Presbyterian Church Collegeport





Photo courtesy of Mopac House Foundation


Early Church Roll                         Additional Pictures

Photo courtesy Mopac House Foundation

Photo courtesy of
G. W. Franzen



By Mary Belle Ingram  

Collegeport, a small community on Tres Palacios Bay, is not a town people pass through on their way to a larger city. People go to Collegeport because that is where Farm Road 1095 leads them. There is no other way in or out of this rural farming and ranching community, unless you travel by boat. Once a thriving small town, today the population has dwindled to less than 100 citizens, two churches, a post office, a community center, a volunteer fire department, a few homes and a sense of place for hundreds of people who once lived in this picturesque farming community.

Collegeport is situated in southwest Matagorda County on Tres Palacios Bay . The townsite was planned by the Burton D. Hurd Land Company as a promotion scheme in selling the J. E. and A. B. Pierce lands. The company also provided land for the Gulf Coast University of Industrial Arts. The combination of port and college town supplied the name "Collegeport."

In August and September of 1907, Abel B. Pierce had the townsite of Collegeport, 320 acres, surveyed by J. C. Carrington. It became known as the Hurd Sub-Division of the A. B. Pierce Ranch.

Collegeport was founded by the Burton D. Hurd Land Company on May 25, 1908 . At that time a tract of land was deeded to W. H. Travis for the building of a college of industrial, domestic and agricultural arts and sciences, and for the opening and development of waterways. The grand opening for the new town was held in Hotel Collegeport, a two-story hotel accommodating 100 guests and situated on the north side of Central Street facing the Tres Palacios Bay and the Collegeport pavilion.

Almost immediately these first settlers of the community began plans for a church. On November 30, 1909 , a meeting of the citizens of Collegeport and vicinity was held at the Chapel of the Gulf Coast University of Industrial Arts. E. C. Van Ness was elected Chairman and Charles E. Duller, Secretary. Murray A. Travis spoke on behalf of establishing a community church which resulted in an unanimous decision to form the Federated Church (fourteen denominations). Travis was made chairman of a committee to draw up the Constitution and Articles of Faith.

Original Founding Leaders of the First Church of Collegeport

Early Leaders of the Federated Church (c1910)
(l-r George Welsby, Edward Leach, Elgene C. Van Ness, Frank Pine, Amanda Van Ness, Will Schubring, Arnold Livers,
Rev. Murray A. Travis, A. J. Palmer, John Carrick, Rena Travis, Thos. M. Clark, Mrs. John D. Evans, G. A. Duckworth

Photo courtesy of Robert D. Travis


December 5, 1909 , the committee presented the Constitution and Articles of Faith which were adopted with minor changes. Each charter member was requested to sign this document. Thus, the Federated Church representing fourteen denominations was organized as the "First Church of Collegeport - Federated." Following is the wording of the Preamble and part of the Articles which appeared in full in the Collegeport Chronicle of 1910:


 WHEREAS, We the citizens of Collegeport and vicinity realize the need of a church in Collegeport, and

WHEREAS, We belong to different denominations and faiths, none of which has sufficient number of adherents to support and maintain a suitable church at the present time, and

WHEREAS, The day has arrived when men and women have learned to emphasize their common ideals and service in the interest of the best and highest citizenship and for the glory of God, we join together and agree to the following article, to-wit:

(Quoting in part the following articles:)

Article II - PURPOSE - The purpose of this organization shall be the maintenance of religious services in Collegeport, and the moral and religious welfare of the citizens of the town and community.

Article III - DOCTRINES - The doctrines and ideals of this Church shall be those common to the so-called evangelical denominations of the present time as embodied in the Young Men's and Young Women's Christian Association.

Each member agrees to refrain from the introduction and discussion of questions which may stir up denominational strife or prejudices in any service of the church.

The chief aim of the Church and its members shall be the development of Christian character rather than the adoption of theological ideas or doctrines.

