Friday, September 19, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 21

John W. Kenney Begins Survey of Rutersville, September 23, 1838

Martin Ruter died in May, 1838, but his dream of a Methodist university did not die with him. The summer after his death ten men united to buy a league of land in Fayette County to establish a town in which the university would be built. By September, they had made enough progress to engage John Wesley Kenney, a local preacher who lived about 40 miles east of the site to survey the league into the town of Rutersville and farms that would then be sold to raise money for the Methodist enterprise. Kenney was County Surveyor of Austin County. The site was described in Texas in 1840 or the Emigrant’s Guide published by William W. Allen: (footnotes added by TWITMH editor)

Arriving at Rutersville near noon, we soon perceived that its location on the summit of one of the most elevated prairies of the republic, was admirably fitted to secure the health of the inhabitants, as well as furnish delightsome views of the surrounding country, which, to the eye of the curious, might be said to resemble, by its varied appearance of live oak and post oak groves upon the heights and cedar forests along the valleys, mingled with frequent prairies, the scenery of a tastefully and thoroughly cultivated country of the old world.(1) . . .Situated forty miles from Bastrop, arid, but five miles from the Colorado River, it is near the centre, east and west, of the republic. The high moral and religious tone of the community, the excellent measures taken to preserve the purity of public morals,(2 ) and prevent evil influences upon the young, together with the spirited exertions of the friends of learning and education, seem well calculated to secure for it the confidence of those who would select a residence, with special reference to the education of their children. (3)

1 Rutersville is situated in the Fayette Prairie which is an outlier of the Blackland Prairie. Its mixture of grassland and trees resembled cultivated areas of Central Europe and its beauty almost always evoked rhapsodic descriptions from travelers. If the visit had been made in April or May, the writer would almost certainly have commented on the wild flowers. The Fayette Prairie became a favorite destination for German and Czech immigrants looking for scenery that reminded them of their homelands.
2 The developers prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages in Rutersville.
3 19th century memoirs often contain examples of families moving to a town with a school so their children could attend.


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