Christ Church Episcopal was first organized in 1848 by Mrs. Frances Cox Henderson, the wife of General J. P. Henderson, the first governor of the state of Texas. Hailing from Philadelphia, Mrs. Henderson met the General while studying abroad in Paris. An accomplished pianist, organist and speaker of 17 languages, Mrs. Henderson was also a devout Episcopalian. After marrying in London in the Church of England, she and the General made their home in San Augustine, Texas, the gateway to the great Southwest.
Mrs. Henderson repeatedly implored for a missionary to be sent to East Texas. In 1848, her wish was granted and Rev. Henry Sansom was appointed to begin work in both San Augustine and Nacogdoches. Unfortunately, his first-born and only son died the next day from scarlet fever and it was his son’s funeral that established the first service of Christ Church Episcopal. On the following Sunday, he began holding services in the nearby Methodist Church and later moved to the Masonic Hall.
Under Rev. Sansom’s leadership, the church grew and prospered. For more than a decade, it was the most prominent religious body in San Augustine. Mrs. Henderson worked diligently to raise funds for a building of their own. Friends from Philadelphia provided architectural plans for a Gothic building as a gift. Within a few years of Rev Sansom’s arrival in 1851, the first Episcopal church building of San Augustine was erected.
Furnished with home-made furnishings and fixtures, stained-glass windows and an open ceiling, the building would only last 8 years. In 1859, a storm destroyed most of the building. The small pipe organ, stained-glass windows, and the bell that could be heard for miles around were lost. However, the hand-made pews, altar and lecterns were saved and moved to its current location on property donated by Mr. George F. Crocket.
Until funds were established to erect a new building, members returned to the Masonic Lodge. On December 23, 1870, the newly-built “carpenter Gothic” building opened its doors and held its first service, although doors and windows had yet to be installed. The Right Rev. Gregg, first Episcopal bishop of Texas, preached its inaugural service in near-zero degree temperatures.
In 1887, a new priest arrived in San Augustine. Local citizen, George L. Crocket, fresh from the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, returned home to serve as rector and establish Christ Church Nacogdoches and St. Cyprian’s in Lufkin. While serving the communities of East Texas, Dr Crocket taught himself to carve, adding the baptismal font, processional cross, hymn boards and symbols of Communion on the original altar. After retiring from ministry, he became a professor and dean at Stephen F. Austin University and, in 1932, published his book, Two Centuries in East Texas.
Other improvements to the church include the Gothic-style tower in 1891, a stained-glass window in the eastern wall in 1904 and the installation of the lighting fixtures in 1991. The fixtures, given by the Edward Clark family in memory of Anne Metcalfe Clark, are a modern-day replica of the original kerosene-fueled lights.
More than 150 years later, Christ Church San Augustine continues to be home to Episcopalians of San Augustine County and Sabine County. Week after week, members gather to worship, keep faith, share their gratitude and bear witness to the love of God, grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.