Saturday, February 17, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History February 18

Methodist Preachers on the Move, February, 1839

The week of February 18, 1839 is especially interesting to Texas Methodist historians because we have several travel accounts from preachers who were on the go that week.
Jesse Hord was travelling his circuit.  His circuit stretched from Houston to Victoria with most of the appointments in Brazoria and Matagorda Counties.  For those of you who have travelled these same counties in winter know that the coastal plains can be hostile in February.  There is little protection from the wind, the marshes that make the region a haven for waterfowl, made it miserable for travelers.  It seems like the roads never dry out.    Fortunately the fertile alluvial soils along the water courses of Caney Creek, the San Bernard River, the Colorado River, and lesser streams had attracted farmers so there were settlements along the way.
Hord started the week on Sunday, February 17 in Egypt, and left Monday for Matagorda and Quintana.  Egypt was home base for the Alabama Colony,  a group of interrelated families and neighbors who had immigrated to Texas in 1828/29.  They made contributions to Texas Methodism for generations.  Readers of this column would be familiar with the families, especially Sutherland and Menefee. 
The same week a party consisting for Littleton Fowler, Missouri Fowler, and Joseph Sneed were making their way from East Texas to Washington.   Fowler, the head of the Texas mission since Martin Ruter’s death the previous May, had stayed in East Texas-travelling back and forth from Houston to San Augustine, and preaching mainly in East Texas.   On February 10 Joseph Sneed arrived from the Mississippi Conference as a recruit for the Texas Mission.  He was bringing missionary funds entrusted to him by Bishop Andrew who had presided over the Mississippi Conference of which Texas was a part.  When Sneed arrived, Fowler was conducting a love feast at McMahan’s Chapel.  On Monday, February 11, they headed west. 
On Saturday they arrived at Cincinnati on the Trinity River.  Fowler preached on Sunday a.m. the 17th and they did a very rare thing---they travelled on Sunday.  That afternoon they made 12 miles, so that Monday they were able to make it to Robinson’s in southwestern Walker County.  Robinson and Fowler spent Tuesday locating a 30 acre camp ground which would prove to be an important Methodist site for years, including hosting the 1843 session of annual conference.
There were delays caused by the swollen San Jacinto River, but the party arrived in Washington on Feb. 20.   On the 22nd they went to the Kessee house where they stayed until March 5 and met other preachers who had been sent the notice to rendezvous at Kessee’s.  That party included Schuyler Hoes, the agent for the American Bible Society, Abel Stevens  a missionary recruit from the New England Conference, and Daniel N. V. Sullivan, another recent volunteer for Texas.  The attraction was the missionary funds Sneed had brought from Mississippi-  The men were going to receive their wages.  This was the first time Fowler met these 3 colleagues. 
Hoes reported that he had organized chapters of the Bible Society in Cedar Creek (north of present day Chappell Hill) and Austin County.  He and Stevens had travelled together from Houston, become lost in the underbrush and were saved from spending a night sleeping on the ground when they heard the family of Thomas Bell singing hymns during their nightly devotionals.  (later Bellville).
     This same week Chauncey Richardson left New Orleans for Galveston.  He was going to spend the rest of 1839 organizing a new school—Rutersville College—which did open the following January.
All in all the last two weeks of February, 1839, saw Methodist preachers in Texas on the move---that wasn’t rare.  The rarity was that their travels were so well documented.   

Saturday, February 10, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History February 11

Annual Meeting Registration Now Open

The Texas United Methodist Historical Society is a membership organization devoted to the historical interests of all the annual conferences of the United Methodist Church with congregations in Texas. 
There are seven annual conferences including the Central Texas, New Mexico, North Texas, Northwest Texas, Oklahoma Indian Mission, Rio Texas, and Texas Annual Conferences in the TUMHS.

Each year the TUMHS holds an annual meeting.  The program consists of scholarly presentations, tours of historic Methodist sites, and the presentation of awards for achievement in writing local church histories and student essays.  

This year's annual meeting will be held Thursday April 5 through Saturday April 7 in El Paso.  The host church is Trinity-First UMC, one of the most historic churches in the entire Southwestern region of the United States.   A special attraction will be a celebration of the history of Lydia Patterson Institute which has been serving students for more than a century. 

The theme of the meeting is Methodism on the Border.   Registration materials may be found on the New Mexico Conference site.

Looking forward to seeing you in El Paso. 

Saturday, February 03, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History February 4

Bishop Simpson Tells His Side of the Story about Church Confiscations  February 4, 1869

Bishop Matthew Simpson is remembered as the preeminent Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church during the mid-19th century.  He achieved national attention because of his close association with President Lincoln.  Simpson’s funeral sermon for Lincoln at Springfield, Illinois, was widely reprinted. 

