THE HISTORY OF FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH HEBRON
The First Baptist Church Hebron is one of the last remnants of one of Denton County’s earliest settlements. Located on a hill at FM 544 and Hebron Parkway, the red brick church was organized by settlers first brought to that far southwest corner of Denton County by The Peters Colony. The Peters Colony, officially known as the Texas Emigration and Land Company, contracted with the Republic of Texas to bring families into Northeast Texas in the 1840’s. They lured settlers with such glowing descriptions advertising the Northeast Texas lands as “a country having a delightful climate, no chilling winds or driving snow, but one continuous spring and summer, with all manner of fruits and wild game in abundance, clear and beautiful streams of water with plenty of fish.”
Bridges settlement, the oldest in Denton County, began to take shape in 1843, according to a history of Hebron by Betty Kelly Morris. The company established it’s main office – a land office and settlers store – on Barksdale Creek. All was not as promised, however. The Telegraph and Texas Register in February 1843 described “wretched conditions” in the new little colony – probably those “chilling winds” we often experience in February. Some settlers hung on, however, and a little community grew. By the 1890’s the community had a name – Hebron – a post office, two passenger trains that came through town daily, an elementary and high school, a cotton warehouse, three cotton gins – two at one time – and other businesses.
The town of Hebron itself, surrounded by Lewisville, Carrollton, and Plano, surrendered most of its land to those cities in a series of annexations in recent years. The red brick church remains, now surrounded by modern housing additions, busy streets and highways, and businesses, a solid reminder of earlier days.
From the Dallas Morning News, August 15, 2009
By: Ruth Haesemeyer
Nearly 80 years ago, Lucy Jernigan rode to Hebron Baptist church each Sunday in her father’s Model T. She said they picked up children at each of the three houses scattered along the way, singing gospel songs as they traveled through the fields. While the scenery has changed, the church, now known as First Baptist Church Hebron, still stands. And at age 87, Mrs. Jernigan will be one of the oldest members attending its 125th Anniversary Homecoming Celebration on Sunday.
Surrounded by burgeoning North Carrollton, just off Hebron Parkway near Marsh Lane, the church stands as a picturesque reminder of the past and of a town that has nearly vanished. After years of annexations into surrounding communities, including Carrollton, Plano, and Lewisville, the town of Hebron has been reduced to patches of land with a population of about 60. Hebron Mayor Kelly Clem said the church is probably the only commercial building that remains from the town of Hebron and, for many, it’s only recognized landmark. “It’s always been the center of the community in that respect,” he said. According to a history, compiled by church member Betty Morris, the congregation first met Sept. 9, 1883, at Willow Springs School, under the name Big Valley Baptist Church. It moved to two other locations and changed its name at least twice before the present building was completed in 1920. The church has had more than 30 pastors. Lifelong member Monette Vinson said many of them served while studying at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth before going to larger churches. “Our church was really just a little stepping stone,” she said. Ms. Vinson said the church has also sent out several missionaries and started other churches.
Deanie Milligan, a third generation member, said First Baptist is a mission-minded church, with good fellowship and sincere people. As the church approached its 125th year, Ms. Milligan said members felt the need to call everyone back together. More than 150 have made reservations for the celebration, which will include morning worship with former interim pastor Charles Ivey, lunch and an afternoon service. And there will be plenty of memories to share, from Ms. Milligan cleaning the church with her grandparents, to Ms. Vinson reflecting on the changing landscape around the church to Mrs. Jernigan and her rides in the Model T so long ago.