Saturday, June 22, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History June 23

Louise Brandt Describes “Old Fashioned Camp Meeting,” June 24, 1911

We often overlook the fact that although F. A. Mood (whose birthday we celebrated on June 23) relocated and renamed Soule University to create Southwestern University, the Chappell Hill Female Academy continued for another forty years. 
One of the last students was Louise Brandt.  On June 24, 1911 she submitted a class essay, “Old Fashioned Camp Meeting,”  which provides a wonderful insight into the campmeeting experience.  Fortunately for us, the essay is preserved in the Chappell Hill Historical Museum complete with corrections by the instructor. 

Brandt attaches her outline to the essay and then fills in details.  She begins with the physical setting.  The camp grounds were located where the prairie meets the oak-sycamore forest.  The prairie made it possible to catch winds from the south and east while the large trees provided shade.  There was a large tabernacle surrounded by tents which were served by water pumped from a well by a gasoline engine.  The tents were wooded, some of them two story and were comparable to what we would call fishing shacks.  

The next section “At Home” describes housekeeping for the two weeks the camp meeting was in session.   Families often hired cooks for the two weeks and children were assigned housekeeping chores.  Much of the time was spent at a beautiful spring with clear water and moss covered rocks.  The spring was a popular rendezvous spot for young couples. 
Brandt goes on to describe the services.  “Preachers from the surrounding towns help the evangelist.  The day began with prayer services at 6:30 a.m.  Regular services were at 11:00 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. In between the men would hold services in the woods and women would conduct their services in the tabernacle.  

Brandt also describes melon cutting parties and taking Kodak pictures.  

The essay is part of a collection that includes the account books of the Bellville Chappell Hill Camp Meeting association and a published history of the Association.    

The site occupied land once owned by Robert and Eliza Alexander, who called the springs mentioned in the essay Holly Springs.    The Association lasted from 1886 to 1917.  In addition to the Association’s files and the Brandt essay, the Museum collection also contains pictures of the participants.  The twenty-five acre plot formerly owned by the Association is now in private hands.  The only evidence remaining are the sycamores and the cast iron well casing.  The spring is now more of a seep, but the holly trees are still there. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History June 16

Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam Blasts Dallas Morning News, June 1948

Why should a Texas newspaper care about a speech made by a New York bishop delivered to an audience in Boston?   If the newspaper was the Dallas Morning News, a paper whose editorial stance could be described as ultra-conservative, and the speech was the Episcopal address at the General Conference of the Methodist Church delivered by one of the most liberal Methodist bishops of the 20th century, it’s easy to see why.

The Dallas Morning News employed editorial writers who were obsessed with racial segregation and used their platform to conflate desegregation efforts with communism every chance they got. 
The bishop was G. Bromley Oxnam (1891-1963) of the New York Episcopal Area, and the speech wasn’t any speech.  It was the Episcopal Address at the General Conference of the Methodist Church of 1948 held in Boston.  

The Episcopal Address is a special kind of speech.  It is composed by one of the bishops selected by the other bishops.  The bishop chosen allows a draft to be circulated prior to delivery, and the other bishops make critical comments.  In the end it is customary for all the bishops to sign or initial the printed version.  

Oxnam was selected by his fellow bishops as author in March 1947.  He worked on the speech for over a year, and presented a draft to his colleagues on April 15, 1948.  They left it substantially intact.  As delivered, it ran to two hours in length.   The Dallas Morning News then ran an editorial, “Rubescent Bishop Would Woo Reds.”    What was so objectionable?  Oxnam called for participation in the National Council of Churches.  He also called for the creation of a commission on church union, and as result of his known interest in the subject, was chosen to represent the Methodist Church at the first General Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren, a denomination recently created by merger of two denominations.