The first officers of the church were E. C. Van Ness, Moderator; Mrs. Gussie Elmer, Records; and Charles E. Duller, Treasurer. At the time of installation, the text taken by the Dean of the University, M. A. Travis, from Joshua 1:4 was adapted to read as follows: "From the Tres Palacios and this Bay on, even unto the great river, the Colorado; all the land of the ranchman, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, the Matagorda Bay shall be your border." On January 11, 1910 , Murray A. Travis was called to be first pastor of the Federated Church of Collegeport, a position he held until 1918.

Murray A. Travis had come to Collegeport in 1909 from Canada to assist his brother, William H. Travis, in the Gulf Coast University , which was the dream of William H. for an agricultural school for poor farm boys. Murray , born in southern Canada in 1873, was two years younger than William. Murray 's nine-year-old son, Frank D., came with him that year and later his wife, Rena and four-year-old son, Hubert, joined them. William H. served as president of the university, and Murray A. became Dean of the University. In addition to his duties as Dean of the university, M. A. Travis began the newspaper the Collegeport Chronicle, which was in existence almost four years, 1910-1913.

Continuing to meet in the chapel the members purchased Lots 11 and 12 in Block 88, on October 21, 1910 , from A. B. and J. E. Pierce. On the legal document the church was called "The People's Church Association of Collegeport" and was signed by trustees W. R. Cobb, V. R. Haisley and J. H. Adams. Each lot was 50' x 146' and was at the corner of Fourth Street and Avenue I.

On April 24, 1910 , a Mr. Sicks, speaking for the building committee presented a plan for a church building which would cost approximately $2000. A five-room church building soon followed and a good program was put into motion. The first service held in the new church building was on November 27, 1910 . In connection with the laying of the corner stone, the sermon was preached by a pastor from the Palacios Christian Church. In the corner stone were the following papers, according to Miss Nina Hoffhines, a charter member: a copy of the Collegeport Chronicle, a list of the church membership in each person's own handwriting, the list of church officers, of Christian Endeavor members and CLE officers and school trustees.

Murray A. Travis and his brother, William H., were born in Canada . The Collegeport Chronicle issue of June 3, 1910 , printed an article called the "Sage of Collegeport" in which Murray wrote a biographical sketch of his brother William H. Travis. This biographical sketch gives the background of both brothers and the hardships they faced before coming to Collegeport.

One of the most familiar figures upon the streets of our city as well as the roads of the surrounding county is Professor W. H. Travis, the president of the Gulf Coast University of Industrial Arts located in Collegeport. Travis born in Southern Ontario Canada , on a small farm the oldest of a family of nine, in days when necessities were a sufficient problem, without luxuries, and under conditions which counted a boy lucky if he had a fair knowledge of the three R's without a college or technical training. Professor Travis set his heart upon a full education and in his desire for his own training, he began to work upon the solution of a problem of a thorough and practical education for the poor farmer lad, who in most cases counted the same a luxury far beyond his reach.


After a term of two in the old Vienna High School , he with a party of young men under Dr. John Crawford, set out for Manitoba where they erected a building and organized Prairie College on an industrial school basis. The long winters and short summers made the plan impossible and the college was soon closed for want of funds.


....Travis then entered the ministry and spent a number of years as pastor in Ontario , North Dakota and Minnesota without a college education, and sometimes despairing of ever completing the same. He never gave up entirely however; and with a family to support, after completing a preparatory course in Pillsbury Academy, he entered MacAlester College at St. Paul, Minnesota and graduated at the age of 38 years.


After some years as pastor in St. Paul and Dallas , Texas the easy dreams of helping the poor boy to secure an education came upon him with greater force, and gave up his work and set out to seek locations where he might found a school.       


Having heard of contemplated development in Matagorda County , he came this way and after a short stay in Bay city , he came to Palacios and decided to locate there. With nothing as his capital, save his long treasured vision, and an inexhaustible amount of energy, he made a proposition to the Palacios Townsite people which was accepted. This was five years ago (1905) when the town was in its very first stages and cattle roamed at will over the entire Palacios, Blessing and Collegeport territory. At Christmas time of the second year of his work as president of Palacios College , Professor Travis had acquired a spacious campus, a substantial college building and two dormitories with seventy students in attendance.... At the end of those two years, the directors voted Travis' plan impractical and decided to return to the purely classical idea for the college. This was a severe blow to the professor's plan, but he did not give up. He courted no success unless based upon the idea of a practical education for the poor boy, and at once resigned.

