This Week in Texas Methodist History March 30
Martin Ruter Born April 3, 1785
Martin Ruter would be a great figure in Methodist History even if he had not been in charge of the first official MEC mission to Texas. Although he lived in Texas less than a year, his influence has lasted for decades.
Ruter was born in Worcester County, Massachusetts on April 3, 1785. His father was a blacksmith. The family then moved to Vermont. While living in Bradford, Vermont, the young Ruter boarded with Mrs. Peckett who had, in her youth, been John Wesley’s housekeeper. She owned Wesley’s works which she made available to young Martin. John Broadhead, presiding elder, held a revival in September, 1800. The fifteen-year old Martin exhorted the crowd so powerfully that Broadhead asked Martin to join him. “If my father will let me, I will go” was the reply.
Thus began a thirty-seven year career of preaching, church administration, writing, teaching, religious education, managing the Book Concern at Cincinnati, supplying presidential leadership to church colleges, . . . the list of accomplishments could go on.
He could have rested on these accomplishments. After all, he was over fifty years old, but he felt a call to bring Methodism to the infant Republic of Texas. He arrived in late November, 1837 and died the following May. Those few months were a whirlwind of activity. He traveled over 2000 miles establishing circuits, soliciting donations, preaching, marrying, and performing other missionary duties. His great passion, though, was his dream of establishing a Methodist university. He lobbied Congress for a charter and promoted the project in the rude settlements along the Brazos and Colorado Rivers.
He did not live long enough to see his dream fulfilled, but the seeds he had sown fell on fertile soil. About two months after his death, a group of Methodists bought a league of land in Fayette County and started a town. They named it Rutersville. Eighteen months later instruction began at Rutersville College.
Ruter’s legacy continues today at Southwestern University which proudly claims Rutersville College as one of its root colleges. Perhaps this Thursday, you might pause a moment and reflect on Ruter and his legacy.