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.


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