Saturday, December 31, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History, January 1

 Oscar Addison Warns Again Con Man Posing as Methodist Preacher, January 6, 1860

 Many kinds of con men, frauds, cheats, and swindlers found nineteenth century Texas a fertile ground for their schemes. A favorite ruse was to fleece the unsuspecting in the guise of a clergyman. As early as 1837 a ministerial alliance was formed in Houston to examine the credentials of men claiming to be clergy.

One such imposter was the “Reverend” Fernando L. Taylor. He must have been a consummate con artist. He was able to secure a letter of recommendation from the Springfield District Presiding Elder Oscar M. Addison, and then steal Addison’s trunk. Although it must have been extremely embarrassing, Addison felt compelled to warn others about Taylor by means of a letter to the editor. It is reproduced here from the Navarro Express (Coriscana).

 A notice appears in a southern Baptist paper, calling attention to the fact that a gentleman by the name of Taylor, “a Baptist preacher from the north,” is travelling in the south, who it is feared is “a spy and a abolitionist.” The writer of the notice says of Mr. Taylor: ---I hope every press of the south, religious and secular, will in aiding the community on its guard against him, and that whenever he turns up he may be arrested, and either sent with Gerret Smith to an insane asylum or to a penitentiary or to a gallows, to one of which I am sure he is entitled. 

 This, we presume, is the Mr. Fernando L. Taylor who recently “turned up:” in Texas not as a Baptist, but as a Methodist preacher. Rev. O. M. Addison , P. E. of the Springfield District, writes that the said Taylor, “accredited as a Methodist preacher,” had been preaching for some short time in the counties of Ellis, Navarro, and Limestone, from which region he decamped about the first of November for parts unknown, taking with him a considerable amount of property, obtained under false pretenses.  

Mr. Addison says: As he stole my trunk, marked with my address, containing among other things my private papers, he has found it convenient to assume my name, and when last heard of, was making tracks through East Texas, impersonating my humble self. The said Taylor is about 33 years old, five feet three inches high, fair skin, dark hair, large blue eyes, upper front teeth partly decayed, small feet, and weighs about one hundred twenty pounds. As he has a letter of recommendation from me, I feel under obligation to honor him with this notice, and caution the public against his future villanies. Methodist preachers throughout the South are especially requested to look out for this scamp. By copying generally, the press will aid in the detection of this arch imposter, and prevent his further depredation on the unsuspecting. 

 Wheelock, January 6, 1860 Oscar M. Addison

Monday, December 19, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History December 25

William Bollaert Describes Methodist Political Power December 25, 1843

William Bollaert (1807-1876) was an English scientist, traveler, and adventurer who arrived in Galveston in February 1842. He lived in Texas about 2 and one-half years, and in that time, explored much of the Lone Start Republic. His journals and notes eventually found their way to the Newberry Library in Chicago and have been published. His descriptions are entertaining and informative and of much value to historians.

On Christmas day, 1843 his travels had taken him to Huntsville. The fourth session of the Texas Annual Conference was meeting at Robinson’s, just a few miles from Huntsville. He was aware of the conference and mentioned it in his Journal. He also related a story that purported to show the political power of Methodist clergy in the Republic. Here it is from the diary entry for December 25, 1843.

Minister: “Friend---We never see you at our meeting.”

Friend: “I read my bible at home.”

Minister: “That’s well, but, but, but—it would be better to attend meeting and if it be true what I hear that you intend running for Congress next year, if you do not mix with your Methodist friends you will not be elected. They all know you to be generous, well to do, and a man they like, but not being satisfied with your non-attendance at public worship, they will oppose your election and probably some one may get the votes over you, who may do us all great harm in Congress. My Christian friend, consider this, and I’ll do much for you with the brethren and minister.”

Friend: “I will take your views into consideration and will attend meeting next Sunday.”

Saturday, December 17, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History December 18

Methodist Orphanage Dedicated in Waco, December 22, 1901

One of the Texas Methodist institutions with greatest longevity of service is the Methodist Home in Waco. It has changed its name from “Orphanage” to “Home,” and increased the range of services and proudly celebrates more than a century of ministry to children and youth.

December 22, 1901 was a special day in the life of the Methodist Orphanage. A distinguished group of Methodists gathered to celebrate the formal dedication of the administration building. The dedication was a celebration of the fact that the Orphanage was debt free. Bishop Joseph Key came from his home in Sherman to preach the dedicatory sermon. In 1890 Bishop Key suggested the orphanage project in large part to unify the Northwest Texas Conference which was being rent by disputes over the Holiness Movement. Horace Bishop, a Waco pastor (see column for Dec. 4, 2011), was instrumental in securing the institution for Waco. The renowned evangelist team of Abe and Louisa Mulkey adopted the Orphanage as their special cause. As they held revivals, they donated the proceeds of one night’s offering to the fledgling institution. By 1901, the Mulkey’s had donated about $5000 of their own money and raised another $11,000 in those collections to be applied to the cost of a $20,000 administration building. Their dedication to the cause was recognized on the cornerstone, “Preached, prayed, and sung up by the Rev. Abe and Louisa Mulkey.” Their generosity did not end with the dedication of the building. They continued to donate thousands of dollars to the Orphanage.