Oxnam replied to the DMN editorial with a letter which he supplied to the Southwestern Advocate which published the letter in its June 17th issue.  His defense was a recitation of his anti-communist bona fides.  Among other items he noted was his introduction of a resolution at the 1936 General Conference denouncing both fascism and communism.    That would not do for the newspaper, and perhaps the editorial writer was reacting to Oxnam’s past as well as his speech.  He had studied sociology at the University of Southern California and did field work among the poorest immigrant communities.  After graduation, he went to Boston for theology training, and then back to Los Angeles where he established the Church of All Nations in downtown Los Angeles.  The church welcomed all races and ethnicities and at one time counted members from 46 different nations on its rolls.  He ran for the Board of Education on a platform of improving schools for immigrant and working-class children.  The conservative business elite, foreshadowing the conservative reaction in Dallas, launched a smear campaign against him and his attempt to “sovietize” Los Angles schools. 
In 1927 he became Professor Social Ethics at Boston College, but after just one year, was elected President of DePauw College.  As president he liberalized student affairs by allowing dancing on campus.  He served as president until his election as bishop in 1936.  

In 1952 he became Bishop of the Washington area and that public arena suited him just as well as New York City. After the publication of the Reader’s Digest “Methodism’s Pink Fringe” article, Oxnam again wrote a defense/reply.  This time it was Houston conservatives instead of Dallas conservatives who played a prominent part in the story.  Laity of Houston First Methodist were particularly impressed by the Reader’s Digest half-truths, innuendo, and character assassination.   The “Pink Fringe” article most prominently attacked the Methodist Foundation for Social Action (MFSA). In 1953 Oxnam was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee whose members dredged up some of the same slanders that had been used against him when he ran for the Board of Education.  

 Frank Smith was called upon to calm the water at Houston First Methodist. 

Smith and Oxnam had considerable interaction as bishops.  Both were already bishops upon the creation of the Methodist Church in 1939, Smith from the MECS and Oxnam from the MEC.  Both were elected as fairly young men and had forceful personalities.   After the creation of the MC in 1939, they both assumed highly visible roles in the new denomination and sometimes clashed.   Oxnam presided over the Board of Foreign Missions of the Board of Missions which was located in New York City in the same building as his office.  Smith served as President of the Board of Home Missions.  Oxnam noted the investments by Home Missions Board and wanted to divert some of them to Foreign Missions.  Smith successfully repulsed the attempt. 

While serving the Washington Area, Oxnam relocated Westminster Seminary from Westminster, Maryland to land owned by American University in D.C.   After relocation the name was changed to Wesley Seminary.  After his death in 1963, that is where his ashes were deposited. 

Saturday, June 08, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History  June 9

Southwestern Mexican Conference Meets in Austin, June, 1946

Official organization of Spanish speaking Methodists in Texas began in 1874 when the West Texas Conference created the Spanish District.   As Methodism grew among Spanish speakers on both sides of the Rio Grande, the work increased, first to two districts, then to the status of mission conference.  The appointments paid no attention to international boundaries so the conferences included churches in both Texas and Mexico.  

The Mexican Revolution had a large component of anti-clericalism directed against the Roman Catholic Church, and Methodist work was greatly hindered by the same climate of opinion.  Laws directed against Roman Catholic educational programs had a chilling effect on the Methodist mission schools set up by both the MEC and MECS.  

A variety of conference configurations were tried until unification in 1939 brought together the Texas Mexican Conference, the Texas portion of the Western Mexican Conference, and the Spanish speaking churches in New Mexico that had been part of the Methodist Episcopal Church into a new conference--the Southwest Mexican Conference.  

The 1946 Annual Conference of the Southwestern Mexican Conference met in Austin in June 1946.  Bishop A. Frank Smith, who also presided over the Texas and Southwest Texas Conferences, presided.   The district superintendents of the three districts were Felix Soto, J. W. Daniel, and D. Venegas.  Other appointments beyond the local church included Frank Ramos as traveling evangelist for the Dry Cause and Alfredo Nanez as Sunday School Executive Secretary. 

In covering the conference, the Advocate reported “the American people who were there” (yes, the reporter actually used that demeaning phrase.)  included names familiar to students of Texas Methodist history, Edmund Heinsohn, R. F. Curl, Dawson Bryan,  and Kenneth Pope, among others. 

