Saturday, February 10, 2007

This Week in Texas Methodist History Feb. 10

Methodists Buy Two Lots in Washington for Church Feb. 10, 1838

One of the most popular enterprises in the Republic of Texas was town building. Some founders such as John and Augustus Allen who founded Houston, succeeded. Many others, including John W. Hall of Washington, did not. His town enjoyed a brief heyday in the 1840s and 1850s, but was eventually deserted.

The LaBahia Road crossing of the Brazos River was a good place for a town. Andrew Robinson operated a ferry there as early as 1822. In 1831 he gave land to his daughter Patsy and her husband John W. Hall who platted a town. John W. Kenney built the first house there after his arrival in December, 1833. In 1836 the town hosted the convention that issued the Texas Declaration of Independence. Washington was one of the first cities to chartered by the new Republic of Texas. In 1837 Rev. Z. N. Morrell founded a Missionary Baptist Church and Robert Alexander organized a MEC church.

The trustees of that church executed a deed on Feb. 10, 1838. They paid John Hall $400 for two town lots. Martin Ruter, head of the Texas Mission, witnessed the deed. Two days later they filed the deed with the county. Three months later Ruter died and was buried in Washington.

Washington enjoyed a period of prosperity based on its steamboat traffic. It boasted churches, a Masonic Lodge, a school, and governmental offices. Unfortunately, from a Methodist perspective, it also had numerous gambling houses, taverns, and even a horse race track. Washington's demise can be traced to the decision of the townspeople to refuse to pay the bonus demanded by the railroad to build tracks to the town. Commerce that had once been shipped by steamboat down the Brazos was now diverted to Navasota and Brenham. The town was deserted. Even Martin Ruter's remains were relocated to Navasota.


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