In the Spring of 1888, the First Presbyterian Church of Kerrville was organized by Reverend William Howard Buchanan, Evangelist of the Presbytery of Austin, of the Northern Presbyterian Church. The seven founding members first met in the Old Union Church built by several groups of Protestant Christians as a common sanctuary until each could construct their own houses of worship. The original wood frame church stood at the corner of Clay and Main Streets between Jefferson and Main, and in the 1940s was moved to Lemos Street where it was used at one time for an army surplus store.
The founders of First Presbyterian included four members of one family – Mrs. A.C. (Myrta Scott) Schreiner, her sister Willie Scott, their mother, Hattie Gill Scott and their aunt, Mrs. William Gray (Laura Gill) Garrett. The Scott Family came to Kerrville in the early 1880s from Bosqueville, near Waco, where they were devout Presbyterians. Their interest in establishing a Presbyterian Church in Kerrville was shared by R.W. Goodman and Mr. and Mrs. Houston Chaney who joined the Scotts in their work. Mr. Goodman and Mrs. Chaney were made ruling elders of the church.
Between 1888 and 1890, Reverend Buchanan raised $1200.00 including a $500.00 loan from the Presbyterian Church to build a small, Gothic sytle clapboard church building with a single corner bell tower, at the corner of Jefferson and Earl Garret Streets. The now formally organized, First Presbyterian Church of Kerrville used this small sanctuary for thirty-five years. In 1899, when the congregation voted to transfer its affiliation from the Presbytery of Austin to the Presbytery of Western Texas, the loan to build this first sanctuary was repaid.
After twelve years of service by visiting ministers, the congregation had grown to about 50 members, and Dr. E.L. Story, the first regular pastor, was installed in December 1900. Under the leadership of Dr. Story, the size of First Presbyterian’s congregation and its ministry grew and in July of 1912, Reverend W.P. Dickey began his 18-year tenure at First Presbyterian.
By the early 1920s, First Presbyterian had over 150 members, and had outgrown its small home. Founding members Myrta Scott Schreiner came before the congregation on November 21, 1922, and “representing myself and Mr. Schreiner..ask(ed) permission to proceed with plans for replacing our long out-grown house of worship.” The Schreiner’s offer was unanimously accepted, and the San Antonio architectural firm of Adams and Adams was retained to design the new church which was constructed in 1923. The Schreiners contributed $60,000 to build the church that still serves the congregation. The Schreiner’s also contributed the organ, and the congregation raised funds to furnish the building. The chapel was dedicated and given as an unconditional gift to the congregation from Myrta Scott and Aime Charles Schreiner. At the time, the announcement in the paper read, “The First Presbyterian Church of Kerrville is a fine example of the Classical Revival style of architecture designed by prominent San Antonio architects Adams and Adams. Completed in 1923, the First Presbyterian sanctuary replaced a small frame church built at this same location by the fledgling congregation in 1890.”
The roots of this congregation date to the earliest days of Kerrville, and the church grew together with the community.
The building is important in design, using the Doric order. Its simplicity and charm combined with its sturdy and clean-cut architectural lines remind one very much of a real classic temple. The entrance to the main auditorium is a thing of beauty, with its broad steps, stately columns, and massive doors. All expressive of a real invitation to enter and suggestive of the grandeur of the auditorium itself…but its beauty lies in its simplicity and the perfect harmony of decoration used.
As memorials, elaborate stained glass windows were added later. One in the 1930s at the death of Mr. Schreiner. The window given by his wife depicts a temple. The other was given by Mrs. Schreiner’s children honoring their mother. In addition to those two windows, the children also honored their mother by adding 4 additional complementary windows.
First Presbyterian Church remains an outstanding example of regional Classical Revival architecture by a prominent architectural firm. It was constructed with the best design, craftmanship and building materials that the period had to offer. The First Presbyterian Church has served an important role in community life for 100 years, and is the oldest original sanctuary being used in Kerrville. Its importance was recognized and designated in 1987 as a Registered Texas Historical Landmark.