Saturday, September 15, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History  Sept. 16



W. H. Seat Proposed Grand Mission Plan, September 20, 1855

 One might consider it audacious for a 30 year old preacher to offer a sweeping plan that would have reorganized the whole Methodist missionary system, but that's exactly what William Henry Seat did on September 20, 1855. 


Rev. William H. Seat was one of the most colorful characters in Texas Methodist history.  Seat was born near Memphis, Tennessee in 1824.  His mother, Frances Baskerville was reputed to be a cousin of Thomas Jefferson.  Seat was licensed to preach at 18 in the Mississippi Conference and served Aberdeen Circuit, but his preaching skills soon vaulted him him from riding rural circuits to occupying some of the most desired stations in the denomination, including the state capital of Jackson, Mississippi.

In 1854 Mrs. Seat, the former Sophia Fly (Fly is a well known family in Texas Methodist history.) became ill so Seat requested a transfer to Texas.  He began a succession of appointments that took him to the best churches in Texas: San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Huntsville, Galveston,  and Chappell Hill. 

When he was at Chappell Hill in 1867, he was appointed Financial Agent for Soule University.    Most financial agents of the era raised funds by preaching in the churches of the sponsoring conference, but not Seat.  He embarked on a grand eastern tour and instead of soliciting funds, solicited books for the library and apparatus for the science laboratories.  Harvard University gave him some books, and Samuel F. B. Morse gave him some telegraphic equipment.
That wasn’t enough.  Armed with a letter from Governor Throckmorton, Seat sought a meeting with President Andrew Johnson who provided him with letters of introduction and instructions for the consuls of Europe to give him hospitality.

He presented a plan to President Mood of Soule to tour Europe to solicit books and apparatus since the South was too impoverished to solicit funds there. Mood thought the idea was ridiculous, but Seat ignored Mood and left for Europe.


He and his family spent 4 ½ years in Europe.  He used Johnson’s letters to get interview and autographs from Gladstone, Carlyle, Hans Christian Anderson, and other notables.  The Queen of Holland gave him a two volume set of Dutch paintings for the Soule library.  He spent much of his time in Prussia and other German states, at that time the world’s leading manufacturer of scientific apparatus and optical goods.  Part of the justification of the trip was that he would be able to buy such items directly from the manufacturer and save money.

He did accumulate quite a large stock of good and shipped it to Galveston where it rotted on the dock.  During his absence Soule’s fortunes had fallen so much that it couldn’t event afford drayage to Chappell Hill, much less Georgetown where Southwestern University was being created out of Soule’s ashes. 

Instead of returning directly to Texas, upon his return to the United States, Seat served appointments in the Baltimore and Virginia Conferences.   In 1882, after being absent from Texas for 15 years, he transferred from Lexington, Virginia, to Goliad.  He died there in 1885.  

His 1855 mission plan, printed in the Texas Christian Advocate was grand in nature.  It proposed that that the various conferences divide responsibilities in the mission fields so they would not duplicate efforts or work at cross purposes.   That is eventually what did happen. 

Saturday, September 08, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History  September 9



Hurricane Strikes Indianola September 15, 1875.  Rev. and Mrs. Henry Homberg killed.

Indianola in Calhoun County was second only to Galveston in terms of Texas ports of the mid-19th century.  It began in 1844 as an port of entry for German immigrants coming to Texas under the auspices of the Adelsverein.  After Texas joined the Union, it became the eastern terminus of the military road that stretched all the way to San Diego, California.  In that role, it was the site of the famous camel experiment in which the U. S. Army conducted a trial of camels as pack animals through the deserts lying between the two termini.  It also developed into a major shipping port for hides and tallow from the herds of wild cattle living just to the interior.  The carcasses were often dumped into the bay.  That provided a food source for turtles, and soon a turtle meat canning industry grew up in Indianola.  In 1869 the first shipment of refrigerated beef was shipped to New Orleans on the Agnes.  There were rail connections with the interior.  

It was also the county seat of Calhoun County and boasted a population of 5000 in September, 1875 when the hurricane hit.  The town was crowded with hordes of visitors attending a trial involving the Taylor-Sutton Feud, and from 150 to 300 people died.

Among the dead were Rev. Henry Homberg and Emelie (or Amilie, 1845-1875).  His body was never found.  His memoir from the 1876 Southern German Conference Journal is reproduced below.   