Nothing daunted by his apparent failure, he spent the following months in perfecting his study and investigations in truck and fruit growing upon his own farm and watching for an opportunity to carry out his plans under more favorable conditions. The opportunity presented itself nearer and sooner than he or anyone expected, for soon after the Moore and Pierce lands were put upon the market and Professor Travis set out to interview the officers of the Burton D. Hurd Land Company. He found these men to be built on a large scale, and they at once saw the adventure of such an institution to the new development. A handsome tract of five hundred acres located on the most beautiful spot upon the Tres Palacios Bay front was set apart at a low price, and the company made a liberal appropriation to initiate the work.

From this time on Professor Travis might be seen every morning very early rowing across the bay, often walking over four miles to the demonstration farm at Satsuma, now Citrus Grove, and back again in the evening. The professor spent a number of months demonstrating the possibilities of the country and perfection of the school. In September (1909) the present temporary quarters were erected and early in October (1909) the faculty and students took possession of the building.

Charter members who signed that 1910 Register for the new
Collegeport Federated Church list Baptists, Methodists, Union , Universal, and Presbyterian backgrounds. The settlers had come from Iowa , Kansas , Michigan , Wisconsin , Canada , Pennsylvania , Illinois and other Midwest states to this new place in South Texas to seek their fortune. Those who signed the register in 1910 were Burton D. Hurd, J. H. Adams, Amanda D. Van Ness, Elgene Van Ness, A. J. Palmer, W. H. Travis, Eldon Travis, Mrs. Gussie Elmer, Rena Travis, Murray A. Travis, W. G. Elmer, L. E. Liggett, Ida Haisley, Mrs. W. H. Travis, Mrs. Burton D. Hurd, Eva E. House, Mrs. C. H. Kermott, Thomas M. Clark, W. R. Cobb, M. A. Cobb, Mrs. T. M. Clark, Donald Travis, Arnold Livers, Luther Mills, Mr. K. H. Khant, Mrs. Mollie Khant, V. R. Haisley, M. L. Herbage, Mrs. Emma Herbage, E. C. Hoffhines, Clara Hoffhines, Nina Hoffhines, Ralph Hoffhines, J. A. Livers, Mrs. J. A. Livers, J. M. Turner, Mrs. J. M. Turner, Winnie Turner, James Turner, Geo. D. Ross, Mrs. George D. Ross, J. M. Glasser, Irwin Glasser, Jr., John W. Hansel, Mrs. John W. Hansel, Marian E. Glasser and Ruth W. Glasser.

J. W. Hansel's Sunday School Class
Photo Courtesy of Holsworth Family Archives

Front row: 1. Orvel White  4. Leo Hoffman,  7. John W. Hansel, Charlie Yeamans, Thomas Clark, Mr. Hoffman
 Middle row: Ed Leach, Dr. Guy Fontaine Fausset, Robert Price
Top row: 21. Arnold Livers, 22. Will Shubring,  23. L. E. Liggett, 24. John Carrick, 25.? Haisley Mills,  28. E. C. Van Ness,  29. Rev. Murray A. Travis
Names with no numbers were identified as being in the picture, but exact identity was unknown.
If you can identify anyone, please email


The Collegeport Chronicle dated November 20, 1913 , reported on a special meeting for a "Review and Preview" of the Federated church, now in its fourth year in which criticisms and suggestions were offered. The newspaper article read in part, "Reminiscences took up a good share of the evening and two impressions seemed uppermost in the minds of Collegeport people. First that the spirit of Christianity is given an opportunity to display itself much more freely where denominational barriers are absent, and, second, that the conviction is growing that God has selected Collegeport and her people to demonstrate the practicability of an idea that has been a theory in people's minds for many years, and that we need to awake to the issue and appreciate our opportunity."

Services were held in the University Chapel, Hotel Collegeport, and on the pavilion until the new five-room church was built. The evening services were held in the hotel due to the fact that there were lights and that every second week the land seeking parties were present to help swell the congregations.

