By Jay Moore
When Abilene was born on March 15, 1881, there was already a church established. And
by the time the town was 25 years old in 1906, there were 16. That number
had increased to 26 by 1921. And 25 years after that — just after World
War II –there were more than twice that many, with 20 Baptist congregations,
11 Church of Christ and eight Methodist churches. In 2014, it was difficult to even get
an accurate count of the number of Abilene churches but it is near 100,
according to Taylor County records.
When a group of Presbyterians gathered for worship near the temporary Texas and
Pacific depot on Sunday, February 27, 1881, the town lot sale, which would create
Abilene, was still two weeks away. It was the Buffalo Gap family of William Adolphus
Minter who saw the promise of Abilene and moved to the Texas and Pacific tracks in
anticipation of Abilene coming into existence. The Minter family and a handful of others
met at the spot along the rails and organized Abilene’s most senior institution – the First
Presbyterian Church. A plaque commemorating their historic gathering is located in
Initially, the young congregation met at the frame schoolhouse located at North Third
and Cedar streets before moving into its own building in 1884. The 1920s were a period
of growth in Abilene and that population spurt resulted in a new sanctuary for First
Presbyterian that opened for worship on April 6, 1924, and which still stands at the
corner of Orange and North Fourth Street.
A second Presbyterian congregation organized in 1885. Known as Central Presbyterian, it
met at Beech and North Second streets, only blocks away from its Presbyterian brethren.
In a congregational meeting held in December of 1948, this group authorized the
purchase for a new location at North Fifth and Grape and drew up plans for a new
building. The traditional, colonially inspired design presented West Texans much to talk
about. Despite architectural arguments, the group pressed ahead and the 445-seat New
England-style church went up along Grape, with the first services held on October 1,
1950. The Abilene Reporter-News touted the fact that the pews were cushioned with
In 1970, the congregation of Central Presbyterian united with its kin at First
Presbyterian, resulting in Abilene’s oldest church taking on the unified name of First
Central Presbyterian. The Central congregation opted to move a few blocks east, selling
its Grape Street property to another congregation.
Founder William Adolphus Minter died in 1908. What was described as the longest
funeral procession in Abilene ended with Will Minter’s Christmas Eve funeral held in the
church he established. Descendants of the Minter family remain members of the First
Central Presbyterian congregation more than 130 years later.