Saturday, July 30, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 30

Camp Meeting on the Sabinal Interrupted by Indian Raid August, 1859

The MECS General Conference of 1858 created the Rio Grande Conference, the predecessor of today’s Southwest Texas Conference, by breaking off the southernmost charges of the Texas Conference. Naturally the new conference needed preachers to evangelize the thinly settled Rio Grande Conference. Bishop George F. Pierce presided at the 1858 Georgia Annual Conference and transferred two of its members, Jesse Boring and Hamilton G. Horton, to the Rio Grande Conference. The two preachers were to have vastly different experiences. Boring was also a physician, and Pierce appointed him to San Antonio where he would be both a preacher and president of San Antonio Female Academy.

Horton, on the other hand, would have to forego the comforts of cosmopolitan San Antonio. He was appointed to the Uvalde Mission, a rugged land teeming with dangers. Instead of school book and physician’s kit, he would carry six-shooters, shotguns, and a Bowie knife. He would need them all. The San Antonio-Castroville-Hondo-Uvalde Road (present Highway 90) was the main road west. California gold seekers used it, Bishop Pierce used it when he when to California to hold annual conference. Although the U. S. Army built forts to protect the route, travelers were subject to robbers, rustlers, and all types of criminals.

In August 1859, in Horton’s first year on the Uvalde Mission, he was holding a camp meeting on the Sabinal River (Uvalde County). Here is a portion of his memoir on what happened at the camp meeting.

In August we held a camp meeting on the Sabinal just below where the Southern Pacific railroad now crosses the stream (the farthest west at that time of any camp-meeting in the State) assisted by the presiding elder and one other missionary. In the midst of the meeting, just at the close of a late night service, a scout dashed into camp shouting, 'Indians!" Some of the sisters had been making a racket over the conversion of one or two cow-boys and one good sister had gone into a trance. The shout of "Indians" hushed everything else and soon recalled the sister from the spirit land, where she seemed to have been wandering, and before that night was over all of us were ready to send the red brother on a long journey to the "happy hunting-grounds." A large band of Indians had passed down within a few miles of the camp-meeting and stole a herd of horses six miles below us. Rations were prepared quickly, and most of the men were on horseback and off like a flash. They followed the Indians for several days, recaptured many of the horses and killed several of the raiders. The women, children and old men were hustled off at daylight to a rock house and forted up. The last I saw of the class-leader that night he was riding with the exhorter at full tilt to give a 'red brother" a bit of his own experience . . .

When the Civil War came, Boring returned to Georgia and became a Confederate chaplain/physician. San Antonio Female College collapsed. Horton, though, stayed in Texas. He was appointed to the Goliad Circuit where on Dec. 24, 1860 he spent the night with the Henry Hardt family in Weesatche. That visit led to the conversion of the family, and the rest is history.

In his old age Horton became interested in Texas Methodist history. He was a frequent contributor to the Texas Methodist Historical Quarterly (1909-1911) from which this exerpt is taken.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 24

Commence Exercises at Wesleyan College, San Augustine, July 29-31, 1845

Commencement exercises in 19th century Texas included far more than sermons, speeches, and walking across a stage to receive a diploma. If the July, 1845 exercises at Wesleyan College in San Augustine are typical, they lasted for three days and included public examination of the students—all the students—not just those graduating seniors.

As the name suggests, Wesleyan College was Methodist, but the Congress of the Republic of Texas insisted on non-sectarian charters for its schools. Methodist schools did not impose denominational strictures on the curriculum. The course of study in all the Methodist schools was a general liberal arts curriculum.

One way the school and the Eastern Texas Conference related was through the “visiting committee” which was a body distinct from the Board of Trustees and examined the students on their educational progress. The visiting committee at Wesleyan in July 1845 consisted of Eastern Texas Conference stalwarts, Littleton Fowler, J. W. Fields, and Daniel Payne. Fowler and Payne were presiding elders. Fields was station preacher at San Augustine.

The committee report was later printed and served to reassure parents of prospective students that Wesleyan College provided a sound education. Here are highlights from the reports which may be found at date:1845-1845

. . .The exercises commenced on the 29th of July, and continued three days. The first day was devoted chiefly to the examination of introductory classes, in the Preparatory Department: several of these classes had completed the studies in which they were engaged; and all showed a thorough acquaintance with with their respective studies, so far as they had proceeded.

