Saturday, November 07, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 8

West Texas Conference Passes Resolution Asking Old Preachers Not to Come

“Stay away! You are not welcome.” That may seem like a strange thing to declare, but that’s just what the West Texas Annual Conference said while meeting in Beeville in 1893. The operative language in the resolution was

That our bishops be requested to transfer to the West Texas Conference no one that is not young, healthy, and efficient.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries people who suffered from tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases had few effective therapies. Those afflicted often moved to a warm, dry climate. The territory embraced in the West Texas Conference had warm winters and a dry climate. San Angelo and Kerrville both became popular for tubercular patients. There was even a town in Tom Green County called Sanatorium. The Journals of the West Texas Conference (today the South West Texas Conference) reveal the reception of nine transfers in 1890, eight in 1891, six in 1892, and six in 1893. At least some of those transfers seem to have been sickly men trying to move to a healthier climate.

The pension policy at the time was that the conference from which the preacher retired was responisible for the pension. If a preacher served 30 years in the Kentucky Conference and then transferred to the West Texas Conference where he served five, the West Texas Conference would be responsible for the pension. The budget amount needed for superannuated preachers and widows and orphans of preachers rose. It was $3326 in 1890, $4000 in 1891 and 1892, and $4500 in 1893.

The 35% increase in expenditures for the superannuated preachers, widows, and orphans in only three years came at a bad time. The Panic of 1893 began in February. Eventually about 500 banks and 15,000 businesses failed. Among those businesses were rail road giants, Union Pacific, Northern Pacific, and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe. The markets for cotton, beef, and wool had been depressed even before 1893. Times were tough in the West Texas Conference, but still semi-invalid preachers wanted to transfer in.

The resolution had little effect. In 1902 the West Texas Conference received 16 transfers and in 1904 it received 18 more. The superannuated preachers, widows, and orphans fund increased to $5500.

The 1893 Annual Conference was historic for another reason. This was Homer Thrall’s valedictory. The Grand Old Man was a month away from his 74th birthday. That would be relatively young today, but Thrall who had come to Texas in 1842 was blind and in poor health. He addressed the conference for the last time. The following October he died.


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