Sunday, February 05, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History  February 5

Lost Methodist Preachers Guided to Safety by Sounds of Hymns  February, 1839

The names of Ruter, Fowler, and Alexander are well-known as the first officially appointed Methodist preachers to the Texian Mission in 1837.  They were soon followed by others some of whom stayed only briefly.  Lewell Campbell, for example, volunteered for Texas, but was appointed to Louisiana.   Two of the most interesting “short-timers” to the Republic of Texas were Schuyler Hoes and Abel Stevens. 

Hoes was sent to Texas from New York by the American Bible Society rather than the Methodist Episcopal Church.  He made Houston his base of operations and pursued his task of distributing Bibles and tracts.  On November 25, 1838, he organized the Texas Bible Society in Houston.  Naturally Hoes and Fowler developed a friendship since Fowler also lived in Houston.
In early January, 1839, Abel Stevens arrived in Houston as the newly appointed preacher for Houston and Galveston.  He immediately began a campaign to have Fowler reappoint him away from the coast to the Washington Circuit.  Stevens heard that Fowler was holding a meeting at William Keesee’s (near present day Chappell Hill)  and decided to go in person to press his case.  Joseph Sneed, a new preacher from Mississippi, had been entrusted with mission funds for Fowler to distribute to the preachers in one of the few times they would have salaries paid in actual cash money. 

Although Hoes had no claim on the mission money because he was being supported by the American Bible Society, Stevens asked him along as a travelling companion.  They proceeded west to San Felipe and then north.  Somewhere near the present-day site of Bellville they became lost in woods.  The winter sun had already disappeared, and the two preachers were gloomily contemplating spending a miserable night in the woods.  They then heard hymn singing, and guided by the blessed notes, found their way to the Thomas Bell cabin.  Bell, a Methodist layman, had been leading his family in their evening devotionals.  Bell had been a participant in the 1834 Caney Creek Camp Meeting and was later to donate the land for the city of Bellville.

Hoes and Stevens were grateful for the hospitality and the next day proceeded three miles to Centre Hill where David Ayres lived.   Hoes and Ayres were reunited.  In 1826 both men had participated in revivals in Ithaca, New York.  (The  completion of the Erie Canal and the accompanying population boom in western New York was soon followed by intense revivalism.  The region was known as the “Burned Over District.”  Ithaca was an important center of that revivalism.)

Stevens was able to convince Fowler to appoint him to the Washington Circuit.  He rode that circuit until June when he went back North.  Hoes also returned to the North continued his ministry.  Fowler reports dining with him while attending the 1844 General Conference in New York City.  Perhaps they reminisced about how two preachers were saved from a miserable night in the woods because of hymns from a pious Methodist family in the wilds of Texas.


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