Saturday, March 03, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History March 4

Velasco Editor Writes “Support the Pastor”  March 6, 1892

A cluster of villages near the mouth of the Brazos River, Velasco, Surfside, and Quintana, proved irresistible to developers.  As the natural outlet for the cotton and sugar cane produced in the rich Brazos bottom lands, it was natural that communities would develop in the area.  Steamboats, including the famous Yellow Stone, plied the muddy waters even before the Texas Revolution.   Plantations along the river in Brazoria and Fort Bend Counties were among the most productive in Texas

The small villages never really fulfilled their promise as port cities.  Traffic was diverted to superior wharf and warehouse facilities at Galveston.   The coastal villages became known for  beach resorts and waterfowl hunting. 

In 1891 a group of developers revived the town of Velasco.  In only one year promoters sold $1,000,000 worth of lots.  A post office and shipping facilities were built.  Promoters of the era recognized the need for churches, and offered the MECS two building lots worth $3000 if the denomination would erect a church building costing $3000 on those lots.  J. H. Shapard, vice president of the Velasco National Bank and lay minister issued a state wide appeal to the 157,000 Texas Methodists to raise the necessary funds, and the editor of Velasco Daily Times editorialized about the need for contributions to pay the pastor’s salary.  Modern readers may find the editor’s sarcastic approach amusing.

Fealty to church vows demands that the ministry be supported.  A canadidate (sic) comes forward and the pastor propounds the question:  “Will you be subject to the discipline of the Church, attend upon its ordinances, and support its institutions?” 

Yes, sir, I will support the preacher if I like him; if he is a sociable fellow and makes himself agreeable.   But he must not fill the church with the smell of Sulphur and take much stock in hell fire. He must not abuse innocent amusements.  He must preach Christ, and not be harping on saloons, theaters, circuses, dancing, and dress. I will give him something if he is a grand preacher, draws a crowd, and overshade (sic) the other Churches.  But I don not want (him poking around) in my private business. When I want to give anything, I will hand it to the preacher myself. The stewards need not bother themselves about me. My money is my own; I made it, and I will pay it out myself.

The Velasco developers of the 1890s did not turn the town into a major port for shipping cattle, cotton, and sugar.  The bar at the mouth of the Brazos proved to be a persistent problem.  The problem of the bar was solved by the diversion of the river and the utilization of the former channel as deep water access to one of the most heavily industrialized areas in the world.   In 1957 Velasco was incorporated into the larger city of Freeport.  


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