The first event held on the grounds was a picnic to sell small parcels of land to Methodist Ministers who built small summer homes. Lots were sold for $400 each only to clergy. The money raised from the sale of the land was then used to build the first buildings which consisted of dorms, classrooms, a dining hall, and a large open air meeting building. There was no paved road to the property - just a dirt road from Highway 27 to the top of the hill and consequently it was named Methodist Encampment Road. The river was used for swimming, and cedar trees did not dominate the land.
Because the land was outside city limits, there were no codes for building. This is one of the reasons the residential area at the top of Mt Wesley has such a unique character today. The conference retained the "right of first refusal" for the lots in the residential area until 1971. All the lots are now privately owned. Also in the early 1970's the nursing home at the top of the hill was sold and is now a private entity known as Hilltop Nursing Home. Mt Wesley now consists of 61 acres and about 15 acres are occupied by buildings. The rest of the property up the hillside is wooded w/walking trails and an outdoor worship center at the top where the Bolivian Cross stands. There is also a "lighted cross" at the top of the hill which can be seen nightly from many spots in the city.
The retreat center prospered for many years but the church almost had to close the doors during the depression. Some church members stepped up and loaned the church enough money to hang on until after the depression when they were able to once again get back the center back on its feet and make it self-sufficient.
Thru the years, as the center grew, it became the main Conference and Retreat Center for the Southwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church and it was simply, but lovingly known as Mt Wesley. For years it served as the primary camp center for the conference youth w/both summer camps and winter retreats. Beginning in the early 1980's it became the primary retreat center for the conference "Walk to Emmaus" program, a strong, popular, and powerful 3 day weekend retreat for not just the Methodist Church but also a number of other denominations. Over the years, thousands of individuals have encountered Christ during their time at Mt Wesley. Life-changing experiences have happened while at events held there and it is considered by many to be "Holy Ground".
In recent years a lot of changes have occurred which have affected the profitable use of the center. Legal changes in adult supervision requirements for youth has limited the number of participants making for much smaller events and thus impacting the financial viability. Also, The Southwest Texas Conference merged with Rio Grande United Methodist Church Conference which changed priorities for both conferences. Monies for maintenance and upkeep had to be diverted from Mt. Wesley to other causes. Selling the center has not been an option because of the significant, awesome and powerful part it has played in the life of the Methodist Church of the Southwest Texas Conference.
The center is now under the supervision and vision of the local Methodist Church--First United Methodist of Kerrville. It is being re-purposed and a wonderful renewal is taking place in the form of out-reach ministries. It has been re-named Light on the Hill at Mount Wesley. A food outreach ministry, with many branches of social services, Mustard Seed Ministries, is now located at Light on the Hill. Methodist Health Care Ministry commissioned a Wesley Nurse to serve the uninsured and underinsured in the community and she offices at Light on the Hill. Emmaus Walks will continue to be held. Meeting spaces can be rented for smaller retreats , gatherings and meetings. Some of the classrooms have become home to local non-profits. Families and Literacy and Kar Konnect are two of those groups. A lovely, small intimate Chapel is available for groups as well as a modern dining hall that will accommodate 200-250. A large indoor worship center can hold 300 plus and a stunning outdoor worship area can seat 200 or more with standing room galore.
Part of the new vision --- the repurposing --- the new life --- is that Light on the Hill at Mount Wesley will become an important and viable part of the Kerrville community serving many people and having a positive impact for many years to come.