There were two other speakers of note.  A. E. Rector and Pauline. Kibbe (1902-?).  Mrs. Kibbe was representing the Good Neighbor Commission.   Perhaps many of you have not heard of the Good Neighbor Commission.  It was established as a state agency in 1943 at the urging of the Roosevelt administration.  

Texas-Mexico relations in the first half of the 20th century were a roller coaster of highs and lows.  Events of the Mexican Revolution created militarization of the Border to a degree that had not present earlier.  The Revolution also prompted a large migration of Mexicans to Texas to provide valuable labor in agriculture, mining, railroads, forestry, and other industries.   When the Depression hit, their labor was no longer needed and Mexicans were often subjected to discrimination in housing, education, social services, and employment.  

When World War II broke out, American strategists remembered the Zimmerman Telegraph and also noticed the rise of Fascist ideologies in several Latin American nations.  Fascist propaganda in some Latin American nations used photos of signs from Texas such as “No Dogs or Mexican Allowed.”

 FDR needed the enthusiastic support of Latin American nations during the war—for Panama Canal security if nothing else.   The discrimination against Mexican immigrants in Texas proved to be an embarrassment for FDR’s attempts at hemispheric solidarity against Fascism.

The Good Neighbor Commission was formed with a mandate to alleviate the social and economic condition of Mexican-Texans.   The Executive Secretary was Pauline Kibbe who had become recognized in the field for producing “Americans All” for KTSA in San Antonio and writing columns in the San Antonio Light calling for upgrading the housing, employment conditions, and health care for Spanish speaking Texans.   She was the banquet speaker at Annual Conference, held on the campus of Samuel Huston (today’s Huston-Tillotson) College.  She implored Methodist leaders to get behind the work of the Good Neighbor Commission.

Another attendee at Annual Conference was 92 year old A. E. Rector (1855-1955) who spoke
“with great power.”   Rector had been one of the most prominent members of the West Texas Conference but also served in the German Mission Conference and the Texas Conference.    He was one of the few Anglo Methodist preachers who had a first hand knowledge of immigration issues.  He headed the Methodist Immigration Bureau in Galveston from 1909-1912---right at the start of the Mexican Revolution.  He had also established a church on the West Side of San Antonio.  The conference honored him for his long and productive life.  

The name “Southwestern Mexican Conference” touched a nerve among some of the members, especially in the New Mexico portion of the conference.  Many New Mexicans claim Spanish rather than Mexican heritage.  The name of the conference was changed to Rio Grande Conference. 

Saturday, June 01, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History  June 2

Texas Conference Ends Racial Segregation at Lakeview, June 2, 1958

A recent post discussed the founding and naming of Lakeview, the Texas Conference camping facility in Anderson County.   The facility quickly became an important part of the conference and attracted all sorts of meetings, retreats, and educational events.  In the 1950s the heavy hand of racial segregation still lay over East Texas and the Texas Conference of the Methodist Church.   In 1939 discrimination against African Americans had been formally enshrined into church law with the creation of the Central Jurisdiction.   That jurisdiction also had a Texas Conference occupying almost the same area as the Texas Conference of the South Central Jurisdiction.   

The two Texas Conferences were separate in every respect---except one very small crack in the wall in racism.  That one small crack was the fact that the Methodist Student Movement occasionally had events in which both European American and African American students attended.  The question arose---could such an event be held at Lakeview?

At the 1957 session of the Texas Conference (SCJ) a 7 person committee was named to study the issue and bring recommendations to the 1958 session.  On June 2 Chair of the Committee E. C. Clabaugh, brought the recommendation to the Annual Conference.  The report had already been endorsed unanimously by the Lakeview Trustees.  The gist of the recommendation was that the Superintendent could host any group he wanted, regardless of the local segregation laws then in effect.  One should remember that Lakeview had a swimming pool, and pools had been a main subject of protests against Jim Crow.   By hosting desegregated events at Lakeview, the ban against interracial bathing was destroyed.   Lakeview also had accommodations for staying overnight.   That meant that persons of all races would be sharing cabins for sleeping.  

