Saturday, September 02, 2006

This Week in Texas Methodist History--September 3

Caney Creek Camp Meeting--September 3-5, 1834

The most successful colonization effort in Mexican Texas was that of Empresario Stephen F. Austin. His first contract to settle 300 families was filled so quickly that he entered into four more contracts to settle immigrants to Texas. Although one of the requirements for obtaining land was adherence to the Roman Catholic faith, that requirement did not present much of an obstacle to devout Methodists, including some local pastors, coming from the United States. The Mexican authorities tended to focus their law enforcement efforts on smuggling rather than religious activity. In 1834 Louisiana preacher Henry Stephenson, who had been directed by his presiding elder to spend one-half his time in Texas, visited immigrant settlements as far as the Guadalupe River. He reported no opposition from Mexican authorities.

On his way west Stephenson stopped at John Wesley Kenney's in what is today northern Austin County. The two preachers set a date for a camp meeting--September 3-5. Kenney, a charter member of the Kentucky Conference, but now located, selected a site near his house on a small tributary of Caney Creek. He secured the assistance of other clergy in the area including local preacher William Medford (Missouri Conference, adm. O.T. 1818), Benjamin Babbitt (Missouri Conference adm. O. T. 1831), and William Fullinwider (Presbyterian appointed missionary to Texas, 1831).

Although there is some confusion over the number of conversions at the Caney Creek Camp Meeting of 1834, it is clear that some of the participants considered the event the equivalent of starting a church. One of their actions was asking Stephenson to petition the Mississippi Annual Conference to create a regular relationship with this band of Methodists in Austin's Colony. The December 1834 session of the Mississippi Conference created the Texas Mission in answer to that petition.

Kenney and his associates organized a second Caney Creek Camp Meeting one year later in September 1835. It was that camp meeting that issued the famous "Call For Missionaries" that resulted in the first regular Methodist missionaries to Texas.


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