Saturday, September 26, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 27

T. O. Summers Leaves Houston on Camp Meeting Tour Sept. 29, 1841

Thomas O. Summers, later to become an important author and editor of MECS publications, came to Texas from the Baltimore Conference in 1840 and served the Galveston/Houston appointment. He maintained a correspondence with the editors of both the Christian Advocate in New York and the Ladies' Repository. That correspondence was printed and informed Americans about the church in the Republic of Texas. On Sept. 29, 1841 Summers began a two week excursion into the interior to participate in two camp meetings. His account of that excursion was printed in the Advocate.

The preacher left Houston on a Wednesday, the 29th of September, 1841. His transportation was provided by a Mr. Davidson who loaned him a “cream colored Spanish pony.” On Friday, after three days on horseback, he arrived at the Rutersville Camp Ground. When he arrived, he discovered that Robert Alexander, the presiding elder of the district, had suffered the death of his son, Robert Franklin Alexander, on Thursday (one week before the child’s first birthday). Alexander would not attend. Jesse Hord was too sick to come, and Abner Manly would only preach once in the three day meeting. That left the burden of the preaching to Summers and John Wesley Kenney.

Summers informed Advocate readers of the progress at Rutersville College. He described a 52 by 26 foot two story building that was almost finished.
On Monday Summers left Rutersville in high style. Instead of the Spanish pony, he was offered a seat in David Ayres’s fine carriage.(The deceased infant was Ayres' grandson.) They rode through the beautiful prairies in Fayette and Washington Counties and arrived at Robert Alexander’s home, Cottage Hill, in northern Austin County. He rested with the grieving Robert and Eliza Alexander, and on Wednesday left in Ayres’s carriage for Montgomery.
The route to Montgomery was quite difficult. They got lost in muddy woods and the party had resigned itself to sleeping in the woods when a horseman came and advised them that they were only a mile from the camp. He guided them to the site which Summers described as consisting of log cabins and a shed (tabernacle) large enough to accommodate several hundred worshipers.

Samuel Williams, the presiding elder, was too sick to come, and Jesse Hord was still sick, so Kenney and Summers once again did most of the preaching. Robert Alexander also participated.

Summers returned to Houston where he was delighted to learn that a lay man named Moore had been conducting prayer meetings in his absence.

When Bishop Andrew came to hold the 1843 Texas Annual Conference, he took Summers with him and transferred him to Alabama. It was from that conference that Summers later went to Nashville for a ministry of writing and publishing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist HIstory September 20

Alejo Hernandez Dies in Corpus Christi, September 25,1875

Alejo Hernandez finished his all-too-brief earthly journey on September 25, 1875 in Corpus Christi. Bishop Marvin ordained him at the West Texas Annual Conference in 1871. Bishop Keener took him to Mexico City to initiate MECS work in that city. Unfortunately he suffered a stroke, and could not continue that work. All the available evidence indicates that he was a preacher of great abilities and fully committed to the cause. Bishop Marvin wrote the highest praise: The man is a Methodist.

One of Hernandez’s other admirers was William Headen, a Corpus Christi wool merchant and lay delegate to the 1870 General Conference of the MECS. Headen wrote to Marvin, “He is most anxious to do the work of one called by God to preach the gospel.” The Corpus Christi Quarterly Conference was so impressed by his gifts that it recommended that he be ordained both deacon and elder at the 1871 West Texas Annual Conference. Those ordinations were performed, and Alejo Hernandez thus became the first Mexican ordained by the connection.

A few weeks later Bishop Marvin had the opportunity to worship with Hernandez in San Antonio. The bishop presided over the communion service, but Hernandez explained the ritual in Spanish and distributed the elements. Everyone present, including members of other Protestant denominations, sensed the historic nature of the moment. In Marvin’s words

This first sacrament in connection with the Mexican Mission I shall never forget. . . .We prayed that these might be the “first fruits” of a very great harvest to grow and increase in the hands of the reapers for ages and ages to come. Is not this the handful of corn in the top of the mountain? Shell we see the fruit of it waving like Lebanon? May the Lord of the harvest send forth more laborers for the fields are white!

