Saturday, May 10, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 11

Committee on Boundaries recommends redrawing of conference boundaries in Texas May 11,, 1894

Since 1939 the task of determining annual conference boundaries has been a function of jurisdictional conference. Before that date general conference performed that task. A lion’s share of the work of the General Conference Committee on Boundaries of the MECS from 1858 to 1910 dealt with conferences in Texas. Texas was by far the largest state in the MECS. It was the one that was most transformed by population changes so it was natural that its conference boundaries would have to be adjusted periodically.

The General Conference of 1894 witnessed an unusual amount of action on Texas boundaries. Economic and demographic changes were changing the face of Texas, and the denomination needed to keep up with the times. Let’s set the stage.

Texas in 1894—Texas was moving west. The three trans-Texas rail lines (Texas Pacific, Southern Pacific, and Fort Worth and Denver) had all been completed. Those companies were disposing of their bonus lands by creating towns and selling off farms and ranches along those routes. Farmers in the sandy lands of East Texas were relocating to the more fertile western lands. The coastal plains were still sort of a backwater, avoided as unhealthy and too poorly drained for farming. There was hardly hint of the petroleum discoveries of the coastal plains that were to transform that region into an intensely urbanized/industrial region.

The North Texas and Northwest Texas Annual Conferences were the ones that benefited the most from the settlement of western Texas. Eventually (1910) the Northwest Texas Conference was to divide into two conferences, creating the Central Texas Conference from its eastern portion.

Population imbalances had grown to the point in 1894 that the East Texas and Texas Conferences both asked the General Conference to enlarge their territories at the expense of the larger conferences. The East Texas Conference request was granted.

On May 11, 1894 the Committee on Boundaries recommended the transfer of Marion, Cass, Bowie, Morris, Titus, Camp, Upshur, Wood, Rains, and the northern half of Van Zandt Counties from the North Texas to the East Texas Conference. W. L. Clifton of the North Texas Conference offered an amending trying to retain Mt. Pleasant and Pittsburg for the North Texas Conference, but his amendment failed. The committee also recommended that churches in Dallas County south of the Trinity River such as Oak Cliff be transferred from the NWT to the NT Conference and churches in Tarrant County north of the Trinity River such as Arlington. be shifted in the other direction.

The General Conference approved the committee report. The changes in conference membership took place later that year. The actions of 1894 were a stopgap measure. In 1902 continuing membership imbalances led to the merger of the East Texas and Texas Conferences.


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