At the beginning the church tried to raise $750 for the pastor's salary and $550 for incidentals annually. The church roll counted 94 members in 1911, and was revised in 1912 with 119 communicants. That same year, a resolution was passed which read in part: "...That First Church, Collegeport express herself as not favoring dancing, card-playing, and other amusements reasonably classed as questionable..."

For two years the church doubled as the public school and for twenty-four years it was the town's community center. In January 1922, the First Church of Collegeport - Federated unanimously passed a resolution favoring the organization of a Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in Collegeport to succeed the present church. This first building was used by the community and congregation until 1955.

During the years that followed, the church had its good years and bad years. It continued to serve as an affiliated church under the supervision of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. On August 8, 1948 , eight members of the Citrus Grove Community Church were taken into the church. During the summer of 1949, Reverend Murray A. Travis returned and spent several weeks with the church. His son, Hubert Travis had served as a student pastor of the church during 1933.

On March 5, 1950 , the church finished with pride the Manse building on Lots 1 and 2 of Block 88. Members of the church gave both their time and their money in building the modern Manse. Also, in that year the church bought and installed new pews in the church. The lighting system of the church was re-wired and a water well was drilled on the church property in 1953. The report of the Clerk of Session for the year 1953 showed that the church had a total of 60 members on the roll, of which there were six Elders, seven Deacons, and three trustees.

Activities in the early church involved not only Collegeport members but neighbors in nearby Citrus Grove. Citrus Grove held an annual Thanksgiving dinner beginning in 1910 and the Collegeport Federated Church held the New Year's dinner with both communities participating. The church celebrated George Washington's Birthday with a banquet. The women had their Women's Union organization and the men participated in one called "Princes of Jonathan" which exemplified friendship.

Women's Union - Photo courtesy of Ethel Williams

The moist coastal climate and devastating hurricanes resulted in structural problems with the building which brought about the needs and plans for a new building. In January of 1955 at a congregation meeting, Dean Merck, chairman of the Building Committee, explained and showed plans on ways of financing a new Sanctuary. The committee had contacted the Board of National Missions for assistance but felt it would be impossible to pursue that avenue with the many rulings. The committee recommended to use the money in the Lord's Acre Fund, and to transfer $1000 from the general fund to the building fund and to borrow up to $5000 from the Bay City Bank and Trust, if necessary. The recommendation passed 27 to 1 and in May of 1955, a ground breaking service was held with 66 members and friends in attendance.

On January 26, 1958 , at the Congregational Meeting, the members voted unanimously to request the Houston Presbytery to transfer the First Presbyterian Church of Collegeport to the US Church, South Texas Presbytery. On July 7, 1958 , the church was officially taken into the South Texas Presbytery.

The Sadie-Ellen Hall was added to the church in 1969. Named for the mothers of Dean and Dorothy (Franzen) Merck, this recreation hall is a meeting place for the WOC and the Young Adult class. Church dinners, luncheons, receptions and showers are enjoyed in this Fellowship hall. The kitchen, known as "Carrie's Kitchen" is fully equipped and has central air and heat.

In 1982 the sanctuary and Sadie-Ellen Hall were renovated. Members of the congregation refinished the pews, contractors were hired to put on a white gloss paint on the interior and exterior and new carpeting was installed. A central air and heat system was installed. The cross at the front of the church was made by W. L. Ellis.

The present day church building whose construction began in 1955 has actual pieces of the old church within it. The chancel panel in the Greek Revival Style was removed from the old building intact, and became the focal point of the new sanctuary. Also, salvaged from the old building were structural beams used in trusses, pine flooring used for roof decking, and two pocket doors.

The original lectern is still used in the back of the sanctuary as is the matching chair.

The pulpit and the pulpit chairs were the ones in the original church building. The communion service used in the worship services is the same one presented at an Easter service in 1912. It is inscribed, "Presented to the First Church of Collegeport - Federated, by Mr. and Mrs. John W. Hansel and friends in other states."

The current renovation project of First Presbyterian Church in Collegeport began in 1997. Among the many improvements made were repainting, new carpet, new pew cushions, installation of drywall, and modernizing the bathrooms.

