Saturday, November 22, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 23

East Texas Conference Opens as Two Preachers Released from Jail November 29, 1849

The fifth session of the East Texas Conference convened in Paris on November 29, 1849 with Bishop Paine presiding. Although the conference had quite a lot of substantive business to transact, the attention of the preachers was directed to the release from jail of two of their colleagues. One had been charged with forging land certificates, the other with horse stealing. Both were freed by the sheriff with the promise that they leave the area and never return—an offer too good to refuse.

Once the buzz over the criminal preachers died down, the conference got down to business. In that era pensions for widows and orphans were determined by conference vote rather than formula. The conference had to know how much had been collected for that benevolence before they could dole it out. The figure in 1849 was a miserable $17.61. The conference sent $2.60 to Daniel and Jane Poe’s children who had been taken back to Ohio by their uncle, Adam Poe. Littleton Fowler’s widow and children received $5.00. Two other widows received the remainder.

One of the real success stories of the conference was the growth of church membership in and around Marshall. In 1847 Marshall had reported 233 white members. In only two years the membership had grown to 707.

The area around Marshall and Jefferson was growing and on its way to becoming the most industrialized area of Texas in the 1850s. . Immigration to Texas increased after annexation in 1845. The Marshall/Jefferson corridor became one of the main entryways for immigrants from the United States. Jefferson developed water connections to Shreveport, but Marshall had better land connections, and in the long run, became the larger city. US Highway 80, Interstate 20, and the Texas and Pacific Rail Road all followed that same route.

One conspicuous example of Marshall’s antebellum prosperity is the historic church building still used by First United Methodist Church. Readers of this column may see an image of that church at its website


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