Henry Homberg. — September 16-17, 1875, will long but remembered in Indianola, Texas. Here, in this city, the adopted home of many brave but God-forgetting Germans, a little flock of truly pious souls had been gathered by Brother Homberg as he labored truly and fearlessly at this outpost of Christianity, and here, in the midst of this noble work, in this self-sacrificing effort to save his fellow-men from soul-ruin, the storm-flood, as a messenger of death, came and took him and his dear wife and adopted daughter during the morning of Sept. 16. The small dwelling of Brother Homberg was carried away by the wild waves of the Gulf as they rushed madly on before the wind: but as he and his loved ones had taken refuge a short time before in a neighbor's house, they were spared awhile longer; but, alas! about midnight, in the utter darkness of a cloud-covered horizon, the rain falling in torrents, and the wind blowing with increased fury, a large storehouse just in front of the one containing our dear brother and his family was undermined and thrown down, as it were, in an instant, and its wreck, borne on the surface of the madly rushing waters, was driven against their place of refuge as with the force of a battering-ram, destroying it shortly and burying forever in that fearful midnight hour the servant of the Lord, who was never seen afterward; the other inmates of the house, taking hold of the floating roof, drifted away, but, with the exception of one man, all were lost. Brother H. Homberg was born in Waden, Germany, on the 6th of July, 1836. He came to this country during the war, and, like many of his fellow-countrymen, enlisted in the army. There he made the acquaintance of some Methodists, and being of a loving character and liking their way of worshiping God, he joined the Church at Industry, Texas, under the administration of Brother C. Biel, although living at Brenham. In 1866 he married a very pious lady, Miss Emelie Weiss , who proved to him a true wife and a faithful helpmeet in the work of God, enduring with him joy and sorrow to the hour of their death. In 1872 Brother Homberg was stationed at Victoria as a missionary, and meeting with a great deal of opposition there, he learned that s Methodist missionary in Texas did not walk amid a bed of roses; bat he held out faithfully, and by his manly character and pious and prudent walk soon gained the esteem, and even love, of the people of that city during the two years of his labor among them. He occasionally visited Indianola, where our kinsmen were spiritually neglected and forsaken, and succeeded by the help of God in rallying around the cross a small bodyguard of Christian warriors. In 1874 he was sent to them as а pastor, and with great zeal and faith he went to work, built a chapel, and had it nearly free from debt, when the flood took both preacher and chapel into its destroying embrace. His small society at Indianola had clung to him with a wholesouled devotion, and the scene beggars description when the retuning saved ones sought for their pastor and found him not. Brother Homberg's talents and learning were not brilliant. His sermons were plain, but earnest; and although he was permitted to labor but a few short years for Christ, yet, wherever he was stationed, he endeared himself to all with whom he came in contact. Toward his brethren in authority in the Church he was always obedient, never complaining of hard appointments or small salary, always willing cheerfully to do the work intrusted to his cure to his utmost ability as a servant of Christ. He had a thorough Methodist spirit in him, and his loss is felt deeply. His death forms a breach in our ranks; but we know that Christ has taken him home, and rejoice in his privilege of joy in heaven. Although the place of his earthly rest is unknown, the Lord having buried him (like Moses) himself, yet his memory is sweetly cherished by many of the children of God on earth, and expect that when the trumpet shall blow and the sea shall give up its dead, all will meet around the common Saviour and again unite in songs of praise and. thanksgiving.

Indianola rebuilt after the 1875 storm, but another hurricane in 1886 wiped our Indianola for good.  Today it is a ghost town. 

Saturday, September 01, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History  September 2



Methodist Meeting Held on Sulfur Fork, September 1839

The earliest scene of Methodist activity in Texas was in northeastern Texas along the Red and Sulfur Rivers and their various tributaries.  Since those rivers are part of the Mississippi drainage system, Americans assumed that they were part of the Louisiana Purchase, and therefore American territory.   In spite of the huge raft of logs that impeded travel on the Red River, Americans pushed up those rivers into what is today Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.  Pecan Point on the Red River, became a nucleus of a rude settlement consisting of traders, hunters, and trappers.  The first family that can be identified to settle south of the Red River  is that of Claiborne Wright.   They arrived in Pecan Point in September 5, 1816.  Mrs. Wright (Clara) was Littleton Fowler’s aunt.  

