Saturday, January 31, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History February 1

John Haynie Reaches Corpus Christi Feb. 4, 1846

The Texas Conference met in Houston the first week of January, 1846 with Bishop Soule presiding. John Haynie (see post for Dec. 14, 2008) had taken a local relationship the year before, but the conference needed a missionary, and Haynie stepped forward to meet that need.

The missionary was needed because the annexation of the Republic of Texas to the United States had precipitated international tension. In June, 1845 President Polk had ordered General Zachary Taylor and his army to the shores of Corpus Christi Bay. Mexico claimed the Nueces to be the boundary, and the United States claimed the Rio Grande. By the fall of 1845 Taylor’s army had grown to several thousand troops plus assorted camp followers, teamsters, merchants, wives, and adventurers. Most of them lived in tents.

That encampment was Haynie’s mission field. About two weeks after his arrival he recounted his experiences to readers of the Nashville Advocate. He reported that Corpus Christi was “As it was when there was no king in Israel, every man walks in his own way.” He reported 50 groceries (bars), two theaters, and 500 gamblers. He secured the use of one of the theaters when it was not be used for other purposes.

Haynie’s mission to Corpus Christi was brief. When spring brought better weather and grazing for the animals, Taylor decamped and headed south. Elements of his army were engaged by Mexican forces, and Polk asked Congress for a declaration of war. Although most northerners (including Rep. Abraham Lincoln) saw the war as a land grab for the expansion of slavery, a joint session of Congress did grant the declaration in May 1846. Meanwhile delegates meeting at Petersburg, Va., held the first General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Haynie returned to his home at Rutersville.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 25

Fort Worth and Denver Railroad Reaches Texline January 26, 1888

One of the main political disputes of the first decade of the 21st century has been the proposed Trans Texas Corridor. The modern proposal naturally brings to mind the three trans-Texas rail lines that were completed in the 1880s. Two of those rail corridors provided the pathway for the spread of Methodism in western Texas.

The first of the rail lines was the Southern Pacific which linked New Orleans with southern California. That route followed an older trail west from San Antonio to El Paso. Much of the territory through which it passed was inhospitable and not conducive to settlement. (Readers can use Highway 90 as a reference.) The second was the Texas and Pacific which roughly followed the old Butterfield Stage line. (Use Interstate 20 as a reference.) Unlike the Southern Pacific, the Texas and Pacific went through productive agricultural land. The result was an explosion of urban development. Cities were founded at regular intervals and a few older settlements moved to the rail lines to survive. The Methodist itinerant system of appointing circuit riders in advance of settlement worked well under such a settlement regime. Town site development companies were amenable to making lots available to the denominations, and Methodists took advantage of the opportunity.

The last of the three rail lines to traverse Texas in the 1880s was the Fort Worth and Denver which reached the New Mexico state line on January 26, 1888. That same year Bishop Hendrix held the Northwest Texas Conference at Weatherford. One of the actions of that conference was the creation of the Vernon District which embraced the Panhandle territory now served by the Fort Worth and Denver. There were twelve charges in that district, Vernon Station, Vernon Circuit, Childress, Throckmorton, Benjamin, Mangum (Greer County, OK), Clarendon, Farmer Circuit, Margaret, Estacado, Canadian City, and Seymour. The Vernon District embraced 54 counties! After one quadrennium settlement had increased so that the district seat for the Panhandle was shifted northwest to Clarendon, one of the few Panhandle towns founded before the coming of the railroad. (see post for April 6, 2008)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 18

D. N. V. Sullivan and Abner Manley Present Credentials, Receive Local Preacher Licenses last Week of January, 1838

One of Martin Ruter’s missionary duties was conducting quarterly conferences to the scattered Methodist communities in the Republic of Texas. At once such conference held at Center Hill about the last week of January, 1838, Abner P. Manley and D. N. V. Sullivan requested licensure as local preachers. Sullivan was a teacher who had been a local preacher in Alabama. Manley was a medical doctor. Both men accepted appointments when the Texas Conference was organized on December 25, 1840. Manley went to Brazoria and Sullivan to Matagorda. Sullivan continued in full connection, serving Montgomery, Nashville, Brazos, Brazoria, and finally as P.E. of the Washington District. He died in Houston on Feb. 20, 1847.

