Saturday, March 26, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist HIstory March 27

Texas Christian Advocate Prints “Why I am not a Methodice” letter 1879

All newspaper editors sometimes receive letters not really up to proper journalistic or grammatical standards. Editors almost always discard them without comment. In 1879 Texas Christian Advocate Editor I. G. John couldn’t help himself. He received a substandard letter and printed it. Here it is as it originally appeared:

Why I am not a Methodice

Dear Editor—i thought i would Tell you why i am not a Methodice i Sea in you
Church that you have many differant classes of Members from Bisips to infant Babe i never seen a Sample in the new Testament when the apotals Ever Baptise Infants Or had Different Grades of members a Norther Rezan the 9 article of the Dissiplin says we air save by faith only 1 John, 3.7 Says different also James 2 21-25 & Revlations 22.14 Tell a Different Story now mr Editor this is why i cant swallow that dissiplin.

I. G. John mercifully withheld the name of the letter writer.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 20

Galloway Calhoun Begins Teaching Friendly Sunday School at Marvin Methodist Church, Tyler, March 23, 1930

A standard feature of larger Texas Methodist churches in the 20th century was a men’s Sunday School class taught by a dynamic teacher. Historic photo collections from those churches often show well over 100 men posed for a class picture. Marvin Methodist church in Tyler had one of the outstanding teachers in all of Methodism, Galloway Calhoun, teacher of the Friendly Class. Calhoun began teaching on March 23, 1930 and continued until his death in 1962.

Charles Galloway Calhoun was born in Athens in 1894 to the Rev. J. C. and Bettie Calhoun. (Note how many preachers named sons after bishops. {Charles Betts Galloway 1849-1909, elected bishop 1886}, but that’s a topic for another column.) He received his education in the Tyler public schools, the University of Texas, and Cumberland Law School. He practiced law in Tyler, and at the age of 26 was elected District Attorney for the judicial district which included Smith, Wood, and Upshur Counties. The elevation of his UT classmate, Dan Moody, to the governorship from the Attorney General’s office, created vacancies for assistant attorneys general under the new AG, Claude Pollard. Calhoun moved to Austin and became the First Assistant Attorney General of Texas.

After serving in state government for three years, he resigned his office and moved back to Tyler. The same oratorical skills that helped him in jury trials and his almost photographic memory for books and speeches made him a very successful Sunday School teacher. His influence was extended by the use of radio. Many people who never met him still knew him from those Sunday School class broadcasts.

One would think that a law practice and Sunday School teaching would be enough work for one man, but Calhoun was also very active in politics and Masonry. He was president of the Tyler Rotary Club, a delegate to three National Democratic Conventions, Director of the Northeast Texas Region of the Federal Housing Administration, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas, and a nationally recognized speaker. It was while speaking in Little Rock that he died in 1962.

The Friendly Class of Marvin UMC continues with Dr. David Nichols as teacher. Two questions you probably had---Yes, the lessons are still broadcast over the radio, and yes, women are now welcome.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 13

Fire Destroys Seth Ward College, March 16, 1916

Plainview, the county seat of Hale County, is located in the center of a prosperous agricultural region in the South Plains. Increasing population during the first decade of the 20th century created a demand for education, and when the facilities of Central Plains College, a Nazarene institution, became available, the Plainview District of the Northwest Texas Conference purchased them for $32,000 and founded a two year school.

They named the two-year college after the recently deceased Bishop Seth Ward. Ward was the first native Texan to have been elected a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church South. In 1909 he died in Kobe, Japan,, so naming the college for him was a posthumous honor.

Seth Ward College was adopted by the annual conference. Its academic program was designed to prepare students for Southwestern University in Georgetown, and it soon offered football, basketball, and baseball in addition to academics. A keen athletic rivalry arose with Wayland Baptist College, also located in Plainview.

Seth Ward College enrollment reached as high as 321 students in the fall of 1912. Students could take advantage of a fine library, chemistry lab, literary societies, a pre-ministerial club, and oratorical contests. As was the custom of the era, there were campus revival meetings.

Seth Ward College showed much promise, but it also had problems. Counting the holdover president from Central Plains College, it had five presidents in six years. In the spring of 1914 the men’s dormitory burned. It was being rebuilt when, on March 16, 1916, the Administration Building and women’s dormitory also burned. That was too great a blow. The college closed. In 1929 the Conference transferred any remaining assets to the Board of Education. Seth Ward alumni continued holding reunions until 1975, and maps of Hale County still show Seth Ward as a place name.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

One of last real circuit riders passes away.

The image of the Methodist circuit rider on horseback is one of the most iconic in Methodism. Lest you think that all the horseback riding circuit preachers were in the 19th century, let me tell you about a 20th century Texas Methodist preacher who rode a circuit by horseback.

His name was Burney C. Cope. He was born in 1917 near Buffalo in Leon County and, after the death of his parents, raised by his older sisters. He graduated from Centerville Hill School, but drifted a bit until a relative encouraged him to get more education. He borrowed $10, put all of his worldly possession in a paper grocery sack and hitchhiked to Jacksonville where he enrolled in Lon Morris College as a 21 year old freshman.

Lon Morris, a college owned by the Texas Conference of the Methodist Church, had revivials, religious emphasis week, and promoted an atmosphere of preparation for church careers. Walter Rabb Willis was preaching a college revival, and Burney C. Cope was converted. He continued at Lon Morris, and worked in the college dairy for his tuition. He began to think of becoming a preacher.

