Sunday, March 26, 2006

This Week in Texas Methodist History, March 26

March 27/28, 1844, Littleton Fowler Journeys to General Conference

Littleton Fowler was one of the two delegates elected by the Texas Conference to attend General Conference in 1844. That conference was to be held in New York City. That conference turned out to be one of the most momentous general conferences ever held. It was at that conference that the Texas Conference was authorized to split into western and eastern conferences. That conference also saw the differences between northern and southern Methodist become so aggravated that the Methodist Episcopal Church, South was created.

By March 27, Fowler had travelled seventy miles to Nachitoches, Louisiana, where he was awaiting passage on a steamboat to New Orleans. Once in New Orleans, he would secure passage on another steamboat that would take him up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers on his way to New York.

The wait gave him time to write a long letter to his wife, Missouri Fowler. The letter contained instructions about running the farm, raising the children, supervising improvements to the family house, and so on. He also wrote My trip and long absence from my district, home, and dear family lies heavey on my heart, but my trust is in God and he will be with, and protect and give a safe return to my family.

Fowler's prayer was answered. He did return safely and two years later was elected a delegate to the organizational conference of the M.E.C. S.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 19

Homer Thrall Asks for Historic Materials March 21, 1860

The most prominent historian of Texas Methodism in the 19th century was the Rev. Homer S. Thrall, a recruit from Ohio who arrived in Texas in 1842. His appointments in Brazoria and later in Austin brought him into contact with many of the prominent political, social, and military leaders from the the Mexican and Revolutionary period of Texas history. He eventually published five books about Texas history including the famous History of Methodism in Texas (1872) and Brief History of Methodism in Texas (1889). His books were informed by personal experience, discussion with participants, and his collection of source materials. The following letter shows that he was collecting materials years before he published them. John Woolam had lived with Littleton Fowler and had married Fowler's widow.

Rutersville, Mar. 21 60

Dear Bro. Wollam (sic),

Can you not furnish me some items for a history of Texas Methodism especially some details about the lamented Fowler. I am very anxious to collect all the available materials. Please furnish me with as much as you can command.

Yours truly H. S. Thrall

Saturday, March 11, 2006

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 12

Parsonage Acquistion Urged March 15, 1879

One of the developments in late 19th century Texas was the movement to acquire parsonages. There had been little need for parsonages when almost all preachers rode long circuits. The coming of the railroads and the subsequent growth of cities meant that some circuits became stations and even circuit churches were larger and more prosperous. Houston became large enough in 1879 to start a second M. E. C. S. church, Washington Ave.

The pages of the Texas Christian Advocate were full of letters to the editor about parsonages. A lively debate occurred about whether parsonages should be adjacent to the church or separated from it.

On March 15, 1879, Joe Jones described the ideal Texas Methodist parsonage:

It is always better for a preacher to be near his church, as he often has no conveyance and his family ought always to attend Sunday-school and all other social meetings. Let it be understood that a large yard is to be given to the house in order that his wife and daughter will have the benefit of flowers. . .and if needful, a fruit tree or two. Then there is a garden, large enough to supply all the vegetables for his table. And. . an orchard, for no one loves fruit more than a preacher. . . .you will have a horse lot, a cow pen, and "patch" . No less than five acres on every circuit in Texas ought to be put aside for a parsonage ere this conference year ends.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

This Week in Texas Methodist History--March 6

James Collard reports on riding circuit in southeast Texas--March 6, 1842

Perhaps the most difficult circuit in the Republic of Texas was coastal Texas between the Trinity and Sabine Rivers. Settlements were scattered. Travel was difficult, and the threat of mosquito borne diseases was very real. There are reports from annual conference that when the appointment to Liberty Circuit was read, preachers would gather around the unfortunate brother who had been so appointed and offer their condolences. The southeast Texas circuits did have one redeeming virtue. Preachers could supplement their salaries by selling alligator hides from the reptiles they shot while making their rounds.

On March 6, 1842 James Collard wrote the following from Cornstreet in Jefferson County:

I left home on January 24th for this circuit. There I took up the heviest cross that ever presented itself before me. My wife with a little girl about 20 days old & 2 little boys seamed to cling around my heart and had it not been for assisting grace, sorrow would have overcome me, but with his grace assisting me, commenced work. . .it does seam to me that the people generally speaking is the most ignorant of spiritual matters that I ever saw, but the natural man dizerneth not the things of the spirit. . .

Collard did survive his turn on the "Alligator Circuit" and was appointed to Franklin well above the coastal plains. He located in 1847, but that was not the end of the story. James Collard, Jr., one of the two little boys mentioned in the letter, was ordained elder in the Texas Conference in 1881.