San Gabriel Baptist Church
263 CR 421A Thorndale, TX 76577
Latitude 30.69583° N Longitude 97.19665° W. Said differently, San Gabriel Baptist Church is located 7 miles north of Thorndale, Texas, just a block off FM 486 North, at 263 County Road 421A. We are approximately an 45 minutes away from Austin, 30 minutes from Temple, and an hour from Waco.
San Gabriel Baptist Church has been part of the San Gabriel/Thorndale community and surrounding area for more than 150 years. There have been peaks and valleys, trials and tribulations and spiritual victories. Through it all, the heart and spirit of this body of Christ has never been quenched. Members have come and gone, but San Gabriel Baptist Church and its body of believers are still praising God, still preaching, studying, and practicing God’s Word.
The First Fifty Years
Elder Eaves led the founding of San Gabriel Baptist Church in October 1856, as part of the Little River Association. Elder W.N. Mason was the first pastor. The newly constituted San Gabriel Baptist Church recorded a membership of 22. Parson W.T.H. Beasley came to lead the church in 1861. The work was slow, but laborers were determined ones and new converts were added to the membership yearly.
By 1871, the church had grown to a good number of 51. He, as well as other early pastors, was not a resident of the community – or even the county, but only came to preach at the church once a month.
Early minutes that are available show erring brothers and sisters were visited by a committee. The committee would point out their sins and ask them to appear before the next church conference to confess their wrong doings and ask to be forgiven. Rarely did they fail to do so.
Old minutes show that 25 new members were received into fellowship in 1894. They were: Bros. W.H. Jones, Morgan Jones, G.W. Jones and sisters: M.J. Jones, Florence and Ella Jones, C.F. Locklin, D. Richardson, John White, Eleanor Locklin, Dora Gamble, Maud Purvis, Maud Locklin, Ora Fulcher, Will Lee, Carrie Jones, Ida Jones, Stella Fulcher, Mrs. N.E. Gilchrist, Mrs. E.E. Stevens, W. B. Lewis, Mary Stevens, A.L. Rose, Billie Edmondson, and G.B. Garner. Then, again in 1896 more members were added: Maggie Cast, J.J. Stigall, J.W. Lewis, A.B. Lovelace, J.W. Faulkner, J. Harwood, Willie Guthrie, S.A. Stewart, William Rozelle, Morton Barb, E.H. Barb, Tome Guthrie, Carrie Mckie, J.L. Daniel, J.W. Harrison, Rosa Harrison, E.W.Y. Kirkman, Elijah Cast, Jennie Cast, Nannie Stovall, and G.D. Stovall. The descendants of many of these folks are still in the San Gabriel community and members or friends of the congregation today.
The Second Fifty Years
San Gabriel Baptist Church became a part of the Milam County Association in 1919. The church purchased a piano and new song books and held a revival meeting in the San Gabriel schoolhouse. In October 1950, Forrest Hawkins, a Baylor student became pastor with compensation of $60.00 per month. He and his family remained with the church until his graduation from Baylor. During his service, ten-day revivals, as well as weekend revivals, were held regularly.
In October 1952, Bro. J. B. Perkins launched a building campaign. Because of the faith of some of the younger Christians, a greater vision was caught. These faithful workers enlisted ten men (two were not church members at the time) to go on notes of $500.00 each. Those additional funds allowed the construction of an entire modern church, debt-free. Friends of the church and past members also gave generously. Ten deacons were elected by the church and ordained. The new deacons were D.B. Conn, Richard Heine, E.M. Case, W.G. Meyers, James Terry, William Stigall, Walter McDaniel, J.M. Morgan, Hugh McMillan, and Holmes Pearce. Prior the ordination of these new deacons, Hicks Garner had served as the sole deacon.
The church sanctuary was built in 1953-54. The parsonage was built in 1955. These facilities are well maintained and still serve their original purpose today.
The Third Fifty Years
During the six-year tenure of Pastor William R. Parmer, the church actively participated in the Rural Church Development Program and won our first District Award in 1961. The membership had twenty additions, ten by baptism. Bro. Parmer was named Pastor of the Year in 1962 by the Rural Church Conference and the Progressive Farmer. We were selected as Church of the Year in both 1964 and 1965. The church continued to thrive, increasing our missions and special offerings and adding new developmental projects yearly. A new Hammond organ was given as a memorial. We also purchased new Baptist hymnals and purchased and installed all new church furniture.
The educational annex to the church was built in 1967. The appearance of our church was improved by the addition of new siding in 2000.
In July 1, the church began a radio ministry called ONE WAY, to be broadcast over station KMIL in Cameron and we celebrated our 115th birthday. In February, 1973, the parsonage garage was turned into an office and eight new members were added, three by baptism. In 1975, Deacon Richard Heine donated the land needed to widen the road to the church. Carpeting was added to the foyer, aisle, choir loft, and nursery and a new hot water heater was purchased. New deacons Billy Beason, Jimmie Robinson, and Gene Northcott were ordained in December, 1975. A central heating/cooling unit was given to the church by Jimmie Robinson and his son, Randy, in early 1976.
Our church constitution was rewritten in 1978. The auditorium was painted and a security light was installed. The emphasis on revival continued. The spring revival was led by Barry Chinn, while the church youth led the summer revival. There was a week long revival in the fall. The nursery in the church was partitioned to divide it into two rooms in 1979.
In February, 1981, the church constitution was revised. The 125th anniversary celebration was a great success, with 180 guests in attendance. Four former pastors – Bob Wimberly, Bill Parmer, Dean Parmer, and Melvin Zornes – were also in attendance.
The church was incorporated in December 1981. Our church history was updated and sent to be made a part of the Milam Historic Book in 1984. The parsonage was repaired and painted.
