Church and Community Analysis, Gatesville FUMC, J.R. Atkins

As a part of my Masters of Divinity, I was asked to complete a Church and Community Analysis of Gatesville First United Methodist Church. Since several people contributed to my research and they and others may want to see the results,  I am sharing my findings here.


Church and Community Analysis, Gatesville FUMC, J.R. Atkins, September 15, 2015


Church and Community Analysis, Gatesville FUMCAs settlers moved west across Texas, Fort Gates was established in 1849 as the first outpost in what was to become Coryell Count. By 1854 the City of Gatesville was incorporated and named the county seat of Coryell County. Supplies where brought in by wagons from Houston or Dallas and Gatesville became a frontier supply station for settlers traveling further west.[1]

By 1884, Gatesville had 3 churches and in 1855 the Methodist Church was organized with sixteen members.[2] “In 1860, the church members and volunteers built a church building on the corner of 7th and Saunders streets. The Methodists andChurch and Community Analysis, Gatesville FUMC Baptists  shared the building, alternating Sundays. Between 1880 and 1900, several building changes took place, including a move to 8th and Saunders Street, a new wooden church, a new parsonage, and other additions and refurbishments.” [3]

My dad, James Atkins, can recall being told to “be a good boy” or he would be sent to the State School for Boys in Gatesville which opened in 1889.[4][5]Church and Community Analysis, Gatesville FUMC

In the early 1900’s, the term “King Cotton” was widely used in Texas to describe the economic boom surrounding the growing and processing  of cotton.[6] Gatesville was no different. In 1911 the Cotton Belt Railroad Depot was built and still stands today being used as the home of the Chamber of Commerce.[7]

In 1914, the doors open to a new Methodist Church, a tall brick structure that would serve as the church home until the current building as completed in 1972.Church and Community Analysis, Gatesville FUMC

Horsemanship has been a central part of Texas and Gatesville since its founding and in 1937 the Gatesville Riding Club held its first Gatesville Rodeo. Each August the town still turns out for riding exhibits and competition at Rodeo.[8]

One of today’s major employers in Gatesville began offering services in 1942 as Coryell Memorial Hospital. In 1951 a nursing home was added and both continue to serve the city and county.[9]

In 1943, 16,000 acres were added to Fort Hood creating North Fort Hood at the eastern edge of Gatesville. Between 1943 and 1945 the population of North Fort Hood swelled to 40,000 troops and 4,000 prisoners of war.[10] The use of the camp has varied over the years as the mission of the military has changed. Today North Fort Hood is responsible for training Army reserves who are stationed at the camp for a few weeks prior to deployment.

Another major Gatesville Employer, Laerdal, opened as Medical Plastics Laboratories Inc in 1949 and was acquired by Laerdal in 2000.  The company makes the “Resusci Anne” manikin for training people on lifesaving procedures such as mouth to mouth resuscitation and CPR.[11]

In 1950 the Circle S Drive in Theater opens and is latter renamed the Last Picture Show Drive in Theater one of the few remaining drive in theaters in Texas. You can still get the whole care load of family and friends in the movie for $10 on a Saturday night.[12]

Kalyn Siebert, a manufacture of trailers for commercial and military use opened a plant in Gatesville in 1961. Employees build specialty trailers for us in in industries such as the oil field, construction, agriculture, energy and the military. The company now has 145 employees.[13]

The largest employer in Gatesville, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice opened its first of seven poisons in Gatesville in 1975. “As of 2012, the prisons in the Gatesville area employ 2,600 people”[14] and include one male prison and 6 women’s prison including one that houses death row inmates.[15]

One of the largest festivals held each year is Spurfest which celebrates Gatesville claim as the “Spur Capital pf Texas.”[16] In 2001 the Texas Legislature awarded Gatesville this office title due to the large gift of over 10,000 spurs given to the Historical Society in 1991 by Loyd and Madge Mitchell.[17]

Today Gatesville is known for its industry, prisons, county seat, Fort Hood proximity and notable other business. The people are genuine and friendly, ready to offer a helping hand and quick to ask about you and your family to see who they know who knows you.

First as the Methodist Church and now as the First United Methodist Church of Gatesville, this congregation has played a central role in the community and civic affairs. Events such as providing parking for football games in the church parking lot, pancake suppers, youth activities, blankets for children new to child protective services, visitation to nursing homes, collection of resources for fire victims … can all be found in the current and late history of the church. Methodist can be found lending a welcoming hand in the workforce, civic organizations like the Lions Club or the Exchange Club, serving on city council and bank boards, teaching at school, and greeting you in local business and government offices. Methodist are active in the Riding Club, the Historical Society, the Car Club, the Football Boosters Club and just about every other student booster club.

