Sunday, July 08, 2007

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 8

Robert Alexander Responds to 1844 General Conference July 12, 1844

One might speculate that Robert Alexander would have had some expectations about being elected a delegate to the 1844 General Conference of the MEC in New York City. After all, he had been the first of the commissioned missionaries to arrive in Texas in 1837. After Martin Ruter's death in May, 1838, Littleton Fowler had assumed the leadership of the Texas Mission, but he lived in East Texas and Alexader provided leadership in Texas west of the Trinity River. When the Texas Conference chose its delegates for the 1844 General Conference, Fowler was chosen, but Alexander was not. The second delegate slot when to John Clark, one of the ministers from the Ohio Valley who had come to Texas in 1841. When the General Conference considered the slavery question, Fowler sided with the South and Clark with the North. The General Conference also split the Texas conference into two new conferences using the Trinity River as the boundary.

While Fowler and Clark were in New York City attending General Conference Alexander went about his rounds as P.E. While conducting a camp meeting at Swartout he received a letter from Fowler about the events of General Conference. He moved on to Cold Spring and found time to reply to that letter which is now preserved in the Fowler Collection at Bridwell Libary at Perkins School of Theology.\

After catching Fowler up on Texas news, he turned to comments on the events of General Conference. He applauded Fowler for sticking with his Southern colleagues and agreed with Clark's wisdom in not returning to Texas. Alexander then turned to the Texas situation. The division of the Texas Conference meant that conference members all had a big decision to make. Fowler had been pressing Alexander to join him in the East, but Alexander had recently(1841) bought a large ranch in northern Austin County immediately north of his father-in-law's (David Ayres) property. He was developing that ranch into an estate called Cottage Hill. He was therefore reluctant to join the new Eastern Texas Conference. The General Conference had decided that the organizing annual conference of the Eastern Texas Conference would be held jointly with the preachers from west of the Trinity. Alexander bemoaned the conference site, San Augustine, as being so remote that few of the western preachers would be able to attend.

As usual with letter from one presiding elder to another in the period, Alexander then gives a report on his district and also of Chauncey Richardson's. His was Galveston in which all the churches except for Galveston was doing well. Richardson's (Rutersville) was doing well except for Washington, . Poor Washington Circuit is dead. Died of that dreadful distemper called neglect

The letter closes with a postscript that is quite rare in the Fowler Collection,

This scrible is for your eye only
in all the particulars.

Most letters, although written to inviduals, were shared since they contained information of general interest.


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