Saturday, November 27, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist HIstory November 28

Louis Blaylock Starts 56 Year Career at Texas Christian Advocate November 30, 1866

One of the longest church related careers in Texas Methodist history began on November 30, 1866 when Louis Blaylock began work for the Texas Christian Advocate as a typesetter. He rose in the ranks and eventually became publisher. When he stepped down in 1922, Blaylock had served the denominational newspaper for fifty-six years.

Blaylock was born in 1849 in Arkansas. His family moved to Texas, and he found work as a typesetter for the Advocate in 1866. The newspaper barely survived the Civil War. It had relocated from Galveston to Houston, but shortages of paper and ink plagued the enterprise. Even before the war, it depended upon subsides from David Ayres and Charles Shearn to stay in business. It survived the war and Reconstruction and flourished as Texas population and Texas Methodist membership increased. Blaylock and his partner, William Shaw, relocated the Advocate to Dallas in 1887 and its circulation reached 18,000, making it the largest circulation newspaper in the state.

Blaylock, as publisher, had to work with a succession of editors who were preachers first and journalists second. The quality of the Advocate was therefore very uneven, and during the 1880s and 1890s contained advertisements that did not bring credit to the church such as those for patent medicines and medical devices hawked by quacks. Each annual conference in the state had an associate editor who forwarded items of revivals, births, deaths, marriages, church consecrations, etc. to the Advocate. The journalistic standards of the era allowed for reprinting stories from other newspapers, and the Advocate followed that policy liberally. Preachers acted as subscription agents and were expected to sell subcriptions to their church members. In return, they received a 50% clergy discount off the $2.00 annual cost--quite a bargain for the fity-two issues.

Besides his career in Methodist journalism, Blaylock served on the building committee for First Methodist Church Dallas and was active in civic affairs. In the early years of the 20th century as Dallas grew and needed more municipal services, Blaylock served as police commissioner, fire commissioner, and finance commissioner. Upon his retirement from the Advocate, he was elected Mayor of Dallas. Since he was seventy-four years old at the time of his election, he was nicknamed “Daddy” Blaylock. He was an able mayor. He died in 1932 and was buried in Oakland Cemetery.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 21

Schuyler Hoes Organizes Texas Bible Society November 25, 1838

The names of Ruter, Alexander, and Fowler are well known as the first officially appointed Methodist missionaries to Texas. The name of Schuyler Hoes is less well known, but he too was a Methodist missionary to the Republic of Texas. He is not known as well because he did not organize churches and circuits and was never under appointment by the Mission Board or the Mississippi Annual Conference.

Hoes was in Texas as an agent of the American Bible Society. The ABS had been formed in 1816 to translate and distribute copies of the Holy Scriptures. Its membership included clergy and laity from various Protestant denominations and numbered among its leadership some of the most distinguished public figures of the day including John Jay, John Quincy Adams, Francis Scott Key, and James Fennimore Cooper.

The ABS supplied Bibles to Texas as early as 1831 when it sent 30 Bibles and 70 Testaments via E. R. Butler and 100 more to American and Swiss colonists. The ABS got a real boost in 1834 when Sumner Bacon made Bible distribution his main work. He was successful in establishing a society in San Augustine. Bacon removed his work to Arkansas during the Texas Revolution, but there is evidence that the San Augustine Society continued.

Readers will remember that David Ayres received English and Spanish Bibles from the ABS’s New York City office on his way to Texas. In 1838 the ABS sent Schuyler Hoes of New York to Texas as its agent. Perhaps Ayres had some influence in the matter. He and Hoes had known each other in the 1826 revivals in Ithaca, New York. After his arrival in late 1838, Hoes made several trips inside Texas including ones to Egypt, San Augustine, and Centre Hill.

On November 25, 1838, he organized the Texas Bible Society in the Masonic Lodge in Houston. Records of the ABS reveal that the Hoes assignment to Texas was not intended to be a permanent one. He went back to New York and in August, 1839, was appointed to Utica in the Oneida Conference. Bishop Elijah Hedding wrote Littleton Fowler on November 15, 1839, informing him that Hoes would not be transferring to Texas. He later served St. Paul’s Church in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the New England Conference.

After Hoes returned to the United States, ABS business in the Republic of Texas was managed from Arkansas. That was not the end of Hoes's connection with Texas. When Littleton Fowler was in New York City for the General Conference of 1844, he reported sharing a meal with Schuyler Hoes. Fowler identified him as one of the abolitionists.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 14

Kate Mills Elected General Conference Delegate, First Woman Delegate from Texas Conference November 18, 1921

The Texas Annual Conference met in Beaumont in November, 1921. The setting was the magnificent First Methodist Episcopal Church South. The church building was fifteen years old; having been built after the Spindletop Oil Boom ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity for Beaumont. It featured an Akron Style auditorium with a sloping floor under a great dome. Sunday School rooms surrounding the auditorium had roll-partitions that increased the seating capacity.

