FUMC_Cross_WebFrom the ArchivesFUMC_Cross_Web


       The archives of First Methodist Midland contain numerous treasures, large and small. A few of them appear below. Studying the past can provide us with greater understanding of our church body , and even of our individual selves. Archives help us better understand our spiritual DNA. Just as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) contains the hereditary information that defines each of us, this church also contains an embedded spiritual DNA that makes us who we are–an institution of downtown Midland over a century and a quarter old.

       DNA is formed from the past, but it functions in the present and provides direction for the future. It gives shape and meaning, but does not predetermine every single action. We as souls in the church today must seek God’s wisdom to decide upon and pursue our course today and tomorrow.

       May these artifacts help us better appreciate our DNA and live up to the heritage handed down to us.

A History in Ten Objects?


In 2010, a new book by Neill MacGregor, entitled A History of the World in 1000 Objects, used a selection of items from the British Museum to create a unique perspective view of two million years of human history. MacGregor explained that he chose a collection of artifacts from the museum “that previous civilizations have left behind, often accidentally” as his “prism” for examining the past. This idea of constructing a historical narrative around a set of artifacts caught on and similar works soon appeared. Richard Kurin selected items from the Smithsonian for his history of America in 101 objects. Harold Holzer chose 50 items to explain the American Civil War.

 These histories do offer a different angle for viewing the past–a bit mosaic, a bit fragmented. Less connected than more traditional narratives, the different artifacts nevertheless become “pages” in a story about yesterdays. What makes these accounts more interesting is the tangible nature of these objects. They are three dimensional. They can be held, examined, walked around (at least in theory–many are too valuable to actually touch).

 Even more enticing, they are actual survivors from those yesterdays. They were there. They played a role in the events narrated. Sometimes, they are singular and famous. “This was Abraham Lincoln’s hat.” Sometimes, they are general. “That was a guidebook for 1920s highway travelers.”

 What they have in common is that they contain a fragment of the larger story of the group, the organization, the society, the culture that produced them. And, when we connect the fragments preserved in each of these items, we rediscover that story. We can “read” it for ourselves.

 So, what about the First Methodist story? Can we reconstruct it from some of the objects “accidentally” left behind? 


I think we can. As I have worked on a history of this church, I have excavated some interesting “stuff.” Some is worthy of being in the archive; some perhaps not. Some items have clear provenience–that is, where they came from, how they were created, and what they mean. Others are more obscure. Dates are missing. Names are gone. Only fragments remain.


Yet, there are more than enough objects to help tell the story of this church. I have chosen ten, distributed across time, to provide a short version of that story. Some of them you will recognize. Some you have probably never seen. Some are unique; some are general. Each contains fragments of the past embedded within it.

 Using this ten-item “prism,” I will share with you a look at over 130 years of Methodist life and works in Midland.


–Jim Collett, Church Historian


[Next: Bonds and Blueprints]

The Methodist Cattleman

First Methodist has had its share of cowboys over the years but it can also count one of Midland’s most prominent cattlemen among its members. 

Philip Scharbauer followed his brothers to Midland in 1902 to become a partner in the West Texas cattle business John has begun over a decade earlier. John Scharbauer emigrated from New York state to the young community of Midland in 1890 and was the first to bring Hereford cattle to the area. At the turn of the twentieth century, John’s brother joined him, bringing his eleven-year-old son Clarence with him. 

As the Scharbauer Cattle Company prospered, Philip (known as Phil) was enticed to leave his mercantile business in South Bethlehem, New York and join the the firm. Phil became secretary-treasurer of the company. He served in that position until 1923.

The archives of First United Methodist Midland have a page of the stationery of the Scharbauer Cattle Company with a note and some calculations scattered across it. A drawing of a prize Hereford and a list of the counties in which the company maintained ranches frame the company name. The brothers’ names and company positions appear across the top and they describe themselves as “Cattle Raisers.”

While the term “cowboy” has come to dominate much of the mythos of the western cattle industry, it was not the ultimate designation to which most of those involved in the cattle business aspired. The term cowboy usually referred to a hired hand who worked, on the drives or on the ranches, for someone else. Many did begin as “boys” or young men though that was not universally true. The rugged and dangerous job of working with cattle took its toll. Many died from accidents or disease. Other suffered debilitating injuries that prevented them from continuing the physically demanding tasks of working with stock.

 The ambition of many a cowboy was to become a cattleman. He dreamed of the day when he could acquire his own parcel of land and stock it with cattle wearing his brand. He even thought about the day when his spread was large enough that he could hire cowboys to work for him.

