Saturday, April 30, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History May 1

C. A. Grote Reports on German Mission at Fredericksburg, May 5, 1851

I here send my first report of the Fredericksburg German Mission, to which I was appointed at the last session of the Annual Conference. This Mission has been two years in existence and on entering upon the discharge of my duties, I found forty-five members on record, who all, more or less enjoyed some degree of the grace of God. It was indeed to my surprise to find all the members here coworkers in the great and glorious cause. They are all active and untiring in their effort to diffuse the light of the gospel, not only by their words and professions, but by their works. Many glorify their Father which is in Heaven; and just as they prosper in spirituality so they prosper temporarily (sic), and therefore realize the promise that godliness is profitable unto all things. The members had bought a house last year which is now occupied for divine worship. There are also lots obtained, two of which were bought with the house and the other was given by a brother, all of which, is according to our Discipline, deeded to the M. E. Church, South. Our second quarterly meeting was held on the 27th and 28th of April. Brother Young from the Seguin German Mission was with us, in the place of the presiding elder, and it was indeed a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. In the celebration of the sufferings and death of the Redeemer, it seemed as if all had met around the Cross of Calvary, as the altar on which burned heavenly fire, to the utmost height of the redeeming activity of Jesus Christ, filled all hearts and all exclaimed: "He died for me—for me my Savior died!"

But we also realized His glorious resurrection; for our hearts were all made glad, and like the weeping Mary, exclaimed: "Rabboni" which is to say: "Master;" and I feel more encouraged to tell all men that Christ died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. The love-feast was also of great interest, where many repeated the story that they were lost, but now are found—dead but now alive in Christ Jesus. Fifteen persons joined on probation at this time, one of whom was a Roman Catholic; and I think it would not be unprofitable to present the circumstances of his conversion for the benefit of the German work. When the Catholics learned his intention the priest asked him if he would not go to confession? The man replied, no, as he had concluded to join the Methodists. The priest became excited and appointed a prayer-meeting for the benefit of this back-slidden brother. His wife also joined, and although a Protestant, had as much or more opposition from her parents.
Another family which belonged to the Lutheran Church, had a little child which the mother would have baptised by the Methodist minister. Her husband did not like it, but at last consented, and they called upon me to dedicate the babe to God by holy baptism. One day the man was asked by his associates who baptised the child. He told them the Methodist minister. In the dispute that followed, when they saw that he held with the Methodists, they whipped him thoroughly, and since that time he and his wife never fail to fill their place in our church.

A very zealous advocate against us tried to put down Methodism, but his arm was too short and to my surprise I learned some time ago that he was very serious, and one day he came to converse with me about religion. I handed him one of our disciplines, and a few days ago he informed me that after a long struggle he had concluded to join my church,
Thus the Lord subdues the mighty and the strong and oh, may we all shine through the power of God as lights in this world that all may see and experience the reality of the religion of Jesus Christ.

C. A. GROTE. Fredericksburg, May 5th, 1851.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 24

Baltimore Immigrants Shipwrecked at Velasco, May 1, 1835

The Addison family was one of the most prominent Methodist families in 19th century Texas. Oscar Murray Addison, Sr., was a member of the East Texas, Texas, and Northwest Texas Conferences. Three of his sons, James, John, and Oscar, Jr., followed their father into the ministry. In his retirement at Eulogy, Somervell County, he collected historical materials and wrote about his involvement in important episodes in Texas history, beginning with his arrival at Velasco on May 1, 1835.

Isaac Addison was a merchant in Baltimore who liquidated his assets and joined a large party of immigrants headed for Mexican Texas. The lure was land because Mexico was very generous in its land distribution policy. The Isaac Addison family included his fourteen year old son, Oscar. They travelled via the schooner Elizabeth to the mouth of the Brazos and intended to proceed up that river to Columbia. There was a crude signaling system in place at Velasco in 1835. Flags indicated one of three conditions:
1. do not attempt to cross the bar
2. wait for a pilot to guide the vessel over the bar
3. it is safe to proceed up the Brazos without a pilot.

On the night of April 30, 1835, the warning flag indicated that vessels should wait for better conditions. The Elizabeth anchored offshore. Disaster struck that night. The Elizabeth hit the bar. Waves destroyed the vessel. The immigrants were near enough to shore that the Addison family was able to struggle to the beach, but the goods intended to get them started in a new land were destroyed. They stayed in tents on the beach at Velasco, picking through the wreckage. Eventually they arrived at Columbia and proceeded up the Brazos to the crossing of the Old San Antonio Road. Robertson’s Colony was their destination, and they staked out their land about five miles east of the present day city of Caldwell in Burleson County.
As the Addison family was trying to create a farm in the wilderness, Texas was engulfed in revolution. The Addison family participated in the Runaway Scrape as they fled to Fort Houston (2 miles west of present-day Palestine).

