Rock Springs Presbyterian Church in Historic Nacogdoches County
Rock Springs Cumberland Presbyterian Church and Rock Springs Cemetery are located on
Texas Farm Road 698 and County Road 817 in Nortwestern Nacogdoches County. Rock Springs Church is the
oldest continuing 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. During this period the church was known as the Watkins Settlement Presbyterian
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 SIX-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.
Rock Springs Cemetery which is behind the church has been designated by the Texas
Historical Commission as a Historic Texas Cemetery. Here is the text from the Plaque at the site.
ROCK SPRINGS CEMETERY
THIS BURAL GROUND IS ON LAND DEEDED
FOR CEMETERY USE IN 1853, THOUGH THERE
MAY HAVE BEEN INTERMENTS DATING TO THE
1840s. THE PROPERTY WAS UNDER THE
JURISDICTION OF HISTORIC CUMBERLAND
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH UNTIL 1940. FAMILIES
OF THE INTERRED CARED FOR IT UNTIL 1965,
WHEN ROCK SPRINGS CEMETERY
ASSOCIATION FORMED TO MAINTAIN THE
BURIAL GROUND. THE CEMETERY FEATURES
VERTICAL STONES, MASONIC STONES AND
INTERIOR FENCING. AMONG THE INTERRED
ARE ROCK SPRINGS PIONEERS AND VETERANS
OF MILITARY CONFLICTS INCLUDING THE TEXAS
WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE AND THE CIVIL WAR.
TODAY, THIS BURAL GROUND IS STILL IN USE
WHILE REMAINING A LINK TO THE EARLY
SETTLERS AND RICH HISTORY OF THE ROCK