Saturday, December 05, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History December 6

Bishop Waugh and Thomas Summers En Route to Rutersville, December, 1840

Most regular readers of this column will know that Bishop Beverly Waugh organized the Texas Conference at Rutersville on Christmas Day, 1840. Did you ever wonder how Bishop Waugh got to Rutersville?

His journey began in his home town of Baltimore. He left his family which he described as “like the separation of death,” on August 4. He knew travel difficulties would lie ahead, and said “no secular pursuit” would induce him to undertake such a journey, but was willing because of the Methodist desire of “reforming this continent and spreading scriptural holiness over these lands.”
From Baltimore Waugh went westward through upstate New York where he became a tourist and visited Niagara Falls. He took boat passage from Buffalo to Detroit, and then visited the Michigan Annual Conference at Marshall, Michigan. Bishop Hedding presided over those annual conference sessions so Waugh was an honored guest.

He crossed Lake Michigan and arrived at Chicago where Rev. John Clark, who was later to transfer to Texas, met him, and conveyed him the 120 miles to Lacon, Illinois, the site of the Rock River Annual Conference.. Waugh conducted the Rock River Conference which included appointments in northern Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, and set out Springfield, Illinois, where he presided over the Illinois Annual Conference.

He then conducted the Missouri and Arkansas Annual Conferences at St. Louis and Little Rock respectively and headed for New Orleans. On December 1, 1840, Waugh departed New Orleans on the steamship Savannah. He arrived at Galveston on Dec. 5. Rev. Thomas O. Summers met him and found accommodations. The next day was the Sabbath, and Waugh preached three times in an empty warehouse since there was no Methodist church in Galveston yet. On Tuesday, Dec. 8, Waugh and Summers left Galveston. They obtained a carriage and rode down the beach to San Luis Pass. They found someone to row them across the treacherous currents of San Luis Pass and spent the night in short-lived town of San Luis.

Most of the next week was consumed with struggling through the muddy Brazos bottoms. They had to abandon their carriage and go by horseback. They made it Rutersville by the 16th, but they soon pressed on to the new capital city of Austin where Waugh was invited to give the invocation before the Congress of the Republic of Texas. They spent a few days visiting government officials and then headed back to Rutersville via Bastrop. They arrived in Rutersville on Christmas Eve just in time for the organizing session of the Texas Annual Conference.

When the conference adjourned, Bishop Waugh’s business was over, but he was still a long way from home. His route home took him back to Galveston, then New Orleans on the Savannah again. He sailed from New Orleans to Mobile, then up river to Montgomery. Finally in Georgia he was able to make a rail connection and eventually home the first week of February.

Bishop Waugh had been gone from home six months. He had attended the Michigan, Rock River, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas Annual Conferences. He had travelled by rail, river boat, ocean steamer, horseback, stage coach, private carriage, and on one stretch of Georgia road too muddy for the stage, he had walked. The five annual conferences over which he presided embraced the extreme western limits of Methodism. All along his route he accepted preaching invitations from the local churches. Accommodations were sometimes nothing but “log pens.” Such privations counted for little because truly, “scriptural holiness was being spread across the land.”


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