In 1985 under the leadership of Bro. Ronnie Dyer we renewed our emphasis on missions and revivals. He involved the church in Mission Texas and World Hunger. The church gave $500.00 to First Baptist Church in Lott to help them rebuild their burned structure. An additional $281.25 was given to the FIRM office to help retire the debt on their new building. The church was improved by installation of a new roof and the purchase of new hymnals. Bro. Dyer began a series of cottage prayer meetings at individual’s homes the week prior to scheduled revivals.
The church constitution was re-written and published in 1988. The annex was painted and mini blinds were donated by the Curtis Beason family. There was a successful tent revival for prayer warriors in 1989. The fall revival, held in November of that year was led by a young man of the community – John Stanislaw – and was well received. Additional repairs and upgrades were added to the parsonage in 1990. Two new deacons – Neal Brand and Mark Cass – were added to the deacon body. Emphasis on revival continued. In April 1992, the church took up a lover offering for Bro. Jim Lafferty’s retirement.
Bro. Randy Osborn became our pastor in late 1992. Our church began to conduct Spanish classes in anticipation of the planned mission trip to Mexico. In early 1993, the church voted to donate $100.00 to aid with the costs of the associational mission trip to Mexico. Donations for books to help build a church library were requested. The sound system was updated and new carpeting was added to the church in early 1994. In June 1994 a playscape was donated and accepted by the church.
Our church raised money in early 1996 to help build a new Mexican church in the community. We also began preparation for a celebration of church’s 140th anniversary. That celebration was held October 26. There was a barbeque meal, singing, fellowship, and testimonials from former pastors and former and current members. Five new members were added to the body, three by baptism and two by statement.
The appearance of our church was improved by the addition of new siding in 2000. January 2001 saw the addition of Deacon J.C. Payne. Since he had served in that capacity in his former congregation, he was accepted into the deacon body without the need of ordination. In 2004 Pastor Christopher Kraft and Leslie and Pat Campbell volunteered to attend training in the Faith Process at First Baptist Church – Thorndale. The training was designed to help members share the Gospel with the lost and was led by Bro. Larry Griffith, pastor at Thorndale. Our church hosted a Ladies Retreat.
In November, a revisionary clause was added to the church property deed so no other denomination or individual can take control of our church. We also began having regular 3rd Sunday fellowship, with a meal directly after the morning worship service and no evening service. We used our Wednesday night services for Outreach activities with visitations, cards, and letters.
After Bro. Kraft’s departure in early 2006, a refurbishing project in the parsonage was begun and completed. It included removing carpet and restoring the original hardwood floors. Much of the work was done by the congregation. We continued with Sunday morning worship, Wednesday night Outreach, and other traditional fellowships and began a Sunday evening worship of southern gospel singing,.
Beginning the Journey to the Bicentennial Anniversary
In October 2006 we celebrated our sesquicentennial anniversary. During this celebration, a catered luncheon and evening snack were served to a crowd in excess of 180. A bell tower was dedicated and a time capsule was sealed, to be opened in October 2056. A number of former pastors were in attendance including Randy Osborn and John Roark who were featured speakers. Also a featured speaker was John Stanislaw, a former member of the 50’s and 60’s, and now a pastor in a Texas SBC church.
In March, 2007, Bro. Martin “Chip” Parmer became our pastor. He is the son and nephew of two former pastors. He, his wife, Clarissa, and their children Anna, Andrew, and Arial blessed our congregation until his resignation in June, 2009. During his tenure, we worked as a committee-of-the-whole to revise our covenant, constitution, and bylaws. We were Chip’s first pastorate and much learning occurred in the congregation as well as in Chip’s development as a pastor. The church paid his tuition to Liberty University and subscribed to high speed internet to facilitate his pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.
The gospel singing on Sunday nights while we were without a pastor proved so successful that we established a “new” tradition of Fifth Sunday Sings invited friends and neighbors to join us in this special worship celebration. In addition, extensive repairs were made to both the organ and piano so that either or both can be used during our music based worshipping. And, most recently, we have re-established the WMU.
On January 1, 2010, Bro. Tim Cheatham became our pastor. He and his wife, Danna, are a wonderful addition to our congregation. He has led us in Bible and doctrinal studies. He and Danna have made commitment to develop our youth. They have hosted numerous “sleep ins” for the youth in Fellowship Hall and camping trips for the boys. His focus on the family has been obvious in our frequent “Family Nights”. Christian-based movies and a fellowship of games and refreshments. Under Tim’s leadership, we are growing spiritually and in knowledge of God’s Word.
Years have come and gone, and membership has shown periods of increase and decline, but the people who make up the church core have remained faithful and steadfast in upholding the ideals and integrity that were the foundation for the original church. We have, and continue to profess, a living faith that is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ who is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever”. Jesus Christ, whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures, is our sole authority for faith and practice. The Baptist Faith and Message, as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention is our statement of faith.
San Gabriel Baptist Church is not beautified by a fancy brick building with stained glass windows, but by a congregation that is not afraid to roll up its sleeves to do the Lord’s work. For many years the congregation has been the source of janitorial and maintenance work for the church’s facilities and grounds. The congregation is sustained by our rich history and tradition, and the memories of those dedicated, hard-working souls who shared the Gospel with those around them and made a difference in the lives of so many.
San Gabriel Baptist Church is a recognizable part of a slowly growing, but now growing not dying, rural community and surrounding area and intends to be here when Christ comes. We continue to be among the highest in giving per capita to missions – mostly during the Annie Armstrong, Mary Hill Davis, and Lottie Moon drives.
In 2020 the church was recognized for its historical significance by the Texas Historical Commission. This recognition is show by the historical marker placed at the front of the sanctuary building.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. – Hebrews 13:8.