Saturday, March 07, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 8

Martin Ruter Writes to William Raper March 10, 1838

On March 10, 1838 Marin Ruter found himself at Egypt on the Colorado. He found time to write to Rev. William H. Raper who had been one of his colleagues when he had served in Cincinnati.

He wrote

. . .We have already formed twenty societies in Texas, have obtained a number of lots for churches and school houses, secured by deeds, and several meeting houses are commenced with a prospect of soon being completed. I trust, by the grace of God, to raise a glorious superstructure, and that the church of Christ will be here established in its purity, power, and glory. . .
William H. Raper, the recipient of the letter, is one of those remarkable 19th century Methodist circuit riders whose life was full of adventure, romance, and hardship. He was born in a blockhouse in western Pennsylvania in 1793. Little is known about his childhood, but he entered the pages of history during the War of 1812. Raper enlisted and, even though a youth, was elected sergeant. His company was sent to secure a strategic position and so he missed the Battle of Thames. Because his company had not been in the battle, it was at full complement, and was thus ordered to transport about 400 prisoners from Lake Erie across Ohio to Kentucky. Misadventures, disability of superior officers, and becoming lost in the Black Swamp found the 19–year old Raper in command a twelve man squad with 100 prisoners. Three days of being lost in the swamp without food resulted in a mutiny of the prisoners. Bloodshed was averted when one of the prisoners took Raper’s side and talked the mutineers out of violence.

In 1819 Raper joined the ranks of Methodist itinerants at Cincinnati, and just like the 19th century novels that depend upon coincidence------the former prisoner who had quelled the mutiny showed up at one of Raper’s camp meetings.

Raper died in Aurora, Indiana, in 1852.


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