Simpson came to Houston in January 1867 to organize the Texas Conference of the MEC.  He continued to exercise episcopal oversight in Texas.   In 1869 he returned and used the opportunity to tell his side of the story in the church confiscation controversy of the Civil War.    During the Civil War several MECS churches were seized by Union forces and were put under the control of Bishop Edward Ames.  Ames appointed Unionist preachers to those churches.  Naturally the dispossessed MECS preachers and laity hated the confiscation.   The controversy did not end with the end of the Civil War.  The question remained a festering complaint between the MECS and MEC for years. 

On his 1869 trip to Texas Simpson gave his side of the controversy in the Houston Weekly Telegram.  The article is unsigned, but one of the associate editors was Homer Thrall, so it is quite possible that Thrall was the author of the article.

Simpson’s basic defense was that he appointed only one preacher to an occupied church, McKendree in Nashville, after visiting the church and finding that it was already in use as a hospital.  After the war, in consultation with President Johnson, he advised returning McKendree to the MECS and advised the preacher to relinquish the church.  The McKendree pastor, though, had been appointed by Bishop Clarke and believed that he needed to confirm the decision with the bishop who had appointed him.   Accordingly, the McKendree preacher went to Cincinnati to confer with Bishop Clarke.  Bishop Clarke concurred with Bishop Simpson’s decision.  The MEC preacher  returned to Nashville, and gave up McKendree to the MECS. 

In the meantime, though, Secretary Stanton had added to the controversy by demanding surrender of the church thus unnecessarily pouring fuel on an already volatile situation.

The author of the Telegram article also repeated Simpson’s claim that he had no intention to proselytize Southern Methodists, but felt a duty to care for those Methodists who came to the decision to leave on their own.   

The concluding paragraph of the article says   he desires peace,  prays for the prosperity of the M E Church South, and hopes the time may yet come when the two branches of Methodism may again become united in one body.  

Sunday, January 28, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 28

Northwest Texas Conference Convenes in Special Session to Accept Hospital
January 29, 1954
Sometimes Annual Conference business cannot wait for the next regularly scheduled session, and the Discipline allows for called sessions of Methodist conferences.   Under those Disciplinary provisions, the Northwest Texas Conference met in Lubbock on January 29, 1954.  The business of the conference as to consider a proposal to accept the Lubbock Memorial Hospital. 
Drs. J. T. Krueger, M. C. Overton, and J. T. Hutchinson were the principal owners of the hospital.  They proposed deeding it to the conference.  The property included the hospital building, a medical building, and two nurse’s homes in Lubbock.   The proposal also included all furniture and fixtures.  The estimated value was about $4,500,000.    The Conference would assume a debt of $1,359,746.21.  
The Annual Conference voted to accept the proposal and within a few years expanded the hospital system by adding a five story addition to the north wing, A nursing school, nurse’s home, and radiation center which was named the Furr Radiation Center in honor of the Furr Foundaiton. 
Lubbock Methodist Hospital traced its origins to a 25 bed sanitarium founded in 1918.  In 1941 it became Lubbock General Hospital and in 1945, Lubbock Memorial Hospital.  In 1998 it merged with St. Mary’s of the Plains, another venerable Lubbock hospital.
Today it is part of the Covenant Health, part of St. Joseph Health.  It provides state of the art medical services not only in Lubbock, but also in Levelland and Plainview.   It serves a vast geographic area of West Texas and New Mexico with a variety of medical specialties and wellness programs. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 21

Rev. John R. Nelson Attends Large Evangelistic Services Held for Camp Logan Troops, January 22, 1918

Try to imagine a far different geography of Houston 100 years ago.  Camp Logan occupied 9312 acres of land, including the present site of Memorial Park.  Such a large area was needed because much of the land was used for artillery practice.  A smaller area, about 2000 acres, was used for rifle practice.  The Army had leased the land, which had included truck farms, pasture, woods, and dairy farms for a three year period.   
Just to the east, down Washington Avenue at the intersection of Washington and Heights, was the “Soldier’s Tabernacle” which had a seating capacity of 2500.  Standees could bring attendance to 3500.  A canteen and reading room were attached.   There were Methodist Episcopal Church South churches fairly close to the Tabernacle, Grace and Washington Avenue.  Washington Ave. was the older of the two, having been established specifically for the railroad employees and their families who had settled along the main tracks leading west from downtown.  Grace had been established later to serve the Houston Heights which was an incorporated municipality built around the most success streetcar suburb of Houston.   There was also a Methodist Episcopal Church, Collins Memorial, in the same general area.  Larkin Street Methodist was also not too far away as was West End Methodist (Brunner at Wood).
One hundred years ago this week the Rev.  W. H. Holderby, an evangelist of the Salvation Army held services for the troops in the tabernacle.  Nearby churches sent their young people to these services, and Collins Memorial held an all day prayer meeting in support of the evangelistic effort. 
There was a Methodist Chaplain at Camp Logan, H. T. Perritte (yes, you might know Perritte Memorial in Nacogdoches, named in his honor), and there was a also a state wide director of Methodist Army work—John R. Nelson, of the North Texas Conference in town for the week of preaching by Holderby and lectures supplied by the Fosdick Commission to prevent drunkenness, venereal disease, and visiting prostitutes.* 
It must have been an impressive sight to see troops marching down Washington Avenue in their uniforms to attend services at the Soldier’s Tabernacle.    John R. Nelson must have received a favorable impression.  In 1920 he transferred from the North Texas Conference to the Texas Conference so he could be appointed to Grace in the Heights.   In 1921, however, he transferred to the Memphis Conference.  That vacancy at Grace opened the way for a transfer from the Little Rock Conference, W. C. Martin---later Bishop Martin. 
*Raymond Fosdick was director of camp activities during World War I.  His office supplied speakers and programs to promote readiness and morale.  After the war he returned to the practice of law and directed the Rockefeller Foundation.  His brother was Harry Emerson Fosdick.   

