Thursday, September 30, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History October 3

Francis Wilson Visits President October 3, 1844

As regular readers of this column will know, Texas Methodism during the Republic of Texas period relied heavily on recruits from the United States to fill the pulpits. The greatest concentration of Methodists in the 1840s was in the Ohio Valley so it is natural that many of the preachers who volunteered for the Republic of Texas came from Ohio, Kentucky, (West) Virginia, and other states in the Ohio Valley.

Coming to Texas did not mean an end to the bonds of friendship and family. Republic of Texas preachers often returned to the United States. J. W. Fields and T. O. Summers did so to find wives. The Kenney family went back to Kentucky to visit family, and we should remember Littleton Fowler’s recruiting at the Ohio and Northern Ohio Annual Conferences.
One of the most interesting trips to the United State from the Republic of Texas was the one that Francis Wilson made in 1844. He left San Augustine on May 22 and returned to that city on December 27. His journey is particularly interesting because it combined fund raising for Wesleyan College in San Augustine, speaking in favor of the annexation of Texas to the United States, visiting family members and the graves of his children, preaching, attending the Ohio Annual Conference, and sight seeing.

Wilson attended the Ohio Annual Conference from September 4 to 12 and then set out for Washington City and instead of taking the much easier river route upstream to Pittsburgh and then by land, he chose to go via the more scenic, lightly populated mountain trails across the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

He went first to his brother who lived in Williamsport, Maryland, whom he had not seen in 28 years. By October 3, he was in Washington and Saturday, October 5, 1844, he visited the president and talked to him about Texas annexation.

Wilson’s editor inserts after “. .I went to see the President” (James Polk). That is impossible since Polk was inaugurated the following March 3, 1845 John Tyler was President of the United States on October 5, 1844. Their discussion about annexation must have been an interesting one. At one time, the unpopular Tyler had pinned his reelection hopes on the annexation issue, but by October the dream of winning the 1844 presidential election was over for Tyler. In October, 1844, when he visited with Wilson, he was using his influence to deny the Democratic nomination to Martin van Buren, an anti-annexationist, and elect James Polk who was for annexation. The politics behind the annexation explain why Texas was annexed by joint resolution of the House and Senate rather than by treaty. A treaty required 2/3 vote while the joint resolution required a simple majority.
After his Washington visit, Wilson returned to Texas via a southern route, eventually taking steamboat passage from Mobile. He continued to raise money for Wesleyan College all the way home.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 26

Camp Meeting Begins at Rutersville Under Difficult Conditions October 1, 1841

A recent post at This Week in Texas Methodist History told the story of T. O. Summers and his exhibiting a horned frog at a camp meeting in Alabama in 1843. (See post for August 29, 2010) Two years earlier Summers left his congregation in Houston for a two week tour that included camp meetings in Rutersville and Montgomery.

On Wednesday the 29th of September, 1841, Thomas O. Summers, the preacher for Galveston and Houston, borrowed a pony from a man named Davidson so he could attend the Rutersville Camp Meet announced for the weekend of October 1-3. He travelled westward, following in reverse the same route he and Bishop Waugh had used the previous winter after they left the first session of the Texas Conference. That route took him to David Ayres’s house at Centre Hill, where he learned that Ayres’s grandson, Robert Franklin Alexander, the son of Robert and Eliza Alexander died on September 30. The poor boy was fifty-one weeks old. The Ayres and Alexander families lived about four miles apart, Ayres in Centre Hill and Alexander on his ranch named Cottage Hill.

Summers pushed on to Rutersville where he informed the campers that Alexander was too grief-stricken to attend and that Jesse Hord was too sick to come. The preaching duties were shared by Summers and John Wesley Kenney with Abner Manly occupying the pulpit once. Rutersville was an important Methodist community. The Texas Conference had been organized there the previous Christmas, and the college was about to finish a two-story 52 feet by 26 feet building. One presumes that some of the camp meeting attendees were college students. Instructor Thomas Bell wrote his father on October 11 that the Methodists and Baptists both had camp meetings at Rutersville, and the Cumberland Presbyterians were planning one. The letter is particularly valuable because Bell explicitly states the non-sectarian nature of Rutersville College.