Where American settlers went, Methodist circuit riders were soon to follow, and the earliest recorded Methodist preacher to the region was William Stevenson, P. E. of the Arkansas District of the Missouri Conference.   His home was in Mound Prairie, just west of Washington, Arkansas.  From that base, he preached in Pecan Point n 1815 and later made Wright’s home a preaching point. Stevenson and Wright had known each other in Tennessee.  

Although the Red and Sulfur drainages  were part of the Louisiana Purchase,  there had never been a survey to designate the US-Spanish border.  The Adams-Onis Treaty finally designated the border, but put most of the Sulfur and the southern tributaries of the Red into Spanish Texas.   In return, the U S received Florida from Spain.  It didn’t really matter for the folks on the ground since Spanish had long since given up trying to exercise sovereignty in the region and immediately after the Treaty was ratified, Mexico was successful in the their revolution against Spain.    
In 1824 the U. S. Army established a post in the region, Fort Towson and brought some order to the region, but that was difficult since what is today southeastern Oklahoma was designated at the location for the Choctaws who were being removed from the Southeastern U S along the Trail of Tears.  One of the jobs of the soldiers at Fort Towson was to remove the European-American settlers from the lands assigned to the Choctaws.  Naturally, many of them just moved south of the Red River into Texas. 

By 1835 there were enough Methodist preaching points to assign  a circuit rider to what is today Lamar, Red River, and Bowie Counties.  The preaching points were Pecan Point, DeKalb, Jonesboro,  along the Sulfur River, and the area where Clarksville was later founded.  The name of the circuit was Sulfur Fork.   John Carr was the preacher appointed to the circuit, but he was inexperienced and quit before the year was finished.  The Presiding Elder could not find a replacement at conference so the appointment is listed “to be supplied.”  The next preachers was E. B. Duncan and John Bunyan Denton, followed by Jacob Whitesides.

In September 1839 there was a camp meeting on the circuit that resulted in 30 conversions.   P. E. Gregory, William Craig, William Mulkey, and W. G. Duke  were the preachers. 

Yes, readers, William Mulkey was the father of Abe Mulkey,  (1850-1919), arguably the most important evangelist in Texas Methodist history, credited with 548 revivals, 16,444 sermons, and 54,084 conversions according to the New Handbook of Texas.  

William Duke is also an interesting figure.  He was one of the group of 8 Tennessee preachers who volunteered for Arkansas as a group.  They crossed the Mississippi at Memphis and found themselves in an extensive swamp.   They pooled their funds and bought a boat.  It took them three days to traverse the swamp. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History   August 19



Senator and Future Senator Attend Summer Encampment  August 19, 1926

The Texas State Epworth League once owned an encampment on the middle Texas Coast.  Actually it owned two different sites after the first was damaged by a hurricane.  It was called Epworth by the Sea. 

On August 19, 1926, the 10-day session began under the direction of the Dean, Steve McKinney, Presiding Elder of the Beaumont District of the Texas Conference.   Although there were illustrious speakers from the other Texas Conferences and from Nashville General Boards, McKinney had recruited most of the program leaders from his home conference, including song leader W. E. Hassler.  Some of the program leaders whose names would be familiar to readers of this column were as follows:  

Frank Culver, Waco District P.E.
Robert Adams, Galveston District P. E.
Robert E. Goodrich, Shreveport
John Walter Mills, Houston District P. E.
F. D. Dawson, Jacksonville
J. Fisher Simpson   Austin
C. T. Talley   Beaumont
George Winfield, Lon Morris College President
Jesse Lee, Huntsville District P. E.
George Sexton, Centenary College President
Many readers will know or have known relatives of Goodrich, Dawson, Simpson, and Lee.  These families have produced preachers for generations.  Twenty years later, in 1946, Goodrich baptized the author.

All the speakers were not preachers. 

U. S. Senator Earle Mayfield spoke.   His topic was “God’s Hand Revealed in the Origin and Destiny of America.”   U. S Representative John Calvin Box gave an inspirational address.

Both Mayfield and Box are little more than footnotes in our Texas history.  I would assume most students never learn about them.  They were both Methodists, Box in Jacksonville and Mayfield in Tyler.

Box (1871-1941) was a member of the famous Box family of Houston County, early immigrants from Tennessee who established Box’s Fort and were instrumental in both the civic and religious history of Houston County.  John C. Box attended Alexander Institute (later renamed Lon Morris College).   He practiced law in Lufkin but moved to Jacksonville in 1897.  He was Mayor of Jacksonville and also Cherokee County Judge.   He served in Congress from 1919 to 1931.  He practiced law in Jacksonville from then until his death.  His work in Congress is remembered because he worked for the National Origins Act, which reflected the racism of the 1920’s trying to exclude immigrants from all but European countries.  This law is back in the news because Attorney General  Sessions (another Methodist) often praises its effects in limiting legal immigration. 

