History of the Tyler District, Texas Annual Conference, United Methodist Church
Researched by Bill B. Hedges, Conference Historian April 24, 2006
According to The Handbook of Texas (Volume II, TSHA, 1952) the area now in Smith Country, Texas was occupied by Caddo and associated Indian tribes when the Cherokee arrived in the section about 1818. Smith County was included in land grants of the Mexican government to David G. Burnet in 1826 and to Vicente Filisola in 1831. Created from part of Nacogdoches County and organized in 1846, the county was named for General James Smith. The city of Tyler became the county seat in an election n August 8, 1846. In 1850, Smith County had a population of 4,929 whites and 717 slaves; there were seven churches in the county.
The first time the name “Tyler” appears in the list of the charges was in 1854 as a part of the Palestine District of the Texas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The first time “Tyler District” appears was in 1884 as a part of the East Texas Conference. The Presiding Elder was D.S. Finley under the leadership of Bishop Holland N. McTyeire. The charges for 1884 were as follows:
Tyler Station W. A. Sampey Canton Circuit L. C. Ellis
Starrville Circuit Charles H. Smith Malakoff Circuit Neill Brown
Garden Valley Circuit M. E. Blocker Larissa Circuit W. H. Ardis
Edom Circuit J. P. Rogers Mineola/Big Sandy B. R. Bolton
At the conference meeting in November of 1884, the Tyler District recorded 3,692 members and 24 local pastors. It was the second largest district in the Annual Conference of 16,640 members.
- S. Finley remained the Presiding Elder until 1887 when U.B. Phillips was appointed. White House Circuit was added and Garden Valley Circuit disappeared from the district list. H.M. DuBose was at Tyler Station and others in district leadership were Albert Little, W. H. Crawford, C. H. Smith, J.O.Allen, D. P. Cullen, Robert S. Finley, W. M. Wainwright, D. W. Towns, T. T. Booth and E. D. Osburn.
Bishop Wm. W. Duncan held the session of the 1888 conference at Crockett when John Adams was appointed Presiding Elder and D.F.C. Timmons placed at Tyler Station. New York Circuit and Lawndale Mission were added while Malakoff and Starrville Circuits were deleted. The 1891 Conference Journal listed T. P. Smith as Presiding Elder with D.F.C Timmons still at Tyler. The Tyler City Mission was added while Malakoff was added to the Athens Charge. Troup and Overton were added as well.
1895 was a signal year for the Tyler Charge in that its name was changed to Marvin Methodist Church in honor of Enoch Mather Marvin who was elected to the episcopacy. H. M. DuBose was its pastor. Tyler: Cedar Street, Walton Mission, Wills Point, Wills Point Circuit, Emory Mission, Grand Saline and Lindale appear in the district listing of appointments. In just ten years the district had 32,717 members, an increase of 3,404.
In 1899, J. T. Smith became the Presiding Elder with B.H. Greathouse at Tyler: Marvin. St. Paul Church appears as well as the Golden Mission and the Meredith Circuit.
1901 was the last session of the East Texas Conference and it was held at Marvin Methodist Church from Dec.4-9 with Bishop A.W. Wilson presiding. V. A. Godbey, Marvin’s pastor, welcomed the delegates. Edgewood was listed as part of the Canton Charge. The Conference merged with the Texas Conference to become the new Texas Annual Conference.
The names of the Presiding Elders of the Tyler District at the turn of the century were as follows:
- T. Smith (1899-1903); E. W. Solomon (1904-07); Thomas H. Morris (1908-09); C. B. Garrett (1910-1912); J. B. Turrentine (1913-14); J. T. Smith (1914-17); Jesse Lee (1918-21). During the 1920s, their names were H. H. McCain (1922-23); L. B. Elrod (1924-25); W. F. Andres (1925-27); H. C. Willis (1928-‘31). In the 1930s were W. F. Bryan (1932-‘34); Joe Z. Tower (1935-‘37); S. Stephen McKenney (1938-‘44).
The name for our district leaders changed with the merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and the Methodist Protestant Church in 1939. The new term was District Superintendent and from the 1940s through the 1960s they were Robert E. Goodrich (1945-‘49); Frank M. Richardson (1950-‘55); A. D. Lemons (1956-‘59); Harry V. Rankin (1960-‘61); Derwood Blackwell (1962-‘66); and Carlos Davis (1967-‘71). The 1970s and ‘80s included Compton Riley (1972-‘78); Conrad Winborn (1978-‘82); and Frank Richardson,Jr. (1982-‘89). Since the 1990s the district leadership has included Lloyd Giles (1990-‘98); Virgil “Jack” Cox (1999-2004) and Richard Goodrich (2004-‘06.)