Besides Mr. Clabaugh of Carthage, the other members of the committee included my father, J. W. Hardt, Meyers Curtis, William Harris, Mrs. Harmon Lowman,  and Mr. B. J. Butts of San Augustine who voted to end segregation at Lakeview.  Mr. M. G. Mell of Gilmer was also on the committee and he voted to keep racial segregation in place.  Curtis, Hardt, and Harris were young clergy already identified with the more progressive faction of the Conference.  Mrs. Lowman was WSCS Conference President.   

The Committee went on to add an even stronger statement in favor of racial inclusions.  They said that even though their mandate had been to bring a recommendation to Annual Conference 1958, they decided to implement the policy immediately without waiting for Conference action on their recommendation. 

That wasn’t all.  The 1957 Annual Conference had authorized another special committee called Committee on Rotation to recommend changes to practices by which trustees were appointed to the hospitals, schools, and other instructions of the Conference.  The “Union” had controlled such appointments and kept re-appointing their allies to these important positions.  The report of that committee took the extraordinary step of subtly saying “Bishop Smith, when it comes to appointing Lakeview trustees, we expect you to appoint persons who will enforce our non-discriminatory policy.Mrs. Lowman, Mr. Butts, and Rev. Harris served on both committees.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 26

Fellowship Class of Wharton Methodist Church Announced as Winners of “Name the Camp” Contest, May 1948

The Texas Annual Conference of the MC (South Central Jurisdiction) was a relative latecomer to establishing a conference encampment.  The other annual conferences in Texas all had some such facility before World War II, but not the Texas Conference.

To be sure there was camping for the purpose of spiritual retreat and refreshment but not at a conference-owned facility.  Texas A&M  and Lon Morris hosted summer youth assemblies at various times.   Individual districts also conducted camping programs in a variety of faculties, and the Longview District, led by an enthusiastic young preacher named Chad Murray, seriously considered buying property for district camping use.

Finally though, in the post World War II era, the Conference decided to acquire property for camping use.  The property chosen was in Anderson County just south of the city of Palestine on Highway 294.   It consisted of rolling hills forested with mixed hardwoods and pines.  
In order build support for the project, the appointed Board of Managers conducted a “Name the Camp” contest. 

When Annual Conference met the last week of May 1948, the winner was announced.  The Fellowship Sunday School Class of Wharton Methodist Church had the winning entry, Lakeview.  The name was somewhat ironic since the lake had not yet been constructed.  What was the prize?  A camping experience for up to twenty-five persons at the new facility. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 19

Sam Butman Donates Land to Northwest Texas Conference for Youth Camp, May 1953

Few Methodists in the densely populated states of the Eastern seaboard can really grasp the how large the Northwest Texas Conference is.  It was even larger before 1910 when the General Conference broke off its southeastern portion to form the Central Texas Conference.     One of the difficulties of distance was addressed at the annual conference session of 1953 when the conference accepted Sam Butman’s generous donation of 232 acres of ranch land called Mulberry Canyon near Merkel for a youth camp.   

The Northwest Texas Conference already had an encampment, Ceta Canyon, near Happy.  The two encampments were about 250 miles apart.   Butman had signed the deed on May 14 so the Conference action was a formality.   Just a few years earlier, in 1950, Butman had made another generous donation so that Pioneer Memorial Methodist Church could be built in Merkel. 

We are fortunate that Darris Egger, Sr., a former member of the TUMHS, wrote a history of the encampment.  This selection from Egger’s book is used on the Butman website.

