Saturday, December 13, 2008

This Week in Texas Methodist History December 14

Church Building Dedicated in Austin December 19, 1847

Austin, the capital city of the Lone Star Republic, was a city of particular interest for Methodist evangelism from that city’s founding. The first Methodist preacher to organize Methodists was John Haynie who had moved to nearby Bastrop County in March, 1839. That was the same year that commissioners laid out Austin. Mirabeau B. Lamar, Sam Houston’ successor as president of the Republic, had made the relocation of the capital from Houston a high priority. Settlers were moving west. Texas had huge land claims in the west. It made sense to move the capital so it would be more central to the projected population. The hostility between Houston and Lamar was another factor.

Although Haynie was older than most of his contemporaries (b. 1785) he was vigorous enough to conduct Methodist business in Travis and Bastrop Counties, first as a member of the Mississippi Conference, and then in the newly organized Texas Conference. That organizational conference had been held in December, 1840 at Rutersville. Bishop Beverly Waugh made a side trip to Austin before he convened the conference.

Even though it was a national capital, Austin was a crude frontier town. When Sam Houston regained the presidency, he was reluctant to live in the city founded by his political rival. The Mexican invasion of Texas in 1842 provided him with the excuse to remove the capital. Congress met in Houston and then Washington-on-the-Brazos until the summer of 1845 when the annexation convention met in Austin. (The national archives remained in Austin even though Houston sent an armed force to seize them and bring them to Houston.)

From 1842 to 1845 both the city and the church languished, but after annexation, Austin was confirmed as the state capital, and prospects improved for both. Homer Thrall was appointed to Austin. He preached in the Capitol and organized a school that met in that same building when the Legislature was not in session. He also supervised the construction of a church building. That building was dedicated on December 19, 1847. That building housed Methodists until 1853 when it was sold to the Christian church.


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