Upon finishing Lon Morris he went to Southwestern University in Georgetown and began preaching at one of the local churches. Once again, he worked to suport himself--this time not by milking cows, but by being a gardener for the university at the President's house. After graduation, and still a local pastor, he was assigned the Nursery Circuit in Victoria County.

It was here that he became a horseback riding circuit preacher. He was too poor to afford a car, but one of the parishioners loaned him a horse to ride the four point circuit. I interviewed him about riding circuit on horseback. Burney Cope reported it to be a great experience. He said it gave him time to practice his sermons. He would sing as he rode along. When the horse needed to rest, he would stop by a creek and read his Bible while the horse rested. When it grew dark, he would find a farm house, and announce himself in the traditional manner, "I'm a Methodist preacher, and I'm going to spend the night with you." At one stop he reported the man who answered the door replied, "I have a can of peaches and a pack of crackers. We can have one for supper and one for breakfast. Which one do you want tonight?"

After riding the Nursery Circuit, Burney was appointed to other churches in the Southwest Texas Conference, Portland and San Diego. While at San Diego, he began to regret his decision to begin preaching without attending seminary. He confided that regret to his brother-in-law, John Wesley Hardt, who had gone to Perkins School of Theology at SMU. Hardt told Cope, "It's not too late." Thirty minutes later they were on their way to see Dean Eugene Hawk of Perkins. Enrollment in seminary depended upon having a preaching appointment to support his family while he attended school, and the Southwest Texas Conference was too far from Dallas to supply one. As he talked with Dean Hawk about his desire for a seminary education, Hawk said, "An Oklahoma District Superintendent just called me about a vacancy right over the Red River. It would be close enough for you to serve that church and come to school here." Burney Cope said, "I'll take it."

Thus began a ministerial career in the Oklahoma Conference for the orphan boy from Buffalo who rode a Texas circuit by horseback. Funeral services were held Tuesday, March 8, 2011, at Mannsville UMC near Ardmore, Oklahoma, for Burney Cope. He was my uncle whom I loved dearly.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

this Week in Texas Methodist HIstory March 6

Andrew Davis born at Jonesborough March 10, 1827

The first Methodist preacher to have been born within the present boundaries of Texas was probably Andrew Davis, born at Jonesborough on March 10, 1827. Jonesborough was on the Red River, and although the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 had made the south bank of the Red River Spanish (and later Mexican) territory, the Spanish and Mexican authorities made little effort to exercise sovereignty in the area. The Red River settlements consisted of frontier settlements mainly populated by immigrants from Missouri and Tennessee who lived beyond governmental reach. They lived by hunting, trapping, and some farming, and trading. His father, Daniel Davis, immigrated to Jonesborough in 1818.

His mother died when he was only five years old so he had no memories of her. Years later, when Davis was stationed at Huntsville, he learned about his mother from Sam Houston who had stayed at the Davis house upon his coming to Texas (Dec. 10-20, 1832. Nancy Davis died the following January 20.) After his mother’s death, his father wandered in northeast Texas, eventually living in the Teneha District (Shelby County). It was there that Andrew, at age 8, killed his first bear. Daniel Davis took young Andrew to Fort Lyday near the Lamar/Fannin County line and remarried. One night when Andrew was away at the fort, the Davis household was attacked by Indians, and Daniel Davis was killed. Young Andrew was orphaned again. His stepmother remarried, and the young Andrew was taken even further west.

Meanwhile some of his father’s friends decided to show their love for the father by taking care of the son. They agreed to send the 14 year old Andrew to school, and the closest school was the one that J. W. P. McKenzie was starting near Clarksville.

His sponsors secured passage from a teamster with an ox-drawn wagon to take Davis to Clarksville. He arrived in the middle of a camp meeting. Andrew wrote later that his sole knowledge of religion at the time consisted of hearing men swearing and telling people to go to hell. As they arrived at the camp meeting, McKenzie was in the preacher’s stand. (Preachers of the era often preached from elevated platforms with rails.) Because of his complete ignorance of religion, Davis thought McKenzie had been confined against his will, and the ranting and wild gesticulations were efforts to free himself.

Mrs. Matilda McKenzie met Davis and welcomed him into their home. He finally had a loving Christian family. He progressed rapidly under Professor McKenzie’s instruction and was licensed to preach at 17 and admitted to the East Texas Conference in January, 1845, by Bishop Janes. His first appointment was to the Paris Circuit. He rode that circuit and thus began his ministerial career. His first appointments were in northeast Texas: Bonham, Boston, Clarksville, then back to Paris. He located for two years to nurse his sick wife, and when he returned to the ministry, it was in the Texas Conference. He held appointments in Battle Creek (near Dawson in Navarro County), Springfield, Huntsville, Cold Spring, Bedias, Plantersville, and back to Springfield and Mount Calm.

He located again because of throat troubles, and when he took an appointment again, it was in the Northwest Texas Conference as Presiding Elder of the Waxahachie District. He then moved to Corsicana District, and to Chatfield and Fairfield. He was elected General Conference delegate and to the board at Southwestern University. The ravages of old age, including deafness, finally forced him into a superannuated relationship. He died in 1906 and was buried at Corsicana. Autobiographical materials were published in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, vol. 42, #2., available at.