Wednesday, September 06, 2006

This Week in Texas Methodist History--September 10

Anthony Bewley Lynched in Fort Worth-September 13, 1860

On September 13, 1860 a lynch mob seized the Rev. Anthony Bewley, took him out on the Jacksboro Highway from Fort Worth and hanged him. What was his crime? He was a Northern Methodist and therefore an abolitionist, in the minds of many in the mob a Texas version of John Brown.

Although the MEC had abandoned Texas after the denominational split in 1844, immigration from border states to North Texas in the 1850s brought the denomination back. The 1852 General Conference of the MEC (re)created the Arkansas Conference. One of the districts in that conference was the Texas Mission District. By 1855 the Texas Mission reported five charges and 142 members clustered in Fannin, Grayson, and Denton Counties. The Presiding Elder of the district was Anthony Bewley, a former member of the Holston Conference who had been working in Missouri and Arkansas for several years.

The Arkansas Conference held its annual conference in Fannin County in 1859. That meeting was broken up by a mob armed with shotguns and Bowie knives. Bishop Janes was interrupted while preaching, and the leader of the mob demanded that the MEC leave Texas.

Bewley continued to live in Parker County but suggested he begin preaching to Hill Country Germans. He never got a chance. The summer of 1860 grew increasingly tense. A series of fires was reported across North Texas. The Legislature responded by allowing mobs to exercise "justice" to persons accused of suppporting abolitionism. Bewley recognized the danger and removed his family to Missouri.

On the first of September a letter appeared in many Texas newspapers. Almost certainly a forgery, it was addressed to a "William Bewley" and signed by "W. H. Bailey." It contained an extraordinary account of Bailey's grand tour through Texas delivering flammable materials and conspiring with his fellow abolitionists to wreak incendiary terror on Texas.

A Fort Worth group offered a $500 reward for Bewley. A gang of kidnappers found him near Springfield, Missouri. They seized him and brought him back to Fort Worth where he was hanged on September 13.

The cold blooded murder of a MEC preacher was widely applauded in the South. In the North is was one more example of how brutal Southerners could be in the defense of that most brutal of institutions, slavery.


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