Pastors who have served the Collegeport Federated Church and The First Presbyterian Church, Collegeport through the years were:

Murray A. Travis, 1910-18; A. B. Buchanan, 1922-23; H. Paul Janes, 1924-27; H. L. Smith, 1928-29; John W. Van Dyke, 1931-32; J. T. Morrow, Student, 1932; J. Marshall Janes, 1932-33; Hubert Travis, Student, 1933; James Aiken, Jr., 1934-35; J. Marshall Janes, 1935-36; F. H. Pope, 1937-38; George Gillespie, 1939-48, and A. G. Fitzgerald, 1954.

Student Pastors who served for the summer months 1950-1966 were: Bob Hawkins, Merrell Proudfoot and Billy Bob Shifflet, 1950-54; Joe David Ruffin, 1954; Dick Holmes, 1955; David Campbell, 1956; Don Scruggs, 1957; Dan Sebesta, 1958; Douglas Finch, 1959; William F. Menn, 1960; Bruce Schumacher, 1961; John Massey, 1962; Steve Kerr, 1963; Guy Delaney, 1964; David Thomas, 1965; and Louis Petmecky, 1966.

Other pastors were A. T. Dyal; and Joe Cooper, January 1, 1967 - December 31, 1967; Tom McGee, January 1, 1968 - September 1, 1968; Lloyd Nixon, August 1973 - June 28, 1987, alternating with Elroy Weikel, 1975-87; John Dee McClelland, July 5, 1987 - January 15, 1994; W. S. (Doug) Blanton, 1994; David Gallaher, 1996 - January 1998; and Andrew Blair and Janell Blair, February 1998 to present.

Although the church did not always have resident pastors, the pulpit was always filled each Sunday by either student pastors from the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, or others affiliated with the Presbytery.

Through the years many dedicated members have carried on the work of the church. Dorothy Corporon was recognized for having served 70 years as a church pianist in 1995. She is currently in her 73rd year (1998). Dean Merck was recognized for 40 consecutive years of service on the Session. First Presbyterian Church of Collegeport in its 89th year with 12 of those years as "First Church of Collegeport - Federated" and 77 years as "First Presbyterian Church of Collegeport" has survived hurricanes, loss of a University and businesses and today is still an active viable influence in the lives of people who live in this farming community. Most have roots of those early settlers who came from middle America to seek their fortune and a new way of life. This church is known for its active presence in the life of the Collegeport community and on the last Saturday of May each year for the past 90 years hundreds of people who have ties with this farming community come back for a day of remembrance and celebration.

Picture Courtesy of John M. Merck, Jr.





W. H. Shubring

Jan. 1, 1922  Moved away  

T. M. Clark

Jan. 1, 1922  Moved away

V. R. Haisley

Jan. 1, 1922 Died  

R. E. Coffin

    Moved away  

H. F. Goff

   Moved away

Gust Franzen

Mar. 24, 1929  Died 1945  

John Carrick

 Mar. 24, 1929 Died September, 1954  

J. B. Heisey

Mar. 24, 1929 Moved away  

Mrs. L. E. Liggett

Aug. 1941 Moved away

R. L. Corporon

Aug. 8, 1948 Died July 22, 1992

Charlie Williams

Jul. 3, 1949 Died 1961  

Dean Merck

Jul. 3, 1949 Died 1997  

W. L. Ellis

Jul. 3, 1949 Died Dec 2, 1984  

Clifford Franzen

Sep. 38, 1952 Transferred by letter  

Gustave Franzen, Jr.

Feb. 14, 1954 Died 1997  

Gerald Wells

Feb. 14, 1954 Died 1980  

M. S. Holsworth

Feb. 28, 1954 Died 1959  

E. A. Mixon

Jan. 23, 1955 Died 1965  

George W. Hejtmanek

Dec. 6, 1964 Died Sept. 30, 2008  

J. A. Rusk

Dec. 6, 1954 Moved  

John Maurice Merck

May 1, 1966 Moved  

U. S. McMillan

May 1, 1966    

Alex Franzen

May 1, 1966 Died Aug. 9, 2002  

Mason Holsworth

May 1, 1966    

Gerald Wells, Jr.

