas D. Murphy, Sr. of Midland, Texas.
In 1937 this group became financially able to call a fulltime minister, the Rev. Thomas D. Murphy, Sr., with a promised salary of $60.00 per month. Mr. Murphy came with his wife Christine, and children Leland, Lois and Thomas, Jr., and remained until 1944. In 1938 a Sunday School mission building was built on South Grant Ave. at Ada St. When this building was no longer being used, it was moved to the Seventh St. property and attached to the white frame church for additional space. This building was later moved to another location to help with starting an additional Presbyterian church.
Following the Rev. Murphy, the Rev. Walter C. Guin came with his wife Mildred. Mr. Guin was succeeded in 1950 by the Rev. Joe M. Brown, who came with his wife Lucy, and children Mike, Linda and Peggy. In 1971 Mr. Brown was awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree by Austin College, his Alma Mater. Ministers who have followed the Reverend Doctor Brown are H. G. Wardlaw, Joe Turner, Philip McLarty, Steven Deines, Nora Fitch and our present minister, James Longstreet.
Church membership was growing rapidly during the 1930’s and 1940’s due to the discovery of oil in this area. In the late 1940’s plans were made to relocate First Church, and property acquisition was begun at our present location of Sam Houston Ave. and Fourteenth St. In 1950, the first phase of new church construction was dedicated and occupied at the Sam Houston address. First Church’s congregation was still growing, indicating a need for a sanctuary which was consecrated for use in March of 1952. Growth was still strong, so a Sunday-School-rooms addition was completed in the mid 1950’s. Our final construction activity, an office wing, was dedicated in 1975.
Our youth program has had its ups and downs through the years, but in 1972 a nuclear group of youth and adults came together and formed a very active group who called themselves Youth, Inc. Many of these people are still in contact and recently have held a fortieth anniversary celebration here at First Church. Around this time our Church was recognized by our Synod as having sent more young people into fulltime Christian service than any other Presbyterian Church U. S., as stated by Lucy Brown in an earlier church history.
First Presbyterian Church members have been involved in all aspects of the history and activities of Odessa and the Presbyterian Church for many years. Members have held various political offices as well as offices in Church government. A committee of church members organized a large Centennial Celebration in July of 1999, which occasioned visits by many of our previous members and ministers.