In reality most of the cowboys remained cowboys, spending their days riding for someone else’s brand. The early years of the cattle business in West Texas was dominated by large companies, often funded by eastern capitalists. Some, like the Scharbauers, moved west and managed their ranches themselves. Others remained in the east and hired other to oversee their investments. The holdings were large. The ranches of the Scharbauer Cattle Company were scattered across five Texas counties and Lea County in New Mexico. They had built one of the largest and best herds of Hereford cattle in the southwest.

John had married his second wife, Mary, a few years prior to his move to Midland, his first wife having died years before. The records are not clear, but they were probably active Methodists in New York state. In any case, they joined the local church, known then as Midland Methodist Episcopal Church, South and quickly became leading members of the congregation. Phil became a steward in the church and a religious leader in the community, recognized for his strong faith.

In 1906, Midland’s transformation from a frontier town of wooden structures to a small city of brick and stone was well underway. The Methodist gathered and decided that it was time to replace their small wooden church with something more substantial and launched the first capital campaign in the church’s history. Phil and his brother John were among those making the largest pledges toward the goal of $10,000. John was one of the four individuals pledging $1000 each and Phil among the seven promising $500, both sizable sums in 1906.

Once the funds were raised, Phil remained active in construction process. The piece of Scharbauer stationery in the archives was among the records of the construction project. The note about quarter-round trim and the calculations probably relate to some phase of the construction.

Phil continued as a religious and community leader. Besides his work in the church, he also served as vice president and a director of First National Bank of Midland. He was one of the founders of the Midland Telephone Company and provided financial support to a variety of civic programs and projects.

Phil’s health began to decline in 1923 and he retired from the Scharbauer Cattle Company. He struggled with poor health until his death in 1931. A large group of family, friends and ranch employees gathered for his funeral in the church which he helped to build. Edwin Calhoun, the Methodist pastor at that time, presided over the service. In eloquent terms, he drew lessons from Phil’s lifetime of service and helpfulness to others. Baptist Pastor Winston Borum read the scripture for the service. Business was halted at the Scharbauer Hotel during the time of the funeral and the flag on the hotel flew at half mast.

On September 7, First Methodist will have a Western Day celebrating this aspect of West Texas life. Perhaps those gathering might take a moment to remember former member Phil Scharbauer, cattleman, who embodied the true spirit of Methodist Christian service and cowboy virtues. 


–Jim Collett, Church Historian

Cattle Queen of the West


On her first evening in Midland in the summer of 1900, young Lydia Watson accompanied her brothers to the Sunday evening services at the Methodist church. Reminiscing on that evening years later, she remembered her first day in Midland. “I had never seen so much sun and wind and space in all my life. And cattle. And so few people. And it seemed there was more of nothing here than in any place I had ever seen.”

Despite her misgiving, as the good daughter of a Methodist pastor, she went to church. The church organist had, “for some unaccountable reason flown the coop that day” so Lydia agreed to fill in and began a decades-long career as the church organist.

As Lydia looked over the congregation from her perch at the organ, she spied a most unusual well-dressed lady “just broken out with diamonds all over. And the only reason she didn’t have on any more diamonds was because she did not have the fingers to accommodate them.” The cocky Lydia leaned over and asked the minister’s wife, “Well, who is the Queen of Sheba?” Mrs. Cameron quickly informed her that Marie Riggs
was a queen. She was the Cattle Queen of the West.
In a time and an industry where women’s roles were nonexistent or unrecognized Marie Riggs was an outstanding exception to the rules. The term “cowgirl” had only been coined at the turn of the twentieth century (by Theodore Roosevelt, according to some sources) to describe those women who competed in rodeo events or formed part of the cast of a Wild West show. There were no women cowhands who worked for hire on ranches. While wives and female relatives often toiled side by side on the spreads owned by husbands and male relatives, they did it without pay. Calling them “cowgirls” would have most likely been perceived as an insult.

Riggs Cattle Queen smaller

And in the ranching business the buying and selling of cattle and the day-to-day management and finances was solely the province of cattle men. Marie Riggs, never one to be inconspicuous, didn’t see it that way. She was the equal of any cattlemen in the area but that term appeared so foreign in 1900 that calling her a queen seemed a better description. And so Marie reigned over her ranching business, regal as well in Midland society and at the Midland Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
The wife of Samuel Riggs, Marie followed him to Palo Pinto County in 1880 where they developed a vast ranch operation. When Samuel died in 1883 she was expected to turn over management of the ranch business to a man who would oversee the it for her. Marie quickly determined she would be the one to continue the direct management of ranch operations.

Marie moved her cattle interests to new lands in southeastern New Mexico and established her home in the young railroad town of Midland. She became one of the first members of the Cattle Ranchers Association and received a special page of recognition in their 1895 publication as a leader in the cattle industry.