It was a great setting for history to be made. Participants were noteworthy. E. L. Shettles retired and began a superannuate relationship of two decades that he devoted to collecting Methodist history materials. W. C. Martin transferred from the Little Rock Conference and was appointed to Grace Church in the Houston Heights. He was later elected bishop. Glenn Flinn, who had pastored this church in 1916/17, transferred back from the North Texas Conference to become Conference Educational Secretary. He later became the driving force in ministries to Texas university students. The author’s grandfather, W. W. Hardt, entered the conference as a deacon.

The presiding bishop of the conference was W. N. Ainsworth, completing his first quadrennium after being elected in 1918. Bishops in this era itinerated, and the fact that that they were non-resident meant that most conferences had a powerful preacher or small group of preachers who exercised considerable informal power. These groups were sometimes called the “Union” or the “Machine.” Bishops were infrequent visitors to most conferences; informal power lay with these small groups.

In the Texas Conference in 1921, a main wielder of informal power was the host pastor, the Rev. J. Walter Mills. (pastor at FMC Beaumont 1919-1924 again from 1931-1938 and on the Beaumont District in 1928 and again from 1945-48). One of the conference tasks was to elect delegates to the 1922 MECS General Conference to be held at Hot Springs, Arkansas the following year, and J. W. Mills was elected to lead the delegation on the first ballot.

Balloting for delegates continued, and this year was a little different. The 1918 General Conference had changed the language for lay delegates—instead of “lay man”, the phrase “lay person” was the operative term. Just as women had won the right to vote in civic elections, they were now eligible to vote in the MECS General Conference. So it was that on Friday, Nov. 18, that Kate Vernor (Mrs. J. W.) Mills received the necessary 23 votes on the second ballot and became the first woman elected a General Conference delegate by the Texas Conference.

The election was emphatically not a courtesy to her husband. She had earned it. Kate Vernor was born in Gonzales County in 1878. She attended Sam Houston State Normal in Huntsville where she met J. W. Mills. They married in 1898. They served a variety of appointments and Kate Mills became very active in mission work. She eventually assumed every leadership role available including membership on the General Board of Missions (1922-1934). Her election to the 1922 General Conference was the first of many. She was also a delegate in 1924, 1930, 1934, 1938, 1939, and 1940.

Her husband died in 1949, and she lived in Beaumont and was active in First Methodist, the church her husband had served twice. She taught a couple’s Sunday School Class and taught the W. S. C. S. and Wesleyan Service Guild mission studies. She mentored younger women, including another woman from Beaumont—Hallie Morton—to assume leadership roles in the conference. One of her grandsons,Walter Cason, was a missionary to Liberia. She died in 1966 and her funeral services were held in the sanctuary where forty-five years earlier she had made history by her election to the General Conference.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History November 7

J. H. Hamblen Withdraws from Northwest Texas Conference, Later Forms New Denomination November, 1945

The 1945 Journal of the Northwest Texas Conference lists under “withdrawn” only one name, that of J. H. Hamblen. If that were the only source of information, such a withdrawal might come as a surprise since Hamblen had filled some of the leading appointments of the conference and been a presiding elder. Hamblen began his ministry in the Texas Conference in 1905 when he was appointed to Kellyville in Marion County. In 1909 he transferred to the Nortwest Texas Conference.

Hamblen had been one of the vigorous opponents of modernism in the controversies of the 1920s about seminary professors and Sunday School literature. He was a long time pastor at First Methodist Abilene. In 1944 rather than accepting a new appointment, he asked for a sabbatical leave. Hamblen moved from the parsonage into a house in Abilene and by the following September was holding regular worship services there. Annual Conference convened on November 7, 1945 and Hamblen met with the bishop and cabinet and asked to be withdrawn. Such a principled stand meant Hamblen would forfeit forty years of pension credit.

Hamblen’s withdrawal eventually led to the formation of the Evangelical Methodist Church and his becoming its first general superintendent. Today Texas EMC churches include Copperas Cove, Killeen, Gatesville, Duncanville, Mansfield, Seagoville, and Haltom City.

If you would like to read more about James Henry Hamblen, see A Look into Life: An Autobiography (1969) or David Murrah, And Are We Yet Alive, 2009. Hamblen’s son, Carl Stuart Hamblen (1908-1989), was well known as a singer, cowboy movie actor, and composer of such hits as This Ole House, It Is No Secret (What God Can Do), and Open Up Your Heart (and Let the Sunshine In).