After the camp meeting, Summers left in Ayres’s cart and spent two nights at Cottage Hill with the grieving Alexander family. On Wednesday, October 6, the party, now including Ayres, Summers, Alexander, and “the ladies” left for another camp meeting, this one in Montgomery. Summers did not return to Houston until October 11 or 12. When he did, he learned from Francis Moore that the Methodist laity of Houston had been holding organized prayer meetings in his absence.

Tragedy again struck the Alexander and Ayres families. On November 9, less than six weeks after her brother’s death, Ann Eliza Alexander joined her younger brother in death. She was three years old. Both children were buried at Cottage Hill but are memorialized by a stone in Prairie Lea Cemetery in Brenham.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 19

Churches Celebrate Heritage September 19, 2010

On Sunday, September 19, 2010, at least two Texas Conference UMC churches will celebrate special anniversaries.

Greggton UMC in Longview will celebrate 100 years of witness and service in Gregg County. The farming community existed as early as 1873 and was called Willow Springs when the Texas and Pacific Railroad established a station there. The MECS church was organized in 1910 and was called Center Point. Extant records show that it was part of the Hallsville Circuit in the 1920’s along with Hallsville, Summerfield, Winterfield, and LaGrone’s Chapel. All of Gregg County was transformed by the discovery of the East Texas Oil Field, and the community was renamed Greggton in the early 1930s. During the 1950’s it was annexed by Longview.

Greggton UMC is celebrating its centennial with a week of services culminated in a Sunday service at Pine Tree Auditorium followed by a barbecue lunch. Bishop Janice Huie will participate in the celebration.

Jones Memorial UMC in Houston will celebrate fifty years of ministry with a special worship service on September 19, 2010. The church was organized in the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Nora on September 19, 1960. Bishop Noah Moore appointed the Rev. Dr. J. S. Scott to be the founding pastor. The congregation moved into its own building in 1963. It has been blessed with a succession of distinguished pastors. Dr. Scott was followed by Revs. Lewis Jackson, Sr., Joseph Cox, Louis Greer, Donald Waddleton, and Lawrence Young. The current pastor is the Rev. Kenneth R. Levingston.

Jones Memorial UMC now worships in new facilities at Highway 288 and Almeda-Genoa Road in Houston.

The guest preacher for the 50th anniversary celebration will be former pastor Dr. Waddleton.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 12

Texas Conference Enters Computer Age September 13, 1968

Few persons present at a special session of the Texas Annual Conference on September 13, 1968, could have predicted the pervasive influence electronic computing would assume in all areas of life. Delegates were asked to approve a plan to count ballots by computer at that session. In only a few decades computers would transform both workplace and home, but in 1968 they were like “a cloud no larger than a man’s hand” on the horizon.

Setting the stage—The General Conference of 1968 was momentous. It created the United Methodist Church by the merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren. It mandated the abolition of the Central Jurisdiction and in doing so mandated the integration of the races in the new United Methodist Church.

Only a few weeks after the General Conference of 1968 adjourned, the various annual conferences met and set up committees to work out the details of the mergers. There were two Central Jurisdiction annual conferences in Texas, the Texas and West Texas. With the exception of a few charges in the Texas Conference (CJ) that went to the North Texas and Central Texas Conferences (SCJ) and a few West Texas Conference (CJ) charges in Wharton, Robertson, Falls, and Milam Counties that came into Texas Conference (SCJ), the boundaries of the Texas Conference (CJ) and Texas Conference (SCJ) were virtually identical. The plan of merger stipulated that the former Texas Conference (CJ) would be renamed the Gulf Coast Conference until a final merger that would occur June 1, 1970.