Though a highly successful businesswoman in a man’s world, Marie retained all her feminine style. She wore elaborate gowns and bedecked herself with jewelry from pearls to diamond rings and hairclips. She was a world traveler, meeting Queen Victoria of England and the Kaiser and Kaiserina of Germany among others. Her unique combination of business acumen and somewhat flamboyant dress earned her the title of “Cattle Queen of the West.”

Despite her ostentation, Marie was friendly and well-liked by all who knew her, whether in the cattle business, on the streets of Midland or among the congregation of the small Methodist church on Main Street. Like Lydia, Marie was the daughter of a devoted Methodist father and strongly supported the Midland church with her presence and her finances.

In the first capital campaign of the Midland Methodist church (in 1906), Marie was one of the four individual who pledged $1,000 toward the project, the highest pledge level, matching that of John Scharbauer, President and General Manager of the Scharbauer Cattle Company.

On Sunday September 7, as First Methodist Midland celebrates the Fall Kickoff on Western Day, church members can take pride in those West Texas pioneers like Marie Riggs who established a strong foundation of faith as an inheritance passed down to all of us.


–Jim Collett, Church Historian

So You’re A Midland Methodist: Quiz Answers

You are encouraged to take the quiz on the Reflections Page of the History section before checking the answers below. If you haven’t done that you can get to the original quiz by following this link.

1.  There are currently six active Methodist churches in Midland.


 There are currently five churches. First Methodist was the sponsoring church for all the Midland Methodist congregations. Five remain active: First Methodist, St. Luke, St. Mark, St. Paul, and Hollowell. Two have closed: Asbury and El Calvario.

2.  The Methodists were the first to erect a sanctuary in Midland.


 Methodist were the first to attempt to organize as a denomination, but the Baptists erected the first sanctuary in Midland.

3.  The stained glass windows along the north sanctuary wall depict four founders of Methodism.


 Only two of the are Methodists–John Wesley and Frances Asbury. The other two depict St. Paul and Martin Luther.

4.  The first handbell program was started in the 1950s for young boys in grades 7-9.


 The first handbell program was started to provide a musical opportunity for these boys while their voices were changing.

5.  Midland Methodists are expected to become perfect.


 John Wesley stated that Christian perfection is a heart “habitually filled with the love of God and neighbor” and “having the mind of Christ and walking as he walked. This is the goal for all Methodists.

6.  The current sanctuary is the third one erected on this site.


 There have been FOUR sanctuaries for this church, but the first one was built on a different block (near Wall and Main) then moved to this location.

7.  The Chrismon Tree we erect each Advent Season is a Methodist tradition that spread to other denominations.


 The Chrismon Tree tradition began with a Lutheran church in Danville, Virginia.

8.  The first contemporary services held by First Methodist took place at the Midland Community Theater.


9.  One of the pastors appointed to this church was expelled from the Methodist faith during his time here.


 Walter Spence was expelled in 1897, while serving as pastor in Midland.

10.  The current longest organized active adult Sunday school class is the Fellowship Class.


 The Fellowship Class was organized in 1938.

11.  Boy scout troop 152, sponsored by the Methodist Men, was organized in 1939.


 The troop was organized in December 1947.

12.  Only one person has ever served as pastor for First Methodist more than once.


 Nat Read served as pastor in 1892 and returned in 1906 and 1907.

13.  The tenure, or length of service, of Midland pastors changed dramatically after World War II, beginning in 1947.


 The earliest pastors at the church served single year or two or three year terms until 1954 with the arrival of Timothy Guthrie, who served until 1974 (the longest for any Midland Methodist pastor). Tenures have remained longer than two or three years since that time, often around eight to ten years.

14.  The Midland Methodist Church had a parsonage before it had a sanctuary.


 While the first sanctuary was built in 1889, there was no parsonage until 1898.

15. The chapel contains artifacts from the three previous sanctuaries.


 The chapel is filled with artifacts from the second and third sanctuaries, but there are no documented artifacts from the original sanctuary in the chapel.

16. The first pipe organ in the church was installed in 1955.


 The first pipe organ was installed in 1943 with the completion of the third sanctuary.

17.  The first church plant by First Methodist Midland was St. Mark’s on North Main.


 The church plant order was Asbury (1947), St. Mark (1950), El Calvario (1950), St. Luke (1952), Hollowell (1954) and St. Paul (1955).

18.  The Boone Bible Class, an adult group organized in 1930, was named in honor of the pioneer Daniel Boone, who was a lifelong Methodist.


 The Boone Bible Class was organized in 1930 and named in honor of Leslie Boone, who was the pastor in 1929.

19.  Descendants of two of the original six Midland church founders still attend First Methodist.


 No record remains of the names of the original six founders and no one current members claim descent from them.

20.  Dr. Tim Walker is the 42nd senior pastor of First Methodist Midland.


 For many years, of course, there was only a single pastor until the church grew large enough for an associate pastor.