Mayfield (1881-1964) is also remembered for advancing racism.  He won his seat in 1922 as the “Klandiate.”  He did not try to hide his membership in the Ku Klux Klan.   He was born in Overton, was raised in Timpson and graduated from Southwestern University in 1900.  He served in the State Senate and was a member of the Railroad Commission.  The 1922 Democratic Primary was crowded, but Mayfield made the runoff against James "Pa" Ferguson who ran for the Senate since he was ineligible for the governorship, having been removed by impeachment.    In the general election Mayfield defeated George Peddy.  

Mayfield’s service in the Senate was delayed because his victory was accompanied by political shenanigans.  The state passed a law declaring that candidates had to be nominated by primaries.  Texas Republicans didn’t have enough members to hold a primary so they nominated candidates in convention.  Peddy’s name was not even on the general election ballot, but he still got a third of the vote.  

Peddy demanded an investigation.  The Senate has the power to judge the qualifications of its members, and after considerable delay, they seated Mayfield.  
Mayfield  could not hold his seat in 1928, and upon his retirement from the Senate he moved to Tyler and the family business, Mayfield Wholesale Grocery.

Also attending was an extended family.  Rev. and Mrs. John Goodwin of Navasota were there with their daughter and son-in-law, Beryl and Joe Z Tower.     The Towers brought their 10 month old son, John Goodwin Tower.  In 1961 John was elected U. S. Senator.  Like Mayfield, he was a graduate of Southwestern University. 

(I often see Joe Z Tower’s name with a period after the Z.  That is incorrect.  The Z is his middle name, not an initial.)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History August 12




Invitation to Preacher Creates Flap Between MEC and MECS   August 1871

David Coulson, the MECS preacher appointed to the Colorado Colored Mission invited George W. Honey, the Presiding Elder of the Austin District of the MEC to preach at a camp meeting in Bastrop County in August 1871.   The invitation resulted in controversy and illustrates several themes of Methodist history during Reconstruction.

The incident shows that as late as 1871, the MECS was still appointing preachers to African American congregations.   They were still in the process of spinning off those congregations into a new denomination; the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church South, later renamed the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, or C. M. E.

It also shows that the MEC was still trying to forge an interracial Texas Conference. 
George Honey was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1833.   In 1860 he was living in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin and enlisted as a private in the 4th Wisconsin Calvary.  He eventually became Chaplain for the unit.   In 1866 he moved to Texas as an agent for the American Missionary Society.  He encouraged the establishment of schools for former enslaved African Americans.  When the Texas Conference met under Bishop Ames, he was elected Secretary and appointed to Galveston. 
In 1869 he won the office of State Treasurer during the Republican administration.  He was then appointed Presiding Elder of the Austin District so he could move to Austin.  

He was a busy man.  He started building a brick church about a mile north of the Capitol in the Harney Addition.  He defended himself in district court against charges of misappropriating state funds.   He still had time to accept the offer to preach at the camp meeting in Bastrop County. 

Some Bastrop Methodists objected to having a “Black Republican” preach at a MECS event.  The hostilities of the Civil War were alive and well.  At least one of the most vigorous protestors was asked to leave the camp meeting.   

Honey’s church tensions were nothing like his civil ones.   Governor Davis asked him to step down as Treasurer, but the Texas Supreme Court reinstated him.  
In 1875 he decided he had had enough of Texas.  He moved to Kansas.  Honey died in 1906 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. 


Saturday, August 04, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History   August 5





Mourners Receive Body of Rev. William Pfaeffle at Train Station in Brenham, August 12, 1890

Rev. William Pfaeffle was born at Berghausen, near Karlsruhe, Germany in 1831.  He was converted to Methodism while still a young man.  In 1850 he immigrated to America, landing in New York but going on to St. Louis.  He then moved to Chicago and worked as a wheelwright.  He surrendered to the call to the ministry and served German congregations in Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

The 1872 General Conference of the MEC agreed to split the Texas Conference into 4 new conferences.  There would be two African American Conferences, the Texas and West Texas.  The new Austin Conference would service English speaking European Americans.  The Southern German Conference would serve German speakers in Texas and Louisiana. 