The 2nd and part of the 3rd day was employed in the examination of classes in the studies of Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior years. The classes of Mathematics, especially the 1st and 2nd, in Algebra, in Geometry, and in Trigonometry, plain and spherical, evinced a knowledge and familiarity highly gratifying to all.

The classes in Latin and Greek languages exhibited not only a readiness of acquaintance with the verbiage of the authors studied, but also of the deep meaning and spirit which they contain.

The class in Olmsted’s Natural Philosophy, and Comstock’s Natural Philosophy, and General History, displayed a more thorough knowledge than we had witnessed on any previous occasion.—The evening of the third day was devoted to the reading of original compositions, with a number of original speeches by the more advanced students.

On Thursday night, after the exercises of the College had concluded, a literary society, composed of the students of the institution, met and an able essay was read by one of its members, and flowed by an eloquent address by another.

The whole examination together, evidenced a proficiency in the students, in the various studies, considering the length of time they had been engaged in them, rarely, if ever met with any where.
. . .There has been altogether, 129 students during the session that has just passed—a fact that will doubtless surprise many of the friends of Texas at a distance, when contemplating the recent settlement of this country, the difficulties she had to encounter, and above all the recent establishment of “Wesleyan College.”

Parents guardians may rest satisfied that no pains have been spared by the Faculty in cultivating properly the minds, and guarding the morals of the students. Energetic efforts have been, and will continue to be made by the Faculty, to elevate the standard of morals of the students and pursue a sound scientific course of instruction. . .

Saturday, July 16, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 17

Henry Stephenson Starts Camp Meeting in Sabine County, July 17, 1834

Although William Stevenson preached to settlements along the Red River well before 1820, and the Arkansas Conference regularly supplied preachers to circuits along the Sulfur River in northeastern Texas well before 1834, Henry Stephenson’s grand tour of camp meetings in the summer of 1834 has captured the imagination of Texas Methodist historians more than those earlier Methodist activities in northeastern Texas. In 1934, for example, Texas Methodists honored Henry Stephenson’s organizing a society at McMahan’s Chapel in 1834 and designated that event as the starting point for a Centennial Celebration. The celebration occurred in spite of the fact that Methodist activity along the Red and Sulfur Rivers pre-dated McMahan’s Chapel by almost 20 years. (Another curious facet was that the Centennial Celebration was held in San Antonio which had the most tenuous links to early Texas Methodism of any major city in Texas.—more about that in another column.)

Henry Stephenson (b. 1772) was a member of the Mississippi Conference who at the 1833 Mississippi Annual Conference was instructed by his Presiding Elder, O. L. Nash, to spend some of his time west of the Sabine in Mexican Texas. Stephenson had been in Texas as early as 1824 when he travelled to San Felipe and met with Stephen F. Austin. Ten years had passed, and conditions were much more favorable for Methodist missionaries so Stephenson tried again.

Stephenson made a written report to the November, 1834, Mississippi Annual Conference which was printed in the New York Christian Advocate and Journal (Dec. 26, 1834). The report has not been widely reprinted and is the earliest first person account of a Methodist preacher in the interior of Texas so I present it here, beginning with July 17.

. . .I appointed a camp meeting to be held on the Sabine district, beginning on the 17th of July following. When the time arrived I attended the camp meeting, where I met several of the brethren from the United States, who had “come up to the help of the Lord against the mighty.” The weather proved unfavorable; but our heavenly Father visited us in this “moral waste” and manifested his loving kindness unto his children. Sinners were convicted—mourners converted, and of a truth we were permitted to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” The people were orderly and well disposed. From this time all prejudices gave way, and a more effectual door was opened unto us to preach Jesus, and him crucified, in all the lengthy and breadth of the land.

