Saturday, February 13, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History February 14

William Dewees Writes First Person account of Camp Meeting on Red River, Feb. 15, 1820 (Oldest such record of Texas Methodist activity? Probably not.)

In 1852 a book was published, Letters from an Early Settler in Texas which purported to be a series of letters William Dewees wrote to his niece, Cara Cardelle, about his travels in Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico beginning in 1819. The second letter in the collection is dated February 15, 1820 and describes a camp meeting held “eight miles below Jonesborough, on the other side of the river.” That would put the location on the north side of the Red River in present day Oklahoma and would certainly have included settlers from south of the river in present day Texas among the camp meeting participants. Although Dewees does not name the three preachers or identify them as Methodists, they almost certainly would have been Methodists. The capable historian, Rex Strickland, provides tentative identification for them. He says

Although Dewees does not mention the ministers' names, very likely two of the three were William Stevenson and Thomas Tennant. Stevenson was the presiding elder of the Black River District of the Missouri Conference of the Methodist Church in 1820, and Thomas Tennant had been assigned to the Pecan Point circuit in the fall of 1819. Horace Jewell, History of Methodism in Arkansas, 47. Either James Lowry or Washington Orr would be a logical surmise for the third preacher; each served the Pecan Point circuit—Lowry preceded Tennant and Orr succeeded him.

The letter describes the camp meeting and includes an episode of scoffers who come to the meeting to drink and disrupt the religious activities. That episode is consistent with other contemporary accounts.

Unfortunately the letter is not authentic. Although the account is probably accurate, it was not composed at the time. There was no Cara Cardelle. There were no letters. Letters From an Early Settler was a collaboration between Dewees and Emmaretta Cara Kimball in which Kimball recast Dewees’s memories into epistolary form—a common literary convention of the era.

The presence of William Dewees along the Red River as early as 1819 can be documented, and although the letters are based on recollection rather than contemporaneous materials, they undoubtedly contain much factual information. Unfortunately their usefulness is compromised by not being what they purport to be. You may read a digitized version at Google Books.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

人生最大的榮耀,不是永遠不敗,而是屢仆屢戰 ..................................................

4:22 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home