Sunday, March 11, 2007

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 11

Thomas Summers Writes About Brick Church in Houston March 13, 1843

Although the Republic of Texas had a postal system from its founding, it was common to entrust letters to travellers. Since Methodist preachers travelled circuits, they often carried letters in their saddlebags. When Rev. Thomas Summers learned that Major James Riley was about to travel to northeastern Texas, he used the opportunity to send a letter to Littleton Fowler about the exciting news in Houston. They were building a brick church! Riley had delivered an oration at the laying of the cornerstone on Texas Independence Day, March 2. The letter read in part

We are building a brick church--we thought that wood would not do so well as the lumber you know that our lumber do not last well. It does not stand the weather. We got the brick furnished and laid for $1100; the carpenters do their work for $1125. The lumber, then the painting, glazing, plastering &c. Can't you get down and give us a dedication sermon? You need not be in a hurry. It will be some time before the church is built, and you know how tardily these things move along.

The Methodists were meeting in the Odd Fellows Hall. The Roman Catholics and Presbyterians already had buildings in Houston. Construction continued through 1843. Bishop James O. Andrew came through Houston in December, 1843 on his way to Robinson's Settlement in Walker County to hold annual conference. He noted then "the Methodists have a very neat brick chapel, nearly finished." He went on to comment on the state of religion in Houston. ". . .there is a great need for a sweeping revival of religion in Houston; for in addition to the usual evil influences exerted against what is holy, they have here more of infidelity, subtle, organized and boldly blasphemous, than I have met in any place of its size, in all my journeying."

Bishop Andrew, accompanied by Summers and a layman named Charles Shearn, continued on to Robinson's. At the close of conference, Andrew took Summers back to Alabama with him. The "little brick chapel" eventually changed its name to Shearn Methodist Church and eventually became First Methodist Houston.

Summers' letter to Fowler is preserved at Bridwell Library, SMU.


Post a Comment

<< Home