top of page

GOD & TEXAS: McMahan Chapel

As he knelt beside his horse on the banks of the Palo Gaucho Creek, Samuel Doak McMahan changed his mind. In 1831, he had brought his family to east Texas from Tennessee to gain land and wealth. But his first year was filled with Indian depravations and Spanish resistance. He wondered if the goal was worth the struggle.

His homestead was in the Spanish municipality of San Augustine, just across the Louisiana border near the present day town of San Augustine. The area was thick with heavily wooded forests, natural springs, and plentiful wildlife. To Samuel, it was his long-sought paradise.

Since about 800 A.D., the Caddo confederacies of the Hasinai, Kadohadacho, and Natchitoches tribes lived freely in the area. They farmed the fertile land, built villages, and established trade routes throughout the region. But the coming of the settlers from east stirred much unrest.

While Samuel defended his homestead, he also sensed that he was facing changes of heart. While kneeling in his heaven on earth, the Spirit of God began to change his objectives. His craving for material things was being supplanted by a desire to know more about the God that created this paradise.

On his knees, Samuel determined to locate a preacher to come teach the Bible to his family. However, because the Spanish threatened to kill all Protestant ministers, finding a brave cleric was not easy. After almost one year of searching, Methodist evangelist James P. Stevenson agreed to come and hold a revival.

Though the camp meetings were a great success, Stevenson refused to return due to the Spanish threat. Instead, he organized a “religious society,” and appointed Samuel as class leader. Once Texas Independence was won and preaching was no longer illegal, McMahan received ministerial credentials and established McMahan Chapel.

Still in use over 187 years later, McMahan Chapel in San Augustine is the oldest Protestant church with a continuous history in Texas. Rev. Littleton Fowler ministered many years in McMahan Chapel. When he died in 1846, he was buried under the pulpit. Though the building has been rebuilt several times, the grave remains under the pulpit.

The probable place where McMahan knelt is now covered by the Toledo Bend Reservoir. But the estimated 1,458,934,927,000 gallons of water in the reservoir will never obscure the spiritual revelation that changed McMahan. In the face of great adversity, he built a church that still glorifies God today.

Samuel Doak McMahan saw the handiwork of God and it changed him. As the scripture says in Romans 1:20 NLT, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature. So, they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

C. S. Lewis wrote: “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito.” It is still true today!

For more inspirational reading please visit:

To purchase the book GOD and TEXAS by David G. Rose:


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
    bottom of page