There was a problem with this plan.  There were not enough German speaking preachers to occupy the pulpits of the Southern German Conference.  One answer was to recruit German Methodist preachers conferences from New York to Minnesota.   William Pfaeffle decided to investigate Texas with the idea he might transfer to the new conference.   

In December 1872 he and a colleague, Philip Barth, came to Texas and stayed with the Brenham preacher, Carl Urbantke.  Urbantke showed them around German churches and ended up in Galveston in January 1873 for the conference that would create the split into 4 conferences.  Barth decided he was too old to transfer, but Pfaeffle cast his lot with the new conference and was appointed Presiding Elder of the Brenham District. 

He became a leader in the Conference and was elected a delegate to the 1884 General Conference.  

He is best remembered for his motion, offered at the 1882 session of Annual Conference to establish a school to train ministers.  He backed his motion up with a gift of $500 to the proposed school.  Pfaeffle put pressure on Carl Urbantke to head up the school who finally accepted.  Accordingly, in September 1883 the Mission Institute enrolled 3 students in Brenham under Urbantke’s tutelage.
Some years later, a MEC preacher from New York, Christian Blinn, was travelling through Brenham and was inspired by the educational effort and donated funds to support it.  In appreciation of his generosity, the school was renamed in his honor. 

Pfaeffle’s long service in Wisconsin and Minnesota created many friendships, and one of his friends had a lake cabin on Lake Gervaise near St. Paul.   Pfaeffle was invited to spend his vacation at the lake cabin so he went.

On the 13th of July a tornado struck the cabin and killed William Pfaeffle.  His wife survived.   

On Saturday August 12, 1890 mourners waited at the Santa Fe Train Station to convey the casket containing the earthly remains to the German Methodist Church in preparation for the Sunday funeral. 

The pallbearers put the casket inside the church.   Early arrivals on Sunday morning noticed that the casket had sprung a leak.  Embalming fluid was on the floor and a powerful stench filled the sanctuary.   They removed the casket to the cemetery only a few hundred yards away.  

At the 10:00 o’clock worship service Urbantke preached a funeral sermon, and then at 5:00 o’clock the rest of the funeral proceeded.  Rev. Heinrich Dietz who had also transferred to Texas in 1873 preached the funeral sermon.  The pastor of the First Baptist Church, Rev. J. L. Lloyd delivered a eulogy.  There is no record of the MECS preacher’s participation in the service.   He left behind his widow and three sons. 

1890 also saw the passing of Carl Biel and Edward Schneider, both of whom had been original members of the Texas Conference of the MEC when it was organized in 1867.  Biel was perhaps the most influential pastor in leading the departure of German MECS pastors into the MEC. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 29



Francis White, of Alabama Colony, Defended in the Press, He is not a Drunkard.   July, 1857

Previous blog posts have dealt with the Alabama Colony, one of the most important Methodist groups to immigrate to Texas during the Mexican period.  The names of some of those colonists, Menefee, Sutherland, Heard, and resounded down through the decades of Texas Methodist history.  Another member of the group who came from Tuscumbia, Alabama, in 1830 was Francis Menefee White, (1811-1897), soldier, lawyer, politician. 

Frank White married into another prominent Texas family with Methodist connections in February 1835 when he and Rosanna McNutt married.   1835 also saw the first engagements of the Texas Revolution, and White was part of them.  He was commissioned a lieutenant in October of that year and participated in the siege of Bexar and the Grass Fight.  He was elected a delegate to the Consultation, but could not attend.   He left the army to care for Rosanna who was pregnant and spent the Runaway Scrape with her in the Brazos bottoms. 

After the war he became Commissioner of Jackson County, Justice of the Peace, a delegate to the 1845 Convention, and a member of the legislature.   He was especially interested in the public lands and in 1857 became Land Commissioner.
The publicity of the political office subjected him to attacks, including the charge that he was a drunkard.    He was defended by the editor of the Galveston Civilian and Gazette,

Here’s the defense

We lived neighbor to Frank White twenty years ago, and have known him intimately ever since.  So far as him being a drunkard, he never did dissipate and, for ten or twelve years past, has been the grand Shangai of the temperance society in Jackson Co., He is not a member of any church but nearly all his family and relatives are members of the Methodist denomination and he is a regular attendant upon and supporter of that body.  The idea of Frank White being a drunkard would cause the good old ladies of Jackson Co. than is experienced by a chicken in a thunderstorm. ,