At the request and by the advice of the presiding elder, the Rev. O. L. Nash, I started on a more extensive tour than I had taken through the colonies, on the 22nd of July. In Nachidoches (Nacogdoches) I preached to an orderly and well disposed congregation. From thence I took my course to the Brasas (Brazos), preaching in all the settlements where I could get hearers—On reaching the Brasas settlements, finding it practicable, I appointed a camp meeting, to commence on the 4th of September following. In the mean time I prosecuted by journey through Coles’ and Clokey’s settlements (Washington Co.) preaching the Gospel of the grace of God to the dear people wherever I could. From thence I went to the Bastrop, a small town on the Colorado River, where again I stood forth as the messenger of peace to the dear people. I rode about 40 miles down the river; from thence I steered my course to the Gonzilos (Gonzales), a small town on the Gaudaloupe. (Guadalupe), in DeWitt’s Colony, where I found some precious people, with whom I rested several days. I preached to a large congregation the everlasting Gospel. They heard attentively, and some apparently with deep interest. At the conclusion of the last service I rendered them, I requested all in the congregation who wished the M. E. Church to send preachers among them to signify it by standing up. I think all rose up at once. It was enough to move the very stones to see these dear people in this distant land pleading for the Gospel to be sent to them! May the Lord visit them, and send men after his own heart to dispense to them the word of life.

I am now at the farthest part of the American settlements, and so far have met with no opposition; all treat me with kindness and hospitality. Not unfrequently am I entreated to stay among them; and all wish to extract promises that I will visit them again, or that the Gospel may be sent to them.—From the place I returned to the Untied States, and on my return visited the settlement on the Labacka (Lavaca) and Navedad (Navidad), west of Colorado, making my way to the camp meeting I had appointed on the Brasos, at which place I arrived on the 31s of August. Considerable preparation was made, much more than could have been expected, in view of all the circumstances. At this meeting I had Brother John W. Kenny (sic), formerly of the Ohio Conference and brothers Wm. Medford and Benjamin Babit (sic), of Missouri, all of whom live in this province, to assist me. About 400 attended the meeting. The great Head of the Church was with us to our comfort.—Several professed to find peace in their troubled souls and 28 joined our Church. In this wilderness I found some of the Rock Christ, and administered the symbols of the body and blood of Christ to 24 even in the heart of Texas. Surely this “wilderness begins to blossom as the rose.” From this place I started to another camp meeting I had appointed on the Inesh (Ayish) Bayou, within a day’s ride of the United States, to commence on the 18th of September, where I met the Rev. I. Applewhite from the United States, and brothers J. C. Lawhorn, a local preacher that has settled here who assisted me at this meeting. At this meeting I formed a society of 98 members, in whom I administered the sacrament of the Lord’s supper. On the Saturday and “Sabbath” following I held another two days’ meeting in the Sabine district. Here I formed a society of 16 members. The Rev. James English, a local preacher in the Tonehaw (Teneha) District, has formed another society of 20 members, making in all 102 members that we have been able to collect in this new but extensive field of labor.

From all that I have been able to learn of the government, I am persuaded the government does not, nor ever will oppose any barrier to the introduction of the Gospel in Texas; but it is hard to conclude on any thing certain in reference to that government, as it is any thing else but stable and fixed in its operations. The Mexican congress, in December, 1833, passed a law that granted liberty of conscience , and that all might worship the Lord Jehovah according to their own judgment and conscience. Although this law has been loudly complained of as unconstitutional, I believe it is yet a law, and will remain such so long as the present incumbent hold the reigns (sic) of government. I see no ground to fear any things from any source that should or could hinder the introduction of the Gospel. ‘The harvest is even now white, and the loud cry comes from the farthest point of the American settlements, “Come over and help us.” Come teach us and our little ones the way of life!’

Thus dear brethren, I have attempted to lay before you an account of my expedition in the province of Texas. You can do as it may seem good to you, but I must be permitted to plead in behalf of these dear people. Let us send them the Gospel. “the Lord has opened unto us an effectual door—it is now wide open, and the rich harvest before us should induce us to go up to their help at once.

May the great Bishop of souls, the Head of the Church, preside over you! May He look upon benighted Texas, and make known his saving energy in their salvation.

Yours affectionately in the Lord Jesus
Henry Stephenson
Clinton, Hinds co. Mi., Nov. 20, 1834

Saturday, July 09, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 10

Texas Methodist Musical Heritage to be Theme for TUMHS 2012 Meeting

As regular readers of this blog will already know, the Texas United Methodist Historical Society holds an annual meeting. The program of the meeting is organized around a theme. The recently announced theme for the 2012 Annual Meeting, to be held in March in Dallas, is “Texas Methodist Musical Heritage.”