After the Texas Revolution the Addison home became one of the important preaching points for Methodist circuit riders. Isaac Addison donated ten acres for Waugh Camp Ground, (remember that Bishop Beverly Waugh was also from Baltimore) and Robert Alexander organized a church, Elizabeth’s Chapel, in Isaac Addison’s home. Macum Phelan named the preachers who came from Elizabeth Chapel: James W. Scott, Oscar M. Addison, James H. Addison, John W. Addison, John E. King, Rufus Y. King, Willis J. King, Milton H. Porter, John Porter, and J. Fred Cox.

Perhaps Oscar Addison’s greatest contribution to Texas Methodism was the collection of manuscripts, memoirs, and Texana that he collected. That collection is now owned by the University of Texas at Austin and is available to researchers. Elizabeth Chapel merged with Cook’s Point Methodist Church about 100 years ago and continues as part of the United Methodist Church.

Friday, April 15, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 17

Littleton Fowler Tours Washington and Baltimore on His Way to General Conference, April 1844

Littleton Fowler and John Clark were elected delegates from the Texas Conference to the 1844 General Conference of the MEC. The Littleton Fowler Collection at Bridwell Library contains letters which Fowler wrote home to Missouri Fowler about his travels to New York City, the site of General Conference.

Fowler left home and proceeded to Natchitoches, Louisiana, arriving on March 27. From there he secured steamboat passage down the Red River and Mississippi River to New Orleans (April 2). By April 8 he was almost to Memphis. By April 15 he was in Cincinnati, Ohio. The route continued by river to Wheeling, (West) Virginia, and then by stage to Cumberland, Maryland. Fowler boarded the train at Cumberland, and 10 hours later was in Baltimore. He was amazed at the speed. He had travelled 170 miles in 10 hours, sometimes achieving a speed of 25 miles per hour.

Since he was so close to Washington, D. C., he took another train to see the sights there. Texas was very much on the national political agenda in April 1844. President Tyler was trying to annex Texas via a treaty. That measure, of course failed, and Texas annexation was later accomplished via a joint resolution rather than treaty. While Fowler was in the Capitol, he witnessed a scuffle between George Rathbun (1803-1870 D NY) and John White (1802-1845 W KY) which resulted in a gunshot fired by a non-member. Here is the way the Congressional Record reported the result of the committee appointed to look into the incident.

The House proceeded to the consideration of the report of the select committee upon the subject of the rencounter between Mr. White and Mr. Rathbun, upon the floor of the House, on the 23d of April last, and which was, on the 6th instant, postponed until this day; the question being upon the motion of Mr. White to recommit the said report to the select committee, and the following instructions moved thereto by Mr. Hale, on the 6th instant, viz: "With instructions to report a resolution declaring that, in view of the facts disclosed by them in their report, Messrs. White and Rathbun did fight willingly on this floor, a public place; that, in doing so, they have violate the order of the House, have been guilty of an affray, and deserve, therefore, the censure of this House; and that John White, a member of this House from the State of Kentucky, in applying to George Rathbun, a member of this House from the State of New York, language imputing falsehood to said Rathbun, while the House was in session in Committee of the Whole, merits and should receive the severest censure of the House."
And, after debate,
Mr. White withdrew his motion, made on the 6th instant, to recommit; (and the said instructions fell.)
Mr. Elmer moved the following resolution:
Whereas it appears, by the reports of the select committee appointed to inquire into the circumstances of the case, and by the testimony taken by the committee, and reported to this House, that, on the 23d day of April last, (the House being in Committee of the Whole,) John White, one of the members of this House from the State of Kentucky, did, in violation of the rules of the House, use opprobrious language to George Rathbun, one of the members of this House from the State of New York, imputing to him, personally, falsehood; and that the said George Rathbun thereupon made an attack upon the said John White, and they then engaged in a personal conflict on the floor of the House; and that great disorder and confusion was thereby created, and the public business interrupted: Therefore,
Resolved, That the said reports be laid on the table; and that the said John White and George Rathbun are hereby declared guilty of violating the rules of the House, and deserving of its censure; and are therefore censured accordingly.
A motion was then made by Mr. Weller that the whole subject be laid upon the table.
And the question being put,
• It was decided in the affirmative,
• Yeas, ... 82
• Nays, ... 73

Here is how Littleton Fowler reported the incident in his letter to Mrs. Fowler:

