Reflecting on 145 Years of Growth

October 24, 2023

ALVARADO, TEX. – Three brothers, John E., E. G. and A. B. Rust brought the Seventh-day Adventist message to Texas in 1875. The following year, D. M. Canright’s meetings resulted in the state’s first Seventh-day Adventist baptism. Canright estimated that “about sixty Sabbathkeepers” were scattered throughout the state. 

Seeing the interest in Texas, James and Ellen White spent several months in the Plano and Denison areas in 1878 and 1879. James White, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists president at the time, reported, “During the camp meeting [held Nov. 12-19, 1878, in Plano, Tex.] thirteen people were baptized, the Texas Conference [of Seventh-day Adventists] was formed and aggressive plans were laid for tent evangelism…”

By 1890, conference membership was 425, with two ordained ministers and four licensed ministers. Three years later, Texas Conference officials purchased 800 acres of land in Johnson County for a Texas training school (now Southwestern Adventist University). On Jan. 6, 1894, a church of 60 charter members was organized. A year later, the United States Postal Service named the settlement Keene.

By 1900, the Texas Conference had 1,294 members. Eight years later, 100 western counties of Texas, with 261 members, separated from the Texas Conference and became the West Texas Mission. The mission was organized in 1909 as the West Texas Conference. It became part of the Texico Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, organized in 1916.

Between 1909 and 1913, W. F. Mayer conducted colporteur work among the Lower Rio Grande Valley Hispanic population. 

The Texas Conference divided again in 1910. The northeastern state had 21 churches, 1,336 members and 10 church buildings. In 1911, it was renamed the Northeast Texas Conference (then changed to North Texas Conference), with headquarters in Keene. The state’s southern portion, with 257 members, separated as the South Texas Mission Field, organized as the South Texas Conference at San Antonio in 1911.

In 1912, the North Texas Conference operated seven evangelistic tents, organized seven new churches, and conducted four camp meetings, including one for African Americans. 

By 1916, two Hispanic churches were organized with a membership of 43. During the 1920s, large-scale citywide evangelistic campaigns were conducted in the North and South Texas Conferences. In 1923, 56 new Hispanic converts gave the South Texas Conference the largest number of Hispanic members of any conference in the United States. In 1925, nearly half the total members attending the South Texas camp meeting were of Mexican heritage, and by 1930 the Hispanic membership reached 200.

In 1932, the South Texas and North Texas conferences recombined to form the Texas Conference, with 2,950 members. Between 1943 and 1951, Seventh-day Adventist evangelists conducted campaigns in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth. Seventeen new churches and eight new church schools were organized.

In July 1959, Texas Conference President B. E. Leach launched an intensive program, Operation Lone Star, to advance every phase of the work. By 1963, 450 evangelistic meetings were held, and 2,066 persons joined the church, bringing the conference membership to 8,000. In six years, 27 new churches were organized (through 1965), and active evangelism was carried on in 37 unentered regions. 

B. L. Roberts, director of the Texas Conference Spanish Department (later renamed Hispanic Ministries) reported that 923 people joined the Spanish-speaking churches in 1990, more than half (55 percent) of the conference total for the year. In 2019, the Texas Conference Hispanic membership surpassed 28,000, the largest of any conference in the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. 

The Texas Conference’s expanding work is driven by its mission “to empower members, pastors, churches and schools in our territory to share the gospel message with their friends and communities.” As of August 2023, the Texas Conference has 67,035 members and 358 congregations. 

As author Ellen G. White says in Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, “In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” 

We, too, can say, praise God for what He has done in the Texas Conference. Together As One, we look to the future with hope as we acknowledge how He has led us in the past. United, we stand, focused on sharing the Gospel with everyone around us.

You can find more information about the history of the Texas Conference at

By Brody Woodard