CHIRENO, Texas (KTRE) - The birth of Texas was near. Early pioneers knew if they were to make it through the settling of a new state, they had better have a church.
"After Texas Independence and the Alamo and San Jacinto, then being a Protestant was favored more so," said church historian Linda Metteauer.
Daniel Vail, a transplant from Massachusetts, knew Chireno needed a church. So, he sold elders the land. And it was a deal.
“For one dollar and other considerations, 30 acres of land and part of it would be designated as a cemetery and part of it would be designated as a church. So those were the beginnings of the church," shared Metteauer.
The cemetery can be visited today at what's now the Lower Cemetery in Chireno.
The first church burned in 1890.
A second was built on property now owned by Chireno school.
The pastor, Richard Mennefey had such a devotion to his church that...
"He asked to be buried at the back door of the church, so for many years Chireno Elementary School was the only school probably in Texas that had a cemetery on its elementary school playground."
Eventually, Mennefey lost his spot to school growth. The Lower Cemetery is now his resting spot. In the 1920s, the second church burned.
The present-day church is brick. The church membership roll is just over 20 families.
For over 20 years, Farrar Bentley has delivered the sermons. He loves his church, but in a different way than the late Pastor Mennefy.
"Yes my home church is Chireno Methodist Church," said Bentley. When asked if he would want to be buried behind the church, he said laughingly, "I don't think so."
Homage is paid to the historic church in other ways. Nacogdoches stain glass artisans David and Teresa Darby's beautiful windows adorn the small church.
"There are 14 up here. We have two downstairs. We have two to the side," pointed out Metteauer.
The artistry and history will be admired Saturday by special guests, including the Resident Bishop of the Texas Annual Conference. A commemoration service will honor a church that's withstood time and welcomes the future.
Chireno Methodist Church is on Highway 95 in Chireno.