When one considers the theme even briefly, dozens of possible program topics come to mind. Think of Wesley’s hymns as they were being lined out in camp meetings, African-American gospel songs, some of the best organists playing on very fine instruments, children’s choirs, hand bells, Christmas carols in many languages, --obviously the list could go on.

Consider also how Methodists have interwoven sacred music into their institutions. Kidd-Key College specialized in music. One cannot imagine the Methodist Home in Waco without thinking of the children singing Let the Sun Shine In. The singing of Are We Yet Alive at annual conferences gives us a tangible link to our heritage. The number of Texas musicians who received their first musical instruction in a Methodist church is incalculable.

Why is our musical heritage important? I will be so bold as to assert that Methodists have learned more theology through their hymns than through sermons. Our congregational singing is not just a pleasant interlude in Sunday morning worship; music is a principal means by which we transmit the faith.

Perhaps you would like to present a paper on some aspect of the Texas Methodist musical heritage. Email me and I will put you in touch with the program chair.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 3

Missouri Lockwood Porter Fowler Woolam, “Sainted Matriarch of the East Texas Conference,” dies, July 10, 1891.

Death came to one of the most significant women of 19th century Texas Methodist history on July 10, 1891 when Missouri Lockwood Porter Fowler Woolam died at her daughter’s house in Chireno. She had been the wife of two Methodist preachers, had ridden circuits with them, attended camp meetings, and annual conferences. She was witness to many of the historic events of Texas Methodist history. One of her great contributions was the preservation of letters to and from Littleton Fowler.

Missouri Lockwood was born at Fort Madison (now Baton Rouge) Louisiana in 1807 to a career army officer who commanded the fort. Her father was re-posted to Kentucky where she grew up. In 1825 she married Dr. J. J. Porter, and the young couple moved to Nacogdoches. In 1836 Dr. Porter walked too close to a chained bear in Nacogdoches and was killed. Missouri Porter was now a widow.

Littleton Fowler’s main residence in late 1837-38 was in Houston where he was Chaplain of the Senate of the Republic of Texas. He spent the winter break in Nacogdoches and San Augustine, and began courting Mrs. Porter. Fowler was in Houston from February to June 1838, attending to the chaplaincy. While in Houston he carried on a correspondence with Mrs. Porter and when Congress adjourned, he went back to Nacogdoches where Rev. Lewell Campbell married them.

Martin Ruter’s death in May 1838 made Fowler the head of the Texian Mission, and he had significant administrative responsibilities. Missouri sometimes accompanied him on his Methodist travels. When she stayed home in East Texas to manage the household affairs, Fowler wrote a great many letters to her. Those letters are now in the Fowler Collection at Bridwell Library Perkins School of Theology.

The death of Littleton Fowler in January 1846 left her a widow again. Three years later (1849—not 1852 as per Phelan) she married John C. Woolam who had been living in the Fowler household. Woolam was also a Methodist preacher so Missouri returned to itinerate life of a Methodist preacher’s wife. John and Missouri Woolam served many appointments over the next forty-years

1853-54, Jasper Circuit;
1854, Agent, Fowler Institute;
1855, Sabine Circuit; 1856, San Augustine Circuit
1857, Douglass Circuit;
1858-59, Elysian Fields Circuit;
1860-61, Gilmer Station;
1862-63, Chaplain in Confederate Army;
1864-5, Hemphill Circuit
1866, San Augustine Circuit
1867, Livingston Circuit
1868-70, Crockett District, P. E.
1871-73, Crockett & Pennington Station
1874, Sunday School Agent
1875, Pennington Circuit
1876, Elysian Fields Circuit
1877, Harrison Circuit
1878, Elysian Fields Circuit
1879-80, Palestine Circuit
1881, West Palestine
1882, Athens Circuit
1883-1890, Chaplain State Prison at Rusk

As you can infer from the list of appointments, Missouri Woolam was well-known all over East Texas and was widely mourned after her death in Chireno. John Woolam, her third husband, died in 1894.