The Senate is a grave dignified boddy[sic] but the House is the most disorderly and uproarous parlamentary[sic] boddy[sic] I ever saw. Just as we reached the door of the house a pistol went off within. Two members had a fight and a man not a member was in the house at the time who was pushed out by two other members. The expelled man felt his dignity encro[a]ched. As he passed the door he turned and fired his pistol at the members and shot another man in the thigh but [it is] said the wound is not dangerous. The proceedings of the House was a disgrace to the nation. I saw more disorder in a few hours there than I ever [p. 3] saw in both Houses in Texas all the time I served them in the Chaplaincy.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History April 10

Jesse Hord Founds Methodist Church in Houston, April 14, 1839

First United Methodist Church of Houston dates its founding to April 14, 1839 when Rev. Jesse Hord received 14 original members by transfer of letter from other churches. This was not the first Methodist activity in Houston. Littleton Fowler served as Chaplain of the Texas Senate from Nov. 19, 1837 to May 24, 1838 (except for the Christmas recess when he divided his time between Nacogdoches and San Augustine) and preached in the Senate Chamber. Later in 1838 Jesse Hord was appointed to ride a circuit that included Methodists scattered along the Coastal Plains from Houston to near Victoria. He arrived in Houston on December 23, 1838, but he was aware that Abel Stevens had been appointed to Houston/Galveston, so he hurried on to Richmond, San Felipe, Matagorda, Egypt, and Texana.

Houston was on Hord’s circuit which took about a month to complete. He was back in Houston from January 17-21, 1839. When he arrived in Houston on the 17th, he was overjoyed to discover that Abel Stevens had arrived in Houston and was accompanied by Schuyler Hoes, another Methodist preacher, who was an agent for the American Bible Society. The joy turned to disappointment was both Stevens and Hoes refused Hord’s invitation to preach on Sunday night, January 20. Presbyterian preachers, James Burke and William Y. Allen did accept his invitation. We now know that Stevens had no intention of accepting the Houston/Galveston appointment he had received at the Mississippi Annual Conference in December. Instead he immediately began a successful campaign to have Littleton Fowler re-assign him to the Washington Circuit. On Monday the 21st Hord left Houston to start another round of his circuit, but a winter storm caused him to miss his February appointment in Houston. He was able to come back to Houston during the middle of March.

The April 14th organizational meeting that founded the first Methodist church in Houston had thus been preceded by preaching, Sunday School, tract distribution, and canvassing the city to learn who had been Methodists before their immigration to Houston. In a curious coincidence the April meeting included Abel Stevens. Fowler had acceded to Stevens’ request to ride the Washington Circuit which he started about March 1. Now, just six weeks later, he was in Houston on his way to Galveston and his permanent departure from Texas. On this occasion Stevens did accept Hord’s invitation to preach the sermon at the Sunday night service. He had accomplished a great deal during his brief time in Texas and later was to achieve fame as an author.

At the next session of the Mississippi Annual Conference in December, 1839, Edward Fontaine was appointed to Houston and Thomas O. Summers to Galveston. After Fontaine’s departure, Summers assumed both the Galveston and Houston pastorates. It was Summers who was able to build Methodist church buildings in both cities. He did so by fund raising campaigns in which he travelled widely in the United States. In his absence the Houston church depended upon local pastors and lay leaders such as Charles Shearn (merchant) and Francis Moore (journalist/politician).

The Methodists eventually named their church in honor of Charles Shearn. When they built a new church building at the corner of Main and Clay, they renamed the church First Methodist Church.

Friday, April 01, 2011

this Week in Texas Methodist History April 3

Cornerstone Laid for Kirby Hall at SMU, April 3, 1924

As SMU was ending its first decade of existence, the School of Theology finally found a home of its own, Kirby Hall. The cornerstone of that building was laid during the Fondren Lectures on April 3, 1924. The cornerstone was laid by three MECS bishops, Boaz, Moore, and Mouzon and Bishop Herbert Welch of the MEC. The philanthropist who made the event possible, R. Harper Kirby (1861-1928) also addressed the assembled group of clergy and laity. Kirby came for a distinguished line of Texas educators. His maternal grandfather, Richard Swearingen, had been one of the founders of Soule University. His mother, Helen Kirby, had been dean of women at the University of Texas for 35 years. The University of Texas also boasted a Kirby Hall, this one a women’s dormitory.

Kirby amassed a fortune in farming, ranching, real estate, timber, and oil and used that fortune to promote Methodist causes. He was president of the Anti Saloon League and in 1919 and donated $100,000 of this own money to the cause of Prohibition. The $100,000 Kirby gave to establish Kirby Hall was a fraction of the estimated $2,000,000 he gave to various causes.

With the cornerstone laying in April, it is hard to believe that the building would be open in time for the fall semester, 1924, but it was—at least the third floor, the only floor that was finished at the time which had its first class on Sept. 24.

Kirby Hall is now Florence Hall and now is part of SMU’s Dedman School of Law, but the name Kirby Hall lives on in another building as part of Perkins School of Theology.