Alejo Hernandez was soon followed by others, some of whom he personally recruited. The Mexican Mission became a Mission District and eventually an annual conference, the Rio Grande.

To read more about Alejo Hernandez, go to
(That short bio gives the date of death as Sept. 27. The Sept. 25 date is from Phelan.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 13

Ruffians Attack Methodist Preachers at Industry September 13, 1855

This week’s column needs no comment. Rev. F. Vordenbimer, pastor of the German Methodist church at Industry wrote the following report to the Texas Christian Advocate.

We have a fine church property; the church is 21 by 31 feet with six acres of land belonging to it. We are now having the church fenced in, so as to avoid disturbance from the servants of King Alcohol and enemies of religion; which are, I am sorry to say, some of our own German friends. May God open their eyes and let them see their danger, that they may come to the love and knowledge of the truth, before it be everlastingly too late. They disturbed our meetings several times so that we were forced to have some of them arrested and taken before a justice, a Bellville, and four of them were found guilty, and bound over to make their appearance a the next term of the district court. But they still continue to disrupt and abuse the members of the church. On the 13th of September, about a dozen of these infidels came about the church at night, and threatened the lives of the members and the preachers. The night was dark, and after 10 o’clock, Rev. A. Engel and Bro. Gollmer, who were going to my house for safety, were attacked and Brother Gollmer was knocked down with a stick, and Brother Engel received a heavy blow upon the arm. The ruffian escaped unrecognized. We get little or no protection from our officers, but they are seen frequently with these rioters. May God protect his people with his almighty hand, and eliver us from the hands of this ungodly people, and send his converting power among our German population. Brethren, pray for us and this mission and to God be all the glory.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 6

Baptist Preacher Has First Convert in Texas (Thanks to Generosity of Methodist Preacher)

The best published memoir by a preacher who served in the Republic of Texas is Flowers and Fruits of the Wilderness by Z. N. Morrell, a Baptist “canebrake preacher” from Tennessee who immigrated to Texas in December, 1835. Morrell participated in many important events in Texas history and wrote his 1872 memoir in a lively engaging style that stands up well to the passage of time.

Texas was in revolutionary turmoil when Morrell arrived, but as time passed, he made contact with groups of Baptists around the state, preached to them, and encouraged them in the faith. Although he did not have a regular appointive circuit as Methodists did, he moved around quite a lot and became well known in many of the settled regions of the Republic
By September 1837 he was feeling somewhat despondent because he had not secured a single convert in his twenty month Texas residence. It was then that Robert Alexander, just arrived from Mississippi but with Tennessee roots, invited Morrell to preach at a camp meeting on Caney Creek. This was, of course, the site of the famous 1834 and 1835 camp meetings. Alexander would later purchase the property and live there.

Morrell had a problem with accepting Alexander’s invitation. His family was sick and he did not want to leave them at their home in Washington on the Brazos. Dr. Abner P. Manly, a Methodist preacher/physician, saved the day. He offered to stay with the Morrell family so Z. N. could preach.

Morrell left Washington about noon on Saturday and travelled the twenty-five miles to Caney in time to preach that night. He also preached on Sunday morning. A man named Jackson was in the congregation. He had come to the meeting with his saddlebags full of liquor bottles intending to participate in the revelry that often occurred on the fringes of the meetings. Morrell’s sermon on the text, “The wages of sin is death. . .” produced a conversion. It was Morrell’s first since coming to Texas, thanks to the generosity of a Methodist preacher.

Some readers may find Alexander’s invitation to a Baptist somewhat strange considering the proverbial denominational rivalry that later developed. This writer has found cooperation among the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians during the Republic of Texas. They all disliked Roman Catholicism, Campbellism, and Universalism, but got along well with each other.