Saturday, May 24, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 25

John M. Barcus, Jerome Haralson, Robert Shelton, R. M. Morris Begin Church Location Tour May 30, 1887

The dispossession of Native Americans, railroad construction, and occupation of western Texas by immigrants from the East occurred very rapidly. The Civil War caused the abandonment of the forts that protected farmers on the western fringe of the expanding farmers’ frontier. The expansion resumed in the 1870s. 1880-1882 was an especially important period for railroad construction. The Southern Pacific, Texas and Pacific, and Fort Worth and Denver City lines all finished important segments of their lines, and the Santa Fe connected Galveston and Belton. Settlement proceeded rapidly along those rail line, and where settlers went, so did Methodist preachers. Cities all along the rail lines mentioned above date the origin of their churches to those years.

One of the most interesting travel documents from the period is a memoir John M. Barcus wrote for the Texas Methodist Historical Quarterly (vol. 1, #4, April, 1910). In that memoir Barcus described the trip he and his presiding elder, Jerome Haralson, and two other preachers took through a portion of the Weatherford District in May and June, 1887. The purpose of that trip was to organize the settlers into churches.

The trip began at Graham on May 30 and proceeded to Seymour, and Vernon. The party crossed the Red River at Doan’s Store on the way to Mangum, the county seat of the disputed Greer County. (In 1896 the Supreme Court ruled that Greer County was not in Texas.) The party drove its wagons westward to Mobeetie where they held a preaching mission. There were more settlements to the west of Mobeetie, but the preachers turned around and retraced their route.

The two week excursion took on many aspects of a camping vacation. They crossed the Pease and Red River bottom lands where they had to cope with quicksand. They camped in the tall grass prairie without a single stick of firewood. Huge herds of pronghorns provided a diversion. They saw settlers grouped in tent cities waiting for title for their land. Barcus reported trying to cook a jackrabbit. Even hours of cooking couldn’t make it tender.


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