 May 1, 1966 Moved  

Russell Law

May 1, 1966 Died 1994  

Russell D. Corporon

May 1, 1966    

Rosalie Ellis

Dec. 4, 1977 Died March 13, 2006  

Dorothy Merck

Jan. 8, 1978 Died April 8, 2002  

Ida Mae Franzen

Dec. 5, 1982    

Lynda Lenz

Dec. 5, 1982    

Jesse Ellis

Dec. 4, 1988    

G. W. Franzen

 Dec. 4, 1988    

Dovie Hejtmanek

Dec. 4, 1988 Died Feb. 6, 2007  

Janice Corporan

Jan. 28, 1990    

U. S. McMillan

Jan. 20, 1991    

Carolyn Ellis

Jan. 20, 1991    

Esther Sjostrom

 Jan. 26, 1992    

Stanley McMillan

Jan. 31, 1993    

Barbara Corporon

Jan. 2, 1994    

Denise Franzen

Jan. 2, 1994    

Cathy Merck

Jan. 7, 1994    



Rain Ruins Papers In Corner Stone At Collegeport

Members of the Collegeport Presbyterian Church were disappointed Sunday when they opened the corner stone of the old church building and found that water had entered the sealed container.

However, they found an old Collegeport Chronicle, dated August 4, 1910 that was readable. It was difficult to distinguish the other papers due to their condition.

Mrs. Hugo Kundinger, the only charter member present, opened the container. Mr. and Mrs. Roy Nelson, R. L. Corporon and Dean Merck brought the container to the altar.

About 75 people attended the church dinner at the Mopac, which was held in honor of Gerald Hill, pastor of the church, who preached his last sermon in Collegeport.

Rev. Hill has preached on alternate Sundays there while attending Austin Theological Seminary. He plans to complete his work at Princeton in 1957.

Palacios Beacon, May 17, 1956

The First Presbyterian Church of Collegeport

The town of Collegeport, on Tres Palacios Bay in Matagorda County, was planned by the Burton D. Hurd Land Company as a promotional scheme for selling the lands of J. E. and A. B. Pierce. The company provided land for a townsite and the creation of the Gulf Coast University of Industrial Arts. In November of 1909 community leaders joined together at the University's chapel to discuss the creation of Collegeport Federated Church. Representing fourteen denominations, the congregation's early mission was to unify the community and support a common church for all citizens. Murray A. Travis was called as the first pastor of the church. Pastor Travis had moved to Collegeport in 1909 from Canada to join his brother William H. Travis, and help with the development of university programs as dean. In addition to his university duties, Pastor Travis also ran the COLLEGEPORT CHRONICLE, one of the area's first newspapers. In 1910 the congregation began work on their first sanctuary building at an estimated cost of $2,000. The five-room building was opened for services on November 27, 1910. Among the charter members who signed the first register were persons of Baptist, Methodist, Union, Universal, and Presbyterian backgrounds. For many years the church doubled as a schoolhouse and community center. In 1922 the congregation unanimously passed a resolution to join the Presbyterian church, U.S.A., and became the First Presbyterian Church of Collegeport. The congregation continued to use the 1910 sanctuary until 1955 when new facilities were built using materials and furnishings from the original church. (1999)



The Federated Church in the Small Town


Sock Social
Friday Evening
September 15, 1916 .

Given by
Mrs. Haisley's Class
of the
First Church
Collegeport , Texas


This little sock I give to you
Is not for you to wear,
Please multiply your size by two
And place therein with care
In pennies or in cents, just
Twice the number that you wear,
(We hope it is immense.)
So if you wear a No. 10,
You owe us 20, see?
Which dropped within the sock,
Will fill our hearts with glee.
'Tis all we ask; it isn't much,
And hardly any trouble at all;
But if you only have one foot,
We'll surely charge you double,
Now, if you have a friend quite dear
You'd like to bring with you--
Or if you know someone who'd come,
We'll gladly give you two
But if, perchance, you cannot come
Yet wish to be remembered there,
We'll gladly take the sock,
If sent to us with care.
So don't forget the place and date,
We'll answer when you knock,
And welcome you with open arms--



Copyright 2005 - Present by
First Presbyterian Church of Collegeport
All rights reserved

Feb. 23, 2005
Oct. 25, 2009