Saturday, October 03, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History October 4

Ohio Conference Adjourns After Six Preachers Volunteer For Texas Mission October 4, 1842.

The Ohio Annual Conference, met in Hamilton, about thirty miles north of Cincinnati, from Sept. 27 to Oct. 4, 1842. Events at that conference had an impact upon Texas Methodism that can hardly be overstated. There were six recruits for the Texas Conference. They joined Isaac Williams who had volunteered from the North Ohio Conference three weeks earlier. Two of these seven preachers, Homer Thrall and John Wesley DeVilbiss, became two of the most important figures in Texas Methodist history.

By 1842 Cincinnati, Ohio, was already well-established as the center of western Methodism. It had been the site of Book Concern and publishing efforts since 1820 when the General Conference chose Martin Ruter to establish such a presence. In 1842 there were six Methodist churches and a German mission in the “Queen City of the Ohio.” This was the steamboat era, and Cincinnati took full advantage of that technology to become the main commercial center for the growing Ohio Valley.

When Bishop Morris gaveled the Ohio Conference into session, there was already a Texas buzz. Bishop Morris had conducted the Texas Annual conference in San Augustine the previous December. He then visited many of the churches in Texas on a trip to Austin. In all, Bishop Morris had been in Texas from December 17, 1841 to February 11, 1842. During that sojourn he met most of the preachers and many of the laity. -While in Austin, he met his son, Francis Asbury Morris, who had recently resigned the Attorney Generalship of the Republic of Texas so he could return to Ohio. The father and son were able to make it back to Ohio in time to be with Mrs. Morris when she died.

Littleton Fowler was also at the annual conference. Bishop Morris had relieved him of his presiding elder duties the previous December and appointed him Agent of Rutersville College. He was therefore free to travel. His mother-in-law lived in Hamilton, the site of the Ohio Annual Conference, so he combined family visits and church business.

Fowler’s call for Texas volunteers resulted in a rush forward. Even the “Old Chief” of the conference, James Finley, went forward, only to be pushed aside by one of the younger brothers. Eventually six preachers transferred, Thrall, DeVilbiss, William O’Conner, Daniel Poe, Wilbur Thurber, and Richard Walker.

What happened to the transfers? Thurber and Walker did not make much of an impression. O’Conner died in October, 1843. On his way to New York City to attend the 1844 General Conference Fowler stopped by Hamilton to visit his mother-in-law and also to console O’Conner’s parents. Immediately upon his return to Texas in July, 1844, he was called to pray with Daniel and Jane Poe on their death beds in San Augustine. As for Homer Thrall and John Wesley DeVilbiss, they served for decades in Texas and were involved in almost all the important events of Texas Methodism.


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