Sunday, November 16, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 16

Alexander Meets Ruter and Ayres at the Sabine, November 21, 1837

Have you ever fantasized about being a “fly on the wall” at some historic event? If your editor could time travel, one of the events he would like to observe would be the night of November 21, 1837 when Robert Alexander, David Ayres, and Martin Ruter stayed up all night talking about the future of the Texas Mission.

Regular readers of this column will know the background. After a few efforts at preaching in Texas directed mainly from the Mississippi Conference, the Methodist Episcopal Church authorized a three-man Texas Mission. Martin Ruter, one of the most distinguished preachers in Methodism was to lead two younger men, Littleton Fowler and Robert Alexander.

Alexander was the first to arrive. He came in the summer of 1837 and quickly organized classes, preaching points, and camp meetings. Ruter had the longest journey. He left Pennsylvania with his family and stayed quite a while in New Albany, Indiana to let the threat of epidemic disease diminished. Meanwhile, David Ayres, a lay participant in the camp meeting that had requested missionaries, had travelled to New Albany. Both Ruter and Ayres had brothers living in New Albany. Ruter and Ayres travelled together down the Mississippi River to Rodney, Mississippi, and thence overland to Gaines Ferry on the Sabine.

Meanwhile Alexander was en route back to Mississippi to attend annual conference. He missed the west-bound travelers, but learned that he had done so. He doubled back to meet them. The records show that the three men stayed up all night talking about the prospects for Texas Methodist missions. Oh to have been a fly on the wall!

In less than three months the men were together again. This time they were in the Ayres house at Centre Hill. Ruter performed the marriage ceremony as Robert Alexander married David Ayres’ daughter Eliza.


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