Saturday, February 25, 2012

 This Week in Texas Methodist History February 26

Southwestern University Reasserts Its Historic Role in Texas Methodism   February 1911

The author’s grandmother, Ida L. Wilson from Moore, Texas, attended Southwestern University for only one academic year, 1910-1911.  At the end of the term, she returned to the family farm on the Medina-Frio County line and did not continue her formal education. 

Her one year in Georgetown was one of the most eventful in the history of Southwestern.  There was a vigorous debate known as the "removal controversy," over the future of the school.  Southwestern had been created as a central university for Texas Methodists in 1873.  Also in 1873 rail lines crossed the Red River linking the northern Blackland Prairie of Texas to the rest of the United States.  In the 38 years between 1873 and 1911 north central Texas boomed, and Dallas became the major commercial, manufacturing, financial, insurance, and distribution center of the south central United States
The same era witnessed the increasing demand for schools of business, engineering, theology, architecture, and other courses that prepared students for professional employment.

By 1910 many Methodists were calling for the establishment of a denominational university in Dallas (or possibly Fort Worth).  One proposal, embraced by Robert S. Hyer, Regent of Southwestern, was to move Southwestern from Georgetown to Dallas.  The 1910 sessions of the MECS annual conferences in Texas authorized an educational commission to decide the issue.  That commission met in Austin on January 18, 1911, and two weeks later in Dallas

As the commission was meeting to plan the establishment of a new university in Dallas, Southwestern devoted its Bulletin to reminding its constituents of its historic role in building character and preparing students for religious vocation.

The Bulletin of Southwestern University:  Special Illustrated Number devoted to Religious Activities of Student Body, Series 7, Number 36, February 1911, reflected much of the uncertainty that must have been prevalent on campus.

Whatever may be the development of the state and the resultant increase in the number of our Methodist schools and whatever may be the possible or unexpected readjustment of all the educational machinery of our various schools, we know that there will always be a great “character-building” plant at old Southwestern. 

Twice the Bulletin boasted of the ONE HUNDRED and SEVENTY-SEVEN stations, circuits districts, and Missions in Texas . . . now served by men who secured their  preparation and impetus for the greatest field of life-activity largely at this stronghold of Methodism.

The Bulletin’s strongest argument in proving that SU was a place where Methodists could be assured that students were having their characters shaped in good old fashioned Methodism consisted of a detailed description of how interwoven the church and the university were.  Students were organized into Sunday School classes at the Georgetown MECS church (now First United Methodist Church).

Speaking of the pastor, Dr. W. L. Nelms, No man could be more anxious for the spiritual welfare of the student body and more eager for the development of efficient Christian workers. .

Dr. Claude Cody, legendary in Southwestern history, was Superintendent of the Sunday School.  Several of the classes were taught by faculty members.  The class names often had strong Methodist connections.  Two were named for missionaries ( Ben O. Hill and Ruby Kendrick).   Two were named for deceased bishops (Charles Betts Galloway and Seth Ward) and an active bishop (Edwin Mouzon).  Other groups, including the Ministerial Association, the Y. W. C. A., the Student Volunteer Mission Band, and the Senior Epworth League, were highlighted.

The Bulletin published group photographs of the Sunday School classes and other religious organizations.  One of the most interesting ones is attached.  It shows the Hyer Class. 
During the preceding year Hyer’s life had been consumed with the removal controversy, the burdens of university administration, service on the Educational Commission, delegate responsibilities at the MECS General Conference in Asheville, and  at an Ecumenical Conference in Toronto.   In spite of all these demands on his time, he still found time to teach a Sunday School class.  The following summer he resigned from Southwestern and moved to Dallas where he threw himself into the founding of Southern Methodist University. 

(The man on Hyer’s lower left is tentatively identified as A. Frank Smith, later a bishop of the MECS and MC.)

The author's grandmother is tentatively identified as a member of the Williams Class, row 2, fifth from right.


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