What’s in a name? That which we call a Rose Breakfast.

In the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, the young heroine comments upon the fact their families abhor one another’s names. She contends that, beyond the stereotypes and prejudices, lies the essence of who we actually are. She reminds Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

 Each May, First Methodist provides a Rose Breakfast for the graduating seniors of the congregation, recognizing their arrival at a significant moment in their young lives and wishing them God’s blessings as they travel into the world of adulthood. Like all graduation celebrations, the morning is filled with rituals and ceremonies.

As the current Youth Director Kirk Dana began preparations for this event, he quickly recognized the Rose Breakfast was a revered institution of the Youth Department. Adults who grew up in the church could recall attending their own breakfast. Others remembered attending this occasion for one or more of their own children.

So it was logical that Kirk wondered just how old this institution was in the history of the church. He asked me as church historian if I knew. I admitted I didn’t but said I thought the church archives might possibly provide an answer. An answer did reside there, though a small degree of mystery remains regarding the origin of the Rose Breakfast.

I visited the church archives housed in the Parlor and began to dig my way back through the church newspapers seeking information. Now an electronic version (still called the Tower Times), the church paper has run under a number of different names over the years. First Methodist (which had its own share of name changes) originally launched a church newspaper in the mid-1940s and has continued to print church news (with few interruptions) in some form and fashion down to the present day.

My search process was to search across previous years, perusing papers from mid-April until locating a reference to the breakfast–either an announcement of the upcoming event or a feature written after the fact. Once I found a reference, I excavated further into the past. It did not take me long to realize this tradition went back a ways, so I began jumping by decades—to 1994, then 84, then 74—seeking a spring when I found no reference to this famous senior ceremony.

The first definitive use of the title “Rose Breakfast” occurred in the May 23, 1969 issue of First United Methodist Church newspaper (subtitled an Edition of the Texas Methodist). The headline in that issue read, “Rose Breakfast To Honor Seniors.”

Rose Breakfast 1969

 The event already included many trademarks that still characterize it. The seniors attended the worship service in their caps and gowns to be recognized. Their teachers, ministers, department superintendents, and adult workers also attended the breakfast. Nathan Pipkin, Director of Christian Education, spoke to the group on the subject of “Roses” and each honoree received a rose.

The article contained no mention of the origin of the name of this venerable tradition, how it was originally conceived nor who its founders might have been. The tradition of the roses was not explained and no copy of Mr. Pipkin’s address has surfaced.

In search of that elusive origin, I examined the papers from 1968. The May 31, 1968 issue contained a single photograph of the seniors. The group is in formal dress, not cap and gown and there is no mention of a breakfast. The photo caption does contain a somewhat enigmatic reference to the rose tradition. It reads, “Now there’s a good bunch!!! Not all of the Seniors made it out to get in this picture. . . . the girls showed up good—and who can tell who the boys are standing in the dark. . . Congratulations graduates. . . . we are happy to have you wear the red roses of The First United Methodist Church.” 

Rose Breakfast 1968

However, a regular feature in that issue provided a few more tantalizing details. Nathan Pipkin penned a weekly column entitled “coffee with nathan” which he wrote in a conversational style summing up church events and reminding members of upcoming activities.  Pipkin described a breakfast held at 7:00 am on Sunday, March 26, 1968 for the senior students. He specifically refers to the meal as the “Rose Breakfast” though he makes no mention of the roses worn by the graduates in the photograph. The morning’s events included the presentation of a bible and an “I AM A METHODIST” key ring to each senior by the Woman’s Society of Christian Service. The students attended the early morning worship service at 8:30 am (At that time there were two worship services, one at 8:30 am and one at 10:55. There was no Contemporary service).

In 1966, Jimmy Cameron served as the Youth Director. During his term, he wrote a weekly column for the paper on youth events. Several columns refer to an upcoming “Senior High Breakfast” which took place on Sunday April 17 at the Downtowner Motor Inn.

Church papers from 1967 make no mention of a breakfast. Instead seniors were honored in their Sunday school department and sat together at the 11:00 am service. They were dressed in their cap and gown for the group photograph. By 1967, Cameron was gone and Nathan Pipkin, listed in the church directory as Director of Christian Education, apparently also served as Youth Director or helped supervise the youth department.

Based upon the church archives, I reported to Kirk that the Rose Breakfast began in 1968 under the leadership of Nathan Pipkin and grew to headline status by the following year. Thus the Rose Breakfast began in a hallmark year and month of First Methodist Midland history. The current sanctuary, the fourth in the church’s life, was completed in 1968. The open house for the new sanctuary took place on May 5 and the Class of 1968 became the first to pose in front of the Cross of Glory Chancel window—marking an annual tradition that has continued for 47 years.