A Committee on Inter-Conference Relations was charged with presenting a merger plan at the June, 1969, annual conferences. The plan of merger would require a 2/3 vote of both the Texas and Gulf Coast Conferences.

There was another transition for the Texas Conference in 1968. Bishop Paul E. Martin completed eight years as presiding bishop of the Texas Conference (SCJ)and retired. Bishop Noah Moore who had presided over the Houston Area for the Central Jurisdiction transferred to Nebraska and the bishop in Nebraska, Kenneth Copeland, was reassigned to the Houston Area. Copeland began September 1, and just two weeks later, a called session of annual conference convened to welcome him and Mrs. Copeland.

In addition to the official welcome, a few business items had accumulated in the three months since the regular session adjourned. Those included a retirement, a readmission, a request for disability leave, several new nominations for committees, and so on.

Because the merger of 1968 still had so many details to work out, a special called session of General Conference was to be held in 1970. An ad hoc committee charged with “studying the feasibility of employing the techniques of Computer Science in casting ballots for the election of delegates to General Conference” came to the September 1968 session with a resolution. Rev. Kenneth Lambert presented the report of the committee which had been chaired by Ed Curry. He moved that the conference adopt electronic counting for its ballots. The motion passed, and Rev. Emmitt Barrow moved that an expenditure of $600 be authorized to implement electronic balloting. The Texas Conference thus entered the computer age.

The conference was opened for announcements, and the Rev. Frank Richardson announced that the Reverend John Goodwin had died. (Mrs. Goodwin died the previous February.) Perhaps some of the attendees with historical imagination paused to consider the pace of technological change. Goodwin had been born in 1873. When he was born, there was not a single telephone in Texas, and now the conference was entering the computer era—all in the span of one man’s life!

Not so fast. . . No elections were held after all. When the 1969 Texas Conference met, Asbury Lenox brought a Conference Council recommendation to the floor to rescind the enabling legislation that called for the election of new delegates to the 1970 General Conference. The Lenox motion passed 404 to 74, and the delegates elected to the 1968 General Conference were named to the 1970 General Conference. Counting of ballots by computer would have to wait.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist HIstory September 5

Clarendon College Opens September 5, 1898

Joseph Haymes begins his discussion of Clarendon College with the observation that “the city of Clarendon has been universally known as the Athens of the Panhandle.” He meant that it was a seat of education and culture.

The Fort Worth and Denver Railway was built from Fort Worth to the Texas state line from 1881 to 1888. Towns were platted, lands surveyed into farms, and settlements all along the rail line sprang us. Clarendon had an advantage because it was one of the few settlements in the region that preceded the construction of the railroad. The town had been a project of the Rev. Lewis Henry Carhart (see post for April 6, 2008). When the Fort Worth and Denver came to Donley County, the town relocated a short distance to the tracks and within a few years became a thriving shipping point for agricultural products of the region.

About ten years after the railroad construction, the push for a Methodist school gained momentum. Rev. J. R. Henson led a campaign to clear out the saloons and gambling dens from the Feather Hill section of the town, and the community began soliciting donations for the construction of a school. In November 1897 the District Conference meeting in Memphis received the offer of a school and forwarded it to the Northwest Texas Annual Conference.

The Conference accepted the school, so on Sept. 5, 1898, the Clarendon College and Training school opened with four teachers and twenty-one students. The founding president was J. W. Adkisson who was followed in by W. B. McKeown. When president J. R. Mood arrived in 1906, he found 268 students.

Clarendon College provided a valuable service in that it provided an education close to home for many students in the Panhandle. Some of those students went on to distinguished church careers. One such student was Cecil Peeples who became president of Lon Morris College. (see post for June 10, 2010)

Clarendon College continued until 1927 when its assets were liquidated and the property became a public institution. It now offers instruction at Clarendon, Pampa, and Childress. The Clarendon campus is 107 acres.