Saturday, January 13, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 14

SU Board Rejects Presidential Resignation,  January 18, 1918

Because of its connectional system in which preachers are subject to annual appointment, and churches receive preachers from by the appointment process, a vacancy in one pulpit almost always sets off a chain reaction. 
On December 28, 1917, the Rev. and Mrs. Allen Lewellyn Andrews (Lewis) and their son William, were riding on the Fort Worth Pike when their auto was struck by the eastbound Texas and Pacific Sunset Special passenger train.   Allen was killed instantaneously.  Hassie Allen survived.  William did not. 
Andrews was the pastor of First Methodist Church Fort Worth, a leading church of the Central Texas Conference.  He was born in 1869 earned a Master’s Degree at Southern University where his father was president.  He served appointments in the North Alabama and Alabama Conferences before transferring to the North Texas Conference. He served Dallas Grace, was Presidng Elder of the Sherman and then the Terrell Districts then returned to the pulpit at Wichita Falls.  He transferred to Central Texas in 1916 and was appointed to Fort Worth.  He was a delegate to three General Conferences.

The tragic death created a vacancy that needed to be filled.  Bishop Mouzon sent Rev. F. P. Culver who was finishing his fourth year at Austin Ave. Methodist in Waco to Fort Worth First.    Bishop Mouzon announced that he was appointing President Charles Bishop of Southwestern University to the Austin Avenue Methodist Church in Waco.

President Bishop’s tenure at Southwestern had been rocky, to say the least.  In June 1917 a group of disaffected faculty presented a series of resolutions calling his administrative abilities into question.  World War I had hindered enrollment, and therefore finances.  Bishop admitted that some faculty members were at the “bread line of poverty.”  Leaving SU for a church such as Austin Avenue seemed like a good way out.
The Board met on January 18, 1918, and Bishop tendered his resignation.  The appointment had already appeared in the newspapers of the state.  The Board asked Bishop to leave the room.  When they invited him back in, they urged him to reject the appointment and stay at Southwestern.   That is what happened.  Charles Bishop’s resignation was not accepted. 
He informed the Board in June 1921 of his intention to resign, and the following December told them of his appointment to St Paul’s in Houston.   A committee of professors administered university affairs  until his Bishop’s resignation became effective in 1922.  Bishop later taught at SMU, but came back to Georgetown in his retirement years and died and was buried there. 

Saturday, January 06, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 7

Huntsville Welcomes James Follansbee as President of New College, January 1853
When Texas Methodists wished to establish schools and colleges, it was necessary to recruit leadership from the northern states.  The southern states had not supported education to the extent that the northern states had.  A case in point is the recruitment of James Morrill Folansbee to be the first principal of Andrew Female College in Huntsville.  The college was founded by the Texas Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South at its 1852 Annual Conference.  It brought in Follansbee (1823-1900) to be the first president. 

Follansbee was born in Washington, D. C.  His father, Joseph, once served as Door Keeper for the House of Representatives and served on the D. C. Common Council.  James attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA and Columbia Medical School in Washington.  He taught several years in Tennessee.  He was admitted on trial to the Texas Conference in January, 1849 and was appointed to Gonzales.  $ years later he became head of Andrew Female College.  He then transferred to Soule University as professor of languages.  When Soule fell on hard times he went back to Washington, D. C. where he rejoined the Baltimore-Washington Conference.  He returned to academia with his appointment as president of Johnson Female College in Union, West Virginia, and then as president of Charleston (W. Va.) Female College.  
Follansbee married Eliza Stevens of Ohio, and they had several children.  They named one of their sons James Soule Follansbee.