Friday, January 11, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 13

Rev. E. P. Newsome Tours Prison, Eats ‘Possum for Christmas Dinner January, 1899

It was common for preachers to write letters to the Advocate soon after moving to a new appointment. Preachers often had new experiences and reunions with old friends to write about. The following letter appeared in the January 1899 Advocate from Rev. E. P. Newsome who had moved from Brenham to Huntsville.

We are here in the hilly town of Huntsville, the Athens of Texas. We are well pleased with our new appointment. The pastor that serves Huntsville Station not only has the opportunity of preaching to a loyal and intelligent people, but the privilege of touching with his influence the entire State of Texas, for here annually gather the representatives of well-nigh every county in the State to attend the Sam Houston Normal. They are the future teachers of Texas, and a fine body of young men and women they are. A large per cent of them are Methodists. Here too, is located the State’s largest penal institution. There are between eight hundred and one thousand inmates in this penitentiary. We are not making any denominational claims in this connection, but some of these poor fellows have likely come through Methodist homes. Through the courtesy of Capt. Gerard and wife myself and family spent an entire afternoon in going through this seven-acre city of crime. The discipline and management of this institution is well-nigh perfect. From kitchen to dark rooms everything is kept a clean as a pin. The prisoners are well fed and are humanely treated. As I looked into the faces—bright and intelligent—of many young men, some of whom are doomed to wear stripes for life, it made me sad. I could not but think of what “might have been” had the proper influences been thrown around them ere sin had wrought its awful work. But sadder still was the sight of old men, whose steps were slow and feeble, whose heads were silvered with gray and whose hearts entombed all that makes life worth living. As we came out, the huge iron doors clanging ominously behind us, we saw in the corridors a man who had been sentenced for life. His wife had come to visit him, and his three little children were climbing upon his knees and tangling their tiny hands in his hair. This man, criminal though he was and ostracized forever from the world without, was yet the dearest one in all the world to this wife and these children. As they performed their holy ministries of love I thought of the the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians.

But to leave the somber side of Huntsville. When I first came here I was entertained by Prof. H. C. Pritchett. He asked me how I liked the looks of the country. I told him it reminded me very much of my native State (North Carolina), I surmised that persimmons were probably abundant in the regions round about. Prof. Pritchett doesn’t have to be knocked down to take a hint, so he immediately proposed a ‘possum hunt for Friday night before Christmas. Alas! The weather was too bad to go. However, my good friend saw that his preacher had ‘possum for his Christmas dinner. And how delicious! It was the first I had eaten in seventeen years. . . .


OpenID guywilliams said...

Well, I didn't get my possum for Christmas dinner this year, but it was a good one just the same!

7:11 PM  

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