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.


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