After a number of years of hope, dreaming, planning and praying, a camp in beautiful Mulberry Canyon, to be used by thousands of young and old alike, then awaited construction ...Let's put the picture into perspective. The Conference then had 231 plus acres of rocky, hilly, mesquite and cedar covered land. What lay ahead? What would rise from these seemingly rugged acres? To answer this question all we have to do is to visit Butman Methodist Camp and see all the facilities that house and feed hundreds and hundreds of people each year. We can walk the trails that children, youth and adults walk, see the shelters for small group sharings, listen to the singing , the sharing of experiences of the various camps, and to hear testimonies of changed lives by experiences led by Christian leaders." "We thank God for the vision of Sam Butman Sr., for the dedication and commitment of laity and clergy across a wide area , for their generosity in bringing to pass dreams that have been dreamed and prayers that have been uttered for His guidance and blessings.

Butman died 3 years later at the age of 92.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

This Week in Texas Methodist History  May 12

Houston Post Recognizes Texans Serving in MECS Missions, May 18, 1919

Methodists, both MEC and MECS, celebrated the centennial of the first Methodist mission which had occurred in 1819 by a huge fund raising campaign called the Centenary Campaign throughout 1919. 
The religion editor of the Houston Post decided to run a full page article on Texans serving in MECS missions.  The reporter’s job wasn’t that difficult since the Mission Board published an annual which included a comprehensive directory and reports from all the missions.   

Texans were in seven different mission fields, as follows with the hometown (where known) of each.   

Three Texans were at Collegio Palmore in Chihuahua.  They included Norwood Wynn of Dallas, Virginia Booth of San Marcos, and Ethel McCaughan of Corpus Christi.  Edith Park from Galveston worked at the MECS school in Saltillo. 
Male missionaries to Mexico included J. F. Corbin; J. B. Cox; L. B. Newberry; J. A. Phillips; and Laurence Reynolds.

The missionaries to China which was still working out its government after the successful revolt earlier in the decade were mainly teachers.  They included Carey Touchstone of Merkel, Sid Anderson or Rising Star, Mary Tarrant of Galveston, Maggie Rogers of Marlin, and Sue Standiford of Waco.    Anderson was Presiding Elder of a district in which all the charges were villages around a large lake.  He “rode” his district in a motor boat donated by Methodists of Ranger.

There were two MECS Texan missionaries to Japan:  James Oxford of Turnersville and Miss Charlie Holland of Moscow.

Korea held a special fascination for Methodists of the era.  Ruby Kendrick, a former Southwestern University student, had died there, and in doing so created a special link to Texas.  In 1919 missionaries included Laura Edwards of Hereford and Agnes Graham of Comanche.

The MECS did not have a large presence in Africa.  The MEC did, and the British colonies had missions from the colonial power, but Texans served in Wambo Naima.  They were Mathron Wilson of Dallas and Etta Lee Woolsey of Bay City. 

The MECS has a huge investment in Brazilian missions which included a variety of schools including medical and dental.  Texans included Mary Lamar from Houston, Rachel Jarrett of Red Water, Lydie Ferguson of Belton, Maud Mathis of Arp, Mary Sue Brown of Gatesville, Lela Putnam of Albany, Charles Long of Cherokee County, and J. W. Daniel of Cotulla.   Daniel’s work is particularly interesting.  It was supported by students at the University of Texas.   In one year they raised $4000 to build a church.

Cuba was also an attractive destination for Texans.  Ben O. Hill (another Southwestern alum) was joined by J. F. Capterton of Itasca, L. H. Robinson of Live Oak County, Annie Churchill of Uvalde, and Rebecca Toland whose address was listed as Beeville, but was really from Chappell Hill.

The Post reporter included anecdotes supplied by the missionaries, and stressed the exoticism of the enterprise, but he also linked the missionaries with the Texas heritage.  He said  The old spirit of adventure and crusade that gave birth to Texas is being kept alive by these knights and ladies of cross.  

As a result of the funds raised by the Centenary Campaign and moral fervor of the last gasps of the Progressive Era, the MECS expanded its missions in the 1920’s, most notably to Europe, including Poland and Czechoslovakia.   

Some of the missionaries named in the article served a short time and returned to the United States.  Others made a career of missions.  Both groups were highly revered in the Texas churches to which they returned, either of periodic furloughs or permanently.  They were admired as the epitomes of Christian service.