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.


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