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GOD & TEXAS: 2 Broken Men in El Paso

Upon entering the Church of St. Clement in El Paso, worshippers are captivated by the stained glass windows illustrating scenes from both the Old and New Testaments. One window depicts Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, while another the ministry of the Apostle Paul.

Additional windows venerate the founding pastor of the church, Parson Joseph Wilkin Tays, and founding layman Gaylord Judd Clarke. Clarke’s accompanying bronze tablet reads: “A just man and perfect, who walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9)

Born in 1836, Clarke had aristocratic ancestors who fought in the American Revolutionary War. Educated in the finest eastern universities and employed in a respected New York law firm, Clarke abruptly moved to Texas in 1867. With his wife Frances, he settled in El Paso where he became a judge and newspaper editor.

Though they lived in the finest house in town, their personal lives were spiritually and physically broken. Frances had lost three of her babies, with the latest being son Clement. That’s when Gaylord started prayer and Bible studies in his home. As attendance grew into a church, Clarke reached out to Parson Tays to become their pastor.

Born in 1827, Parson Tays was a widower with two sons. He was serving as Chaplain of the Texas State Senate when Clarke invited him to El Paso. Tays was educated at King’s College (now Columbia University) and taught at West Point Academy. But by the age of 56, all four of his wives had died. Parson Tays was a broken man, too.

Coming to El Paso in 1870, Tays built a two-room adobe shanty. One room was for his family, and the other for church services. Clarke named the church in honor of the third Bishop of Rome and for Clarke’s deceased son, Clement.

Tays supported himself as pastor by selling real estate and working as a county surveyor. As the church grew, Tays built a larger structure in 1882 and dubbed it “The Little Watch Tower on the Rio Grande.”

Unfortunately, Clarke died in 1870. His widow Frances continued his vision for the church until her death in 1914. In honor of her late husband, she donated a magnificent organ to the church, in addition to a stained glass window and bronze tablet.

Parson Tays died of smallpox in 1882 after ministering to other smallpox victims. He was hastily buried by two grave diggers on a stormy night without embalming or ritual. He deserved better.

Today, 157 years since its humble beginnings, the Church of St. Clement has pioneered at least five other churches and has one of the finest private Christian schools in the El Paso/Juarez community. Two broken men embraced their shattered dreams and brought the healing message of Christ to their community. That’s what Christ-like men do.

Jesus came to “heal the broken hearted” (Luke 4:18). The original Greek word for heal means to set free or to loosen from the detrimental effects of a shattered life. That’s what Jesus does!

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To purchase the book GOD and TEXAS by David G. Rose, please visit


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