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.


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