Manley had a medical practice in Fayette County. He entered the pages of Texas medical history by serving as surgeon under Nicholas Dawson in the 1842 campaign to repel the Mexican invasion of Texas. He survived the famous Dawson Massacre, but the 39 members of the company who did not and the members of the Mier Expedition who suffered death were later memorialized at Memorial Hill in Fayette County.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 11

Sam Houston Signs Charter for Wesleyan College, January 16, 1844

Wesleyan College of San Augustine, one of the four institutions that Southwestern University claims as its predecessors, received its charter on January 16, 1844. It opened the following March and enrolled 155 students. The high hopes of its supporters in the Texas and then the Eastern Texas Conference were not fulfilled. It closed in 1847 after having awarded only two degrees.

The failure of a denominational college in the 1840s is not remarkable. As a matter of fact, failure is much more common than success. Debt, removal of leadership by death, maladministration, and fire were all common reasons for those failures. Some of them, especially debt and the death of Daniel Poe in 1844 (see post for September 16, 2007) occurred at Wesleyan College.

There were other circumstances particular Wesleyan’s situation. The most notable was the rivalry between Wesleyan (Methodist) and San Augustine University ( Presbyterian). The presidents of the respective institutions also edited newspapers. An unfortunate personal item led to the shooting death of the president/editor of San Augustine University. The reputation of both institutions suffered. Even with the efforts of Wesleyan’s main supporter, Francis Wilson, it was forced to close. Readers interested in the complete story can find it in William B. Jones, To Survive and Excel: The Story of Southwestern University University 1840-2000, Georgetown, Tx 2006.

Friday, January 02, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 4

Vice President Burnet Transmits Methodist Resolution to Congress January 7, 1841

Among the business items of the organizing conference of the Texas Conference held at Rutersville in December 1840 was a resolution directed to the Congress of the Republic of Texas. On January 7, 1841, David G. Burnet, vice president of the Republic transmitted the resolution to the Congress. He was acting as president because President Mirabeau B. Lamar was out of the country. The resolution was as follows:

To His Excellency, David G. Burnet, President of the Republic of Texas, and to the honorable, the Senate and the House of Representatives of Texas, in Congress assembled:

Gentlemen:--I take pleasure in complying with the request of the Texas annual conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, on the occasion of its recent organization, to present to your excellency and to your honorable bodies, the respect and affection which its members cherish toward you, as the constituted guardians of the independence, rights and privileges of the this growing republic. The objects of this organization are religion, morality and literature. Believing that the peace, prosperity and perpetuity of this infant republic will be secured in proportion to the prevalence of sound learning, sound morality and sound religion, it will be the aim of the conference to promote these with energy and perseverance. While thus engaged, it confidently relies upon the ability and disposition of the government to extend to it the protection and privileges which are common to all Christian denominations, under the provisions of the constitution. It seeks no peculiar immunities, not does it desire any special legislation in its behalf. The conference, however, in availing itself of the occasion to present this testimony of its patriotism, cannot refrain from the expression of its deep conviction of the importance of religion and morality, in every department of the government, and among all ranks of its fellow citizens. Without the protection and blessing of Him who setteth up or putteth down nations at His pleasure, what people can prosper or continue? Righteousness only can exalt a nation to true dignity, and secure to it permanence. Sin is a reproach to any people.
The Conference cherishes lively hope that the men, who from time to time shall be elected make and to execute the laws of the country, will give forth the conservative influence of good examples to the community before whom they occupy a ground so conspicuous. It is and shall continue to be the prayer of this body of Christian ministers, that the blessing of Jehovah may always rest on Texas for her glory and defense, and that her independence, peace and prosperity may continue while the sun and moon shall endure.

Signed by order, and in behalf of the Texas annual conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, at its first session, held at Rutersville, this twenty-ninth day of December, A.D. 1840.

B. Waugh

Thos. O. Summers, Sec.