Saturday, August 08, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History August 9

First Issue of “New” Texas Christian Advocate Appears August 12, 1854

The first decade of Texas Methodist journalism was marked by fits and starts, hopes and disappointments, both lay and clergy participation, and several relocations.

The first effort of at a Texas Methodist newspaper appears to be the Texas Christian Advocate and Brenham Advertiser which was published by Robert B. Wells, the Brenham preacher in 1847. The next year the paper was moved to Houston and taken over by Wells’ father-in-law, Orceneth Fisher. The “Brenham Advertiser” phrase was struck from the title, and the publication became the Texas Christian Advocate.

In September, 1848, at a camp meeting in Rutersville, the preachers there assembled agreed to make the newspaper a joint venture of the Texas and East Texas Conferences. They hired the former Rutersville College president Chauncey Richardson as editor and agreed to a very generous $800 per annum salary. They also changed the name to the Texas Wesleyan Banner. Richardson was an able editor and soon began production of the Banner at the Houston printing house of James Cruger and Francis Moore. Circulation increased to about 1,500. At the 1850 General Conference of the MECS, the paper received official denominatinoal endorsement.

Unfortunately debts increased. Charles Shearn, a devoted lay man with considerable business ability, took over the business side of the newspaper. It became obvious that expenses would have to be cut, and the $800 salary was on the chopping block. The board reduced it $300. Richardson couldn’t stand that so he resigned. The newspaper limped along with caretaker editors for a few years including Charles Rottenstein (see post for May 10, 2009). The real power at the paper was Shearn who continued to run the business affairs without a salary and brought the paper back to financial solvency.

Bad luck plagued the newspaper. S. B. Cameron was named editor in July 1852 and died of yellow fever the following October. J. A. Hancock took his place.
Meanwhile the Texas effort had gained the attention of the denomination. It was serving a useful purpose. There were several editions of the Advocate—both MEC and MECS. They routinely reprinted items lifted from other editions. That was completely acceptable according to contemporary journalistic standards. The Texas newspaper thus provided a valuable service by keeping the entire denomination informed about the Methodist immigrants to Texas from the “older states.” The 1854 MECS General Conference authorized a $5000 loan from the Publishing House to the Texas newspaper, move its operations to Galveston, and hire C. C. Gillespie as editor.

The Publishing House loaned the newspaper $1024 of the expected $5000.. The Advocate sold the Houston office, put out the last issue of the”old” Advocate in July, moved to Galveston, and on August 12, published the first issue from Galveston.


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