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