Saturday, June 19, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History June 20

Noted Historian, Henderson Yoakum, Delivers Address to First Graduating Class of Soule University, June 23, 1856

Soule University in Chappell Hill was not the first school established by Texas Methodists, but when it was authorized by the Texas Annual Conference in December, 1855, Methodists hoped they had learned from their experiences, and were going to get it right this time. The big difference this time was a broader base of support. Although a creature of the Texas Conference, the East Texas Conference later added its sponsorship and thereby strengthened the school.

Among the original trustees was a Walker County attorney and historian named Henderson Yoakum (1810-1856). Yoakum was well qualified to serve in that position. He had been involved in the establishment of Andrew Female School, and he wrote the charter for the Presbyterians when they established Austin College (later relocated from Huntsville to Sherman). He was also superintendent of the prison. Sam Houston was one of his law clients and became one of his close friends. In 1853 Yoakum moved out of the city of Huntsville, seven miles to Shepherd’s Valley. It was there that he completed his two volume work, The History of Texas from its First Settlement in 1685 to its Annexation by the United States in 1846. That work, which has been useful to generations of Texas historians, was completed in 1855.

In December of that year the Texas Annual Conference named the Board of Trustees for Soule University. They quickly went to work and were able to open the preparatory department by February. That first class of students finished their work in June and graduation ceremonies were held to mark their accomplishment. Henderson Yoakum gave the commencement address.
Although he was a relatively young man, he would not be alive to attend the second graduation. He died in Houston on November 30. Yoakum County is named in his honor.


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