Saturday, August 09, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History August 10

First Issue of “New” Texas Christian Advocate, August 12, 1854

Texas Methodist publishing efforts in the 1840’s and 1850’s were characterized by fits and starts. Several preachers took their turn in the editor’s chair. When the Advocate relocated to Galveston in 1854, Methodists were hopeful that they had finally secured a sound financial base for the denominational organ.

The earliest Texas Methodist newspaper was published by the Brenham preacher, Robert B. Wells in 1847. This Texas Christian Advocate and Brenham Advertiser was short lived. Well’s father-in-law, Orceneth Fisher took over the paper and moved it to Houston as the Texas Christian Advocate. In September 1848 a group of preachers at a camp meeting at Rutersville devised a plan to make the paper a conference organ. The next session of the Texas Annual Conference adopted the paper and elected Chauncey Richardson editor. He renamed the paper the Texas Wesleyan Banner. In February 1849 Robert Alexander and Homer Thrall contracted with printers in Houston who assumed all aspects of the newspaper except for the editing. Editor Richardson was able to put out an issue in April 1849.

The paper enjoyed some success. The East Texas Conference added its sponsorship and the 1850 General Conference of the MECS included it among the authorized denominational newspapers. Unfortunately debts began to accumulate. Subscribers refused to pay. Richardson’s salary was a generous $800. Advertising income was spent almost immediately upon receipt.

When the contract with the printers ended, supporters decided to buy a press. Wealthy Methodists, especially Charles Shearn, underwrote a new start. They rented space in Houston and increased circulation to about 1500. Charles Shearn served without pay as financial officer. The debts continued to mount. Richardson resigned as editor when his pay was cut. Three months later he died of pneumonia at the age of fifty.

George Rottenstein succeeded Richardson as editor. He served through 1853 resigned, turned in his ministerial credentials and became an Episcopal priest. Thrall reports that the conference rejoiced at the resignation. The editorship was turned over to S. B. Cameron, a retired minister from Kentucky. He died six months after assuming the office. J. A. Hancock then became editor.

Plans were in the works to move the paper from Houston to Galveston. David Ayres, a prominent layman in Galveston bought a building on the Strand to house the enterprise. The General Conference of 1854 voted $5000 to subsidize the paper. (Only $1024 was received.)

The new editor, C. C. Gillespie, brought out the first issue of the “new” Texas Christian Advocate in August 1854. The Advocate prospered for the next few years. They added German language publications under Peter Moelling’s editorship and increased circulation and advertising revenue.

Civil War disruptions brought an end to this “golden age” of Methodist journalism. It was not until the 1880s and relocation to Dallas that the Advocate assumed the same importance it enjoyed in the 1850s.


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