The combined congregations of the Methodist churches in Waco met in the Orphanage auditorium for 11:00 o’clock services at which Bishop Key preached. At 3:00 o’clock the auditorium was filled again to listen to Abe Mulkey preach the official dedicatory sermon. Rev. W. H. Vaughn, who had been the Manager from its inception, could point with pride to the accomplishments of the first decade. The first resident, David Harrison from Hill County, knocked on Vaughn’s door in 1894 and announced, “My name is David, and I’ve come to live with you.” In the seven years between David’s arrival and the dedication, 229 more orphans came. About 40 of them had been adopted. Six had died, and on December 22, 1901, there were 110 residents of the Orphanage.

Another reason for the debt-free status was that the Orphanage had expanded its base of support from the Northwest Texas Conference to other MECS conferences in the state. Assessments on those conferences ranged from $1500 for the Northwest Texas Conference to $150 for the German Conference.

Two parts of the dedicatory service on December 22, 1901, would seem very familiar to modern Methodists. All 110 residents of the Orphanage made up the choir for the dedicatory service. They also took up a Christmas collection. Both children’s choral music and a Christmas collection continue as part of the Methodist Children’s Home.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History December 10

Methodist Preacher Debates Universalist at Farmersville, December 8, 1873

In the 19th century Texas Methodist preachers often participated in public debates with representatives of other denominations. A favorite topic was infant baptism vs. adult baptism. As Adventism became more popular, debates on whether the Sabbath should be observed on Saturday or Sunday occurred. One recurring debate theme was the doctrine of universal salvation, and on at least one occasion the Methodist preacher’s debate opponent was a Universalist preacher. The Universalist Church was all but non-existent in Texas in 1873. The Universalist Register for 1874 listed only one congregation in Texas, a congregation of 50 members in Sand Fly, Bastrop County, led by the Rev. Marmaduke Gardner. The Register reported that Gardner held services once per month. It also reported four other Universalist travelling preachers in Texas.

At least one Universalist missionary the Rev. Elisha Darnielle participated in a debate in Texas over the tenets of his religion as early as 1873. On December 8 of that year, Darnielle, a missionary from Fayetteville, Arkansas, began a four-day debate with the Methodist preacher at Farmersville, H. C. Rogers. Although the debate lasted four days, there were only two propositions:

Proposition #1: The Scriptures teach the final holiness and happiness of all mankind.
Proposition #2: The Scriptures teach that a portion of mankind will suffer endless punishment.

As rails linked Texas to the northern and Midwestern United States, immigrants from those regions came to Texas and Universalists were able to establish more churches. In 1891, there were enough Texas Universalists to form a state association. The Register for 1897 lists the Rev. C. H. Rogers as president of that association which numbered 620 members in 31 parishes. In 1961 the Universalist Church of America consolidated with the American Unitarian Association. The on-line directory of the Unitarian Universalist Association lists 49 fellowships in Texas.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist History December 7

Bishop Hay Unveils Monument to Sarah Philpott, December 7, 1928

1928 was a special year for the Texas Conference Woman’s Missionary Society. They celebrated their Golden Jubilee of fifty years of organized missionary work. The celebration took several forms. Each of the MECS annual conferences published a history of woman’s missionary work. The Texas Conference Missionary Society met in Marshall in April for the Jubilee and honored Sarah Martha Bishop Philpott with a special memorial service. ‘Sallie” Philpott had died the previous February 10 at her home at Dew in Freestone County. She had been a past president of the Society and was honored as not just a charter member of the Texas Conference Missionary Society, but as the first member of the Society. She had been born in Virginia in 1839 and moved to Texas in 1860. She married B. A. Philpott in 1875 and lived the rest of her life (53 years) in the same house in Dew.

The memorial service in Marshall in April was not the last of the honors accorded to Sallie Philpott. On December 7, 1928 Bishop Sam Hay conducted another memorial service for her at Dew. Mrs. J. W. (Kate) Mills, the Texas Conference president, delivered the memorial tribute. I cannot find documentation, but assume that Sallie’s brother, the Reverend Horace Bishop would have attended if able. (Horace Bishop, 1843-1933, admitted North West Texas Conference 1868, prominent member of Central Texas Conference.) One highlight of the event was the unveiling of a monument to Sallie Philpott at her grave in the Fairfield Cemetery.

Sallie Philpott made the Woman’s Missionary Council a beneficiary of her estate. The Council used the bequest to enlarge the Bethlehem Center in Nashville. That social service agency (est. 1894) provided services to both African American and European American Nashville residents and served as a training location for students from Scarritt. It has adapted and expanded its mission and still exists. Sallie Philpott’s legacy continues to provide missionary ministries.