Sunday, February 18, 2007

This Week in Texas Methodist History-February 18

Alexander Hinkle Bemoans Conditions on the Prairie---Feb. 19, 1856

The settlement of the Blackland Prairie in Texas presented interesting challenges and wonderful possibilities for the immigrants arriving from the United States in the 1840s and 1850s. On the one hand, the soil possessed unsurpassed fertility. On the other hand, the lack of trees presented problems. Settlers from the eastern United States depended upon timber for homes, split rail fences, implements, and fuel. The oak and beech trees provided food for their swine. The Blackland Prairie did have some timber along watercourses, but not nearly enough to support the kind of settlement to which they were accustomed.

One such imigrant was the Rev. Alexander Hinkle (b. 1829 in Alabama). He had joined the Tennessee Conference in 1849 and transferred to the East Texas Conference in 1851. He served Marshall, Henderson, and San Augustine, and in Nov. 1855 Bishop Pierce appointed him to the Dallas Circuit. For a man who had spent his life in the "Great Southern Forest," his first winter on the prairie was quite a surprise. Here is an excerpt from one of his letters.

It would seem from the powers of these Northers that we have been tossed right under the North Pole. I have gone round my circuit twice have been nearly frozen fifty times. These winds, Heavens, what winds! Blow, blow, blow they come, whistling, wheezing, screaming, piercing right straight, it would seem, from Iceland or some colder place til the life is nearly blown out of a poor fellow. O how often have I wished for a tree or a grove of them, to break the wind, if it were only off my nose. For I assure you by my honor that the drip from my nose has frozen an icical (sic) two inches long.

One year on the prairie was enough. At the next conference Hinkle took a superannuated relationship even though he was only 27 years old. He moved to Houston and eventually joined the Texas Conference. He died in Houston in 1890 and was buried there. His letter from Feb. 19, 1856 is preserved at Bridwell Library, SMU.


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