Wednesday, October 03, 2007

This Week in Texas Methodist History October 7

Union Baptist Association Organized October 8, 1840

The core region of Texas Protestantism during the earliest years of the Republic was centered on the La Bahia Road between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers. It was along that corridor in present day Fayette, Austin, Burleson, and Washington Counties that Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians achieved “critical mass” to create organizations and schools. It is no coincidence that those three denominations created church organizations within both a few miles and a few months of each other.

The year was 1840. Cumberland Presbyterians had organized a presbytery in 1837, but the “Old School” Presbyterians, “Regular” Baptists, and Methodist Episcopals were all mission efforts of church organizations based in the United States or individual efforts.

The Presbyterians were first to organize. On April 3 three preachers and one layman organized the Texas Presbytery in a school house near Chriesman’s in northern Washington County a few miles west of Indpendence on the La Bahia Road. They reported five churches, Bethel (near San Augustine), Independence, Austin, Houston, and Galveston. The Baptists were next. On October 8 the Reverends R. E. B. Baylor, T. W. Cox, and J. L. Davis met at Travis and formed the Union Baptist Association. The three churches, at Independence, LaGrange, and Travis, had a combined membership of forty-five. The Rev. Z. N. Morrell of Plum Grove (near Bastrop) was unable to attend because of illness. He later wrote that the Plum Grove church had more members than any of the three that did form the Association.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was the last of the three to form an independent Texas organization. It did so at Rutersville, on the LaBahia Road about five miles northeast of LaGrange on December 25, 1840. Although it had more members and preachers than did the Baptists and Presbyterians, its denominational governance was more cumbersome. A new annual conference could be created only by the General Conference which met quadrennially. The General Conference of 1836 was obviously too early. Texas independence was not yet assured by that time. The Texas Conferences had to wait until the General Conference of 1840 for its authorization and then had to wait for a bishop to come from the United States for its organization.
The attached map is from 1851. It shows Rutersville and Travis but not Chriesman's School House. (Use Independence as a reference.) Viewers can enlarge the image by holding down the control key while using the mouse wheel.


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