Saturday, May 15, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 16

Francis Wilson Begins Camp Meeting at Liberty May 18, 1843

Southeastern Texas, embracing the lower basins of the Trinity, Neches, and Sabine Rivers, was not a particularly fruitful area for Methodist evangelization. The coast from the eastern tip of Galveston Island to Sabine Pass consisted of inhospitable marshes. The interior was mainly the magnificent wilderness known as the Big Thicket. Neither region was particularly attractive to immigrants from the Uplands of the South whose main economic activity was an agricultural system revolving around cotton, corn, and free range swine. .

There were settlements along the rivers to service the plantations and lumber, fur, deer skin, and bear grease trade. The most important town in the region was the county seat town of Liberty, so that is where Francis Wilson, Presiding Elder of the San Augustine District, went in May 1843.

Wilson arrived at Liberty on May 16 and began soliciting donations for Wesleyan College in San Augustine. He was very successful in his efforts. He secured pledges of 3920 acres of land from seven donors. On Thursday, May 18, he went to the camp meeting site and opened the camp meeting with a night service. The camp meeting continued until the next Tuesday. Wilson noted that there were two African American classes in Liberty with a total membership of 40 persons. He noted that the class leaders were African American and that there was an African American preacher there. Unfortunately, he does not name the preacher.


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