Saturday, September 10, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History September 11

Bolivar Peninsula the Scene of Church Conflict, September 15, 1898

In 1898 the Bolivar Peninsula was experiencing a spurt of development. Rail service from Point Bolivar to High Island and Beaumont was completed in 1896. Barges carried rail cars of freight and passengers across Bolivar Roads to Galveston Island. The federal government was improving the Port of Galveston, and part of that improvement was the construction of a jetty on the peninsula. Fort Travis, designed to protect the entrance to the harbor was under construction. Farmers tilled the sandy soils and provided melons and other vegetables to the Galveston and Beaumont markets. Ranches grazed cattle on the salt grass prairies and marshes. Communities developed on the peninsula. Patton Beach (today Crystal Beach) had a post office in 1898. Caplen had two hotels and a summer population of several hundred. Where communities developed in Texas, Methodist churches were soon to follow. The East Texas Conference appointed a circuit rider to the Point Bolivar Circuit which stretched along the coast from Point Bolivar to High Island.

Unfortunately conflict between the MEC and the MEC South developed. John Williams the MECS pastor on the Port Bolivar Circuit explained it this way in the Texas Christian Advocate, September 15, 1898.

The Northern M. E. Church, in the great Gulf Mission Conference, is doing some proselyting (sic) in this section also—in fact they have, without invitation, come into my charge and organized one of my societies into a Northern Church—every member of that society, with two exceptions, joining them. I am told that they tell those who will hear it that they are the mother Church, and that therefore they have the right to present their claims. I am told they have recently had what they call a “big revival” at High Island, at which point they organized a society out of a Southern Methodist society belonging to my charge—Port Bolivar Circuit.

The next two years the Point Bolivar Circuit of the MECS was able to report 81 members. In spite of forming a society from a former MECS charge, the MEC seems not to have been able to been able to form much of a presence on the peninsula. It was much more effective in Port Arthur just a few miles away where the northern church was able to establish not just a strong church but also a college (Port Arthur College).

Bolivar Peninsula is extremely vulnerable to hurricanes. Less than two years after Rev. Williams complained about the Northern church stealing his members, the whole region was devastated by the storm of 1900. In 2008 Hurricane Ike brought death and destruction to the same area. Before and after images may be found at


Post a Comment

<< Home