This Week in Texas Methodist History--January 29
Parson Alexander Weds Miss Eliza Ayres
Center Hill, January 25, 1838
A small gathering witnessed the exchange of wedding vows by the Rev. Robert Alexander of Mississippi, now a Methodist missionary to Texas, and Miss Eliza Ayres, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Ayres of Center Hill. The Rev. Dr. Martin Ruter, late of Meadville, Pennsylvania, officiated at the ceremony which was held in the bride's home. Guests included the Rev. and Mrs. John Wesley Kenney and Miss Lydia McHenry of Travis, Texas. The sixteen year old bride and twenty-six year old groom plan to make their home at Center Hill.
All participants would have been well aware of two important pieces of information left unsaid in the news article. The first was that marriage often brought an end to itenerate ministry for Methodist circuit riders. Weeks away from home and the low salary often meant that circuit riders assumed a local relationship when they married. The second was that Robert Alexander was marrying into one of the wealthiest, most prominent Methodist families in the Republic of Texas. The marriage thus had implications for the church as well as the families.
Robert Alexander remained in full connection after his marriage. He assumed an even greater role after the death of Dr. Ruter in May, 1838. He and Eliza moved to Rutersville, the site of the Methodist college. When the Texas Conference was organized there in 1840, Alexander was the host presiding elder. Only two years later, though, they moved back to a 4000 acre ranch adjoining David Ayres's property and embracing the site of the 1834 and 1835 camp meetings that had issued a call for missionaries. Their home, Cottage Hill, became a favorite stopping place for traveling Methodists.
When Eliza became ill, they moved to Bell County where David Ayres owned nine leagues of land. That property contained therapeutic hot springs. During the Civil War the family moved back to Cottage Hill. After the Civil War they moved their ranching operations to an island in Galveston Bay. David Ayres had long since moved to Galveston when Center Hill lost a county seat election to Bellville.
Throughout Alexander's long ministry in the Texas Conference, David Ayres was a promient layman. Both were deeply involved in the publishing, educational, and church extension activities that characterized the Texas Conference in the middle decadesof the 19th century.
Robert and Eliza were married 40 years. She died in August, 1878. He lived until 1882. On Feb. 4, 1838, Robert had written his fellow missionary, Littleton Fowler, to tell him about his marriage. He had said, "". . .I am pleased as well as I can be, and scarecely thought I could be so well pleased."