As the number of active troops at Fort Hood and North Fort Hood rise and fall, they are supported by the local church community including the First United Methodist Church. On Easter Sunday you can find Methodist at the Community wide Sun Rise Service.

New initiatives for FUMC Gatesville include adopting a school to support the teachers and students as well as making good use of the proximity to the High School and Junior High School for more youth programs.

Time Line and List of Major Events in the History of Gatesville, Texas

Time Line and List of Major Events in the History of Gatesville, Texas

  • 1849 – Fort Gates, the first settlement in Coryell County[18]
  • 1854 – City Founded – named from nearby Fort Gates
  • 1854 – Coryell County Government organized
  • 1870 – City Incorporated[19]
  • 1880’s – Frontier Supply Station
  • 1854 – Double-walled log jail built
  • 1886 – First Baptist Church founded
  • 1897 – Courthouse Building Erected
  • 1889 – State School for Boys – 1889-1979[20]
  • 1904 – The Leon River Bridge opened[21]
  • 1911 – Cotton Belt Rail Road Depot Built[22]
  • 1937 – Gatesville Riding Club holds first Gatesville Rodeo[23]
  • 1942 – Coryell Memorial Hospital opens in Gatesville[24]
  • 1943 – North Fort Hood Created[25]
  • 1945 – Fort Hood population surges during the war and decreases rapidly by the end
  • 1949 – Medical Plastics Laboratories Inc. (MPL), opens[26]
  • 1955 – The Last Picture Show drive in Picture Shop opens
  • 1961 – Kalyn Siebert Opens, manufactures trailers for commercial and military use[27]
  • 1975 – Texas Department of Criminal Justice opens Prisons- 1975 to today[28]
  • 1980 – The Coryell Museum and Historical Center was founded[29]
  • 1991 – The Coryell Museum and Historical Center receives donation from Loyd and Madge Mitchell, a collection of about 10,000 pairs of spurs
  • 2000 – Laerdal purchases Medical Plastics Laboratories Inc. (MPL)[30]
  • 2001 – Gatesville named the Spur Capital of Texas[31]

Current Map of the City of Gatesville, TX with Locations of Methodist Church[32]

FUMC Gatesvile Locations map


City of Gatesville Master Plan

I reached out to City Councilwoman Barbara Burrows about the existence of a master plan for the City of Gatesville. As with many small towns, no such plan exist. “Gatesville does not have a Master Plan. There is an initiative to generate a comprehensive plan which would include goals, objectives, and similar categories that do not require outsourcing. My opinion, there are several key planning documents the city needs but those will need to be outsourced as soon as funds are available.”[33]

As a member of the County Economic Development Board, I supported the hiring of a consultant to deliver a Strategic Plan. The project is underway with the plan scheduled for delivery by the end of 2015. Since Gatesville is the County seat and one of two major cities in the county, the strategic plan will help economic development for the City of Gatesville.

Additional area projects include a Land Use Study for the land surrounding Fort Hood and a Water Study for the region. Both of these projects will contribute to a city master plan and the growth of the community and church.

50 Year Review of City of Gatesville Demographics

50 yr view of Gatesville Popultation

When one reviews the City of Gatesville population data for the last 50 years, it is easy to see the growth spurt that occurred between 1980 and 2000. This shift is primarily due to the opening of seven prison units in the area and the military use of North Fort Hood in response to the first Gulf War.[34]

60 per cent of the population in Gatesville is white, 20 per cent black, 17 per cent Hispanic and 3 per cent other according to the 2010 US census.[35]  When compared to the 2000 census, these numbers represent a 13 per cent increase in the white population, 25 per cent decrease in black, 17 per cent increase in Hispanic.[36]

The largest age group to increase was persons age 0-17 at 34 percent with a decrease in persons age 18-65+ of 3 percent. Approximately 21 per cent of the city population earns an income below the poverty level with the median household income being 38,657.[37]

Review of FUMC Gatesville Demographics

Number of members: 595[38]

Church and community analysis by J.R. Atkins

Average worship attendance: 134[39]







[4] State School for Boys – 1889-1979,

[5] Interview with James S. Atkins, 9/12/15










[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid

















[33] Barbara Burrows, Gatesville City Council,





[38] Vital Statistics FUMCG, Reverend Gene Gurley, email communication, September 15, 2015

[39] Ibid


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