Rock Springs Presbyterian Church in Historic Nacogdoches
Rock Springs Presbyterian Church, located in northwestern Nacogdoches County on Farm Road 698 and Old Hatchet's Ferry Road, is the oldest continuing Protestant church in Texas. It was organized in 1834 during the turmoil of the Texas Revolution at a time when Indian attacks were not uncommon and when Protestant worship was forbidden by Mexican law. The Original church building, which also served as a fort, was a six-sided log house with a port hole on each side. Settlers coming to church stacked their guns in the corners and appointed sentinels to watch for Indians.4 During this period the church was known as the Watkins Settlement Presbyterian Church.
Sumner Bacon, an early minister,(1790-1844) organized the first Cumberland Presbyterian church in Texas in 1836 and was influential in the formation of Rock Springs Church. His life, as a rough-hewn itinerant preacher living off the land, wearing animal skins, serving one time as a courier in General Sam Houston's army, rejected by the official church because of his coarse, uneducated background, is the subject of the fictional character in Garland Roark's Novel, "Hellfire Jackson."
The present Rock Springs church was erected in 1902 on the site of the earlier log building using cuts from the original blue marl foundation stones. A three stage steeple has been added, the spire crowned with a Celtic Cross, a symbol dating back to 4th century Celtic Christianity in the British Isles and incorporated by the American Presbyterian Church because of its connections to the Church of Scotland. The bronze marker attached to the exterior of this historic church reads as follows:
Oldest continuing Protestant church in Texas. Near this site in the A. S. Hayter log house, the Watkins Settlement Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized in May 1834, the First Protestant church established in Texas territory. Richard Overton Watkins preached in secret meetings because Mexican law prohibited worship except by Roman Catholics. In 1840, Watkins became the first Protestant minister ordained on Texas soil. The first church building was a 6-sided log structure with port holes through which sentinels watched for Indian attacks. The second building, erected in 1868, had pews of split logs and peg legs. The present structure of virgin pine, dates to 1902.
(Next Picture: Cove Springs Cemetery)