Saturday, March 21, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 22

Bishop Roberts Dies in Indiana March 26, 1843

The third session of the Texas Annual Conference was held in Bastrop in December 1842. Bishop Robert Roberts was supposed to preside, but he did not arrive so the conference elected Robert Alexander as their presiding officer. The conference then found that Bishop Roberts had presided over the Arkansas Annual Conference in Helena, but became ill and returned to his Indiana home rather than travelling on to Bastrop.

Bishop Roberts did have a serious illness. He died of “bilious fever” on March 26, 1843, in Lawrence County, Indiana.

Roberts (b. 1778) and Enoch George had been elected to the episcopacy by the General Conference of 1816. Francis Asbury had died in March, 1816, leaving Bishop William McKendree with too much work and too many miles to travel. The opening of the Ohio Valley to settlement following the War of 1812 resulted in a flood of Methodist activity in the West. New conferences were being established at every quadrennial General Conference, and more bishops were needed.

Roberts was the first Methodist Episcopal Church bishop who was married. The meager salary that went with the office of bishop was not enough for a family. Roberts supported himself by farming. From his election in 1816 to his last episcopal tour in the winter of 1842 he travelled thousands of miles presiding over annual conferences. He died at his farm house. He was buried near that location, but his remains were later removed to DePauw University where he also has a building named in his honor.

In a side note--David Ayres had taken his buggy from Centre Hill to Houston in anticipation of Bishop Robert's arrival. Ayres intended to transport Roberts in the comfort of that buggy to conference at Bastrop. When Roberts did not show up in Houston, that left an empty seat. Homer Thrall, newly arrived from Ohio, was thus the beneficiary of a buggy ride from Houston to Bastrop.


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